February 1, 2001

Chillin', Just Chillin'

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Good chillin’ music is like a good woman. Hard to find.

Pharcyde, who’ve been rhyming in relative obscurity since 1992, have been previously known mostly for having funky lyrics set to even funkier beats. Irreverent and filthy, the group doesn’t have that one song that rings a bell or the hit that got played out on MTV.

But that doesn’t mean Pharcyde can’t rap.

On Plain Rap, their latest release, the group shows they absolutely can. Lyrically, their rhymes tread the familiar ground of Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z, rapping about the pussy and the money that nearly every rapper likes to work into their flow.

But, in addition, they’re storytellers. Listening to Pharcyde is like pulling up a chair and letting Grandpa spin you a tale about how it used to be.

The songs move like your grandfather, too. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the album drags toward the middle as the fireside chats start putting some of the young’uns to sleep.

Plain Rap is chillin’ from the start, though. You’re not listening to Eminem jump out of the gate and then slowing it down later. “Trust” opens the album, and is about as exciting as things get. The slow undercurrent and jazzy tones complement the raps about Pharcyde’s dealings with “girlies” and “wack MC’s.”

If you’re not satisfied listening while smoking your blunt and drinking your 40 by now, it won’t get better.

There’s a second chance for those of little patience as the speed bumps up a little with “Network,” featuring Black Thought of The Roots. Black Thought is a professional and this song has the TRL hook, but the raps are just too coarse to make it into the mainstream.

But, as the album moves on, the laborious beats will likely grow on the hardcore Pharcyde fan while grating on the pop lover.

Things really slow down in the middle with “Somethin'” and “Misery,” both sad stories with melodious and slightly dragging beats.

Then, smack in the middle, Pharcyde brings us back with “Blaze.”

This is the sleeper song of the album, as the one-two start was clearly meant for single-play. “Blaze” finally shows the true colors of this group: “Been around the world like Puffy/ puffing in exotic hot spots/ this is dedicated to the one I love/ sent from heaven above.”

Then, of course, things get crude again as they start talking about her booty, but we don’t need to get into that.

But, this group does give Plain Rap, as advertised. They tell us about the guestlist at a party, gettin’ booty, smoking blunts and everything else rappers are supposed to sing about.

And though they tell us with explicit lyrics, they don’t as such tell us explicitly. On “Somethin'” they rap, “Turbulence occurs, cause she was turbulent, and terminal just like her newness.”

We can infer what that means quite easily, but it is still uncharacteristically subtle for a genre not renowned for its tact.

Plain Rap won’t make you stand up and dance. Imagine yourself more sitting in a big chair and moving your head back and forth to the beat.

The Pharcyde, despite their age, have kept up with the times, not falling prey to the poor rock-rap style of the last De La Soul album or the break-ups that have befallen more popular older groups like A Tribe Called Quest.

They do all this while, well, cold chillin’.

Archived article by Jason Weinstein