Putting out compilations is one of the more dubious conventions of the recording industry, just a notch above the time-honored practice of getting first-time artists to sign away 98 percent of their royalty rights. "Best Of" collections often involve little more than slapping the most obvious hits from a dying group's heyday onto one CD and racing it to market before the rigor mortis sets in. Rhino Records' new Pharcyde comp, Cydeways, does a disservice even to this dreadful tradition. This disc represents one of the most flagrant examples of unimaginative profiteering ever in hip-hop (and that's saying so very much), insulting both to the Pharcyde's fans and the group itself, even if it was involved in the deal.
One of the main problems with the disc is that it entombs the group far too prematurely. It's still recording new material, for God's sakes! The Pharcyde (minus fourth member Fatlip) released only its third LP, Plain Rap, a couple months back, none of which is included here. This travesty instead scavenges the tracks most hip-hop heads already have: nine from the group's classic debut Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and five from the near classic follow-up Labcabincalifornia, and they're not even sequenced artfully. All that's tacked on is a so-so remix ("She Said") and a flatly produced, previously unreleased cut ("Panty Raid"). The pedestrian liner notes (excerpt: "'Oh Shit,' for example, features the group having a rowdy time. Here, they let their fans hear them having fun while working in the studio") suspiciously omits parts of the band's juicy history, like members accusing Fatlip of being a crackhead and their longtime reluctance with being signed to the Delicious Vinyl label, an ailing outfit that obviously has no qualms with making a sleazy buck now and then.
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Rhino doesn't even make an effort to dress up the obvious lack of care -- the cover art is culled from the Bizarre Ride painting and looks as if some intern magnified it with Photoshop. Anyone curious about the legacy of this undeniably accomplished group will do better picking up the original albums (there are only three of them), and leaving this stillborn marketing hoax back on the shelf.