In the early 90’s, being a Hip Hop “One Hit Wonder” wasn’t a bad thing. There were many, which doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t good quality groups or songs. One could argue that there was an overabundance of substantial Hip Hop, where African medallions, dreadlocks, and afrocentric garb became commonplace. Many groups that were thought of as One Hit Wonders by mainstream critics may have had successful careers flying under the radar, creating a cult following. As Passing Me By by The Pharcyde was a regular occurrence on BET’s then famed Rap City, The Pharcyde’s next released single from Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde was one which was difficult for mainstream Hip Hop to digest. It wasn’t “Gritty Boom Bap”. It wasn’t “Hardcore from the Streets”. It wasn’t (for lack of a better term) Gangsta Rap. It was fusion. Jazz and Hip Hop.
It was almost as if Herbie Mann made this beat for The Pharcyde, more specifically Slim Kid Tre, who took the solo lead on Otha Fish because the vocals worked so well with the instrumental loop, which was produced by Roy Ayers Project supporter L.A. Jay. Otha Fish features a sample from the song entitled Today by the legendary fusion Jazz artist, and great friend of Roy Ayers, Herbie Mann, a song which is a great example of fusion within itself. As some of you may know, Roy Ayers played with Herbie Mann for many years, and Roy Ayers credits him as one of the people who greatly contributed to his career. For those of you wondering, Roy Ayers is not the one who plays vibraphone on this particular song.
It can be classified as lounge, or big band, or maybe even latin jazz, but Herbie Mann had no problems spinning the globe when it came to his worldly sound. As ambiguous as the classification of Today may be, it parallels the unorthodox sound of Otha Fish. Nearly 20 years later, it is still difficult to find a song that has such a unique combination of big band, scat, singing, rapping, bossa nova, and Hip Hop. Slim Kid Tre’s uniqueness, which could even resemble a pre-world war II crooning style of singing, is a perfect example of Jazz and Hip Hop fusion. The content was original in it’s own right, with the video to match. Slim Kid Tre does an excellent job in describing the complexity of love and infatuation in a self-contemplative tone, and the video perfectly matches the feel of the song. While Hip Hop was heading in one direction, it was no question that The Pharcyde was headed in another.
It is difficult to mention The Pharcyde’s Otha Fish without mentioning the remixes that were featured on the 12″ single. This is where we have to credit Producer and Roy Ayers Project supporter L.A. Jay, who produced two excellent remixes for two different songs, as well as the original version. One remix was the Otha Fish (L.A. Jay Remix) which features a sample from Marvin Gaye, and the Passing Me By (Fly as Pie Remix), which features a sample from the great Roy Ayers.
Otha Fish (L.A. Jay Remix)
Marvin Gaye – Since I Had You
Passing Me By (Fly as Pie Remix)
Roy Ayers – The Third Eye
Written by: Haylow