Music

The Pharcyde: Plain Rap

Jeremy Hart

The Pharcyde

Plain Rap

Label: Delicious Vinyl
US Release Date: 2000-11-07
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Thank God for the next generation of hip-hop. About this time two years back, I had just about resigned myself to the fact that Snoop Doggy Dogg and all those other gangsta-wannabees were going to rule the airwaves forever, but then in came the heralds of a new wave of positive rap, the kind that'd been submerged in the scene for so long a lot of people just plain forgot it ever existed. Granted, artists like Blackalicious, The Roots, and Mos Def and Talib Kweli didn't just come out of nowhere, but they've only recently dug their way to the surface. For my money, it's a well-timed move -- I think a lot of hip-hop fans out there are just as sick as I am of violent, stupid fronting, and we want to hear something beyond Eminem's pathetic posturing.

How's this relate to the Pharcyde? Well, the crazy kids responsible for Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde and Labcabincalifornia have mostly grown up -- the only glimpse of their past mischievousness shows its face in "Blaze", an African-flavored ode to pot that somehow anthropomorphizes a marijuana plant and follows it to its eventual end. Few wacky voices or goofy juvenile raps here, but you won't miss 'em. Those childish days have given way to a more confident, less gimmicky (although still playful at times) sound, firmly in the positive style. Tracks like "Network" and "Guestlist" are reminiscent of The Roots' or Blackalicious' best stuff; not too much of a surprise, considering The Roots' BlackThought guests on the former.

Don't worry that it's all copycatting, mind you, 'cause these Cali boys give the album a smooth West Coast shine, making everything nice and jazzy and far from as dark and organic as some of their East Coast counterparts. Things almost get R&B or gospel on a few tracks, notably "Misery" and "Evolution". "Evolution", by the by, is essentially a meditation on these kids' trials and tribulations growing up from silly-rap kids to real live adults, and stands out as one of the most thoughtful and poetic cuts here. The next track, "Frontline", continues the theme, equating the struggle to make it out from under the crushing weight of same-sounding hip-hop to an all-out war, and then, listening to the lyrics, it all starts to make sense.

The Pharcyde have spent their time in the scene growing up and becoming men, only to open their eyes and take a look around at the world they're living in. What they've seen is that they're literally surrounded by nothing but guns and gold, rhymes about killing and making money. There is a war out there, believe it, and I'm glad to see a new company of soldiers leading the charge up the hill.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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