Fans of jazz, hip-hop, ultra-playful lyricism and on-point rhymes know The Pharcyde’s ‘Bizarre Ride II’ as a stone-cold classic. One of the greatest albums of all time in the admittedly narrow ranks of concept records channelling unabashed buffoonery and stonking beats, it was no surprise when a live revisit of it in 2012, marking the 20th anniversary of its release, proved incredibly popular. Their on-stage chemistry, our review said at the time, was perennial and effortless.
That was between Fatlip and SlimKid3, whose fall-out with their fellow b-boys in the band, Bootie Brown and Imani, was the product of drug addictions and contract disputes, winning a place at number 26 in one critical appraisal of the 30 worst splits in rap history. Brown and Imani tour under the official Pharcyde banner now, leaving their former compatriots on an endlessly well-received reprisal of an album which is utterly timeless, its highs and lows sojourning from fleeing the cops in an untaxed car to forlornly yearning after a childhood sweetheart, philosophical comings-of-age and, of course, getting extremely stoned while telling an increasingly offensive series of your-mum jokes.
Fatlip and SlimKid3’s initial tours as Bizarre Ride were met with some suspicion: as well as the general confusion over exactly which, if any, original members were in the band, there was a franchised sense that they might just be cashing in on the mere name of a remarkably successful album on the way to its 25th birthday.
This tour could coast: throngs of the nostalgic, not to mention newer sleeve grabbers, would turn up to sing at the top of their lungs to these songs even if, as the band might have it, your mum was on stage projecting the lyrics from a juddering karaoke screen.
But the Bizarre Ride live experience invariably does justice to its juggernaut of a title work, keeping the flows tightly raucous and the instrumentals as expressive and exuberant as the album did all those years ago.
Indeed, they’ve gone several steps further: on their most recent visits to London, when they’ve packed out big venues, the pair – along with producers J-Sw!ft & LA Jay – have done a fine job of running some of the gauntlet of hip-hop greats from their peers, performing tracks by J-Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest with an air of fond tribute, as well as some of the best tracks from The Pharcyde’s equally celebrated second album, ‘Labcabincalifornia’, which was produced by Dilla.
It’s rare to see them head south, and even rarer to find an album which sounds this fresh live a quarter of a century after its release.
Concorde2, Saturday 3rd June 2017