"Runnin’": The Pharcyde
Produced: J Dilla
This song is a certified Hip-Hop classic. It’s impossible to have a conversation about the genre in the 90s without referencing the legendary Pharcyde or the song "Runnin’".
But I’m not here to talk about the genius of Dilla, the expertly woven samples of Run DMC and Latin Jazz or the nostalgia of the pass the mic culture that permeated much of the decade. Hip Hop is filled with stories of alchemy-classic rags to riches tales and other social transformations. Few songs, however, provoke questions about masculinity and violence as the Pharcyde’s Runnin.
The hook is simple - ‘Can’t keep running away’- here is the thesis of the song, the central message that all the verses pivot around. There is an emphasis on time, the year 1995 is brought up a lot as the seminal point when the MCs have had enough of being picked on and tested. "Runnin'" is often cited as an iconic bullying victim’s anthem, as the moment of resistance but I think it makes an interest comment beyond the schoolyard. Fat Lip insists his thoughts aren’t ‘macho’ talk but a natural response to being bullied and that talking came to no avail. There is also a revealing moment on Slim Kid Tre’s verse when he declares, ‘there comes a time in every man’s life/ when he’s got to handle shit up on his own/ can’t depend on friends to help you in a squeeze/ please, they got problems of their own.’
The song provokes questions about masculinity and resistance beyond the perimeter of the song and whilst the equation with masculine identity and confrontation is problematic there is still space for wider debate on the meaning of this track.