The young Martinez-born producer proves his versatility on tracks like the triumphant "Get This Together" and the melancholy "Life on Track," featuring Faeva Afta vocalist J-Nash, whose Hyphy Love drops in August. Another four productions by Son of a Pimp collaborator Genessee contribute to Baydestrian's in-house feel even as the family breaks new ground: "Can't Wait," say, evokes Andre 3000's explorations of go-go, filtered through FAB's hyphy sensibility, while "Shorty Tryin' 2 Get By" is a contemporary "Keep Ya Head Up" spiced with Bay Area R&B. The album is refreshingly free of skits, and guest stars are kept to a minimum, but Too $hort blesses the disc three times, an unambiguous stamp of approval from Bay rap's founder.
What makes Da Baydestrian one of the most extraordinary albums since hyphy's inception, however, is its social consciousness. "Deepest Thoughts," for example, hits out at President George W. Bush, but even more pointedly at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for expanding the prison system instead of aiding the poor. The Sean Tproduced "Crack Baby Anthem" addresses teen dope dealers, seeking to uplift without castigating or glorifying their activities for the nonghetto audience, the song connects the dots between poverty, crime, and the present political climate. FAB describes his approach as "hip-hyphy," presenting an alternative to hip-hop fans who consider hyphy juvenile or incomprehensible. Granted, the disc's school bus and helmet imagery referring to the hyphy concept of acting "retarded" is hardly p.c. Nonetheless, FAB's lunchbox-wielding Baydestrian is a welcome change from the exaltation of guns and dope adorning your average rap album.
"In no way am I trying to say I'm like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X," FAB explains. "But I realized I could create nonsense and seem to support ignorance, or I can get people to start looking at the reality of it, and the reality of it is that young blacks are dying, not only in the Bay; they're dying everywhere. We've been raised in a warlike civilization. We've been brainwashed to accept war as the proper thing to do when things don't go right."
"Tupac [Shakur] said it himself," FAB concludes. "He said, 'I'm not going to be the one to change the world. But I guarantee I'll plant a seed in the mind of someone who does.' We're all the Tupac generation. Pac was hyphy."
While I don't think it's my place to declare FAB the next Tupac, I can't fail to be struck by his invocation of the Bay Area icon. On a superficial level, of course, with all his non-thugged-out, cartoonish imagery, FAB is nothing like Pac, just as the hyphy movement differs from the Bay's mid-'90s sound. Yet locally, if not nationally, the two rappers occupy the same position on the map of hip-hop: like Pac, FAB has cred with nearly everyone, he has a positive message within an utterly street aesthetic, and he makes tunes everyone wants to hear. No rapper has embodied all three attributes since Pac, and that combination makes FAB extraordinary. *