I first heard the Delinquents in 1999, when "That Man!" was in heavy rotation on KMEL. Its subject matter caring for the kids while the wifey's out cheating was unique in gangsta rap. "We came from the left with that," G-Stack says, yet the freshness of the concept, combined with a funky Mike D beat and memorable Harm hook, made it an instant classic. By then their 1999 album, Bosses Will Be Bosses (Dank or Die) was six months old, and they already had a storied past.
Part of the Bay's early '90s independent scene, building a buzz from the ground up, G-Stack and V-White dropped their debut, the cassette-only Insane, circa 1993, on their label, Dank or Die. After a pair of 1995 EPs The Alleyway and Outta Control (both Dank or Die) the Delinquents signed to Priority at the same time the imprint inked its distribution deal with Master P's then-Richmond-based No Limit Records. Yet during the promotional campaign for the 1997 full-length Big Moves, the duo learned the difference between being on Priority and being a priority.
"This was when 'I'm 'bout It, 'bout It' blew up for Master P," a relaxed Stack recalls at the East Oakland studio where he's completing G-Stack Presents: Welcome 2 Purple City (4TheStreets), due March 27. "We promoting our album down south, West Coast, Midwest. Down south everything halted. We going into stores, they got huge Master P displays, and they didn't even know we was coming out." The effect of this tepid label support, moreover, was compounded by backlash from their home audience, who equated independence with authenticity.
"At that time," Stack explains, "if you signed to a big label, people thought you weren't real anymore. That affected our underground fan base. Then Priority didn't support us. So we went back independent with Bosses, and our fans started messing with us again."
"Now we got a record buzzin' on the streets. And radio wouldn't support us, so a lot of local rappers started meeting, and everybody went up to KMEL. Nobody had a record at the time, and ours was doing good, so everybody pushed our record." He reviews the memory with satisfaction. "We kinda forced them to play it."
While the success of "That Man!" helped move 65,000 copies of Bosses, radio play was short-lived, because Clear Channelowned KMEL had stopped playing local music. Yet even during the Bay's leanest hip-hop years from 2000 to '03, the Delinquents maintained a loyal following, selling out shows, moving units, and putting new talent on, as well as throwing the free Lake Berryessa Bash think of a sideshow on Jet Skis for thousands of fans every couple years. "They were the crazy glue of the town," says Dotrix 4000, who, as half of Tha Mekanix, produced several hot tracks on Purple City. "They held the scene together when it could've fell apart."
While the Delinquents have never lost their iconic status in the Bay witness Stack's representation of East Oakland on Mistah FAB's geographical hit "N.E.W. Oakland" they have strikingly chosen to pursue solo careers right as the region's commercial fortunes are on the rise. Both rappers insist the decision has nothing to do with aesthetics or personal differences, and this is apparent from the warm vibe when V-White arrives for the photo shoot. Promoting his just-released Perfect Timin' (V-White Ent./SMC), V explains the move as a way to stay original in what they see as an increasingly contentless hyphy movement.
"Chuck E. Cheese music," V says. "When I came up, the Bay was about game-spitters, cats with swagger. Now it's, like, make up a word do something stupid. That ain't where I'm coming from.