Bay Area rappers spent 2009 responding to current events and social memes with memorable singles. Two prime examples: Mistah F.A.B.'s nod to trendy chatter, “Hit Me on Twitter,” or Paris' late-November track, “Side Effect,” which entered the health care debate with a sharp narrative blast about emergency room bureaucracy. Oakland's Kev Choice is also busy riffing on topics of public concern. The talented multi-instrumentalist and MC is offering a new song every 24 hours from Halloween until New Year's Eve on his Daily Dosage blog.
Choice has so far used the schedule to cover issues surrounding Veterans Day, President Obama's tenure, and the Bay Bridge breakdown. Lest you think the 10-piece bandleader for the Kev Choice Ensemble has turned into a serious news correspondent, he's also using this series to give jazz standards and Prince tunes a personal twist.
The Daily Dosage came about on Choice's birthday, Oct. 29. He decided to spend the remainder of 2009 proving he could create quality music on a brutal daily deadline. By Nov. 25, he had posted 25 new songs, many of which flew under the radar, but one in particular — “The Bridge” — resonated in cyberspace due to its clever conceit. I became a fan of the Daily Dosage with that one, and I've been following Choice's musical prescription ever since.
“The Bridge” starts out cheekily with a sped-up sample of “Bridge over Troubled Water” before Choice jumps in with a respectful shout-out: “After being down for nearly a week, the bridge finally opened back up yesterday. … We couldn't party in the city over the weekend, but we had a good time in the town.” From there he ticks off other bridges around the world, including the one in Sydney he rolled under in a yacht. A looped piano jam backs his homage as he relays personal stories related to the iconic Bay Bridge structure, building to the catchy chorus: “There may be other ways, but ain't no better way/to keep us moving through the Bay.”
It's a fun song, in large part because it's a piece of the local landscape you don't hear tribute paid to very often. Choice explained to me later that he has a special affinity for the landmark (including one particular memory that he jokes he can't admit to in print). “The Golden Gate Bridge is like this rich pretty girl who you only deal with when you wanna show off,” he adds, “while the Bay Bridge is like that everyday, around-the-way girl who makes your life easier and better, and you don't realize it until they're gone.”
This level of colorful metaphor enriches Choice's songwriting when he puts it to work, but he doesn't always push the lyrical creativity. “Kill That” is a driving electro-disco jam sped up to a hard-clapping beat. He uses the tune to boast about taking over for Lauryn Hill and bringing “real” back. It's an example of a song that's fresh musically, but relies on stale ego-tripping language. He's better at mapping out his plan for songwriting domination on the ebullient “Gettin' It Good.” That single, Daily Dosage No. 8, features Viveca Hawkins and moves like a locomotive fueled with positivity. Choice talks up his talent, but he also documents his hard work. Hawkins' refrain, “Finally I see a break in the clouds,” helps emphasize the songwriter's role as an energetic underdog making his own breaks.
When you're writing every day, not every song will be one for the record collection, and there are a couple of fumbles in the Daily Dosage series. But overall Choice does all right — instrumentally, his songwriting and producing skills are impressive — especially since his goal is more of an artistic challenge than a commercial one. “If something impacts me or the people today, why wait for months to put out a song about it?” he asks. “Why wait for a label to sign me when I have an outlet to expose my music myself right here and right now?”
For the next four weeks, Choice's Daily Dosage series remains the Bay's dedicated resource for musical coverage of timely events and attitudes, with plenty of addictive remedies to dole out.