Singer Joyo Velarde Represents Alongside Lyrics Born

Oct 12 2015 We recently got a chance to see Bay Area singer Joyo Velarde as she threw down some fierce vocals alongside her husband Lyrics Born during his recent show at the New Parrish. She’s definite showstopper and a powerhouse in her own right.. For those who are unfamiliar, here’s what her bio says about her:

If you lived in California in the 90s, chances are you’ve sung Joyo’s refrain in the shower. After the Manila-born NorCal transplant finished studying opera in Rome, she returned to the Bay Area, where she and future husband Lyrics Born recorded what would go on to be Solesides’ greatest hit, a little number called “Balcony Beach.” The song appeared on 1997’s Latyrx, a record that went on to sell over 100,000 copies worldwide.

As part of the seminal indie hip-hop label Quannum Projects – a group whose founders included Lyrics Born & Lateef the Truthspeaker, Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop/VIBE Magazine,) and Joseph Patel (MTV) – Joyo quickly found her place as “The Quannum Songstress.” In 2000 her first official solo offering – the jazzy and soulful”People Like Me” – was released on the label compilation Quannum Spectrum.

Definitely an underrated talent, Joyo Velarde is someone who we should be paying more attention to..Below are some of the shots I took of her during the New Parrish Show

-Davey D-

Below is a dope video put out by Joyo Velarde

Oakland’s Zion I Crew Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

Zumbi sideDuring the recent Blackalicious show at the historic Fillmore Auditorium, the capacity crowd was treated to a stellar show from Zion I which has expanded its members to include founding member Zumbi Zoom, legendary Triple Threat deejay Vinroc long time South African emcee Dusk and emcee Deuce Eclipse who fronts the group Bang Dada…

As the group hit the stage and dropped song after song, it struck many of us just how deep Zion I’s catalogue is and just how long they been around. The Oakland based group formed in 1996 with Zumbi and producer Amp Live. They released their first album Mind Over Matter in 2000.

Their sophomore album Deep Water Slang was released in 2003 on Raptivism Records. Their third album, 2005’s True & Livin’ is one of my favorites. It featured  guest appearances by Talib Kweli, Aesop Rock, Gift of Gab, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and activist/ freedom fighter Fred Hampton jr.  It also contains one of their most popular songsThe Bay’.

The group’s fourth album, Break a Dawn, was initially only released in Japan in 2006, but was subsequently released internationally. Also in 2006, Zion I recorded Heroes in the City of Dope, a collaborative album with the Grouch, which Om Records released toward the end of the year.  They followed that up with the Takeover in 2009 and Atomic Clock in 2010, both were critically acclaimed.

Since 2010, Zion has released a a few more, albums, a number of mixtapes, live eps and scores of singles.. Their musi library is deep and that was apparent during their set at the Blackalicious Show.

A challenge facing many long time groups is they lose a few steps and struggle to stay relevant. Such is not the case with Zion I. They are as hungry as ever and have honed their skilled to near perfection.

Below are some photos we took from their excellent set at the Fillmore .

3 Dope Songs from Alia Sharrief Repping East Sacramento

Alia SharriefFinally hip hop heads can rejoice in the emergence of Alia Sharrief. Hailing from East Sacramento and now living in the Bay Area, she is well-known throughout California, and now internationally. Alia’s message stresses that she is more than an image. She is #newfemalehiphop. New art. New revolution.

“That’s All I Do”


“Tough Love”

Born in Aztlan, San Jose Zulu King Apakalips Speaks on Chicano Contributions to Hip Hop

Another interview from the Breakdown FM Vaults.. We broke bread back in 2009 with San Jose Hip Hop Zulu King Apakalips who gives us keen insight on Hip Hop in the South Bay, Bay Area Hip Hop History and the important contributions Chicanos have made to Hip Hop..

Respect the Lyrical Prowess of Hip Hop Zulu King Apakalips

by Davey D

When we talk about Bay Area Hip Hop we often focus on what is happening in Oakland which is considered Ground Zero. It is in ‘Tha Town’, that we find the likes of Too Short, Digital Underground, Keak da Sneak,Hiero, Blackalicious, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Saafir, Zion I, Mistah FAB and so many more.After Oakland, the spotlight usually turns to neighboring San Francisco which is home to Bay Area legends like San Quinn,Rappin’ 4tay, Paris, Michael Franti,DJ Q-Bert, DJ Apollo and in recent days artists like Big Rich.

Sadly many overlook San Jose which is actually the largest city in the Bay Area and the epic center to high tech Silicon Valley.Perhaps its because San Jose is 45 minutes away from Frisco and Oakland which are just minutes apart or perhaps its because companies like Apple, Google, Oracle and other high tech giants dominate the news and overshadow SJ hip Hop. Whatever the case, make no mistake San Jose and the South Bay region has had major impact.

San Jose and the South Bay is or has been home to some notable folks who we all know and love. DJ King Tech of the Wake Up Show, producer Fredwreck, producer Kutmasta Kurt, DJ Peanut Butter Wolf and his Stones Throw record label started out of San Jose.DJ Kevvy Kev who is headed to his 25th year on the air, pioneering graph writer Scape One, female dance pioneer Aiko, Grand Diva Kim Collete, prolific writer AdisaBanjoko, Hip Hop Congress president Shamako Noble are some other names that also come to mind when we talk about folks who put the SJ and the South Bay on the map.Anyone from this part of town recalls the legendary b-boy battles that were routinely held at the Hank Lopez Center with the full support and cooperation of the city which was step up from San Francisco and Oakland.

This is the conversation we had with Apakalips a long time fixture in the San Jose rap scene who just released his masterpiece of a solo album called ‘The Otherside‘ Originally from Southern Cali, this community activist/ school teacher started out around 2002 with a group called Tributairies .They were best known for blowing up the Iguanas Cafe in downtown San Jose where they sparked off Lyrical Discipline.This was a weekly Friday night gathering which attracted emcees from all over the South Bay who would come through and test their skills.It was done in the same vein as the Lyricist Lounge in NY, the Good Life in LA or the now legendary underground parties and freestyles sessions at 4001 Jackson street in Oakland put together by Mystik Journeymen and the Living Legends crew.

Apakalips later went on to join the Universal Zulu Nation and eventually became the president of the Gateway chapter and quickly made it one of the more active chapters in the country. Apakalips would routinely hold unity meetings as he’d gather the heads of key Hip Hop and community organizations and tastemakers in the San Jose community to find common ground and to collectively work on projects impacting us all. He was tapping into the fact that San Jose had some of the pro-active heads who have some well heeled Hip Hop organizations around that have done incredible work. Shout outs to Hip Hop Congress, D-Bug, MACLA, Funk lab and Miese to name a few.

During our interview we talked about the release of his new album ‘The Other Side‘. It has been critically acclaimed and for many its a throwback to a date and time where people allowed their creativity to roam completely free without fear of violating some sort of record company politics or copyright laws. The Otherside has unexpected samples that give this an album your traditional boom bap sound on one track and a Latin tinged sound on another. Still on other songs you will hear the influences of drum and bass. No two songsare alike, yet the album has a consistent theme in terms of being gritty and lyrically sound.

The ‘Otherside‘ covers many topics including, California’s unique contributions to Hip Hop and its b-boy, b-girl tradition and its cultural influences. During our interview we talked about how Hip Hop is a form of communication and within it cultural expressions and activities like dance and rap go way beyond Hip Hop, and in fact are deeply rooted in traditional Mayan, Aztec and African traditions. Apakalips felt that it was important that we view Hip Hop with a larger historical and cultural lens.

We talked about the social and political movements that proceeded Hip Hop and how they impacted Hip Hop culture in the past and today.We particularly built upon the legacy of the Black Panthers and Brown Berets.Aakpalips reminded us that during the hey days of those organizations in the late 60s and early 70s we had Hip Hop expressions in the west coast with pioneering groups like the often overlooked Black Resurgents dance crew who were strutting and roboting long before Michael Jackson, dancers on Soul Train or the word Hip Hop was coined.

West Coast pioneer Julio G

West Coast pioneer Julio G

We talked at length about the important role Latinos played in Hip Hop, specifically the role Chicanos here on the West Coast. Apakalips lays out the long history and reminds us that just like their Puerto Rican counterparts on the East coast, Chicanos were down with Hip Hop from the very beginning especially in the areas of graf. He noted that here in the west Chicano writers, taggers and muralist had a big impact on Hip Hop. We talked about the early emcees and deejays and the influence that icons like Julio G and Tony G who were part of the legendary KDAY Mixmasters in LA had on West Coast Hip Hop culture.

We also talked at length about the long social and cultural connection that NY had with LA. Long before there was some media driven East-West coast war, early Hip Hoppers were routinely going back and forth and building with one another. It was all love throughout the 80s. Apakalips talked about how pioneering Hip Hop and Latino figures like Hen G, and Prince Whipper Whip and Zulu King Afrika Islam hooked up with Ice T and helped set a tone for things to come.They set off famous Hip Hop club nights like Radiotron Water the Bush and Club United Nations and formed groups like Rhyme Syndicate and the Zulu Kings.

We ended by talking about some of the challenges facing San Jose’s Hip Hop community.One thing that is being addressed is the homeless problem. Apakalips and many others feel like the city hasn’t been doing enough. They are also addressing issues facing San Jose’s growing migrant worker population. In recent days they have also been dealing with an oppressive promoters law which requires anyone promoting an entertainment event to pay a 500 dollar fee and get a license which will allow one to put their name on flyers and pass them out.

written by Davey D

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

We sat down and talk with San Jose rapper, activist, teacher & Zulu King Apakalips. He’s one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Listen to the Breakdown FM Interview w/ Apakalips HERE:

Download and listen to Breakdown FM Intv

Download and listen to Breakdown FM Intv

Breakdown FM-Apakalips Interview


Breakdown FM: Zion I: True & Livin’ Holding It Down for Oakland

This is from the Breakdown FM Vaults.. We did this interview with Oakland’s Zion I in August of 2005.. They had lots to say about a variety of topics.. Enjoy..

Zion I: True & Livin’ Holding It Down for Oakland
By Davey D

Zion I stoop When we talk about West Coast Hip Hop, oftentimes the face to it has been limited to just a few individuals like Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and more recently The Game. When we start trying to expand the vision a little and look to places outside Los Angeles to regions like the Bay Area we still find a limited view. Hence, in 2005, when you say Bay Area Hip Hop, people outside the region still think of groups like Too Short or Digital Underground.

Through all this narrowcasting we as a Hip Hop community has far too often by passed the brilliance and innovativeness of the West Coast’s underground. In other words, everybody in LA is not a ‘gangsta’ and everybody in the Bay Area is not ‘turfed out’ or ‘hyphy’. One such group that does not fit the mode and has been grinding away for the better part of 10 years is Zion I.

Over the years, group members Amp Live and Zion now known as Zumbi have taken their musical journey from Texas to Atlanta and back to the Bay Area. They’’ve been signed to labels like Tommy Boy and smaller boutique outfits like Nu Groove. They’’ve done everything from perform at huge anti-war rallies, teach class in some of the Bay Area’s most troubled schools and do radio mix shows on rock oriented stations that found an appreciation for the drum and bass records they have occasionally released.

Through it all, Zion I although critically acclaimed has not been able to break the confines and stigma attached to being ‘just another regional underground act’ from Bay Area. However, this time around things may be different. For starters, the group has upheld the Bay tradition by establishing their own independent record label Live Up. Second, many are saying that their latest offering ‘True and Living’ is their dopest album ever and will help carry them to the next level.

We sat down with group members Amp Live (producer) and lead rapper Zion to get the full 4-11 on the group’s history and future plans. Here is a run down of what they had to say….

Breakdown FM- Zion I 2005 Mixdown

Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt1

ZionI-largeProducer Amp Live who originally hails from Texas, talks about the first incarnation of Zion I, which was under the name Metaphor and consisted of four members.

They initially formed back in the early 90s at Morehouse College in Atlanta where they went to school. He noted that back in those days the crunk sound wasn’t in and that the Luke-style booty shaking music associated to the south at that time was eclipsed by the large numbers of New Yorkers in the area. The result was Metaphor having more of a New York inspired Hip Hop sound as opposed to one reflective of other regions. The cool thing about Hip Hop back in those days was that it all was in one bucket. You didn’t have all these industry driven sub genres separating the music

Amp talked about how the group became popular and did work in famed producer Dallas Austin’s studio. They also would frequently cross paths with Hip Hop icon Erick Sermon. Eventually Metaphor was signed to Tommy Boy Records

Lead rapper Zion I talked about how the group got played big time by Tommy Boy. He noted that they were young and hungry and did not prepare themselves properly. He speaks about how the four members signed a 20-page ‘pre-contract’, which laid the groundwork for a 75-page contract, which gave the label full authority over the group.

Zion talked about the way Tommy Boy tried to force a new producer on the group even though Amp Live was their producer. Zion talks about how Tommy Boy kept rejecting their music and would send the group back into the studio with strict instructions as to what songs to sample and what subject matter to cover in their raps. He noted that Tommy Boy forced them back in the studio so many times that the group was forced to go over budget and were left to languish with little promotion from the label.

Zion noted that the group took their bad experiences with Tommy Boy and applied it to the independent rap game when they came back to Oakland. Their new song ‘The Bay’ reflects their love for the diversity and independent spirit of the region. He also notes that people sleep on the Bay way to often.

Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 2

Zion I pointThe group explains where they got the name Zion I from. They note that it came from their understanding of the Bible where it talks about Mt Zion being a place where everyone gathered before Armageddon. They say they want Zion I to symbolize a place in Hip Hop where everyone can gather to hear some tight music.

They noted that when they first chose the name they had very little knowledge of the political implications that are associated with Zionism. Over the years, numerous people have approach the group thinking they were Jewish or connected to reggae. They talked about one incident where a Muslim group wanted to hire the group but ask to either downplay or change their name because of the political association connected to Zionism

The pair also talked about their stint as elementary school teachers. This is a path followed by several other high profile artists including Mystic, David Banner, Asheru, Defari and J-Live to name a few.

Zion explained that the pair have taught underprivileged kids in some of the most impoverished areas in the Bay Area and as far as Zion was concerned that was good because they got to give back something meaningful to the community while at the same time gaining valuable insight and perspective. Amp Live explained that teaching has also kept the group youthful and that by teaching they had the privilege of seeing up close and personal the essence of what Hip Hop is about.

The pair also talked about the current move to try to make Hip Hop more useful in the classroom. It’s a direction they feel is needed because it allows one to make a variety of subject matter addressed by Hip Hop artists, relevant to the students.

Zion spoke about his Uncle and the work he does with math. He teaches kids math by using rhythms as a way to help children retain information. He says that this technique is rooted in African traditions.

Finally, the group talks about the inspiration behind their new song ‘Luv’. They said they wanted to give their audience something uplifting and they dedicated to all those who are struggling day to day.

Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 3

zion-i-true-livin Here, producer Amp Live talks about the Bay Area’s rap sound and how it’s extremely diverse. From the street oriented turf music to underground backpack, he notes that all of this is centered around Funk Music. He goes on to explain the significant role funk plays and how its long relationship to the Bay Area.

Zion expands upon these points by talking about how the Bay Area is made up of so many ethnic groups and people from all lifestyles. He notes that’s going to be reflected in the music. He also noted that as a group, Zion I wants to bridge the gap between Hyphy and ‘turfed out’ music and underground acts. He says he hates the term backpack, which is a label often, attached to groups like his.

Zion went on to explain that his group is from the old school and that they yearn for a time when it was all this was seen as Hip Hop and not divided. He says Zion I is Hip Hop and makes good Black music. He says it’s a challenge for the group to overcome the limiting industry driven definitions that have put the group in a box.

Amp added that he feels the group is like Outkast in the sense that they push the envelope musically and that they manage to get a little bit of everyone that includes the thugs and the back packers.

The group talks about performing at lots of community events and social justice rallies. This too sometimes results in the group being stigmatized as an act that is incapable of laying in the cuts and just kicking it. Once you get to know Zion I, you’ll quickly find that they really don’t hold up to many of these assumptions.

They explain the background to the song ‘What U hear’ which features Del tha Funkee Homosapien. They say it’s a straight up Hip Hop song that took shape once Zion and Del started rapping.

Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 4

Zion gives a run down about the art of emceeing. He builds upon the legacy of dope rhymesayers of the past like Hiero, Saafir, Motion Man and Living Legends. He gives props to the modern day bay spitters like Balance, MTV Freestyle finalist Locksmith and Oakland Freestyle King Mista FAB.

Zion explains that he tries not to get into battles. Instead, he wants to build with all these artists and help forge a new Bay Area coalition. Zion also talks about how a good emcee is one that brings new perspectives and styles to light.

Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 5

Amp Live talks about his production style. He says that his audience appreciates the fact that he has always pushed the envelope and brought new sounds like Trip Hop and Drum and Bass to the table. He says a true musician knows no boundaries and is all about making good music. He noted that he plays the piano and often replays riffs that he many would sample.

Zion talks about the new album ‘True and Living’ and notes that it’s a reflection of where they are mature wise and that it was important for the group to release this on their own label. He explains that the group wants to celebrate Hip Hop and not get caught up in being angry about the way corporations dominate and exploit the culture.

The group concluded by talking about their new movie which was scheduled for a fall release, but will probably be complete in time for a spring 2006 release. The movie is a sarcastic look at the group’s journey through the music industry. They play caricatures of themselves…


3 Dope Songs from Kev Choice… A Bay Area Treasure, A Musician’s Musician

Kev Choice

Kev Choice

Shout out to one of the hardest working brothers in show biz… Its Oakland’s own Kev Choice.. Around these parts he’s a fixture as the classically trained pianist is highly sought after from by everyone from Boots of the Coup who he’s currently on tour with to Lauryn Hill.  The man does everything from write to compose to emcee and of course he does it with extreme funkiness. To put it succinctly  Kev is a musician’s musician.. The other day I got a nice video from him in France and decided to highlight him in the 3 Dope Song series..A little bit of background..

Back in 2009, Kev Choice launched the Daily Dosage music series to offer music lovers and fans a new song every 24 hours from Halloween until New Year’s Eve. Fast forward to 2012. During Kev’s European Fall Tour as keyboardist with The Coup, Kev launched the Daily Dosage: Euro Edition from Dijon, France. The second song recorded in this series — “Show The World” — was recorded in his hotel room in Dijon. The song carries the theme of showing the world what you have to offer, taking advantage of the moment, taking risk, and the challenges of seeking international fame. The song was produced by Kev Choice and features a sample from French composer and arranger Jean-Claude Petit.

About a year ago Kev Choice and long time SF based singer Martin Luther hooked up to do this heartfelt song called ‘Let It All Go’ The song pertains to dealing with everyday stress and struggles. Kev Choice plays a homeless person in the video, with the message being that no matter how bad things may be, it could always be worse. The video was shoot on location in downtown San Francisco by director Samm Styles and Brian Storm

Below is one my favorite songs from Kev..Its an inspiring song called ‘The Best‘.. It was originally featured as one of his Daily Dosage offerings. Hopefully it leaves you inspired as it did me..


Hip Hop Pioneer Too Short Forms a New Band-Talks About the Legacy & Influence of Funk

Bay Area Hip Hop Pioneers Richie Rich & Too Short talk about the importance of musicianship & live bands within Hip Hop

When we talk about Hip Hop, its important  to note that every city and region has its own unique histories and pioneering figures. In New York we give props to Hip Hop’s forefathers, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. They did the first parties, formed the first groups and developed the first techniques throughout the 1970s that laid the groundwork for those who came after. Here out west, 3000 miles away in the San Francisco Bay Area, we pay homage to pioneering figures Todd Shaw aka Too ShortRichie Rich, Freddy B and E-40 to name a few. Like their New York predecessors they too did the first parties, formed the first groups and developed some of the first techniques throughout the 80s that would influence future generations both nationally and around the world.

One of their signature contributions was laying down important blueprints on creating, recording and distributing music independently. The other important contribution from these pioneering artists was the how they used funk music and live instruments to develop the early West Coast sound.

Yesterday we caught up with Too Short at a barbershop around the corner from Mexicali Rose restaurant on 7th and Clay in downtown Oakland. Here he, explained that from the very beginning West Coast Hip Hop had live instrumentation. He noted that when he did his first recordings at 75 Girls record label, like everyone else they had a drum machine but it was complimented with someone playing keyboards, guitars or bass. There was no such thing as sampling for many of the early artists, Short asserted.

Short noted that he was in the tradition of many of his fellow artists and producers like E-40Digital Underground and pioneering producers KhayreeAl Eaton, Studio Tone, Tommy Foster & Danny McElroy, and Ant Banks to name a few, in the sense that they all played in high school or college bands. Short went on to explain that he started out as a drummer who played in the band at Fremont High School. He said he was also a pretty good ‘one finger expert’ when it came to keyboards and guitar. He named off a string of records including Freaky TalesDope Fiend Beat and I Ain’t Tripping where he played the background instruments.

Short added that the use of live instruments allowed early artists to maintain a funk sound that was desired by those who came up either listening or being directly involved in the hundreds of 3-4 man garage bands that existed prior to Hip Hop showing up in the Bay Area. “It was all about musicianship”, he said. Short pointed out that within every Bay Area Hip Hop group there is someone in the fold who can really throw down on the musician tip. It’s part of Bay Area/West Coast culture and our legacy. Short talked about the influence that groups like Tower of Power and Sly and the Family Stone had on early Hip Hop in the Bay.

Shock G of Digital Underground started his group as a full fledge band with a drummer and him playing piano photo credit: ani yapundzhyan

If folks really look closely at Bay Area rap groups you will find that many of them deeply rooted in band culture. I recall early Digital Underground shows where DJ Fuze would battle long time drummer Chopmaster J while Shock G also an accomplished musician would rock the keyboards as one of his alter ego ‘Piano man‘.

MC Hammer had a lot of early production done by Felton Pilate of Con Funk Shun. Later he would have huge bands at his live shows which included the original horn players from Earth Wind and Fire.

Before Paris also an accomplished musician made his mark as a political rapper, he started out as an artist who was moving in the direction of Prince.

Today artists like Boots Riley of the Coup not only have their own band, but recently teamed up with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to form Street Sweeper Social Club.

Again Bay Area Hip Hop is derived from the funk bands that proceeded them.

This was a point that was re-emphasized by Richie Rich.  He said that even though he doesn’t play instruments, he considers himself a musician because as an emcee he uses his voice and flows to play along with live instruments. He went on to add, that over the years he’s come to prefer rhyming with a live band because it allows him a lot of freedom to express himself and also be felt.

We spoke with both Too Short and Richie Rich about the new music venture that’s emerging from their camp. For those who don’t know, Too Short has teamed up with popular accomplished musicians Kev Choice and Martin Luther formerly of the Roots to form a band that has no official name as of yet. Also in the group is Silk E who many know as one of the Bay Area’s dope emcees, who often performs with Tony Toni Tone but as Short noted, she’s also an incredible singer.

During our interview Short talked about how the group has been able to bring such divergent sounds together and make it work. He pointed out Martin Luther‘s soul/neo sou/ and rock backgrounds. He talked about Kev Choice being a classically trained jazz musician who can ‘freestyle endlessly’.

‘He’s the exact opposite of me in the sense that he has super positive rhymes and spits rhymes about current events’  Short noted. But that’s what makes the group work.

Silk E rounds out the group  with her unique sound and approach

Dubbed Towne Business, their debut performance is scheduled this Saturday September 11th at the Mezzanine in San Francisco. Short noted this will be the first of many shows they plan to do in the Bay Area before taking it on the road.

Here our interviews with both Too Short & Richie Rich-click the links below

Interview w/ Too Short

Interview w/ Richie Rich

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Interview w/ DJ Pam the Funkstress aka the Party Slapper



We caught up with one of the Bay Area’s most enduring legends-DJ Pam the Funkstress. You may know her as the woman who holds down Boots Riley of the Coup as she gets busy on the turn tables.

Pam is a pioneer in the Bay Area Hip Hop scene. She started off back in the mid 80s as producer for a now defunct all female rap group. She still produces but has also become a stellar DJ who rocks parties weekly and a restaurant owner where she herself cooks the food. If that’s not enough Pam has been training with DJ Q-Bert.. Sit back and enjoy as she lets loose about her-story..

-Davey D-

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

DJ Pam the Funkstrees the Party Slapper

DJ Pam the Funkstrees the Party Slapper

High Rents Killing Bay Area Hip Hop

daveyd-raider2Last week the Bay Area Hip Hop community was saddened to see the unintended departure of long time producer DJ Paul Nice. He had become the latest casualty in an increasingly long line of talented musicians and artists who have been forced out of the Bay Area due to astronomical housing costs. With the average price of a medium size two bedroom house going for $435 thousand dollars, rents in Bay Area cities like San Francisco, San Jose and now Oakland have skyrocketed to the point that it is now cheaper to move out and rent an apartment in Manhattan. Bay Area Hip Hop hot spots like Oakland, Vallejo and East Palo Alto are changing by the minute as longtime residents are getting evicted left and right. Paul Nice was a victim of a landlord saying he wanted to move into his pot .. so he could kick Paul out and then go on raise the rents..

In San Francisco the housing situation is all but a lost cause. Hip Hop strong holds like the Filmore have literally changed face over night thanks to the dot com invasion. You will now show up to a gig in the Filmore and be made to feel totally unwelcome and out of place in what was once your neighborhood prior to the new economy suddenly exploding. The historic colorful Mission District is currently dealing with this onslaught and next on the list is Bayview Hunters Point. The South of Market club district is now dotted with ‘live work lofts and newly arrived cranky residents who have used their economic and political clout to shut down night clubs which they say are making too much noise.. It was just a few years ago that many of these now occupied buildings once played host to raves and after hours Hip Hop parties..

Adding fuel to the fire in the nation’s dot com capital is a 1% vacancy rate and ruthless landlords who are now starting to put rental units on auction sites like EBAY. It is now a situation where the highest bidder wins. This is complicated by big businesses that are now buying up and renting apartments for key executives and employees which has driven up rental prices even more. Can you imagine competing for an apartment with a big company that has deep pockets and is determined to fly in workers from overseas or across country? They simply outbid you by offering crazy rent prices. Its not unusual to see 1 bedroom apartments for $2500 and up. Its totally ridiculous and we haven’t even begun to address the drama surrounding commercial properties. About a month and half ago there was a highly publicized situation where a dot com came into the Mission District and displaced a popular rehearsal and studio spot that was home to more than 500 musicians. The Bay Area’s Hip Hop community has definitely been feeling the strain.

bootsriley-pamLast year Boots of the Coup along with the San Francisco Bay Guardian which has been chronicling this entire mess did a series controversial radio ads on Bay Area radio stations about the Bay Area housing crunch. In the commercial Boots talks about how he was forced to move out of his house in Oakland because of high rents and gentrification. He placed the blame on Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and warned long time Oakland residents that the new economy and the new face of Oakland would most likely not include them if they didn’t step up their efforts. Boot’s concerns were realized not too long ago when Oakland City Council members voted down an ordinance that would’ve protected residents from unfair evictions.

Another longtime Bay Area Hip Hop fixture was producer DJ Fear of the group No Concept. Earlier this year he was forced to move out of Oakland due to high housing costs. Well established Hip Hop outfits like the Bay Area Hip Hop Coalition and the Hieroglyphics Crew were forced out of their downtown office space which they had for years due to rent increases. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the past year and a half I’ve counted more than 30 Bay Area Hip Hop artists, promoters DJs etc have moved out of the San Francisco/Oakland area to the far outskirts of the Bay or down to LA because of the high housing costs. Its now gotten to the point that when out of town cats say they’d like to get a taste of the local Hip Hop scene, you have to send them to neighboring cities like Sacramento, Antioch, Stockton or Los Angeles which is 400 miles away so they can get a feel. It’s in these places that you will now find Bay Area artists like; Mac Mall, The Luniz, Mac Dre, Mystic Journeyman, Money B, and Rappin’ 4Tay to name a few. More and more Bay Area folks have also been relocating to New York, Atlanta or Texas where housing costs are cheaper when compared to the Bay..Even sadder is the fact that some Bay Area Hip Hoppers went away to school and found they can’t afford to move back..

Billy Jam

Billy Jam

In an attempt to bring attention to this housing problem, long time Bay Area DJ Billy Jam and Amoeba Music has put together a compilation album featuring 19 independent artists called ‘Just Paying The Rent’. The album is a who’s who of Bay Area underground artists like Clever Jeff, Crack Emcee, Superstar Qu’am Allah, BLACK, DJ Fear Slumlordz and DJ Zeph. to name a few cover the entire music spectrum from Hip Hop to folk music.

“Just payin’ the rent” is pretty much the battle cry for each of the nineteen indie artists on this compilation who, despite their radical range in musical styles, all share the struggle to just pay the rent and be able to create their art. The San Francisco Bay Area, where most of them reside, has felt the seemingly-overnight effects of the new dot-com economy which has escalated housing costs, changed demographics, and had a drastic effect on the local arts community.

Crack emcee

The Crack Emcee

“Living in San Francisco is like living in a computer: everything is about the Internet,” said the pre-teens’ Laura Davis. “People are been forced out because of the skyrocketing rents. Clubs are closing down and practice spaces are rare.” Indeed a major blow was dealt when on October 1st, San Francisco’s Downtown Rehearsal building, where 500 bands of all types of music had rented rehearsal spaces, were all evicted after the building was sold for a huge profit. “I call them the Dotzies,” laughed the Crack Emcee. “They’re blowing the smoke of the new economy up your ass… and all they want to do is sell you sh&*…..everyone’s selling banner space.”

There’s no telling where all this will end and what the final lay of the land will be..I guess I’ll have to move down to LA or back to New York with DJ Paul Nice to get a taste of the Bay Area’s Hip Hop scene. For more info on ‘Just Paying The Rent Project’ drop an email to Billy Jam at