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GROOVES: The Pharcyde evoke a vintage era of rap as golden boys of hip-hop bounce back

Published: 19 July, 2012

WALKING into The Pharcyde at Koko slightly late (due to technical problems and an ill-timed quest to get into The Streets’ secret gig at The Dublin Castle), the feeling on Tuesday night was: “This is a proper hip-hop gig”.

Hands were in the air, the kids were all smiling, and on stage, Bootie Brown and Imani seemed to be having an equally good time bouncing around to the abstract beats and announcing: “We’re just getting started.”

Being one of the most popular alternative acts to emerge during hip-hop’s last golden era in the early 90s (almost everything that followed on the overground was tosh), The Pharcyde represent everything that is good about real rap: witty rhymes, jazzy basslines, crazy samples and a get-the-party-started-right attitude.

This translated to non-stop energy behind the mic and a good-time nostalgic vibe.

The rarest thing about The Pharcyde is that they’re from the west coast of the US (south-central LA to be exact) but you won’t hear them eulogise semi-automatic weapons and dollar bills, or cuss or spit out the general negativity their coastal compatriots are infamous for.

Instead what you get is the likes of Soul Flower with its relentlessly upbeat synth riff and infectious chorus of: “So I shot him in the ass on the downstroke” – not that everyone who was singing along actually undertsood what that means, but who cares?

The one slight dissappointment on a night which had a real feeling of the good old days about it, was the outfit’s failure to play Return of the B-Boy, which is the very definition of a party anthem, although the opening stabs were mixed up with some classic samples and a bit of Miami bass during an interlude provided by the live instumentalists: a drummer, bass player and a DJ (two turntables and a crossfader are musical instruments, and I will challenge anyone who says different).

The biggest reaction of the night was, of course, for the band’s crossover hits Passin’ Me By and Runnin’, although, bizarelly, the crowd didn’t get into the boys’ first hit single Ya Mama as enthusiastically, despite the fact it’s probably the funniest rap song ever laid down on wax. 

This is possibly a symptom of the festival effect, which means your favourite band’s gig is infiltrated by an unavoidable minority who aren’t there because they love the music or have a genuine curiosity for new sounds, but because they’ve heard it’s going to be cool and they want to capture it forever in a staged Facebook picture. 

But I digress.

Despite enduring popularity, The Pharcyde only really have two solid albums of hits to pick from, and, as a result, the gig was relatively short, but still one to savour. And, above all else, it was testament to the power of real hip-hop.


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