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Article réalisé dans le cadre d'un cours du CFJ.
Riding on the other side of hip-hop
Uncle Imani is a member of The Pharcyde, the most anti-conformist California bred hip-hop band. Far from the gangsta rap clichés he raps as he sees life: mystically.
"I'm just a receiver" explains Uncle Imani, in his late thirties, a member of the rap band The Pharcyde. It has been a while since the band's first album Bizarre ride to the Pharcyde was released, "fifteen good years" he says, and a lot of things have changed. Now The Pharcyde and its members are known worldwide whereas before this album they were just a fistful of friends having fun at birthday parties. "That's a natural progression" Imani philosophically points out. "Everything has to change, and change is good because it means that you're growin' ", he adds with his strong black Los-Angeles accent.
At that time, The Pharcyde and Imani were already away from the rap mainstream. The Chronicle, an album by Dr Dre, was 'number one' on the charts. But the Pharcyde brought something new in the business: a strong dose of mysticism. "There's a lot of forces that you feel and you know they are there but you can't put your finger on it", he explains regarding the way he sees life. The growth of its band, his new solo album or even a new song are all explained by the simple flow of time and events, "drivin' forces" as he says. But be careful, that doesn't mean the individual has no role to play in that process, you : "You have to be prepared (…). You have to roll with the wave and ride it" Imani says.
He seems to feel the same regarding music and the way it is made : "There is no one way to say (…) you just have to stay open or receptive so you can receive the messages as comin' from wherever they are comin' from." That's exactly what he means when he says that he is a "receiver" : "I just channel the energy and the rhythm."
An attitude that can't suit the record companies
Compared to the materialist attitude of nearly all the other rap artists who succeeded (Puff Daddy for instance has created perfume, champagne and a clothes company bearing his own real name: Sean Combs) the attitude of Imani who considers that things "just happen the way they have to happen" may seem rather odd. Imani and The Pharcyde are now out of this business and work only for their own independent label : Chapter one records. The way they work and see the world is just too far from the views of the profit making major record companies. Indeed you hardly can imagine Uncle Imani signing a contract with someone that is just a business man, that would just not suit him.
The first album of the band was released by Delicious vinyls but they soon moved to independent labels. Their second album, Labcabincalifornia, hit hard at music business with the song Devil music : "Every time I step to the microphone / I put my soul on two-inch reels that I don't even own." Twelve years later he explains: "We weren't running fast enough for the record companies. They have deadlines and that type of shit. It's like… man this is not what we're tryin' to do".
He sees the job of a rapper in a different way than any record owner will ever do : "We're trying to make our music and it's hard to package blood, sweat and tears and heart and souls", loving music with the strength of a Winston Churchill's speech. " You know what I mean, you can't just manufacture vibes". With less poetic inspirations, he concludes about music companies : "There are just too many sluts."
Discography: The Pharcyde : Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, 1992 ; Labcabincalifornia, 1995 ; Plain Rap, 2000 ; Humboldt Beginnings, 2004. Uncle Imani solo album should be released during the year under the name Blackstarrdust.
Deuxième partie durée 10 min