Ray Luv came up with a pre-Digital Underground 2pac in their group, Strictly Dope, and wrote "Trapped," Pac's first single from 2Pacalypse Now (Priority, 1991). Grandson of Cab Calloway, he's among the few rappers to be close to both Pac and Mac Dre, who brought him to Crestside, Vallejo's Strictly Business Records for his EP, Who Can Be Trusted? (1992), leading to a deal with Atlantic for his classic LP, Forever Hustlin' (1995). He's done everything from lecturing in Europe to pimping during Bay rap's early '00s doldrums. His conversation ranges from ancient Sparta "They were a great, warlike people, but they died out because they didn't have culture" to UpCodes that market music directly to consumers.
The title of Deathwish (PTBTV), Ray's first solo album since 2002, reflects the darkness of a period when, he says, "I was prepared to die for street shit." As he puts it on the incendiary opener, "Swing Low," he was "running from [his] destiny and calling." That calling is evident on the album and on Pushin' the Bay TV (pushinthebay.com).
A collaboration with Chinese-American artist Emcee T, PTBTV is among Bay rap's current onslaught of YouTube-enabled Web TV, a phenomenon so ubiquitous that I've been on one or two stand near Mistah F.A.B. long enough and it'll happen. Few shows, though, have a host as charismatic as Ray Luv, which might be why the PTBTV site claims millions of visits not bad for a one-camera, one-mic production. Even Ray seems slightly surprised.
"Most of our hits have been from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America," he says. "Lately, for some reason, there's been tons from Syria."
PTBTV is a modular affair. Ten-minute interview segments posted on its YouTube channel are interspersed with the occasional video. Bay rappers dominate, and the topics range from concise histories of new talents, such as Eddi Projex, to more topic-driven segments, like Spice 1 discussing being shot in late 2007. But the show also interacts with national artists. Ray's chance encounter with Chamillionaire, for example, yields a quick interview. In an oversaturated genre, the ability to make the most of such moments distinguishes the successes from the failures.
"In this business, creating content is what you have to do full-time," says Damon Jamal of In Yo Face Films. The technical force behind The Dame Fame Show, Jamal knows what he's talking about. Dame Fame is actually on TV, broadcast on various Comcast channels throughout the East Bay. Jamal and editor Tiffany J must deliver a 30-minute episode every three to four weeks. The show began when the duo inherited a timeslot on Alameda Comcast from another show that was unable to maintain the pace. A well-respected videomaker for artists such as San Quinn, Jamal easily assembled an episode but wasn't satisfied with his own attempts to host. Enter Dame Fame.
A behind-the-scenes personality in Bay rap since the mid-1990s, when he provided muscle for the Paraphernalia to the Mob Coalition, Dame Fame once managed ex-3X-member Keak Da Sneak. E-40 confirms that Dame Fame even wrote the hook for 40 and Keak's massive hit, "Tell Me When to Go" (BME/Warner Bros., 2006). The Dame Fame Show is his first foray into the spotlight, and he's a natural. The recent 12th episode finds him alongside Dallas' Dorrough, whose "Ice Cream Paint Job" is one of the hottest rap singles in the country.
"I am the king of street TV," Dame laughs. "I talk to the camera, [and] try to make people feel they're there with me. And we go where other TV personalities are scared to go." This street sensibility doesn't preclude coverage of industry events, like the Core DJ Fest in Atlanta, slated for the next episode.