As these new releases might suggest, Bay Area rap continues to evolve and become harder to pigeonhole. This is especially true when it comes to matching songs up with a visual; the same old bitches-in-the-club videos that we see all over the country don't really fly here unless they're super-duper fly -- and set, like, 80 years ago.
It's been another big year in Bay Area hip-hop, with one huge collaboration album from two local greats and lots of strong releases from young local upstarts. So before the world ends, let's round up the 10 best Bay Area hip-hop/rap records (including albums, mixtapes, etc.) of 2012.
Bossalinis & Fooliyones
Cloud-rap chit-chat aside, with their full-length studio debut Mondre M.A.N. and Squadda B simply conjured up a breezy and funky set of rap songs. With beats handled by a whopping array of producers (including Zaytoven and Harry Fraud), the duo's slurry, freestyled flows seep into the tracks and gel just beautifully. And with "Do It For The Bay," featuring Fillmore's finest DaVinci, Main Attrakionz can claim a modern hometown anthem. -- Phillip Mlynar
As settings for music videos go, this is one of the more interesting ideas we've seen: S.F. MC A-1 (aka Adam Traore) filmed this video for "Double Dose" in the streets of San Francisco right after the Giants won the World Series. Amid the toilet-paper-throwing and sign-waving and Henny-passing, there are fires, vandalized buses, and some seriously grouchy members of the San Francisco Police Department. Things get dicey a few times, especially toward the end, but A-1 keeps his cool, rhyming pretty much on-lyric throughout the whole thing despite many, many distractions. It makes for a good rap video, but "Double Dose" is almost more interesting as a street-level document of what really happened the night in 2012 that the Giants won it all:
They wrote the world's first hip-hop symphony (Brass, Bows, and Beats) and performed it at the Monterey Jazz Festival. They held a regular Tuesday night gig at an S.F. club for a decade. They formed a live hip-hop group (Shotgun Wedding Quintet) that rhymed about Bay Area history. They've performed alongside artists like Beck, Carlos Santana, Digital Underground, and Lyrics Born. And this Saturday, Nov. 17, founder Adam Theis and the collective of San Francisco musicians known as the Jazz Mafia will celebrate their 12 years of existence with a blowout at the Fillmore featuring all of the group's spinoffs and artists, and with a special contribution from noted local DJ Qbert. Ahead of the show, we spoke with Theis about the origins of Jazz Mafia, how things have changed in 12 years, and what to expect at Saturday's show.
"I've done shows so packed, I crowd-surfed to the bar/ I've done shows so wack, I left the merch in the car."
So here's Richie Cunning, hard-grindin' S.F. rapper extraordinaire, back with "City Boy," a new Giants-saluting/struggle-encapsulating video. The clip finds Cunning circling around AT&T Park in the post-dawn glow, finding a not-too-subtle link between the battle of that team of weirdos and his own quest to rise in the rap game. Like most of his songs, it's filled with hard-nock tales and juicy anecdotes like the one above. Oh, and did we mention that the beat for "City Boy" is built out of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing?" It's about as fitting as tribute as this S.F. native could find -- and a great farewell song to a baseball season that ended only yesterday.
Yesterday, Atlanta-based production unit SMKA released Darkest Before Dawn, a 10-track album compilation that showcases the best of the Bay's MCs spitting over their beats. Featuring a roll call of rappers that includes Shady Blaze, The Jacka, Mistah FAB, Richie Cunning, and MC Zumbi, here's our primer to the five freshest collaborations on the project. You can download the whole thing for free, or stream it on Soundcloud.
Roach Gigz releases his debut studio album today. Titled Bugged Out, the rapper is banking on the project to build on the buzz his mixtapes have cultivated and jolt his career up another notch. So with Gigz being at the forefront of San Francisco's fresh new generation of rap talent, we got him to run through his five essential hometown spots. He obliged -- and came through with a selection heavy on food and music. Gigz performs with Main Attrakionz, A-1, and Baby E this Friday, Sept. 7, at Slims.
Man, I was addicted to music. I used to be in Amoeba for hours. All the way in the back, when the hip-hop section used to be in the right corner, you could catch me going through every single clearance CD they had. I used to come up on all the good shit. I have this one memory from back in the day when Eminem first came out with the Slim Shady LP. My mom dropped me off in front to go run in and buy the CD, but the teller who was helping me, she was like some older woman [who] played me out crucially: She walked me outside to the car and convinced my mom not to let me buy it because it was too explicit and that bullshit. Every time I'm on Haight street I always stop by Amoeba.
Dropping in October, new mixtape Darkest Before Dawn will see a fresh line-up of Bay Area rappers hopping on tracks crafted by Atlanta production unit S.M.K.A. As a teaser for the project, which will include input from Roach Gigz, Mistah F.A.B., and DaVinci, All Shook Down is proud to present the premiere of "Greatness," a slick and slinky future anthem that features Shady Blaze and Young Gully flowing over a hypnotically breezy production. To complete the listening experience, we also checked in with Shady Blaze and S.M.K.A.'s Mike Walbert to get their own thoughts on the song.
How did the Darkest Before Dawn project come about?
Mike Walbert: We reached out to a popular blog in the Bay Area [Thizzler On The Roof] that covers the music and asked about sorting out this project. We're from Atlanta but we've always been fans of Bay Area music.
Shady Blaze: Matt Werner [from the blog] hit me on Twitter saying he wanted me and Young Gully to collab. That's it right there.
Being a black male who raps and is open about his sexuality is still a big, controversial deal in post-Frank Ocean 2012, if the headlines and blog comments surrounding New York rap breakout Le1f are any indication. But before we get into that whole ugly issue of rap's latent homophobia, let's deal with "Wut" on a purely musical level. First and foremost, it's a great track. The dude's got a tall, funky kinda steez, freaky/revealing clothes, and some quick cleverisms on the mic. The spare, bouncy production from S.F./L.A. production duo 5kinAndBones5 just booms (please, turn up your bass). That "Wut" is a hot track and video seems almost inarguable, even apart from the lines about cuddling a Ukranian "he" and feeling light in the loafers. You just wanna hit play again as soon as it ends.
Here, fresh off his inclusion in this year's KMEL/Thizzler Freshman 10 list of hot young Bay Area rappers, is San Francisco's own A-1, rolling through a corner store and pushing (mostly*) positivity over a Lana Del Rey-sampling beat produced by Flosstradamus. The Woo Staar-directed video is plain -- he buys a bottle of water and say hi to the homies -- but that doesn't matter, because A-1's flow is the important thing, the way it speeds up and slows down, rolling over the syllables of "...you never say a single intelligent word," or, even better, "... especially if you start me with a carbonated barley beverage."