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Revisiting The Pharcyde: Hip-Hop Needs More Documentaries

Though it’s completely separate from hip-hop, there’s a great 2009 documentary called Anvil!: The Story of Anvil that, in my humble opinion, all music fans should experience. Darren Aronofsky’s still-great The Wrestler could be seen as a gateway drug into its second-chance-at-success theme, Mickey Rourke’s grizzled ex-ringmaster replaced by Anvil’s two faded rock-n-rollers.

Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the Canadian metal tandem was praised as the “demi-gods of Canadian metal,” forbearers of a sound later popularized by groups such as Metallica and Anthrax. Anvil never achieved that degree of commercial notoriety, unfortunately, falling by the music industry’s wayside. With Anvil!: The Story of Anvil, they allowed a camera crew to document the recording of, and touring for, their 13th album, a hopeful comeback. What director Sacha Gervasi captures, though, goes beyond a simple redemption story; it’s an at times brutal but altogether inspirational showcase for the power of undying goals. Even though I can care less about Anvil’s music, I’m now a fan.

Sit tight—there’s a reason why I’m shouting Anvil out on

I was breezing through a routine Nahright visit over the weekend, and I came across a video that confused me, as well as triggered a few chuckles. It seems that Fredro Starr, one-third of the once-badass Queens trio Onyx, has been releasing a series of testimonial clips, where he muses about his rap-game memories. The installment I caught was the 11th entry; I’m guessing that he’ll keep this going until sites like Nahright stop posting his vids.

At first, I was going to write about how lame and unnecessary a Fredro Starr video trip down memory lane is, and how the Internet allows has-beens who can’t get their own VH1 or MTV reality show to inch their respective way toward look-at-me-now fame, whether leading to a Flavor Flav-like resurgence or a simple side-stepping of Milk Carton inclusion. But then Anvil!: The Story of Anvil popped into my thoughts, and this post took a less insulting/more optimistic turn. And one forgotten rap act in particular begged for attention.

How great would it be to watch a little documentary called Revisiting The Pharcyde take Hollywood by storm and earn a Best Documentary nomination from the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? This is purely fictional, but work with me here.

The synopsis would read a bit like this: Directed by the crew’s longtime friend Spike Jonze, Revisiting The Pharcyde tells the eccentric and charming story of South Central Los Angeles’s most underappreciated rap group, a four-man outfit of non-thugs that only released four albums from 1992-2004, but were never less than groundbreaking. Now, six years after dropping their last record, Fatlip, Bootie Brown, Slimkid3 and Imani give hip-hop stardom another shot, as acclaimed filmmaker Jonze follows them every backwards-step of the way.

I know I’d shell out $12.50 to see that, on opening night. But why should such a hip-hop documentary only exist in my head? Taking a cue from Anvil’s reawakening, The Pharcyde needs to hit Jonze’s cellular immediately and pitch the hell out of this idea. He’s finished with Where the Wild Things Are; he must have a few free months to go lo-fi. Pull a Martin Scorcese and treat The Pharcyde like Sir Marty would the Rolling Stones.

1992’s Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde still holds up, as does the Dilla-infused Labcabincalifornia, so the catalog is there. And Fatlip and company would fit in well with rap’s current hipster lean. If The Pharcyde ever had a shot at a successful second round, it’s now, and Revisiting The Pharcyde (or whatever it’d be called) could do the trick.

For my money, hip-hop has rarely been as strangely brilliant as this, The Pharcyde’s “4 Better or 4 Worse”:

Now it’s your turn. If not The Pharcyde, what former B-list rap crew(s) would you pitch for a redemptive comeback documentary? —Matt Barone

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