The Pharcyde @ The Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 26 Oct

Hip-hop forefathers The Pharcyde bring their debut album celebration to The Liquid Room, transcending mere nostalgia in the process

Live Review by Rhys Morgan | 07 Nov 2023
  • The Pharcyde

Hip-hop progenitors The Pharcyde bring the extension of their 30th anniversary celebration of debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, their contribution to the fundamental canon, to The Liquid Room on a Thursday night. A pervading sense of 90s nostalgia contributes to a prescient kineticism present among the amassing crowd, even before Imani, Fatlip and Slimkid3 take to the stage. When they do, the capacity crowd lifts; there’s a palpable sense of love in the room. The Pharcyde’s legacy may be considered niche in comparison to hip-hop peers such as A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, but Imani, Fatlip and Slimkid3 are legends in their own right, foundational to hip-hop as it exists in its current form, and the audience’s reverence reflects this.

Despite their vaunted status, there is no complacency or ego to be found here; The Pharcyde are working while on stage. Imani, particularly, is in a constant state of frenzied motion, with unceasing dancing that is so infectiously passionate that it is affecting to you, standing in the audience. On two occasions during the rather ephemeral runtime he changes his T-shirt, so noticeably slicked with sweat that it showers onto the stage floor.

There is no undulation to the audience response throughout the rather evanescent set: we enter at fever pitch, and The Pharcyde are deft in holding us at these emotional heights. The chanted choruses of The Pharcyde staples like Ya Mama, Drop and Oh Shit agglutinating the audience into a singular choral form, the playback simultaneously in combat and in concert with the crowd. There is an unfortunate lack of volume from the microphones, the verses becoming somewhat lost amidst these ringing choruses, which stands to undercut the otherwise consistently tangible excitement of the event. 

And that’s what is unmistakable, here. The feeling is very much that of a hero’s homecoming, the return of one of the most influential musical forebears to the stage in celebration of the tracks that raised them to this level. It feels almost insulting to refer to the experience as nostalgia; as a term, it begets a reputation of ‘irrelevance’ or ‘washed up’-ness. There isn’t a hint of nostalgia in the pejorative sense, but a real air of appreciation and disbelief that these performances are even happening, to the quality that Imani, Fatlip and Slimkid3 prove they can still uphold.

This is most apparent during set highlights Passin’ Me By and Runnin’, arguably the signature representations of The Pharcyde as an outfit. The former’s infamous chorus, a repetition of the title hollered by Fatlip creates a moment in the set where The Liquid Room’s basement club suddenly feels infinitely larger, it's so loud you’d swear the 800-odd in attendance was tenfold to the reality.

The latter is the set-closer – a confluence of J-Dilla production and Pharcyde verses – and serves as a totemic representation of formative and influential 90s hip-hop, utterly iconic in its chorus between Dilla record scratches and stuttered ‘run- run’ Run DMC sample. It brings home a set that knows its strengths: a setlist built on the two albums that secure The Pharcyde in their particular echelon, and one that doesn’t overstay its welcome – ensuring the performers maintain a high level of sustained fervour in their work on stage, and provide a worthy update to the memory of a crowd where many will have waited decades to see The Pharcyde bring their discography to life.