Slimkid3, Imani and Fatlip of the Pharcyde were never supposed to rap together again. After producing two classic ‘90s hip-hop albums — “Bizarre Ride: The Pharcyde” and “Labcabincalifornia” — the galvanizing West Coast hip-hop group crumbled and went their separate ways. Slimkid3 and Fatlip splintered off into their own group Bizarre Ride, while Imani and Bootie Brown ran with the Pharcyde name, performing as a duo. But death has a funny way of putting things into perspective, ready or not.
Not long after Imani’s grandmother died and his own first grandchild was born, he had somewhat of a spiritual awakening that prompted him to call Slimkid3 after years of not speaking.
“We had been estranged from each other for a while and we were doing different shows,” he tells Variety in a recent Zoom interview. “Tre was doing shows with Fatlip, I was doing shows with Brown and we had been away from each other for a while.
“We had the 20th anniversary and every time these anniversaries start coming around, it starts getting weird, right? People started talking and you already have a way you feel about certain things, and then it just kept on going.
“I was having issues in my world, like personally with my grandmother passing a few years back, then I had a granddaughter. I was living different, and things were just looking different to me, especially with my granddaughter. She would just be checking me. I would be finding myself saying stuff to her that I should be applying to my own self.”
It certainly didn’t hurt that “Dilla Time,” Dan Charnas’ expansive and wildly praised history of the late producer J Dilla (a.k.a. Jay Dee) — who made his bones producing several pivotal early Pharcyde songs, and whose musical brilliance first captivated future collaborator Questlove and the Roots when the two groups toured together in 1993 — came out just last month, reviving interest in the group’s discography.
A mutual friend had also been in Imani’s ear, telling him how important it was to make peace with his Pharcyde brethren. So, Imani picked up the phone — and it was then that he realized just how “simple” it was. The two friends, who’ve known each other since high school, talked about life and their families — in fact, music didn’t even come up.
“When he called, it was the happiest day of my life,” Slimkid3 says. “We’re like super homies growing up.” Imani adds, “I’ve known Tre the longest, and he’s the godfather of my son, so I take that real serious. That’s my family: I know his sister, I know his grandma. We got other stuff to talk about, because all the other stuff is what made the Pharcyde. I was hanging out with him and then babysitting his sister at his grandma’s house. And so that’s what we talked about: the real stuff, and all the other stuff came with the real stuff.”
With Imani and Slimkid3 back in touch, now they just needed to get Fatlip onboard. After connecting over Instagram Live, Fatlip and Imani were ultimately able to hash out their differences and move forward with a refreshed sense of camaraderie.
“At that time, I was starting to feel that things may come around, because a lot of the tension and a lot of the negative thoughts that were going on from the past kind of didn’t matter as much, because we were getting older,” Fatlip explains. “The fact we were all part of this hip-hop thing that’s still thriving, and people still care about, that was really my main motivation. Like, ‘Let’s do this for hip-hop.’”
Now, officially reunited as The Far Side (formerly of The Pharcyde), this trio is welcoming this second chapter with open arms — and Imani doesn’t have to miss Fatlip and Slimkid3 anymore. (The trio apparently show remarkable self-awareness with the photo above, which is clearly — and hilariously — based on the cranky old men in Spike Lee’s classic 1989 film “Do the Right Thing”; L-R above: Fatlip, Slimkid3, Imani)
“I started missing them because we [Imani and Bootie Brown] was on stage and we would be doing their verses, and then I’d be thinking about when we’re in the studio, like, ‘What would Fatlip be thinking right now?’ Then it just got weird. I didn’t even want to do their verses no more. I was like, ‘They should be here doing their verses. This is stupid.’”
While the group says they can’t specifically explain why Bootie Brown doesn’t want to take part in the reunion, the three are more than willing to accept their roles in the Pharcyde’s breakup.
“When it comes to the Pharcyde, there’s four sides to every story, and there’s things that all of us have done to mess up the group,” Fatlip says. “We’ve all contributed to the group going left. But as far as Brown, he obviously just didn’t want to get back into the showbiz, into the game, and that’s respect. You’ve got to respect that.”
Tre jumps in with, “I kind of don’t know what it is, to be honest, but everybody thinks differently, and he has every right to feel the way he feels right now. In a perfect world, this would be the perfect time for him to come on back home and pick up his mic and say, ‘Let’s go, let’s do this.’”
According to Imani, Brown once told him reuniting as the Pharcyde would be “going backward.” But with new music on the horizon and a full-fledged spring tour kicking off on April 3 in Miami, the trio is certainly looking forward to the future.