Filed under: Album Reviews
After posting the Dilla/J Rocc mix I was drawn back to The Pharcyde’s sophomore release ‘Labcabincalifornia’. I had forgotten how much I get out of this album despite its slightly lukewarm reception in comparison to ‘Bizarre Ride II’ and controversially I think I actually prefer this to their first effort. What the first album did so effectively was hark back to how fun hip hop could be with hilarious lyrics and upbeat party rockers. The criticism levelled at ‘Labcabincalifornia’ seems to revolve around the fact that the group got more introspective and serious on this album, losing the aforementioned sense of unadulterated fun that characterised the first release. This has never posed a problem for me and I personally feel that this album has subsequently been slept on a little.
I remember being in a friend’s older brother’s flat in Camden when I stumbled upon the ‘Runnin” CD single. I guess I might be exposing the fact that I have been involved in hip hop seriously for a much shorter time than other bloggers out there, as I had heard nothing of The Pharcyde until this point. That tune went on repeat for the rest of the night and remains one of my favourite cuts of all time. It is amazing the impact that music can have in that early stage of discovery where it can sound so fresh and new, and your feelings towards it are uncomplicated and totally free of cynicism. ‘Runnin” struck an instant chord with me with it’s guitar loop, crispy snares and sung chorus hook. The overall jazziness of the tune coupled with the MCs newfound maturity towards life and the industry still gets me to this day, and it is a classic for both myself and my circle of friends who have all found the same allure in its production and lyricism.
I could talk about ‘Runnin” all day, but there are other highlights here as well. ‘Devil Music’ lyrically explores issues surrounding the ownership of the band’s music when engaged in the modern music industry and is backed by a slammin’ beat. Other high points include ‘Groupie Therapy’ which is produced by Diamond D and features some dope xylophones that form the backbone of the tune and ‘Moment In Time’ which is a seriously laid back track where the group ponder the nature of our time on this planet. Granted, the MCs do seem slightly jaded over the course of the album but they aren’t bitchin’, they have simply gained experience and knowledge of the world around them in the three years between this and their first album and they deliver this knowledge with eloquence and style.
This is not to say that this is a totally consistent album and I do find myself skipping a few tracks here and there. However, the strength of individual joints carries the album for me and I am confident that I will come back to this and still enjoy it in the future. I simply cannot separate ‘Labcabincalifornia’ from a stage in my life when the whole of hip hop was laid out in front of me, waiting to be discovered and cherished. Wouldn’t it be great to go back to that time when you got your hands on an album that genuinely changed how you felt about music and perhaps even your perception of the world around you. This represents that phase in my introduction to real hip hop and for that reason it will forever remain a personal classic. I can sit here and deliberate about the pros and cons of albums until the cows come home, but you can’t be totally objective about everything can you?