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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  • Jhon da Analyst

    Labcabincalifornia was dat shit!!! Still is…….

  • Jhon da Analyst

    “She said”……………

  • Chiliz

    Ill pic………


    Well Jay is jus’ makin albums now at his leasure as he feels he’s top dog and deservedly so . So i nominate Murder Inc. maybe a name change but that track with Jay , Ja-Rule , and DMX was the ish’ just that little da da dahhhhh set that track off .

    I guess big egos of course got in the way but why not now ? Jay could certainly toss a favor to Ja who needs it and to X who definatly needs it , although the new DMX mixtape is poppin .

    And last but not least can we please find out what happen to the “Peace and Asalamalakum” cat freestylin with Jay and X backstage on the Roc the Mic tour?.lol

  • Enlightened

    It would have to be Trillville and Lil’ Scrappy.

    Ah ha ha ha ha. Y’all know I’m bullshittin with that. Fuck outta here.

    I would have to say Dungeon Family. I know Outkast are far from B-list but as a collective, I would put them in that category.

  • fireforreal

    Yeah Lacabincalifornia is a classic that was soooooooooooooooo slept on. You can play it from front to back.

  • Jhon da Analyst

    Fugees…….especially with all the shit going down in Haiti and my ex-girlfriend going crazy and all…….

  • Victoria Page

    I’m with Enlightened…I would pay very good money to go see a Dungeon Family documentary.

  • westcoastaggie

    A Doc on the Native Tongues Collective would be just as cool

  • dro jackson

    souls of mischief/heiroglyphics

  • silentmurder

    The Pharcyde = criminally underrated. Labcabincalifornia gets rotation from me every now and then… I really wish they’d come out with a new album more than a documentary!!

  • Brooklyn

    digable planets. they were nice but underrated, just like pharacyde.

  • eljefe615

    the pharcyde are still holding it down! shout out to Uncle Imani & Booty Brown. They are always some support..

  • Incilin

    I’m mad that this post doesn’t even mention/post a Youtube clip of “What Up Fatlip?” I mean come on, Fatlip’s transvestite story is crazy fucked up and probably way more interesting than the story of their careers. lol

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  • Elvin Block

    Very awesome article! Truely.

  • Tracey Casillas

    If only I had a dime for each time I came to Great article!

  • Emil Coe‘s done it again! Incredible writing.