We’ve arrived at the end of the week! And we’re finishing things off with The Pharcyde. When I was picking albums for this week, I was trying to avoid double-dipping into artists that I’ve done First Listens on before. I wanted to embrace the freshness of an entirely new experience, but Labcabincalifornia (1995) kept showing up on all of the “Top 90s West Coast Albums” lists that I saw, and I couldn’t help myself! I remember enjoying Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (1992), despite not knowing what they were talking about half the time, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to listen to another one of their projects to see where they landed three years after Bizarre.
So. I know I said Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle (1993) was my favorite album of the week, but I’m knocking it to second place and moving Labcabincalifornia into the top spot. From the second this project started, I could tell that I was going to fall in love. Labcabin keeps many of the same elements from Bizarre, but they feel more put together and polished on this album. Where Bizarre felt like what I described as “lettuce in a salad spinner,” Labcabin feels like the process of making a high-quality Caesar salad with homemade dressing (excuse me, I watch a lot of Hell’s Kitchen). But that doesn’t mean they’re completely “elbows off the table” on here. The Pharcyde guys are still funny as ever – there are some hilarious moments on Labcabin like on “All Live,” the beginning of “Groupie Therapy,” and “Little D” – and they obviously had a great putting this album together.
And just like Bizarre, this project is as far from a “typical” 90s West Coast project as it can get. This album isn’t adorned with the money, jewelry, drug dealing, “gat-toting, pistol-holding” talk that was commonplace on Cube, Tupac, Snoop, and Dre’s projects. Those conversations take more of a backseat and are replaced by lines about how the music industry is a scam (“Devil Music”), the realistic consequences of trying to indulge in “that gang-related flavor” (“Y? (Be Like That)”), and sticking up for yourself in the face of your obstacles (“Runnin'”). And we also get a little bit of conversation around – GASP – the agency that women have in their relationships with men on “She Said,” though we do get a little unhinged misogyny on “Groupie Therapy.” Something cool that The Pharcyde does do on this project, though, is keep a little bit of G-funk influence in the production and lyrics. There’s a “gin and juice” reference on “Pharcyde,” words like “plizace” and “fizace” that are reminiscent of Snoop on “She Said,” and an Ice Cube sample on a song or two.
NOTE: I’ll link the write up on Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde here because a lot of what I say about that project relates to this one. Basically just copy that into your mind and paste in here lol.
As for the tracks themselves, they were all amazing, but as always, I had some favorites. “Runnin'” was a quick favorite that I can’t tell if I’ve heard before or not. There’s a “Saudade Vem Correndo” sample on there that I LOVE. Another one of my favorite songs – this time from Stan Getz and Luiz Bonfá – and it added so much to “Runnin’.” “Splatitorium” was another good one – loved the production. “She Said” was great. The bars on “Pharcyde” were chef’s kiss, and the production on “Bullshit” was amazing. Really, every song that J. Dilla produced was fantastic. Reaching back into the hip hop catalog in my mind, I can’t remember a song that I’ve heard that was produced directly by J. Dilla – i.e. a song that wasn’t made from a Dilla sample – so I’m happy to have had the opportunity to finally hear his work in it’s true form. I’ll continue to hide in shame at my lack of Dilla experience. I’m sorry 😦 Adding him to my listening list right now!
As I finished up listening to Labcabincalifornia, a word that continued to pop into my mind was “timeless.” I think that there are a few very obvious signs that this project was made in 1995, including the several times on this project where someone said “it’s 1995,” but otherwise, it’s hard to put a timestamp on here. With the other albums this week, the G-funk production and influence ages it. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes it obvious that it’s an album that’s from a specific place and a specific time. But Labcabin doesn’t feel like that, neither did Bizarre. Much like a lot of the music from Outkast, who would put out their first project a year earlier (we’ll get to them another week), The Pharcyde makes projects that transcend the bounds of time. And I love that for them.
But that’s not to denigrate the other albums this week. Amerikkka’s Most Wanted (1990), 2Pacalypse Now (1991), The Chronic (1992), and Doggystyle are all legendary projects that will continue to be influential as hip hop moves forward through the years. That G-funk, gangster rap, hardcore energy spread across the country – and across time – and served as a point of reference for many albums since. Like I mentioned with To Pimp a Butterfly (2016) yesterday, there’s different feeling that music has when you know the source material that it drew from. I think that’s true for most art forms. Having AMW, 2PN, The Chronic, and Doggystyle (and now Labincabin) in my musical arsenal will undoubtedly change the way I listen to hip hop music from now on. And I’m incredibly excited to find out how!
Read all the write-ups for this week here.
(listen to Labcabincalifornia on Spotify by clicking the image below)
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