Guardian illustration of E-40, Mac Dre, and Mistah F.A.B. by Matt Furie and Aiyana Udesen
Crack baby anthem, you can feel this music Mistah F.A.B., "Crack Baby Anthem," from Baydestrian (SMC, 2007)
DECADE IN MUSIC In retrospect, it's easy to see 1999 as the end of Bay Area rap's glory. The '90s mob music era was pretty good around here. Too Short had paved the way from releasing local discs to landing a major deal. Read more »
"Rappin' wasn't my first dream," admits 20-year-old D'Angelo Porter. "It was pro basketball. I always had good grades because of basketball."
Yet fate had other plans for the man known as D-Lo. A dabbler in rap who'd only made a few tracks, D-Lo went into his friend's studio alone one night in February 2007, determined "to find [his] swag" on the mic. He made a stomping, minimalist beat his first on Fruity Loops, over which he discovered his style: a hyperactive staccato with a slight rasp, a little like Keak Da Sneak in a higher register. Read more »
MUSIC "Esinchill is one of the most ... " Mistah F.A.B. pauses to reconsider. "No, Esinchill is the most underrated rapper in the Bay."
I agree, and "underrated" in this case means "underknown," because, once heard, Esinchill's talents are undeniable. His is a lyrical wit based more on word choice ("I go from extremely docile to routinely hostile") than punchlines. With a million flows at his disposal, he's equally able to freestyle or compose. Read more »
REVIEW John Anderson is among the great unknown painters of the 20th century. I say "20th" because, though living, he was forced to stop painting in 2003 due to Parkinson's disease. He painted voluminously, beginning in the 1950s, but seldom exhibited, and he's never had a show on the scale of his current retrospective. As Gordon Onslow Ford's studio assistant, he learned about abstract automatism from a master, and was invited to live on Onslow Ford's extensive Inverness estate in 1966, where he remains today. Read more »
That Bo & Sprite, I mix it up and tip it every day and night
Shady Nate, "Bo & Sprite," The Bo-Fessional
DRUGS I'm in the backyard of Shady Nate's aunty's house on 28th and "Zipper" (Chestnut Street) in West Oakland, watching Lil Rue of Livewire pour four ounces of purple syrup into a liter of Sprite, which turns the hue of pink champagne. With the residue, he coats a cigarette, Shady coats a Black&Mild, and Jay Jonah coats a blunt, which sputters and foams as it burns. Read more »
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. Read more »
The first time I interviewed Shaheed Akbar, a.k.a. the Jacka in December of 2007, during a midnight session for Tear Gas (Artist Records/SMC), due June 16 he was rolling purple and green weeds plus two types of hash into a Sharpie-sized blunt. I felt like Paul Bowles interviewing Bob Marley. Having known him three years, I can assure you that even in the Bay's smoky atmosphere, Jacka blazes like a forest fire.
I dwell on this because it's one facet of the Tear Gas concept, beyond the title's literal meaning. Read more »
AFRO-SURREAL "The Black Man in the Cosmos" wasn't among the course offerings when I attended the University of California-Berkeley. The class was taught once, in 1971, by musician/composer Sun Ra (1914-93), whose lectures might include topics like the outer space origins of ancient Egypt, conceptualized as a black African culture. This cosmic tradition has a long history, particularly in Chicago, where Ra lived from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, and where Elijah Muhammad used it as the founding mythos of the Nation of Islam. Read more »