Cyde Two

Influential hip-hop group the Pharcyde comes clean on its five years of silence, its pared-down lineup, and why its new record isn't its best

"It was [frustrating] constantly hearing, 'You can't do this, you can't do that,'" Romye adds. "I mean, I thank God it's out, and that it gives us a little more time and light to just bring everything else into the spectrum as far as what we wanna do. It's good for what it is right now; it's enough."

Imani and Romye say they'll shop for another indie to put out their next album -- including stuff that didn't make it onto Plain Rap, and stuff they deliberately held back. "I didn't try to make no nasty album, [but] I didn't want to give them the super shit," Romye says with a smile, referring to songs the duo has cut with De La Soul, Pharoahe Monch and others. They've also been recording with the Bay Area's Souls of Mischief for their collaborative Allmighty Mighty Pythons CD, and an Imani solo project is in the works.

So Plain Rapis, as Ross describes it, "a good, honest representation of where the group is now" -- in transition. J-Swift's remix of "Trust," included on the album, is getting some solid airplay, and its accompanying, computer-animated video is one of the coolest of the year. But ultimately, the Pharcyde's third full-length represents a phase in its evolution more than it stands on its own as a great album. It's a piece in the puzzle, a rung on the ladder that is the Pharcyde's future.

"I just want this record to [reconnect] us with hip-hop fans out there . . . to open doors, to open opportunities," says Imani, drifting off. "It's frustrating that we've only released three albums. I've got so many more to make."

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