The Pharcyde—a quartet hailing from South Central Los Angeles—is best known for shaking up the cultural landscape of hip-hop during a time when gangsta rap was dominating the airwaves. With their celebrated eccentricities and desire to stay in their own authentically weird lane, the group has been revered as an undeniably influential force in alternative hip-hop ever since recording their first demo in 1991. Three of the group’s founding members (Tre “SlimKid3” Hardson, Romye “Bootie Brown” and Emandu “Imani” Wilcox) first met in the late ‘80s through their mutual love for dancing, with Derrick “Fatlip” Stewart signing on last to complete the Pharcyde’s roster of vibrant emcees. The group also introduced DJ Mark Luv as their first DJ and went on to recruit J-Swift and a then-unknown J Dilla to handle production duties. After hiring their first manager, Paul Stewart, the group signed to Delicious Vinyl and began cultivating a steady buzz.
Their debut album, the certified Gold Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, arrived in 1992 and was met with critical acclaim, fueled by the album’s second single (and now hip-hop classic) “Passin’ Me By.” With their early careers as dancers directly influencing their approach to rapping, the group became known for their lively performances, joining the likes of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul on tour. In 1995, the group released their sophomore album, Labcabincalifornia, which swayed stylistically from their feel-good debut and featured the crossover hit “Runnin’,” later featured in the film 8 Mile. The project also marked the last with Fatlip, who left the group to focus on his solo career. The Pharcyde returned years later as a trio, releasing both an EP, Chapter One: Testing the Waters and a studio LP, Plain Rap, in 2000. In an accompanying music video for the track “Trust,” the group expressed their true disdain for Fatlip’s departure, portraying him as a sad-faced clown. The video also presented Tre Hardson as a phoenix flying away following his verse, symbolizing that he had the group’s blessing to part ways (which he did soon after). With only two original members left to hold down the group’s legacy, Bootie Brown and Imani released Humboldt Beginnings (2004), a project what would become the Pharcyde’s last studio effort. However, a compilation record, Sold My Soul: The Remix & Rarity Collection, was later released in 2005. The Pharcyde has reunited on stage several times over the years, most notably in 2012 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the group’s debut album.