When the L.A.-based rap quartet the Pharcyde released its misfit debut, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, in 1992, it liberated the West Coast scene from all the bullets and bitches with a playful and intellectual bric-a-brac of hip-hop harmonies. The group (Fat Lip, Booty Brown, Slim Kid Tre, and Imani) smelted tight, up-tempo beats with a liquefied freestyle of adolescent rhymes. They were funny, self-deprecating, lovable losers who spun hip-hop yarns about not getting laid and took digs at each other's mamas.
But the Pharcyde's unorthodox style and humor were a passing phase. By the time their sophomore effort, Labcabincalifornia, hit the streets, they had slowed down, changed their tone, and seemingly lost their fan base. They continued to spout rhymes phatter than Nell Carter -- only now they were backed by flavorful jazz production à la A Tribe Called Quest. Nevertheless, Labcabincalifornia received a lukewarm reception that put the group on the ropes and sent core member Fat Lip heading for a mediocre solo career. Meanwhile, the Pharcyde's label was stricken by money problems and was later accused by the band of having cheated it out of potential platinum sales on Bizarre Ride. Consequently, the Pharcyde decided to release an EP on its own, then resurfaced with the robust LP Plain Rap, an album that gushed with positive rhymes flowing over reggae and R&B rhythms. Though the band is no longer prone to dazzling audiences with the energized waggery of its past, its newer, more seasoned style confirms that it's still one of the cornerstones of intelligent hip-hop.