Oakland's Ike Dola makes the leap
You can't imagine all the types of shit I've seen in my life
You can't imagine all the pain 'til you look in my eyes
Ike Dola, "This Is My Life"
I met Ike Dola two days after his father died. Not only did the 23-year-old East Oakland MC keep our appointment, but he'd also performed the same day his father succumbed to cancer. As Ike said, he's "been strong through it all.
"I wasn't going to do it, but Moms and my auntie told me to do it," Ike (né Isaac Walker) explained of his family's show-must-go-on ethos. "They were both DJs. My daddy was a DJ and a truck driver. He'd come home late after driving the truck and still hit the club and DJ. He was real supportive. He'd knock my shit in the car. His favorite track was 'Fuck What You Think.'
"Now I've got to take care of everything," he concluded. "It's a little big for me."
Ike's increased responsibilities come at a time when his reputation has grown a little big as well. Having dropped his first two major solo projects the mixtape Dope Illustrated and the more albumlike Beast Oakland (Nickel and Dime Ent.), mixed by DJ Fresh in addition to guest spots on tracks by Husalah, Lee Majors, even Mac Dre himself, Ike is widely considered the next local MC who will blow up around here.
"He's definitely next," said DJ Impereal, who, as a member of mixtape kings Demolition Men, touches all major Bay Area talent.
"He's got his own style," Impereal said of the MC's rapid-fire twang, delivered at a much higher pitch than his speaking voice. Ike's unique vocals betray more than a hint of the Southern drawl that influences black Oaklandese, partly because his family moved to its ancestral Mobile, Ala., when he was 15.
"It's hard out there," Ike recalled of those high school years. "It's cool, though. At lunch we had the freestyle battles. A lotta guys knew me as 'Dude from Oakland' I was rippin' it." If Ike had an unfair advantage, it was simply because his auntie's son happened to be Keak Da Sneak, already signed to Virgin as a member of 3X Krazy.
"I was always freestyling with Keak and them," Ike explained. "But when I moved to Alabama, my brother-in-law was rapping, and he was raw. I was, like, 'What am I doing wrong?' He's, like, 'Nigga, you need to write some shit.'
"When I got back I had a song called 'Try Me,'<0x2009>" he continued. "I spit it for Keak. He was, like, 'You ready!' I wasn't going to school, though, so he was damn near not fucking with me. He said if I go to school, he'd start fucking with me. But my credits didn't transfer. They tried to put me in a low grade. I was, like, 'Fuck that,' but I went back and got my GED."
After that, Ike's career took off, particularly when Keak formed the Farm Boyz with Ike and Bra Hef.
"We'd go to my auntie's farm in [Sacramento to record]," Ike said. "The Farm Boyz was big in Sac even before the album came that put me on the map." Their first, self-titled album (2002) quickly sold out and was never re-pressed. Their second album, Farm Boyz 2 (Thizz Ent., 2005), was even more successful.
"That was the time around Mac Dre dying," Ike said. "They were looking for something hot to put out. So we dropped that that was some songs we already did. I'd been in Lee Majors's lab, writing songs. Keak had songs, so we put them together."
Now Ike is concentrating on his solo career, and his distinctive voice different from Keak's but just as far out has earned him huge underground buzz as he prepares for his first proper album for Nickel and Dime, collaborating with in-house producers like Trademark Traxx and 17-year-old phenom Swerve. Currently touring with J-Stalin's Livewire, Ike hopes to build his buzz beyond the region, and his distinctive flavor provides more proof that the Bay Area's rap resurgence is far from over.