Released: 1995

“Runnin'” by The Pharcyde tells a compelling tale of persistent struggles — the unending hustle and the discombobulation the struggle brings with it. At its core, it speaks about the existential challenges of growing up, the pressure to toughen up and confront problems head-on, instead of fleeing from them.

Let’s take a closer look, verse by verse. The repetition of “Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on” at the top of the song sets an urgent, pressing tone. This is followed by, “can’t keep runnin’ away,” which forms the song’s chorus and central message of needing to face adversities rather than avoiding them.

The first verse is narrated by Fatlip, who unswervingly pens down his experiences of being intimidated, belittled, and having to toughen up, despite his natural instincts not being inclined towards aggression. The phrase, “went out like a punk and a chump” refers to situations where he felt humiliated. He mentions eating chicken at the back of the school, symbolizing his desire to retreat and stay out of trouble. The verse ends on a striking note of survival – “when it’s on, when it’s on, then it’s on.”

The Pharcyde Runnin'

The second verse sees Slimkid3 stepping up to the mic, dropping some profound lines about self-reliance and acknowledging that everyone else has their problems, so it’s imperative to figure out things independently. The key phrases here, “there comes a time in every man’s life when he’s gotta handle shit up on his own,” provide stark commentary on the transition to adulthood and independence. The verse speaks to the, ‘sink or swim’ reality many face when they look to survive in challenging circumstances.

Bootie Brown takes the third verse, reflecting on the weight of the responsibilities he has assumed with age, “and now that I’m older, stress weighs on my shoulders heavy as boulders.” He expresses his weariness while also reaffirming his commitment to persevering, “but I can’t keep runnin’ I just gotta keep keen and cunnin'”.

Overall, “Runnin'” by The Pharcyde is a powerful articulation of the struggles, the eventual morphing into toughness, and the decision to face adversity rather than, as the chorus purports, keep running away. It’s a raw exposition of life’s realities, delivered with flamboyant lyricism that makes it a timeless hip-hop sermon.