Turf politics

To trust or not to trust in Thizz City — the dilemma of SF rap

SF rap has the most beef in the Bay, a situation Messy Marv is both in the center of and removed from


MUSIC Messy Marv, a.k.a. The Boy Boy Young Mess, is probably San Francisco's most popular rapper. Within the city, fellow Fillmore District native San Quinn remains SF's icon, but, as Will Bronson, head of SMC Recordings, says: "Once you cross that [Bay} Bridge, it's Mess." According to Saeed Crumpler, the rap buyer for Rasputin, the prolific Mess outsells everyone in the Bay save E-40 and The Jacka, often having three or four CDs among the store's top 20 rap chart. SMC has thus tapped the raspy-voiced gangsta rapper to preside over the just-released compilation Thizz City, first of a Frisco-focused series paralleling the label's Oakland-oriented imprint Town Thizzness.

"We're trying to brand the city and showcase the talent and the up and coming talent," Mess says of Thizz City, a partnership between SMC and Thizz Entertainment, hence the name. "People can get on my promotion as far as where I'm at in my career."

True to this conception, Thizz City attempts to represent all of the city's scattered hoods, with a lineup that ranges from enduring O.G.s like Lakeview's Cellski to new acts like Roach Gigz, a white kid from the Fillmore. Yet behind this apparent display of unity lurks an inconvenient truth: SF rappers don't get along. By comparison, Oakland is a rap utopia — not that there's never beef so much as the prominent acts tend to find common cause in the endless quest to make it big.

"In Oakland, they come together," says Killa Keise, also of Lakeview. Keise, who began recording with Cellski at 12 and later hooked up with Hunters Point's Guce, is simultaneously a vet and a young act, one of several slated for a Thizz City album later this year. "We just did a video shoot in Oakland for Guce and all the Oakland rappers came out to support it," Killa says. "But there really wasn't that Frisco support."

The lack of camaraderie in SF is evident, and neutrality is frequently not an option. I've confirmed stories, off the record, of people being threatened just for recording with another rapper's rival, and never have I been forced to have so many off-the-record conversations to get a picture of what's happening. In Oakland, threats are generally reserved for someone who owes someone money, not for guilt by association. But in SF, where the African American population has shrunk from 13 percent to 6.5 percent since 1970 (according to an Aug. 8, 2008 article in the San Francisco Chronicle), street politics tend to exert more pressure on its necessarily smaller rap scene.



Mess's situation is instructive. Currently he's prepping his first full-blown solo album in several years, Waken Dey Cook Game Up, due this month from his own company, Scalen LLC/Click Clack Records. Produced largely by Mess's longtime collaborator Sean T, who also made Mac Dre's classic "Fellin' Myself," Waken will be the Fillmore rapper's first big release as The Boy Boy Young Mess. It's also a serious bid for chart action, with singles featuring Keyshia Cole (whom Mess discovered in the late 1990s) and Houston rapper Chalie Boy, whose 2009 independent hit "I Look Good" snagged him a deal with Jive. Clearly Mess has similar major label ambitions, and Chalie Boy proves that despite rap's youth bias, a 30-year-old underground legend like Mess himself can still fulfill them. (In the age of Jay-Z, 30 is the new 25.)

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