Although it has been a while since the group’s last album, 1995’s Labcabincalifornia, the sounds of the Pharcyde have been subtly heard all over the music industry in the past decade. Since their debut in 1992, the group has remixed Sublime’s trip-track “Summertime,” and been featured on the Street Fighter video game soundtrack and Korn’s Follow the Leader.

Released in November 2000, the beats featured on Plain Rap (Endel America Records) have taken a notable turn since earlier work, a change partially caused by the absence of former member, Fatlip. Despite the change, their new album offers an interesting collection of tight, emotional hip-hop.

The remaining Pharcyde performers – Slim Kid 3, Imani Wilcox and Romye “Booty Brown” Robinson – deliver intricately melodious beats, marking that they have grown up substantially.

The Pharcyde have traded 1992’s Bizarreride II: The Pharcyde’s “Yo Mama” and “Jiggaboo” antics for straightforward lyrical maturity and compassion for world issues. Sophistication has taken hold of the group, tightening their groove, sharpening their lyrics and establishing a straightforward style of intelligently genial music.

Plain Rap delivers a thoughtful commentary against the social grain with positive lyrics and faith-driven themes. Social evolution, love and spirituality are promoted throughout the record. The Roots’ Black Thought appears on “Network,” validating The Pharcyde’s role in the rap/hip-hop industry’s underground movement of Anti-Tupac and G-fashioned lifestyles.

The strength of the group’s compassion would be weakened without their brash, blues-like beats, confident spoken word skills and remarkably structured lyrical delivery.

On track 10, “World,” the group reminds listeners that, “What the world needs is a love that is sweeter than the melodies that make you go around, around, around, around, around.” The Pharcyde also goes a step further by delivering the gushy message to forget “the hostility, because love is always a possibility.”

It is rare to find an album as positive as Plain Rap. After listening to the collectively delightful beats, listeners may find themselves engulfed by a warm feeling slowly creeping into the cockles of their heart. In an industry of music constructed and defined by confusion, Plain Rap offers a pleasant helping of smooth, heart-beat driven simplicity.

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