Nothing like it - Page 2

DECADE IN MUSIC: From mob to hyphy to crack -- the decade in Bay Area rap

At a time when almost no records were selling locally, Dre was moving between 30,000 and 60,000 units. In an increasingly homogenized MC environment, Dre's distinctive personality shone through, manifesting itself in a series of humorous characters on Thizz: Thizzelle Washington (2003), Ronald Dregan (2004), and The Genie of the Lamp (2004).

During the ensuing hyphy movement (circa 2005-07), debates ensued over who was responsible for the new music. Dre was a huge influence on hyphy's colorful, comic aesthetics, but he was murdered before he could reap the rewards of his efforts. Producer Rick Rock, one of the Bay's few national hitmakers, landed a deal with Virgin for the Federation, breaking them onto the radio with the hit "Hyphy" in 2003. Former 3X Krazy-member Keak da Sneak, however, was the man who brought this particular bit of Oakland slang to hip-hop, asserting his own claim with the Traxamillion-produced, local No. 1 "Super Hyphy" in 2005.

In between, newcomers the Team had a 2004 local radio hit, "It's Gettin' Hot," and inked a deal with a Universal imprint which ultimately fell through, while producers EA-Ski and CMT got their own protégés, Frontline, a deal with Ryko-imprint Penalty Records. Still in high school, E-40's son Droop-E also contributed to the sound through radio singles like Mistah F.A.B.'s 2005 track "Super Sic Wid It."

Even this tiny amount of major interest and radio support resulted in heady times: "the drought," it seemed, was officially over. Yet after a couple of years of valuable if lukewarm support, KMEL again stopped playing local hip-hop, and the few major deals haven't panned out. Clyde Carson from the Team was picked up by Capital, only to be dropped three years later without releasing an album. Mistah F.A.B., who continues to enhance his profile through collaborations with the likes of Snoop Dogg, remains subjected to Atlantic Records' agonizing delays, which would have killed the career of anyone less determined.

After a couple years, the post-hyphy period of Bay rap took on a discernible personality. Though many complained hyphy was too oriented toward kids, that trend has continued to develop. The new crop of Bay Area acts — including J. Stalin, Shady Nate, Beeda Weeda, D-Lo, Stevie Joe — identify with their high school-age fans, whereas previous generations rapped as adults, even acts like Dre or the Mob Figaz who were still in high school when they began their careers. The generational shift might be considered in terms of the 1980s rise of crack, for whereas Dre, the Jacka, and others dealt crack as teenagers, the current crop was born at this time.

J. Stalin, for example, literally is a crack baby, and all these younger MCs grew up with crack as an established fact of life. The new vibe might be labeled "crack baby music," for this fact is explicitly if inarticulately present as a subject or theme. The anger of this generation manifests in the extreme violence of its lyrics, and the gangsta social consciousness of 2pac's time is extremely attenuated, though not entirely gone. Its appeal to ghetto youth growing up in this appalling post-9/11 era is perfectly comprehensible. Yet despite its darkness, the current music also illustrates the resilience of this regional culture even in the face of indifference and neglect. In terms of the overall American rap world, there's nothing quite like the Bay.

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