Chill Corner – The Pharcyde: A Quick Commercial Demise, A Lasting Musical Impression

The Pharcyde [pronounced “Far-Side”] is an alternative hip-hop group from Los Angeles. Though from the West Coast, where g-funk and “gangster rap” reigned supreme, they produced a different style of hip-hop.

The Pharcyde gained notoriety after the success of their first album “Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde” [1992], then quickly fell off commercial success once their second album “Labcabincalifornia” [1995] performed far worse than expected.

Unfortunately, they’re noted as one of the quickest commercial plummets in hip hop history. But commercial success and musical quality don’t always align [as evidenced by today’s popular music], and The Pharcyde is one of the best alternative hip-hop groups despite their commercial struggles.

Once the prevalence of g-funk and “gangster rap” took hold of the West Coast hip-hop scene, it dominated. But the Pharcyde’s debut “Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde” provided a different sound and a different subject matter with a mostly positive and carefree vibe. “Passin Me By” was a track which humorously discussed each group member’s struggles with pursuing women. Musically, the track featured a jazzier sound. “Soul Flower (Remix)” is more or less a freestyle that showcases The Pharcyde’s creative rhyming ability. Musically, the beat is faster paced and features samples of classic soul songs. Even though this album struggled to gain a big time mainstream success, the immense popularity of “Passin’ Me By” allowed the album to reach Gold certification.

The Pharcyde’s debut put them on the map in the musical world. From 1992 to 1995, they had relative popularity. Their next album effort was crucial in whether they would remain commercially relevant in hip hop. Unfortunately, despite being a strong album, “Labcabincalifornia” [1995] fell significantly short of commercial expectations due to the unyielding presence of gangster rap.

Nevertheless, “Labcabincalifornia” was a classic album that deserves more recognition. Not only is this my favorite Pharcyde album, it’s probably one of the most underrated hip hop albums of all time. “Drop” is a track about The Pharcyde’s resistance to the mid ‘90s trend of creating gangster rap. It really attacks the gangster rap artists of the time, and the record producers that pushed gangster rap acts to the point of pushing alternative hip hop artists out of the scene. “Runnin’” is one of the most well-known tracks from The Pharcyde. It’s a track that’s lyrically about facing your problems instead of running away from them, whether they be personal struggles, or dealing with others that want to hurt you. It features a guitar-oriented beat, which gives the track a different appeal.

Though The Pharcyde had a quick commercial demise, their music has gained some more respect over time, since people have had time to think about their contribution to the alternative West Coast hip-hop community. With creative rhymes and spacey beats, The Pharcyde delivers a sound and style that captivates our ears and attention.

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