On Friday night, this was more than simply another gig in London; it was a time warp back to 1992 and the golden era of hip hop.
Before the genre was tarnished with images of bouncing cars and Compton gangstas, The Pharcyde released their debut album Bizarre Ride II: The Pharcyde. Twenty-one years later and SlimKid3, FatLip, J-Sw!ft, L.A. Jay and former Wascals MC K-Natural are touring this hip hop masterpiece, from start to finish, with an astonishing degree of vigour.
It’s hard to believe these former Pharcyders must be hitting forty years of age or more, down right impossible to be honest. As the initial interlude fades in, there is some cynicism in my mind as to whether they will “feel” relevant. Will this mixed crowd of first-time middle-class kids and hardcore hip hoppers faze them at all?
Are you kidding? The boys enter the spotlight like gods and, just to confirm my shallowness, I’m instantly won over by the coolest sweater I’ve ever seen on FatLip. This was the kind of garment that must have been stolen directly from the set of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But, y’know, worn by a real rapper.
There’s no build-up to audience participation tonight, their entrance is met with instant applause that soon descends into the room singing along to the chorus of Oh Shit. The crowd chanting continues for other questionably-entitled songs such as It’s Jiggaboo Time and I’m That Kind of Nigga. For a moment, I was a bit wary of this chanting crowd being mostly full of white kids.
But the truth is that’s completely irrelevant. The crowd are clearly ecstatic to be in the presence of these hip hop pioneers, and as K-Natural thanks the crowd for “leaving Glastonbury to join us” with a cheeky grin, it’s obvious they are proud of how far their album has stretched as far as influence.
Another strength of this gig was that July is simply the perfect time of year to hear the album. Although there are some more insightful moments on tunes such as If I Were President, it’s songs like On The DL that capture the album’s overall vibe of sunny days and having fun. Adding to the fun was the fact that all the original skits and interludes from the record were included in the set, and even the graffiti artist Slick, who designed the iconic cover, art-directed the show.
The show culminated in an orgy of bright colours, magnetic visuals and even a dose of hip hop animation. As a result this gig, officially entitled Bizarre Ride Live, was a unique spectacular: blurring the lines between a straight up hip hop show and a kind of theatrical performance. The original Pharcyde producers J-Sw!ft and LA Jay recreated the album’s classic sounds and melodies as the three MCs threw down their individual flows as well as some b-boy moves and a heavy dose of humour.
The verdict? A one-of-a-kind tribute to a classic debut album; but more than that, a tribute to the group themselves – and the golden era of hip hop.
Gav Duffy produces music as Raised by Wolves. Find him at Facebook.com/RaisedbyWolvesMusic or @Raisedby_Wolves