One of the hot discs in Oakland back in 2004 was In Thugz We Trust (Rap-A-Lot/Asylum) by Thug Lordz, a duo of mob music veterans Yukmouth and C-Bo. It was dope but it underscored a problem: all the big Bay-associated artists established careers in the '90s, before radio play and major label action dried up. During the pre-hyphy drought, it was tough to achieve any fame outside the hood.
Fast-forward to post-hyphy 2008: the canonical list of Bay Area rappers has expanded considerably. Despite receiving no local airplay through an ongoing dispute with KMEL musical director Big Von Johnson and continued hedging by Atlantic to release his album, Mistah FAB managed to dent national consciousness with his hook on Snoop's single "Life of Da Party." The increasing clout of SF independent label SMC raised newer acts Beeda Weeda and J-Stalin to the regional stardom necessary to go further. Winner of the Guardian's reader choice poll for hip-hop, Beeda had one of the most successful discs of the year with Da Thizzness, while Stalin's Gas Nation topped the rap best-seller list at Rasputin Music the week of its release, Sept. 23. Other acts like Eddi Projex have cracked the airwaves to remain hot, while the Jacka whose career began at the tail end of the '90s as a member of C-Bo's Mob Figaz had the biggest local single of the year, "All Over Me," from his highly anticipated album Tear Gas, due in March.
The older acts haven't disappeared, however, as witnessed by new discs from San Quinn and E-40. A notable development of the past two years has been the solo career of former Delinquent G-Stack. Taking a page from Mac Dre's book, Stack has developed new personae like Purple Mane and George W. Kush to release four purple-themed compilations, plus a solo EP, preparatory to his SMC full-length, Dr. Purp Thumb, slotted for February. Along the way, he's begun developing newer acts like Deev Da Greed, a co-owner of Stack's 4 the Streets Entertainment and, along with Qoolceo and Tay Peezy, a member of the HEEM Team.
"I can rap but that wasn't my dream," Deev confesses at the Grill studio in Emeryville. "When we opened the label, I was in the lab [the studio] a bunch, so I was, like, let me do a verse." Despite these casual origins, Deev acquired serious buzz this year with his effortless flow he just floats over any beat and clever wordplay, co-signing Stack's fourth comp, Abraham Reekin (4 the Streets).
The accidental rise of Deev illustrates the difference four years has made. The glacial pace of change during the pre-hyphy period has become torrential as fresh acts like Stevie Jo, Philthy Rich, and Yung Moses continue to bubble to the surface. This is partly technological the fruit of a Pro Tools and YouTube generation but it's also inspirational. Unlike the first half of this decade, there's a place to rise to. The prospect of attaining fame as a Bay Area rapper is still unreasonably difficult, but FAB and others have at least proved the prospect still exists. (Garrett Caples)
GARRETT CAPLES' TOP 10
1. J-Stalin, Gas Nation (Livewire/Thizz/SMC)
2. Beeda Weeda, Da Thizzness (PTB/Thizz/SMC)
3. G-Stack, My Purple Chronicles (4 the Streets)
4. The Jacka, Fed-X, and AP.9, Mob Trial III (Sumo)
5. Mistah FAB, Playtime Is Over (Demolition Men)
6. Shady Nate, The Graveyard Shift (Demolition Men)
7. G-Stack and Deev Da Greed, Abraham Reekin (4 the Streets)
8. Livewire Da Gang, Pay Ya'self or Spray Ya'self (Livewire)
9. Ise Lyfe, The Prince Cometh (7even89ine)
10. San Quinn, From a Boy to a Man (Done Deal/SMC)