The question, "Whatever happened to Fatlip from the Pharcyde?" was finally answered late last year, when the rapper issued his debut solo album, The Loneliest Punk. Fatlip left that groundbreaking, goofy foursome following its second album, Labcabincalifornia, in late 1995, reportedly due to internal problems, personal problems and an urge to branch out on his own. The last we'd heard from Fatlip was the classic single "What's Up Fatlip?" in 2000. So when The Loneliest Punk was finally released, the question remained: Would anyone still care?
Though the album received critical kudos in the publications that reviewed it, calling it a time capsule of mid- to late-'90s hip-hop, it was pretty much ignored by the rap rags. And crowd turnout for Fatlip's current tour has been largely abysmal--Pollstar results for his show in Portland, Ore., showed that only 29 people paid to see him.
Attendance for his show last week at Plush, then, could be considered a success story; though the room was far under capacity, it was a hell of a lot more crowded than 29 people. Those expecting to hear cuts off the new album, though, walked away largely disappointed--his somewhat brief performance was something like a Pharcyde greatest-hits set, with a couple of new tracks thrown in. And the crowd ate it up by the spoonful.
Tracks from the group's debut album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, such as "Oh Shit!" and the dozens-playing "Ya Mama" dominated the set, and when 'Lip launched into "Passin' Me By," the crowd was loud enough to fill in the verses by the three absent Pharcyde members.
Fatlip has always been a charismatic and gifted performer, and his shadowy existence has only added to that charm. This is a guy, after all, whose "comeback" single, "What's Up Fatlip?," is--in a genre dominated by boasting and one-upping--an honest celebration (if that's the right word) of self-deprecation, a portrait of a guy who went from being in a gold-selling group to an underground underdog that's attracting double-digit numbers to his shows these days. From "What's Up, Fatlip?": "I make myself sick / Get on my own nerves / Immature, insecure / grown-up nerd / Has-been MC."
In a post-show chat with the Weekly, Fatlip explained why he doesn't perform much of his new album in his live shows, confessing that he doesn't like the album, that it was cobbled together from old scraps by his record label. "But just wait 'til the next one," he said. Hopefully we won't have to wait another 10 years.