When at a Hip Hop venue and hearing the DJ play Passing me By by The Pharcyde, the reaction might be mixed. You’ll get the group that throws their hands in the air and reacts as if the song was brand new, you’ll get a group of purist music snobs who roll their eyes at the DJ’s lack of creativity while they listen to the song for the 1000th time, and you’ll get a group that only know the song as it has been passed down from an older family member, as if it was an heirloom or ancient folklore. Regardless of the opinion, this song should be recognized as one of the most influential songs ever made.
1992 was an excellent year in Hip Hop. It stood as a great focal point, as it was a year that marked the accomplishments of the forefathers of Hip Hop, and it welcomed a wave of youthfulness and influence amongst the genre. Emcees were becoming much more witty when it came to rhyme patterns, flows, and personality, while producers were digging deeper in the crates, not just settling for a James Brown loop or sampling the ‘Ultimate Breaks n Beats” compilations. Loops were becoming ‘chops’, as producers began to step in the forefront by developing their own sound.
J-Swift was the prime producer for The Pharcyde’s debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, and his work was nothing short of masterful. While the entire album can be listened to straight through, nothing exemplifies the essence of Hip Hop more than Passing Me By. This was 1992, when producers that were sampling 2 different songs at a time was considered forward thinking. The most touted names in the game would take a sample from one song, a horn loop from another, and drum sounds from a 3rd song and make one beat. That was incredible. Well, J-Swift was crafty enough to use five different songs to make Passing Me By. Five. Not two, not three, not four… you understand. The scratchiness of Jimi Hendrix to start it off, then enters the coolness of Quincy Jones’ organ. After that is established, you get the funky bass line form Jaco Pastorius, as Weather Report marks the next entrance. When the drums from Skull Snaps drop, the beat is made. As the song is in full swing, the chorus is trademarked by the legendary horn riff of Eddie Russ.
And all that is mentioned before the lyrics, music video, and over conceptualization of the song is discussed.
Passing Me By – The Pharcyde
Here are the samples in order:
The guitar of Jimi Hendrix (Sample appears at the beginning)
The organ of Quincy Jones (Sample appears at the beginning)
The bass of Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report) (The Sample appears at 5:00)
The drums of Skull Snaps (The drum sounds are used in Passing Me By)
The horn of Eddie Russ (The sample appears at 1:42)
As one of the earlier Hip Hop ballads, this song has withstood the test of time, but when the beat is dissected and deconstructed, with all of the parts exposed and laid out, it is no question that this particular instrumental should be recognized as one of the most intricate instrumentals of it’s time, one which transcended Hip Hip during it’s most influential era.