The History of Bay Area Rap. Often Imitated but Never Duplicated!

(This is a article I wrote for http://www.onestophiphopshop.com. Thought I would post it here too. Share your thoughts).

The Bay Area; co owner of the word different. But unfortunately this big but yet small place on the corner of the map was not always credited for its style. To an outsider looking in, a person would never think a place such as the Bay, would breed music changing innovators (surprise suckers).

Let’s go back about 20 years. The year was 1990, and Hollywood movie stars weren’t the only ones making millions upon millions of dollars in the entertainment industry, rappers were too. From the East coast to the West coast, every city and state represented where they were from. Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Tupac, were some of the West’s starring players in the rap game. But they were the rappers that were heard on the radio and seen in videos; known worldwide.

Meanwhile in Northern California, The Bay to be exact, people were listening to music and watching videos on CMC and The Box by local artists such as San Quinn, E-40,Messy Marv, RBL Posse, Too Short, Mac Dre, The Luniz and C-Bo, to name a few. These artists offered something that a mainstream artist could not always produce, something real. They spoke on the struggles of the day to day life of growing up around the big body of water. Whether it was rapping about their environments, to selling dope, or even touching on political issues in the Bay Area, listeners found something they could relate too. Everything was from the heart, raw, and uncut.

My first taste of Bay Area music was through my older sister and brother at the tender age of 9. “2 Hard 4 The F*ckin Radio” By Mac Dre was always in rotation in our house. Even though I had no business listening or rapping the lyrics of this song, I couldn’t help it. I was intrigued that the same song my mother would sometimes play by Chaka Kuan and Rufus (Tell Me Something Good), was now speed up and rapped over.

“They say: Damn Mac Dre you ain’t nothin’ polite/Cuz I’m the numero uno/I could never be the dos/A mack named Dre/and I’m poppin the most/ 18, mackin’ raps ‘til I’m 80 though/And too hard for the f*ckin radio”

And Mac Dre was right; he was too hard for the radio, along with many others that was independently putting music out in the Bay at that time. Radio stations seldom played music by local artists. You may hear a song here and there sprinkled amongst the top twenty mix, but nothing was in heavy rotation. This may not have been done intentionally, but instead due to the rules and regulations.

According to an article written by Jeff Chan in 2003 for the Bay Area Guardian, once KMEL was bought in the late 90’s under the Telecommunications Act, the station’s former progressive politics and support of local artists were replaced by “bland on-air personalities, reactionary politics, and the repetitive seven-song rotation that’s found on every urban station.” As always, the government trumps, and had the final say in what will and will not be played.

Local artists had no other choice but to hand their music off to Bay Area DJ’s in hopes it would be played at local, and even out of town events. Artists sold tapes out of the trunks of their cars, and shows were promoted by word of mouth and flyers. Any possible way to get it, they got it. As time went on Bay Area music sparked interest in different states, but that spark didn’t turn in to a flame until mid 2000’s.

The “Hyphy Movement” was birthed in the 90’s, but not fully recognized until the early 2000’s. The word Hyphy was created by one of the Bay Area’s innovators himself, Keak da Sneak (others may disagree with this). He coined the term in 1994 on a song with a local group by the name of 3x Crazy.

If you were a person that lacked energy, the Hyphy movement was not for you. From rapping, dancing, even driving, everything was done to the extreme, pushed to the max. Words that are usually frowned upon like “stupid”, “dumb”, “retarded”, were now looked at in positive light. People all over the world were examining what was going on in the Bay, whether it was via the internet or music videos. Songs like “S.T.U.P.I.D” by Mac Dre, “Tell Me When To Go” by E-40 and Keak da Sneak , “Super Sic Wit It” by Mistah Fab, and “It’s Gettin Hot” by The Team , were being played from clubs and to the infamous Oakland “Side Show”. Artists that were once slept on woke the world up with Bay coined terms, and had people everywhere wondering what this Hyphy Movement was all about. It seemed as if the movement and the Bay Area were too much for outside onlookers.

Over the last 20 years Bay Area music has gone through a multitude of transitions. The Hyphy Era has taken a back seat for the time being, and artist like Erk Tha Jerk , LaRoo, The Jacka, and Clyde Carson are just a few that are taking the more subtle approach, but yet still keeping it grimy, and true. That natural Bay hustle mentality is imbedded in to a lot of new local artists as well. The same people that grew up listening to Bay mixtapes and albums, are now the on the mission to getting a piece of the “Success Pie”. With things like myspace, You Tube, UStream, and Twitter, artist have the ability to promote their work all over the world. Radio is finally giving airplay to Bay Area’s own, instead of the repetitive top 20 watered down songs. Nevertheless, there is still a constant struggle to put these local artists on the map, but things are done a little differently in the Bay. Is the world really ready for “different”?

I’m a Bay Area Native, in every since of the term, and with that being said I thought all of the information I put in to this article would come naturally to me, but it didn’t. I found out about things and artist that I didn’t even know existed. I found myself on the phone with people that were older and younger than me telling me things I had no clue about. The Bays soil is rich with history and talent. Who would have of thought this small sometimes unheard place on the corner of the map, surrounded by a big body of water would have the abilty to take music to new heights.

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