So, last week there were not one, but two Pharcyde gigs in London. In case you don’t know who the Pharcyde are, they’re a hip-hop group who found fame in the nineties thanks to their irreverent, often comical take on the genre and their now infamous video for ‘Drop’, which was shot backwards (see below).

It’s not unusual for an act to perform twice in the same city, we all know that, but what was odd about this one was that a message went out on The Pharcyde’s Twitter page on Monday (when the first gig took place) saying: “To my folks in #Europe .. #Pharcyde will not be in Europe til 9th.. Catch us @brooklynbowl in London..”. The Brooklyn Bowl performance happened on the Thursday of last week. After seeing this, and not being totally up to speed on my hip-hop politics, I was baffled.

A quick bit of Googling offered some insight into why the group denied they were in Europe until Thursday, even though they were billed to play The Jazz Cafe on Monday. The Pharcyde split and there are now two separate factions, one named The Pharcyde (Uncle Imani and Bootie Brown) and one named ‘Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde’ (Fatlip, Slimkid3, J. Sw!ft, K-Natural and LA Jay), using the title of their famous album. The story behind the split is probably best left for you readers to discover yourselves – there are a few interviews online, so go check those.

Bearing that in mind, we were determined to hit both gigs to compare the two, so off I went for Round One at The Jazz Cafe…

Pharcyde_JazzCafe

The Jazz Cafe is renowned for hosting some of the world’s most famous hip hop acts, as well as reggae legends past and present and a variety of credible artists. It’s a popular spot with a strong reputation. The place was rammed, unsurprisingly, with a very eclectic group of people gathered to catch ‘Bizarre Ride…’ do their thing (minus Fatlip, who had visa issues). After a nice little warm up by MC Index, with his conscious rap, accompanied by DJ Fingerfood, Bizarre Ride made their way on stage at the time they were scheduled to. None of this making the fans wait diva-style, they were straight on to the stage and got straight to business.

Their vibe was original hip hop style; energetic, fun-loving party music with plenty of call and response, some covers and a hell of a lot of their most famous material, mixed up with some fresher joints. It was a really enjoyable night, hosted by a group who are still clearly in love with what they’re doing.

Pharcyde_BrooklynBowl

Three days later DLTM headed to the O2 in Greenwich to catch the other Pharcyde faction put on their show. It took place at a venue called Brooklyn Bowl, inside the O2 arena. This was a spot we’d never been to before, or even heard of. Arriving around 45 minutes before the show was due to start, we enter the venue and grab a drink. This show already feels quite different, Brooklyn Bowl definitely doesn’t have the prestige of The Jazz Cafe. The crowd feels more student-orientated and there are visuals being projected on to a curtain covering the stage showing various ‘You’ve Been Framed’-style filmed accidents.

The duo who call themselves The Pharcyde step up on stage with their DJ Mike Relm cutting and scratching his way through a medley of well-known hip hop jams to get the crowd hyped up. Uncle Imani and Bootie Brown then got up and threw down for the 70 or so people gathered in front of them. Musically speaking and energy-wise, they were good but we felt the venue and the crowd took away from the experience. The Pharcyde would have faired much better in somewhere most prestigious and perhaps if the other side of the group weren’t in London during the same week.

After the gig we had a quick chat with Imani and asked what the deal was with Bizarre Ride being in London at the same time as them. He claimed, “They check our schedule and follow us around the world, man”.

The Pharcyde (from left to right, Tre "SlimKid3" Hardson, Romye Robinson, Emandu "Imani" Wilcox and Derrick "Fatlip" Stewart) in 1993
The Pharcyde (from left to right, Tre “SlimKid3” Hardson, Romye Robinson, Emandu “Imani” Wilcox and Derrick “Fatlip” Stewart) in 1993

We then interviewed Slimkid3 a few days later and pressed him on what Imani had said. Of course, it’s not our job to stir things up, but we thought it was important to speak to both sides and find out what they both had to say. Asked simply how the two groups ended up being in London at the same time, Slimkid3, who has been working on new material with DJ Nu-Mark called ‘TRDMRK’ (trademark), told us (without any aggression or animosity might we add), “When our tours get booked, I have no idea what’s happening with the other two guys. I don’t pay attention to what they do, I just focus on what we’re doing as Bizarre Ride. It’s really a mystery how that could happen. I think it was supposed to happen. There is a difference, we are two separate entities. We do our thing and they obviously do theirs. It’s the universe’s way of making sure everyone gets to see the collective. I’m not trying to block them at all, and I’m definitely going to do my thing”.

Funnily enough we hadn’t even told him what Imani said before he made that statement. We did repeat what Imani said and, of course, Tre was very humble and mature in his response, “We’re not thinking about them at all. There were times that I would think the same thing as them, it happens to us as much as it happens to them. It’s not me and it’s probably not them, this is what goes in our minds because we’re all trying to make a living. What’s really silly is all the fighting that goes, we’re fighting over who can say ‘Oh shit’ or ‘Your mama’. I’m not thinking about them at all, but I can understand,” he said.

As for the future, Slimkid filled us in on his next moves, “We’ve got a lot of cool shit going on, we’ve got a lot of new music right now as far as Bizarre Ride is concerned. I DJ as well, so when I’m in Portland that’s what I do out here – we do these parties called ‘Live & Direct’. I’m producing an artist called Moonbeam Kelly as well. Keeping it busy, staying happy, keeping my mind off the negative,” he revealed.

His last word was this, “The energy has been calling for itself, the fans don’t want to see the two people alone anymore, they want to see the original four members rocking or don’t be The Pharcyde. It’s like going to the store to buy a Milky Way and you open it and it’s just the nougat. No chocolate, no caramel, just the wrapper and the nougat. That’s just not what’s up. The next thing people probably want to see is all four members together when you put up the name The Pharcyde, anywhere, and rightfully so. They deserve what they ask for.”

Damn right they do.