location: Shibuya, Tokyo
date: June 19, 2008
interviewer: Shing02 (for hfweb)
photo by Suzu (Fresco)
First of all,
can you speak about your musical roots, like where are your roots
Oh OK. I guess
coming up, I used to listen to a lot of my mother's records at home,
my grandmother and grandfather used to have little house parties all
the time, and I was the little guy, you know, running around the house.
And they would just always have these classic records like Al Green,
and some reggae records like Bob Marley, I was really into Bob Marley
a lot when I was little back in 1981. I used to go to a lot of picnics
and things like that, and it was always like good music, like Isely
Brothers or something, always some kind of family get together that
would inspire these good times.
And the way that the music was, it always marked the time for me.
You know, a few that I could remember is this band called Enchantment,
it was something magical about the music in itself, that even when
I hear it to this day I remember what was going on when I was four
years old. So in making music now, I always wanted to create something
that would inspire people in that type of way as well, to touch somebody,
or make them remember a very, very important time in their life or
When they heard
When they heard
it, you know what I mean, and I had no idea I would be making music
myself, at all. Even in high school, I had no idea that this was what
I'd be doing, But as I'm doing it, I knew about the things that really
touched me a lot... It was just always very, very happy times... Always
happy times around the house, and the way the artwork on the records
used to be back in the day, you know what I mean, they took time with
it. Everything was just really special. Or when you go to a local
store, they sold 45's in the grocery store. It was just a very good
culture for music, so that really inspired me, that was my upbringing
when it came to music.
A lot of positive
Yeah! It was
always like a huge experience with it all, so I really loved that.
Oh mine started
way, way, way back when I was five years old... And I was forced to
go to church, 'cause my mother was the choir director of the church.
Choir! (laugh) and I had to go.
So I went, I used to play drums, used to play the bongo, and used
to sing in the church, and I stopped going to church as soon as I
was able to start learning how to climb on top of the house, so I
wouldn't have to go.
And then, it was just pop radio. I used to listen to whatever was
on pop radio like any kid. And then, we had a dance scene in LA, that
was really electro. The electro dance scene in high school, and right
after that which was somewhere in the late 80's, hip hop came. We
had a radio station called KDAY, and they broadcasted all the hip
hop acts from New York, that's when I was turned onto hip hop. Hip
hop was really the first music that really made me want to... do it.
Like I never wanted to be a gospel singer or anything like that, but
hip hop, yeah. I wanted to be a rapper. And that was probably like
'88, '87, somewhere around there.
But that's it pretty much, it came from the church and whatnot.
Which is like
a foundation that really takes time to come out in music, but that's
what's unique about America I think, like the artists more often than
not, they actually share a spiritual foundation.
You know, it might take a while to show through in the music...
you're right about that. Yeah, I feel you on that.
But there is
a difference, than not having anything at all. It adds a foundation,
that positive environment.
thing about it is after I started rapping, years after I started rapping,
even after we got going with the group and everything, I had forgot
that I used to... I had totally forgot about the foundation. I just
had remembered it later on and like "Oh yeah, that would make
sense we're in the music 'cause we love it", I wouldn't want
to do anything else.
And that would
definitely never go away. Well, as far as what you guys expressed
through hip hop, how do you think you positioned yourself with everything
going on, all the hip hop styles that were happening in LA, and also
on commercial radio?
I think you
definitely absorb it. By the time I started rapping and writing my
own rhymes, and trying to make my own beats, I don't necessarily think
I was trying to be like anybody that I heard before, but it's natural
'cause you just absorb it.
I mean, that's all I did everyday. Listen to rap, smoke weed, and
listen to music, so that's all that I was about. Yeah, yeah, in the
beginning if I kicked you my first rhyme, it would sound like Big
Daddy Kane, so yeah.
there was more diversity back then, no matter what you did, you'd
listen to all sorts of styles and did you own kind of thing.
to rephrase the question)
I don't think we thought about it at all, there was a lot going on
for sure, there was a lot of gangster rap happening, but we weren't
gangsters so there was no way that we could ever talk on it, and some
gangster rap stuff was really wack.
The dope stuff was really, really dope. It was so overly saturated
with it, it was like "ok, so what this person's a gangster"
it's just wack. The flow wasn't tight, and certain things that people
know how to rap take pride in, like cadence, not cramming words together.
You know what
I mean, the musicality of it. We knew true gangster rap when we heard
We took to it, we really vibed to it, like it was really the shit.
And those people were really real about what they were doing. But
us, that wasn't anything we could touch upon.
And if we did, you get tested for shit like that so, we knew what
our lane was. We stayed in our lane, we didn't drive in a different
lane, you know, that we clearly didn't know. So it wasn't really hard
to fall into our niche, 'cause it was just there.
Like when I first
heard your album in high school, it was just so different from everyone
else like you guys were just having fun, and you guys were talking
about a world that youngsters had only heard about, and it was just
like curiosity. You sparked a lot of curiosity, that was really good.
Thank you, man.
(To Fatlip) I
was telling Tre I still remember the smell of the first Pharcyde cassette,
it had this distinct ink smell, it just smelled different.
to add to the music background, as collectively, all of us how me
and Tre and all the other members met was through a Jazz musician
who allowed us to use his studio to develop our talent.
So that was another...
And who is this?
he produced the Dazz band, their biggest hit was "Let It Whip",
but he did a lot of arrangements and wrote for a lot of Motown acts.
produced for Rick James...
it was just luck that I happen to come across the organization that
he had going on, Tre was in the organization, it was just luck and
blessing, and that's where we met everyone in the group.
As a matter of fact, that's where every record, from the first album,
came from which was his record collection that he just let us use.
Like he opened up his home basically to us, that's what his studio
was. So that's another part of our background.
And how old were
you guys when that happened?
And he taught
us about, we would have meetings every Monday, have workshops about
the business, writing, producing, what works, what doesn't, "don't
write a verse for 30 bars", "keep it simple", and honestly
that's what really separated us from a lot of other groups that was
coming out doing hip hop.
'Cause hip hop was our culture, that's what everyone was doing, our
peers, but one thing that separated us was that we had somewhat of
a mentor, so we were very fortunate to have that. And you always have
to credit him for anything that we have done.
Pretty much everything.
Like I wish we could give back to him, like us just making sure that
we mention him in everything that we do is a grand way of giving back.
But he's dedicated his life to make sure that students of music truly
understood, you know, the routs to go.
So you talk about
him in interviews?
We talk about
him in every interview pretty much. We really have to, 'cause leaving
him out would be completely disrespectful. What he does for his students
and in the community is what we as artists have to do in our communities
and go give our time to students as well, like when I see young kids
coming up and trying to do something, I don't do a disservice to them
by saying that their shit is dope when it's really not, I make sure
that I listen well to what it is that they created, and I can actually
tell them how to make something better.
Or I can listen to a song and I can tell when a band had conflict,
or somebody wrote a rhyme just to be on the song, 'cause they want
to get paid or whatever, so they wanna jump on this thing and do a
And if you can't honor music, there's no way that you need to be in
it. Like, I hated myself for being on a song, just to be on a song.
It's like OK, you disrespected the song, you just jumped in. Like,
why don't you just sit back and listen, to what it may need or it
might not even need you at all.
So you know, there's a lot of premises. Yeah, he was the one to make
sure that the drummers were top drummers.
And a young kid can be a dope ass drummer, but if his mind ain't right,
it's worthless. You know what I mean?
Like if you put
him in a band, he's just going to be a show-off, and he doesn't know
how to be a "band".
A band means a lot. A band doesn't mean individuals, it means how
well can you guys move as one. And he'd make sure that we knew that...
He always made sure sure that we knew that. We kinda took all of those
things and carried them with us, we still carry that shit with us.
On that note,
can you briefly touch upon the history of The Pharcyde, how it came
together, where it's at right now, and how it's gonna go from here?
history started with that, it was called SCU, South Central Unit,
and the guy I mentioned, Reggie Andrews was the head of the organization.
And everyone that got there came by whatever circumstances, everyone's
was different. Bottom line is we all ended up in this place where
this producer, jazz musician, music teacher was giving us guidance
about the industry, and that's where I met all the cats from The
What separated our relationship from everybody else in that organization
is, outside from Tre, we all smoked a lot of weed. So that was kind
of our bond at the time. Before we decided to have a group, before
we had a name, we would hang out, real tough. So we said "You
know what? We hang out all day, let's do a group".
When we decided to come together as a group, things immediately
started happening, everything. First thing happened, we found all
these records, started making the beats. Passin'
Me By was our first song we had on our demo, Officer and Ya
Mama were the other two. We had a demo, we shopped it around
in Hollywood man, and it didn't take but two, three months for somebody
to sign us, it happened like that.
And we all knew it too, it was like "man there's nothing like
this". 'Cause there wasn't at the time, you had Fu-Schnickens,
you had Tribe and other dope acts, Leaders Of The New School, people
we were listening to at the time, but the fact that we were from
the west coast put a twist on it, and everybody knew it.
So we were really blessed to run into each other. And the whole
story is luck man, every step of the way, from me even finding that
place, to running into J-Swift, our first producer...
Just for the fact that we found those records, if I go into how
we made Passin' Me By, that part, it's just luck! I never sang Passin'
Me By like I did it that night in the studio, it was a demo. We
had to take that demo and, when we got a record deal, I couldn't
do it like that again.
It was one of those moments that was, it's crazy, it's just crazy.
And then, you know we got signed and we released Ya Mama first,
we had a little success with that, but after Passin' Me By came
out man, it was just, like they say, the rest is history.
were touring, had a lot of success, doing what we wanted to do,
making a little money, and you know, the pitfalls of success always
come about. And everyone has their own story of why the group stopped
working. Some say it's me, some say it's Tre, some say it's the
other two cats, Imani and Romye.
But it just stopped and I was the first one to get out, Tre was
the second one. They continued to use the name, and things like
that, we went our separate ways and none of us did anything spectacular
outside of the group, and luckily, everybody was waiting for the
reunion. And I felt it was never going to happen because we attempted
to do it a few times unsuccessfully, but Chang offered to do it,
Chang Weisberg, founder of Rock The Bells, Guerilla Union, offered
to do it, and it was just too good of an offer. Financially, career-wise,
opportunity-wise, to share the stage with the people we're gonna
share the stage with.
Had to do it, so that's why we did it, and we're back doing it.
We don't know how long it's gonna last, hopefully we're gonna try
to make it last. See if the people even want it to last... so that's
where we're at right now.
It's kind of
We'll be out here though.
Tre) Any thoughts?
Oh, he said
Could you briefly
talk about other things you have on your mind, like for yourselves
possibly, what you want to do in the future?
In the immediate
future I just want to stay focused on what we're trying to achieve
with The Pharcyde and beyond that, it's pretty much what we've been
doing, me and Lip traveling and doing shows, and I'm currently in
Ozomatli as well, so you know, I can't call it. It's kind of just
what it is, and the immediate future for me is really focusing on
Which is important.
It's very important.
Because everything else is a toss up until it becomes solid. So
I'm gonna let the soil take the seed, take good seeds that I personally
will plant, or have planted, and hope it does well, I don't think
there's any room for my ego or negativity or whatever, you know
to try make something flourish. I think we're talented enough and
blessed enough to be happy and everything will come along.
And you can
share that with the audience as well.
Yeah all I
care about right now, is dancing, DJing, rapping and really just
making money, making money in the sense that we're stable, not for
that sense of "Yo, we're rich" or no shit like that, because
it's really not about that, it's about necessities, it just so happens
that having a good financial foundation is very important to our
career, our lives, and to be able come out and still have people
enjoy what it is that we love to do. And we love doing it, I'd rather
do this than anything else in the world.
For the future? Um, honestly I can't say I got heavy plans for the
future. I don't know, I have no idea. I'm an artist, I'ma always
do something artistic, expressing myself, I'm gonna prepare for
the next era in my life and see what outlet I can use to express
myself. But it's always going to be an artistic endeavor that I'm
involved with. Maybe it's film, maybe I'll start writing movies.
OK, so last
question. Lately, on everyone's minds been about is destruction
of the environment, political turmoil all around the world, and
because of the internet age we're able to find these things pretty
easily. As much as there's positivity in the world, there's a lot
of negative stuff going on, and people are worried about the economy,
blah blah blah. So what do you think is the role of music in these
What role music plays?
or in general, what do you think music can do to actually, do some
music has always been there to, like they say, to soothe the savage
beast 1. You
know to maybe give people hope, writers of music today don't necessarily
write music to bring hope, people are being more realistic.
It's like escapism.
and you got writers that are so-called telling it like it is, saying
"Yo you know what, this world is fucked up". I mean, but
there was always... Marvin Gaye, there was Stevie Wonder, those
artists you can... yeah they did give you hope. I can't really say
that's what's going on today in music, but everybody has their own
form of escapism, maybe somebody feels some sort of relief of the
troubles of the world when they listen to Young Jeezy or Lil Weezy,
'cause those dudes are good too. I guess it's always entertainment
in the form of escapism, something to get your mind off the bullshit.
I think the
amount of pressure pretty much coming from all directions has possibly
turned off how we receive... like a beautiful song, or a beautiful
thing. Because it's overwhelming because we're so stressed, how
to keep our family fed, and the gas prices are way out it's like
they don't have time to think about a fucking song. And it's really
fucking unfortunate that a beautiful song couldn't just walk across
our mind. There's no room.
art, or nature...
art, or see a beautiful woman walk down the street or...
always appreciate that shit.
But you know
what, you think back, you think about the short term of it, we can
sex her up or whatever, but the long term of it, is how do I take
care of this woman, how do I respect this woman, treat her to dinner,
just the simplest things, it's like you can't even get there because
you're worried about...
far from what I'm saying.
going along the lines of what you got to worry about before appreciating
If we didn't
have to worry about all the stresses in the world, you know what
I mean, like I bet you people forgot about AIDS. That's how deep
this shit is. Fuck, gas prices is so high, what's an AID? To be
honest, AIDS is a really really fucking serious problem. Like how
in the fuck can a large percentage of people in a country be dying
of the same fucking shit, of a continent. It bring me to tears.
That's a major issue. And there is a song for it, and we can light
candles, and sway back and forth and feel it, yeah we all fee for
it, and give money. I mean, give me a fucking break. Like, where
did that shit come from, how do we get rid of it, there's a cure
for everything but there's not a cure for that?
Or like who's really fucking up, who's holding the cure if there
is one, and why aren't they clearing it so people can get the help
that's necessary. And you know what, that thought right there can
block a beautiful song from coming through your god damn mind. Because
there are a lot of issues, we don't have the fucking CPU, the brain
power to store beautiful songs.
If it's not
one thing, it's the other thing coming at you.
It's just too
much. It's funny how, even fruit that's seedless, it's like a suicide
gene. If you eat fruits with seeds in it, at least the seed can
grow into more fruit, but you eat seedless fruit, that's the end.
So you are what you eat, so you're in-taking the end. So your mind
is thinking in that direction of finite, instead of in-finite, or
Everything is really trippy. Nothing is natural anymore, and it
should be, maybe we can learn a lot by going back to the basics
instead of doing all this way out shit. I mean there's a whole lot,
and I wish there was a song for it... that could make people actually
change. It's not gonna happen right now.
But I think
we're all capable of expressing that at the least.
I think we
got a lot of crying to do, there's a fight in everybody that needs
to come out, so we can get tired of fighting, and we can all just
relax and go to that placid area when you have nothing you can do
but to give it to the universe to take care of, and be like, humility.
You know what I mean, just that area of there's nothing more I can
do, I have done everything that I could do. I have protested these
wars, I have done whatever. There's absolutely nothing more that
you could do except just feel the silence. It's crazy.
crazy. But we forget that we live in a crazy world.
At least music
brings you hope, I think.
When I look
at my life on the scale of the serious shit too, I'm not even mad,
I wouldn't say that I got it that bad. It could be so worse. In
this country, I'm thinking America. It could be way worse. So what
you gotta do, you take it day by day, that's what they say.
OK, so to a
positive future, thank you.
read this, all around the world. we'll post it up.
For sure. That's
has charms to soothe a savage breast (or beast)
William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697:
Music has charms to soothe a savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living souls, have been inform'd,
By magic numbers and persuasive sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than trees, or flint? O force of constant woe!
'Tis not in harmony to calm my griefs.