Having a back catalogue that can stretch across multiple decades is no easy feat. To be able to tour with music of the sort is something many artists can only dream of doing. Bizarre Ride Live, made up of Slimkid3, Fatlip - who were formerly members of The Pharcyde - MC K-Natural and producers L.A. Jay and J-Swift, are currently doing just that.
They are truly some of hip-hop’s original OGs. Even Kanye West once cited The Pharcyde’s debut LP Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde as his favourite album of all time.
The seminal group's first LP has a giant legacy within itself. But over the last month, Bizarre Ride Live have been touring around Europe marking the 20th anniversary of their sophomore album LabCabinCalifornia. The record is still standing the test of time as a classic, despite the fact that a lot has changed in hip-hop since the collective's heyday.
Ahead of a live date at The Jazz Cafe, Nikita Rathod caught up with the members of Bizarre Ride Live to reminisce about the process of making LabCabinCalifornia and memories of the late, great beat-maker J Dilla.
Slimkid3: Feels amazing to be back here, especially being at The Jazz Cafe, I guess they did some aesthetic changes. It looks really nice.
K-Natural: They heard we were coming and they thought we need to come brand new for them. They heard we're doing LabCabin now so they thought, "We might as well do them a new stage!".
What’s it like for you guys performing live now compared to the late 90s?
Slimkid3: I guess it's the energy of what the 90's represented and what things were. It was just a different time period of music. Hip hop heads were really into the De La Souls, Leaders of the New School, that kind of thing. It's a little bit more “jiggyish” now.
K-Natural: We come from PFs and now it's PHs. So PFs were pump fisters and now it's phone holders. They want to be energetic but they don't want to drop their $700 Samsung! It's a big difference. We didn't have no phones in our hands, you might have had a pager.
Slimkid3: There was a time when we didn't allow people to shoot video. Now it's just the way the culture is, it's implemented now. The promotion of whatever you are doing is so much more vast. I have a son. It’s what the kids do. They don't have money so they're trying to make things happen in any way possible. The way they know how. It's just a new way, we're all adjusting. It's not bad at all to me.
K-Natural: Most of the time we attract their fist pumpers. Most of the time we don't perform for you, we party with you. Me personally when I go to a show, I'm trying to jam. I'm trying to go back home sweaty as hell. I went somewhere because I paid for that.
So your show marks the 20th anniversary of the release of LabCabinCalifornia. Would you have ever dreamed that your music would have had such longevity in this way?
Slimkid3: That part, I remember sitting in the car listening to Led Zeppelin, a radio station that played Led Zeppelin all day. I thought, 'That's amazing, how did that happen'.
When I look at us, it's amazing how we continually hear the 'Passin me by' or 'Runnin' in heavy rotation still. I’m proud of that. I think it just hit me as you’ve asked the question. S**t we didn’t really know how it was going to do or how it long it was going to last. It’s lasted a long time. It’s almost turned into a cult thing.
K-Natural: You have to also remember, that being tied to Jay Dee also wrote that history. His passing only makes it that much stronger because when great people pass they’re admired more. This was the first major entity that he put singles out on right?
L.A Jay: Yeah that he had credit to.
K-Natural: Yeah. A part of Jay Dee’s soul is there. Jay Dee has more than a cult following, he has universal hip hop love.
You must have so many great cool stories about J Dilla, what’s your fondest memory of him that you can remember whilst you were making this album?
Slimkid3: 'Runnin’ wouldn’t be what 'Runnin' is if it wasn’t for me having an actual fight with Fatlip. He tried to change the beat and I was like, "No man, we need to leave it the way it is because that’s Jay Dee’s signature". He [J Dilla] was like, "Whatever you want to do to make it work is fine with me”. I said to him, “Dude we’re going to do it exactly how you made it”. We kind of purists in that sense.
When I listen to different guitar players, I can hear their signature because there’s certain things they do all the time. I just wanted to keep it the way he had it. It was off a little bit and on. You got to let the producer do their thing, that’s why you hire them for their work.
It was a really bad scene. Jay Dilla was like, "Man you guys are my favourite group, and I don’t want to see y’all fight." I was like, "I want to see your music be heard in the way it’s supposed to be heard".
LabCabinCalifornia, when it first came out back in 1995, it had mixed reviews. How did it feel back to hear those negative comments after the success of Bizarre Ride II and then see it become a timeless record?
Slimkid3: I didn’t really hear that there were any comments. I don’t know that our head space was in it that. I don’t know if we really cared. I knew how it was when we were making it. I produced stuff and Bootie Brown produced stuff and Fatlip produced stuff. We did everything we could, beat-wise and musically before we sat down to look at where we were at.
From that point we noticed that there was still something missing. We called Q-Tip and he said, “Yeah lets do some stuff”. So we flew out to New York and stayed out there for 6 months and worked with him and Diamond D, and he turned us onto Jay Dilla. So for people to comment on it the way that they did, it didn’t really matter to us as we knew what we had.
Sometimes you have to stop looking in the mirror and trust that you are beautiful person and keep going. That’s how I look at making records. I don’t believe in the sophomore jinx.
K-Natural: Also some people don’t get things till way later anyway. You have to think that it was another whole production shift. You have the purists, who say, "Oh J-Swift’s not producing this, or L.A Jay’s not producing" and then there’s people are living for the moment.
Slimkid3: They wanted us to make another Bizarre Ride. Bizarre Ride was happy. LabCabin we went through a whole bunch of it, hence the heaviness. We’re were going through some shit and it reflected that. Now we’re at a place where we can make another bizarre ride record, energetically and get that.
What track on the LabCabinCalifornia album personally means the most to you?
Slimkid3: For me, 'Moment in Time'. I went through a journey of my life and all the important things, important people and folks that passed away. I had a moment in my whole career where I sat down. We’d be on tour so much and spending time everywhere, you are not around your family. What are the things that mean something to you, I thought, ‘Man my sister is growing up’. I just started writing about what my inspiration was in life.
My uncle was a boxer, he got shot and killed. I would always look at his picture and I was three when all that happened. I didn’t really know him, know him but as I grew every time I looked at his picture I would feel like he was there with me. His sister that died the next year was a deep influence on me as well. I guess I’m like a jellyfish because they suck in everything from their environment from being on 56th Street growing up, to my friend Pookie passing.
There’s so many elements. I felt like I needed to write that. It was a very important song to me, I didn’t realise how far I’d been away from the closest things to me.
K-Natural: That song because of Peanut.
L.A. Jay: Another one for me was 'Bulls**t' because that’s the first Jay Dee beat that I heard. He was playing the beat on his MPC in his studio. It was dope. It’s tied to a memory.
What’s next? Are there any plans for new music from Bizarre Ride, or any solo projects?
K-Natural: We’ve got the Titty Tape, which is a shenanigans mixtape, compilation with us and people that we know.
Slimkid3: We have my solo stuff, I have Monkey Business, a record that I did with this guy, his name is Tony Ozier of Doo Doo Funk Allstars.
K-Natural: Conspiracy Theory, which is a quick little solo project.
Slimkid3: There’s also a new project that I did with DJ Nu-Mark from Jurassic 5. The first album is already out, but the second album is finished now. It’ll be out in 2017. On it is Austin Antoine, he’s on the Titty Tape too, it’s called 'Double Life'. Go to BizarreRide.com to check out what we’re doing. There’s a difference between Bizarre Ride and Pharcyde, I know people get confused. It’s like the Legion of Doom, maybe one day we’ll form Voltron again and see what’s up.