June 5th, 2012 | Live reviews

Taking us on a bizarre ride back to the golden era of hip hop, the party was on from the start at “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde: Live” on May 23. Fatlip, Slimkid3, J-Sw!ft and L.A. Jay brought it hard at the sold-out Roxy show celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the most influential hip hop albums of all time.

DJ Nu-Mark did well to prime the crowd with an appropriate booty-shaking mix of early ’90s hip hop jams before Big Boy (Pharcyde’s bodyguard from back in the day) introduced the MCs to the stage. Straight from the downbeat the vibe was right and crowd was bumping, and when the timeless comedy of “Oh Shit” kicked off everyone flowed along with every rhyme, ingrained into every Angeleno’s brain as part of our native vocabulary. The four performed the entire album top to bottom, and 20 years later it still holds up — as do the MCs, who sounded (and looked) as fly as they did in 1992. They went through all the classic tracks sounding as good as, and at times even better than, the record, among the standouts being the Stanley Cowell-heavy “On the DL,” ganga-lover favorite “Pack the Pipe,” and the still hilarious “Ya Mama.” Taking a solo moment, Tre impressed with his dynamic vocal lead on “Otha Fish.” But of course the undeniable highlight was “Passin’ Me By,” which remains as haunting and soul-stoppingly beautiful as it did the day it was released. They even played all the hysterical skits in between, like “It’s Jigaboo Time” and “Quinton’s On His Way” (and he really was; the famous “delivery man” showed up with the evening’s most important party favors). Even the original album drummer, legendary JMD, was there holding down fat live beats.

Purists will point out that half of Pharcyde’s original founding members, Imani and Bootie Brown (Romye), were glaringly absent from the bill. They were missed, but album producer J-Sw!ft, the musical genius behind the hip-hop masterwork, and guest MC K-Nat held it down tight, sounding right at home picking rhymes with Fatlip and Tre. In addition to taking on DJ duties, fellow producer L.A. Jay spent weeks compiling the impressive backdrop visuals mixing Pharcyde music videos, rare photos and classic black-and-white animation clips that fit the energy of the album, adding a nice touch to the evening’s historical homage — as did the unexpected costume change into Puma tracksuits (whut!) for the last number, “Return of the B-Boy.” The show wrapped with an insane encore of the groups most loved post-Bizarre Ride tracks off Labcabincalifornia, the classic J-Dilla (RIP) remix version of “She Said” and the still inspiring “Runnin,’” before turning into an old skool breakdance competition with none other than master pop-breaker Boogaloo Shrimp.

Mad love to brothers Mike and Rick Ross, ringleaders of the Delicious Vinyl record label, who at the urging of J-Sw!ft masterminded the Bizarre Ride 20th anniversary celebration. From the unforgettable live performance, to the merch table selling retro reissue audio cassettes and the new Bizarre Ride singles box set, down to the extra touch of having a carnival cutout of the album’s roller coaster artwork by SLICK on display for fans to take pictures in, the entire event took all of us who grew up loving the Pharcyde back to the golden era of hip hop, if only for one more night.

I caught up with Rick Ross after the show, who shared how it all came about: “My brother, Mike Ross, who signed the group and executive-produced Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, always wanted to bring together the original team of artists who created the album to perform it from start to finish. It was amazing to share this with all our friends, family and the fans who grew up on this album and love this style of fun loving, mind expanding hip hop. In this ever-changing art form, Bizarre Ride remains an essential stop for fans of all music. It was one of the greatest nights in Delicious Vinyl’s history.”

With the crowd and great vibe this show pulled, it’s hard to imagine this being the last of this kind of celebration from Delicious Vinyl. I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years to go on the next bizarre ride.

– Linda A. Rapka