Friday, June 26, 2009


Welcome back to the obscurity, where shit's the best! This time we time travel forward to the mid-90s: 1996.

This time I present the SF MC I mentioned in the Cult of Isis post: Bazooka Joe Gotti.
I met Joe thru Jason Slater as well, around the same time he introduced me to Adisa. I always thought he had natural mic skills (no matter what coastal perspective you choose to take) with that wonderful "turf"-ism (for lack of a better term) that stamps it officially as: BAY SHIT, straight up.

Title: Traps of Babylon
Bomb Side:
1. Traps of Babylon
2. Crackhouse
Bay Side
3. Rollin' Psycho
4. Killed From Within

The tape's title song is evidence of Joe's friendship with the Bishop rubbing off. Not to mention Nas' "each block is like a maze" scratched at the end as further proof that SF turf cats have always stayed up on some New York shit. It's a smooth track with a sampled singing chorus where Joe pledges to do better for his son: "So he can grow up, get props and travel on, while I get caught up in the traps of babylon." "Crackhouse" pays homage to the SF turf practice of selling crack and rap tapes out the same location. But, it's not till the Bay Side of the tape that I really start geekin'. "Rollin' Psycho" is certified raw ("Stripes" sample for the win!) and "Killed From Within" gets even more tragic as Joe explores the pitfalls in the game when you got snakes on your team.
I hope the exposure of obscure tapes like this can begin to open the rest of the world's eyes and ears to the fact that Bay Area backpacker underground in the 90s wasn't just the normal five or so mostly East Bay crews (Hiero, Hobo Junction, Sole Sides, Living Legends, PB Wolf [South Bay], etc.) you always hear about. Though I agree they're great, there was a whole lot more shit (especially out of Frisco), that was equally hardcore, NY-influenced and/or break record-based, but still, like I said, "turf-ish" and politically militant (which are the Bay's signatures), without necessarily crossing into the genre that included artists from the heavy-hitting (stereotypically labeled "gangsta" or "mob" music) indy record companys like Sic-Wid-It, In-A-Minute, Dog Day, Young Black Brotha, etc that had already begun to veer more towards keyboard-created funk and R&B-style beats by the time this tape came out. Does that horrible run-on sentence even make sense? It's all dope music; I don't know why I'm trying to categorize. It's actually a testament to just how thick and diverse our scene was back then, and I haven't even mentioned the DJs yet, shit. Me slapping myself: "Stupid human, always trying to break one thing into many parts!"
I think what I'm trying to say is that my favorite mid-to-late-90s underground MCs from the Bay used to bump their hometown Totally Insane "Direct From The Backstreet" tape back-to-back with their Biggie tapes because they pretty much used the same style loops, if not the exact same loops (this is actually a theory of Thuggy Fresh's that has never been explained and proven to me entirely nor soberly), and then kinda became an amalgamation of both styles of rapping, with all the battle shit thrown in too, of course. Aww fuck it, I don't know why I try to explain it, just press play on the dope jams and zone out, that's obviously what I need to do.

P.S. to my Gurp City Rellies: check Joe's use of the term "gurp," way back in '96, yo!

Next up in part 3 of the Trilogy: 1993 Demo with Charizma on production!?!?!? Oh, the obscurity!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The confessional style of this post was inspired by the writing of TJ Smith of "Sea of Seed" whose handcrafted ‘zines about the rural midwest I’ve been revisiting as of late.

I stole this tape from my old radio cohort on KSCU Rob “Rock B” Jackson’s crib back in like ’93-’95 (???). It was after a show he had set up for the Sole Sides Crew, when “Melodica” was still a test-press, at like Evergreen Community College or some other classroom-style live spot. I got drunk as shit and when we got back to Rob’s lab to post-party, in an attempt to join a conversation I had no business taking part in and to play the part of asshole in general, I told either DJ Zen or Asia Born, I forget which, that I had “two sealed copies of Expansions” (a direct quote from that Beasties song). Needless to say, they weren’t too amused, and I think someone tried to son me with, “Wow, are they really sealed.” Rob shot me a look like: “I’m trying to impress these dudes [he wanted to be their road manager or something], why are you fucking me up?” But, Gab seemed oblivious to any mega-digger-posturing and more than willing to share his bammer joints with me, and thus I couldn’ta given two squirts of monkey piss about anything.

I have no idea where The Incline is from nor what year they recorded these three songs nor what their names are (Kohari the Insomniac??? Damien??). But if you will allow me to apply the science of conjecture and bullshitting, the dank fog in my brain is slowly forming letters and... I think they were either from The Town or Sac. I’d love to find out the truth. Did they ever morph into another project? Do they still rap and/or make beats? Who are they?

The tape is laid out as such:

The Incline

Side I

Frozen Cocaine

Side II

Just Listen

Sideways Poetics

The first song, "Frozen Cocaine," is regularly considered the "banger" by folks I've showed this to, because of it's furious dichotomy of drug messaging and perfectly placed EPMD sample. The other two are more your typical early-90's backpacker fair and not as dark as the jump off, but definitely worth posting, so I did.

Later that night, Rob’s hotheaded roommate Jermaine came home wasted and complaining of being shot in the thigh with a "BB gun" after tussling with some “Mexicans” outside of San Jose Live. After Rob saw the wound he urged Jermaine to allow a sober person to take him to the ER. Jermaine turned out to have a .22 slug embedded in his leg. Some BB gun. Jermaine was a division 1 defensive back and very patriotic about being from Merced. Ever since this incident I've considered people from Merced tough as nails. To commerate the evening, while everybody was taking Jermaine to the hospital, I snatched a handful of tapes off the floor of their living room in front of the stereo (remember those?) and one of them was The Incline. Rob was always a good friend to me, and I feel I’m finally doing penance to our friendship by airing this all out. Rob, if you read this and you want your tapes back, they’re yours, mane. But all you Bay Area demo fiends are lucky, ‘cause you get to listen to these old ass unreleased jams without the tinge of guilt and regret I feel from being a drunken shit-talking loser who steals from his friends the same night their roommate gets shot. Rob’s dad was a preacher on TV in Richmond to boot!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The Mac: predecessor to other rhyme virtuosos from Vallejo like Mac Dre and E-40. Super producer Khayree’s first beats on wax. Khayree would go on to concoct a slew of Bay Area classics for legends like Mac Mall, Mac Dre, Young Lay and Ray Luv (just to name a few), but it was mainly Mac Dre who kept The Mac’s name in the street for at least a decade after the pioneer was gunned down in cold blood in a case of mistaken identity shortly after his second release "Enuff Of This Shit" which I think only came out on tape (anybody got it?). An "R.I.P. The Mac" patch was on every Mac Dre jacket I ever saw him wear, and one of his final releases before that fatal day in Kansas City was "The Game Is Thick #2" in honor of his mentor.

The Game Is Thick, as far as I know, is the first Vallejo rap song to appear on wax, and the first 12” single from Vallejo as well.

"But I Get Nasty!!" is essentially the instrumental version of the b-side “But I Get Paid!!” I should say q-side because the sides are labeled G and Q in honor of the turf jacket fashionistas, GQ, that kept the nuttin’ nice Vallejo crew in fly gear. Look closely at the front cover and you’ll see a white GQ hat on the dash of the root beer brown ride on the right with the trues and vogues and the mustard and mayonnaise. On the back cover The Mac’s personalized GQ-made jacket is worn by a homegirl named Nikki who has her back to us, but you can tell she’s not wearing anything else but the jacket, because her bare ass cheeks are hangin’ out the bottom of it. Loved it more than Ice T "Power" and the SI swimsuit issue combined. Anyway… I guess Khayree didn’t want anybody jackin’ his beats, because instead of just muting the vocals, he had The Mac record a phone sex conversation over the top of it with a chick who fakes an orgasm at the end of it. I especially dig the way he incorporates the sound effects from the vocal version to make sense with the convo. “Hold up, I gotta piss.” Listen to it; you’ll catch my meaning. I salute both Khayree and The Mac for going this extra yard, and adding some signature spice to their 12” single selection. Artists don’t give that same effort anymore; these days, it’s always just: street version, radio version, instrumental. What happened to bonus beats? What am I saying? People don’t even put out 12” singles anymore. That’s an argument I should’ve made in ’95, but I was too drunk to give a fuck. And now I’m caught in a time warp.

If you ever overhear a group of so-called Nation of Thizz-lam tried-and-trues referring to some “OG Shit,” quiz ‘em about this record. If they’ve never heard of it, they don’t know what the fuck they talkin’ ‘bout—pull they fuckin’ card and vic ‘em for the blue pills!

P.S. If you didn’t think og bay area macks thought real hip hop skills were important back in the day, check the liner notes: “ Scratches: The Mac.” Then check what DJ Universe did for Too $hort on “Born To Mack.” You thought wrong, Jack. Now download it and soak game.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Second episode. Eons on the tables and Luke gets down with the Realistic talk box with the wood paneling. Once again, the selections are bonkers. No one called in and won the contest for the life-size Diamond Shell cardboard stand up. We gotta check these phonelines. Better luck next week!

Ripped Open Radio #2

1. Beatnuts - "Get Funky" (remix)
2. P Bros. feat Sadat X and Money Boss - "Come on Down"
3. Stetsasonic "Sally"
4. Scotty Luv- Cold Rocking It
5. I walk on gilded splinters
6. CPO- Ren's Rhythm
7. Ed O.G. - Sayin' Something
8. Ice T - "Hunted Child" Remix
9. KNT "Cycles"
10. Arsonists "Halloween"
11. Shyheim "Five Elements" feat. Rubbabandz, Pop the Brown Hornet, Downlowreka, Junelover
12. Royal Flush "Worldwide"
13. Gil Scott Heron- "Angel Dust"
14. Freestyle Professors- Grit Dat Grime
15. Spice 1- 187 Proof part II
16. DJ Chuck Chillout & Kool Chip- "Time to Rhyme"
17. Black Sheep "Still in the Ghetto"
18. Tragedy- Iron Sheiks beat