Review Summary: Just as good if not better than their debut in spots and shows J Dilla coming into his own as one of the best producers in hip-hop.
The Pharcyde have become well known as one of the more prominent early 90’s rap groups that distanced themselves from the growing gangster rap trend. Along with a Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, the Pharcyde created music that carried and expanded on the traditions of the “golden age” of hip-hop. They’re songs usually deal with girls, weed, and how good they are at rapping. Despite the bragging, they carry a certain sort of self-deprecating humor, which is a refreshing aspect that seems to be lacking in too many hip-hop groups. On Labcabincalifornia The Pharcyde showed they were more than just a one hit or one album wonder.
Labcabincalifornia is an album that is often overlooked, forgotten, and ultimately overshadowed by the giant, looming shadow Bizzare Ride II the Pharcyde cast. The album is also missing one of the key elements that made they’re debut an overwhelming success; J-Swift’s production. The dark yet laid back musical backdrop he created caused an interesting contrast to the lighthearted stoner rhymes provided by the rest of the group. This aspect to the group’s sound is missed until you hear that a young J Dilla is behind the boards for most of the album. J Dilla creates something that is amazing in its own way while still keeping the groups core sound. This album could be seen as J Dilla beginning to develop and perfect his signature sound: brilliant slow moving soul samples. This creates an atmosphere for The Pharcyde to thrive on with their odd lyricism, stoned humor, and interesting social commentary.
They aren’t afraid of sounding goofy but they also aren’t afraid to add some substance within each of their songs. They even sing better than many rappers when they add it to the mix. This shows how truly diverse they were at the time when taking into consideration that most hip-hop artists bring in guest artists to sing or rap on large portions of their albums. The Pharcyde carry the entire album on their own with the solid production of J Dilla over the course of 17 tracks and never really get boring. Every song hits the mark which makes listing off a bunch of highlights kind of pointless although songs like “Drop” and “Groupie Therapy” are a good introduction to the group.
The next few Pharcyde albums progressively decreased in quality. They lost key members and had shoddier production values but this album serves as a reminder of why they were one of the best hip-hop groups of the 90s.