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PHARCYDE, October 2000

The recording industry is a fickle business. One minute you're hot, the next you're not. In order to keep an ongoing buzz going for yourself, you have to constantly be in the public eye, either by dropping some guest vocals on another artist's song, showing your face at some hob-knob industry event or engaging in the new trend of releasing back-to-back albums. Your fans' fascination with you or your group must never fade. Now what if you haven't released an album in five years? What then becomes of your career? In the case of the Pharcyde, touring has kept them and their name alive. The crew, which has been responsible for such classic joints like "Passin' Me By" and "Runnin'," is back in the mix with their third album, entitled Plain Rap. The 411 Online recently chatted with Pharcyder Romeye a.k.a. Booty Brown about what has transpired for the group during these past five years and what's next on their agenda.

The Pharcyde is currently you and Imani?

Brown: "Yes."

I noticed that Tre is on the album...

"Basically, what happened is that throughout the whole five-year period that we werenít out, we all were working on songs. Tre was in and out of the studio, working on other things at that time, working with Brian Austin Green and things like that. I'd figured that if we turned in an album with just me and Imani, it would not have been accepted by the label as being a Pharcyde album. So to finalize our whole deal and get out of everything, I said 'Okay, this is just the last album as far as the three members (Imani, Brown, and Tre) are concerned. We just wanted to turn it in so we could just move on."

What label are you currently on right now?

"We're still on Delicious Vinyl, as far as this album being released, but the parent company is Edel. There's a label out in Germany called 4 Music and they run through Sony, and they gave us the money to finish the album. Delicious Vinyl had a little licensing deal going on with them and they gave us the money to finish it. So we've been working with that company and then after a while, Edel had picked up, so this whole Edel thing is still new to me these past three months."

Why do you guys name the album Plain Rap?

"Out here in L.A., we have a big supermarket called Ralph's, and they have that generic stuff in the aisles. My whole thing was to just build on the whole thing of when your mom used to say, 'It's the same thing boy. It don't make a difference what's on the label, it's the same thing.' I wanted it to represent it as it's the same old Pharcyde, don't get it twisted. Just because Fatlip is not in the group and all these other things are going on, don't let the exterior fool you. At the same time, I wanted Plain to represent the plainness of rap. I hate being categorized as alternative, or whatever. I want to be able to make a song with Jay-Z or whoever I want to and not be told that 'the Pharcyde can't do this.' Once you get into a certain position, people feel like you can't do certain things. I hate when people try to put limitations on us. Like right now, we got a song we did with Ralph Tresvant that we didn't put out, but we will. There are different things that I want to explore."

How many tracks did Jay Swift do on the album?

"We actually had Jay do two tracks. That was Imani's idea, because we wanted to make sure that we pacify the label. Like, 'Okay, we'll work with the old producer.' We had our own producers that we wanted to work with, like Showbiz, and others. There were a lot of people that we were working with at that time, but in order for the company to feel comfortable, we compromised and worked with Jay."

He wasn't on the last album right?

"Nah, not at all. We worked with Jay-Dee."

Which tracks did Showbiz produce?

"Showbiz produced "Frontline." That's the single they're releasing overseas. We have some other tracks that Showbiz did for us that's not on the album."

"Trust" is the single out now?

"Correct."

It's been about five years since you all last released an album. Why so long?

"Well, the label at the time was going through some transition. We had a couple of projects that we turned in -- there was just a lot going on at that time. I don't want to place the blame and say it was all the label's fault, because ultimately it's on the artist and you make the moves in terms of who you sleep with. It was just a lot going on internally, not as far as the group is concerned, but as far as trying to get the music out. From dealing with different distributors, the label, etc., etc. Yet, throughout that time, we put out our own EP, called Chapter One: Testing The Waters, which was like a bootleg. I was like, 'We gotta put some music out to the people,' because we were doing shows still and going on tour. Then people were like, 'What's going on, when are you guys coming out?' So I didn't want to make it seem like we're just lampin' off of the Labcabin' album and have the attitude like 'we donít have to put sh-- out, we're just chillin.' We just put the EP out to create a little buzz. That was last year when we dropped that. It was official, but unofficial. Just to have something for the people."

I heard rumors about Supernatural being apart of your group.

"He's not a part of the group, but he's a part of the crew. I'm working with him and producing songs. He actually goes out more with J5 (Jurassic 5). He was on the "Word of Mouth" tour that I think just ended. He's one of those guys that everybody is just down with. He had went out with us overseas to do a short, brief tour, and he would just come out and do his little set in the middle of our show. We all just get together and just do what we gotta to do. "

I noticed that you got Black Thought on the track "Network." How did that come about?

"Well, he was out here doing a show at the House of Blues and at the time, we had did a lot of features with a lot of people. We went to New York and tried to do songs with De La, we did a song with Pharoahe (Monch), and Sadat (X). We were trying to get in touch with Black Thought, but it winded up not happening until we got back to L.A. We're always on tour a lot. There are certain people we just see all the time like The Roots and the Souls of Mischief, when we're on the road. It was like 'Yo, we need to do a song, because one day, when we do a show together, we could just rock it.' He (Black Thought) was down with it and so he came by and we hooked it up."

What's different about this as opposed to the first two albums?

"I've heard people say it's more R&B. Some people say it's more mature. It definitely is not Labcabin, or Bizarre Ride, which is cool to me because I like to change. I don't want any album to be the same. People just say it's a little more mature as far as topics and lyrical content. Some people say that this album is toned down from the previous ones, but I just wanted to get back in the gate with this before I start doing some of the stuff I really want to do. "

In your absence, emcees such as Mos Def and Talib Kweli have come out and garnered big fanfare. What are your thoughts on that?

"It's all family. You know when we go out to New York, it always has been a love thing. We learned form the Jungle Brothers and Tribe, it's just a continuum. The continuous growth of the emcee. When the Jungle Brothers and Tribe was doing their thing, it was hella new. When we came into the game, it wasn't so new and people began to accept it more. Now it's like a standard part. Jazz has many parts. Now the Mos Defs, the Talibs, the Pharcydes are apart of hip-hop, yet having its own class. In one way it's a class I'm trying to break, but I guess you're always going to be classified."

Besides emceeing, do you have a business?

"Right now, I got a little silk screen operation going on, making t-shirts. I would like to get into merchandising for up-and-coming groups. There's a lot of money in merchandising and many groups sign-off on that part of their contracts. They don't really know what they're signing off on. We started the business earlier this year. We started with ourselves and we're just moving on to all different types of people. We're trying to work with the Hiero's (Hieroglyphics) and others who have a following already. "

Many hip-hop heads are making commercials. Will the Pharcyde appear in one soon?

"I donít know. You know they turned us down for one of the Sprite commercials a long time ago. They said we were too dirty. I don't really care about that right now as far as being anybody's little sponsor boy, unless there's substantial money in it. I think if you're dealing with large corporations that's able to do commercials like that, it has to be a substantial amount, because in one way, you're giving up hip-hop. Not just for me, but for the sake of hip-hop, they got to pay."

Do you have a web site?

"Yes. It's www.pharcyde.com. We'll be selling our music, DVDs and t-shirts on the site. We run our booking through there. The site was set up through a company called www.bullseyeart.com. They're based out of New York and they were responsible for designing our site."

Any future collaborations with anyone any time soon?

"Not anything major, but us and the Souls of Mischief have formed a group called Almighty Pythons. We've been working on that album for the past year. We're trying to release ourselves and we're in the process of figuring what's the best route. Hiero (Souls of Mischief, Del, Casual, Pep Love and Domino) goes through RED Distribution, but Edel is the owners of RED, so it's a whole big thing. "

Is the group still on speaking terms with Tre?

"We speak to each other, but as far as actually getting together for work, everybody has different things going on right now. Tre has a direction that he wants to go and his EP that he has out right now (The Legend of Phoenix) is that direction. It's like a Jamiroquai type thing, not a rap type of album. "

When I was in L.A., I spoke with Fatlip a couple of times and he told his version of why he was not in the group. He said you all "kicked him out the group."

"This is what happened. We were doing shows, going out on tour and Fatlip didn't want to go out, and it just came to a point of 'Well, we gotta do something about this.' It was like, are you trying to stay home, trying to do production, what do you want to do? He was at the point of not doing anything. At one time, we wanted to get off the label when we were having a lot of problems with them, and he felt that we should stay with them. Our attitude with him was, 'If youíre going to be difficult, and you're a solo emcee anyway, you should just fly on your own.' One day, we all went to his house and basically told him that he should do his own thing. He was like, "Yeah, f--- the Pharcyde! We're not a group anyway!' I was like, 'Cool, we just gotta keep it moving.' I still speak to him. I don't have any problems with anyone. I see him walking all the time and I talk with him for a short while. I'm not in hatred mode. All of that is done. As long as it doesn't interfere with my business, I'm cool. "

He told me that him and Imani got into a fight at the House of Blues?

"There's an example of two different people. (Laughs) The funny thing was that Tre and Fatlip really didn't get along with each other at all."

From Bizarre Ride to now, what has changed about the Pharcyde and what has stayed the same?

"Besides losing some group members, our outlook in terms of how we want to be represented has changed. At first it was cool just being those funny guys, and I really wanted to be looked at as funny. I wanted to be like a Richard Pryor type. But being in this industry, I realized that once you play the game, you gotta play the game by the rules. If you're with a label, and their whole thing is to market you in a particular fashion, they're going to do what it takes. It doesn't matter if it makes you look like a cornball, or whatever, as long as they're selling records is what matters. It's understandable, because it's a business. You gotta make money. I would just like to re-establish ourselves since we've been gone for five years. For some people checking us out, it will be new to them. I'm just focused in re-establishing ourselves."

-- Joshua "Fahiym" Ratcliffe, The 411 Online


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