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 in music?

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 whatever.

When they heard it.

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 vibes.

Yeah! It was always like a huge experience with it all, so I really loved that.

OK. Fatlip?

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...

Well yeah, 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.

The funny 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.

But obviously 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.

(after asking 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.

The musicality.

You know what I mean, the musicality of it. We knew true gangster rap when we heard it too.
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.

Wow. Also 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?

Reggie Andrews.

Reggie Andrews, 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.

He executive produced for Rick James...

Yeah, and 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?

Early 20's.

21, 22...

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.

That's cool.

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 chorus.
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?

Well, the 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 Pharcyde.
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...

Or fate.

Fate (claps). 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.

Uh huh.

Then, we 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 open-ended.

It's open-ended. We'll be out here though.

Right. (to Tre) Any thoughts?

Oh, he said it all.

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 being happy.

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.

My plans? 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 critical times?

Lately? What role music plays?

Personally or in general, what do you think music can do to actually, do some good?

I think 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.

Yes 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.

To appreciate art, or nature...

To appreciate art, or see a beautiful woman walk down the street or...

Ahhh, I 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...

Does she have AIDS.


No, for real though.

That's really far from what I'm saying.

No, but going along the lines of what you got to worry about before appreciating something beautiful.

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 infinite.
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.

It is crazy. But we forget that we live in a crazy world.

It's really crazy, man.

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.

Thank you.

Everybody should read this, all around the world. we'll post it up.

For sure. That's what's up.


Music 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.