Tag Archives: bay area hip hop

Song of The Year-G.R.E.E.D. by Berner produced by Scott Storch

Song of The Year-G.R.E.E.D. by Berner produced by Scott Storch

by Dan-O

As a hip hop fan I feel like Berner is one of those good friends I check in with from time to time. He’s always doing well. Most of the time having a great time with a killer guest list.  No one has a network like Berner, on his new album (The Big Pescado) he gets guest features from  The Game, Conway, Devin The Dude, Too Short, Wiz Khalifa, E-40, Jeremih, Trey Songz, Ty Dolla Sign, and Snoop Dogg. Even for bay area rappers his last ten years have been pretty staggering from a productivity standpoint (go to his Wikipedia discography for confirmation).

All of Berners best traits come through on his first effort of the new year and my favorite song G.R.E.E.D. has them all firing. He’s a smoker which you will know from the first line “We smoke till were numb and we worship the sun,” a great smoker MC has the opposite personality of a struggle rapper. Berner is wild consistent, assured and relaxed. Thank you weed, that being said, he takes his bars seriously and G.R.E.E.D. being a spin off of Wu’s C.R.E.A.M. maintains the toughness.

The best thing I can say about Berner on this song is that he is so good he earns this beat. Scott Storch did not fall off. This beat takes me back to 2004 it is such a monster. The first thing I thought was “G-unit would have made 7 million dollars with this beat in 2004” but as his verses unfurl I found myself completely satisfied and remembered…oh yeah this is the same dude who put multiple collab albums in the books with B-Real and held up bar for bar. Everybody loves Berner not just because he seems like a great dude but because he’s serious with his opportunities and he took this one. I love this song.


Way Too In-Depth Song Review-I Had It In A Drought by E-40 featuring Stresmatic produced by ProHoeZak

Way Too In-Depth Song Review-I Had It In A Drought by E-40 featuring Stresmatic produced by ProHoeZak

by Dan-O

Art is not a measurement of the works distance from perfection. It is instead an engagement with personality, one built brick by brick by vivid slices of perception. This is one of the reasons everyone has been so torn on E-40 when no debate should be needed.  The hip hop community goes nuts for success… well try on perpetual independence, liquors and other entrepreneurial ventures, as well as twenty four studio albums (Platinum and gold plaques along the way). Those narrow minded evaluators who only look at art through perfections sake…still can’t let the numbers validate 40.

Some of this is the pure oddity of his vocals. On his lengthy projects he throws it all over the place, doing voices and bowing up into a choked whine when he needs to. Some still see machismo in the unbending constancy of monotone. To someone raised on the cold NY accent the first listen of E-40 must sound like a rapping Looney Tunes character.

The bigger issue is the notion of careful perfection. 40 just dropped two more albums (The D-Boy Diary) and they are 22 songs each 44 total. It is a big mess of music with lots of guests and different producers.  For the peripheral fan always hunting for the “new classic” this is madness. It doesn’t feel carefully curated (although, how would you know?).  This is why I wanted to make a long form defense of the Vallejo giant.

What I love about The D-Boy Diary is that it is better than last year’s Sharp On All 4 Corners. The beats are super exciting but get really weird (much more piano than previously) all the while our narrator is never out of his depth. The weirder it gets the harder he plunges into it. On my favorite song, I Had It In A Drought he starts the third verse cursing out rappers for wearing make-up and suggesting they cut off their crotch and as you reel from the shock of such a proposal, he is already weaving another tale about when he first met his wife “I met this gorgeous broad…she was cute…she played the clarinet at the band revue )” and eventually winds the story up with “realest N_ in it thought I told you, Hella years later and I’m still with my girl from high school.” This isn’t a clear story song. It isn’t dizzying or strategic or full of cool name drops of people you know. It’s a soup of lascivious brags and drug talk, societal concerns, and wistful neighborhood recollections.   By the end of the song you can’t help but be struck by how utterly loving that piece for his wife is. He doesn’t call her an angel or use contrived sentiment. He brags about his specific loyalty to her just like he does his connect.  E-40 observes all 360 degrees of loyalty and it connects.

I don’t celebrate 40 because he was real friends with Pac or the pure impressive longevity. Lots of people are still around who checked out. The D-Boy Diary is a tangible improvement on what he has been building and that is undeniably the goal, continual progression. A lot of people are just mad that their favorite safe rapper stopped challenging himself and their least favorite rapper, the one with the weird voice, just kept getting better.  Now he has new dope music and the accepted savior of yester-year is gone.

Mixtape Review-Biggie Smalls EP by IAMSU & AkaFrank

Mixtape Review-Biggie Smalls EP by IAMSU & AkaFrank

by Dan-O

The first lie of art is that you should always work harder on your weakness than your strength. Sounds good for a teacher to tell a kid but it’s not reasonable for a grown up at all. Why would you spend most of your energy on something that will never be your strength? Why not work hardest at what you do best to reach new levels of doing that well? In a year where every artist is exploring their dark side (Future, Big Sean, etc) Biggie Smalls EP finds IAMSU taking what he does best and turning it way up to levels of fun that touch his last true masterpiece, the 2012 mixtape Kilt.

Some of the fun is how much IAMSU likes working with other MC’s (in this case Northern California’s AkaFrank) and producers (in this case HIMTB production team). Instead of finding some sort of think piece ready despair and inner pain subject matter, we jump in with the first song What The Bay Like and it feels like 78 degrees with palm trees. AkaFrank is cool but not stiff and Su provides one of his most chantable hooks. Out of eight songs this is the projects second best (and the best is last).

IAMSU is at his very best when he has crafted the melody and production just right so that the music has an indestructible digestibility to it. Hi Def of HIMTB produces not only the fantastic What The Bay Like but Backwoods & Back Rubs which is classic mid-tempo ratchet (and mid-tempo ratchet needs Kool John). AkaFrank also gets production credit for Lane Switching which manages to be both haunting and rambunctious. Su gives an autotune soaked gem of a chorus but if you haven’t heard of AkaFrank before this project you may want to hit the search engines. The more listens you get the more capable and strategic his word placement is, the smarter his decisions are.

It might seem unique that both vocal stars produced songs (IAMSU produced the last two: Show You What’s Real and Whatever) but it goes back to the spirit of collaboration. These guys love working together and tweaking everything to the height of its spaciousness.

I know Biggie Smalls EP doesn’t cover any serious topics and its digestibility is its calling card but let me put this a different way. Dr. Dre put out Compton, his first album since 2001 and it sounds glorious it sounds like California feels…but not as much as Biggie Smalls does. Biggie Smalls through production; melody and personality makes you feel the sunshine and the creepy night driving. The best song is a bonus song left over from 2008 called Whatever that shimmers and warbles gloriously and without a malicious bone in its body. Both of these dudes just want dope shoes, attractive sexual partners and a great day to go along with it. That’s the heart of the bay sound. My fingers are still crossed for an IAMSU E-40 collaborative album that would play in my headphones forever.

Stream or Download Biggie Smalls EP below:


Mixtape Review-Wheel Power by Remedy

Mixtape Review-Wheel Power by Remedy

by Dan-O

I listened to last years Lord Wheelin mixtape so much that it might have been the most debated project of 2013 for me. It was so solid but somehow didn’t feel great and I always made a pledge to myself that the only things worth reviewing or reading about were spectacular either in how great or how awful they are.

Now I get to tell you about Remedy the way I secretly wanted to do last year…cause his new mixtape Wheel Power has the components that Lord Wheelin didn’t and then some. Remedy is a one man army. Out of the fourteen tracks on Wheel Power Remedy produces eleven of them and raps on every track with no guest stars.

If your looking for a dude who could break big quite easily with a little major label muscle behind him, this is he. Listen to the Intro which is two minutes of straight spitting over a bubbling muscular mid-tempo slap that would make Jay Ant smile. Listen to On Fire Pt.2 (Hot Boy) where this San Francisco artist somehow integrates New Orleans bounce into his sound completely effectively. Its one of the most superbly Cash Money sounding tracks in recent history. It also includes one of the tapes most venomous insults “Some old ratchet a$$ no doz stale weave wearing b#$%…”

Before you come under the assumption that Remedy is some kind of underground version of what we wish Tyga was you need to hear more. Wheel Power knows how to shift down gears from New Orleans bounce/ratchet to thick sticky rider music. Chillin is moving slow enough to not get ticketed in a school zone and that’s great. Remedy narrates his way through buying a chimichanga while reminiscing about days past when he was broke. Bass Feenz produces it and Bass is the operative word. He also produces the lush, soulful and striking Bad (Comments,Likes) which turns out to be a more earnest discussion of relationships on social media than I ever anticipated. If you read the lyrics, “Yeah I know the real about you. I know your parents; yeah I know how they feel about you. You a bum no job no school but your newsfeed showing your making the right moves but your not. Life is more than choosing Jordan shoes…” you might think it was a bit preachy but it never is. Remedy never stops bouncing but he doesn’t feel the need to fit his lyrics within a persona. He’s just as excited to talk about the illusion of success social media creates as he is to make straight twerk inducing bangers (see Bank).

Remedy doesn’t have that thing where every verse is a must hear. At times you’ll bob your head and be three songs past where you thought you were. He needs to work on making each song stand out with its own momentum. But with that being said; what he is is rock solid. You can count on every beat being dope and every verse fits with it. He is an amazing talent because a lot of your favorite rappers aren’t rock solid.

stream or download below:


Mixtape Review-Allegiance by Ya Boy Rich Rocka

Mixtape Review-Allegiance by Ya Boy Rich Rocka

by Dan-O

Nothing separates the coal from the diamonds like the grind. Every time you see an artist hit with a hot debut you can chart their tumble out of the spotlight as they realize the pressure of following up that content while building up a touring audience. Ya Boy got his DJ Drama Gangsta Grillz spotlight at exactly the right time. Allegiance is the outcome of years and years of relentless grinding. When his first few tapes dropped I shrugged with an audible “The west coast has a trap rapper…cool.” The progression from that point to now is not just impressive it happened at a natural pace; meaning the level of success he has at this point synchs up with his talent.

I don’t think early Ya Boy could have made a chorus as catchy as I Want It. Nor would he have access to monster left field beats like Psychadellic. The production is judiciously distributed between Hidden Faces, Yung Ced, Blackcard R, and Kid Jupiter (great name).  The landmark production moments are usually Hidden Faces (Psychadellic, Earl Stevens) or Blackcard R (I Want It, Fadeaway). The guest list is bay area legit: E-40, Droop-E, Cousin Fik, Short Dawg, and Galaxy Atoms.

Somehow Ya Boy naturally combines trap and ratchet tendencies. The thick spooky sneer of Fadeaway feels equal parts of both movements. He doesn’t bring the sensitivity of Kendrick or the in your face tone of Schoolboy Q. Allegiance doesn’t even have the subject matter balance of the YG album. This is straight up bay area GOON RAP. Rich Rocka (aka Ya Boy) seems to have no regard for how his audience processes his journey. When he says “I’m from where they sell that vagina” on Do It Right it’s not the start of a fascinating story it’s just a line that passes. He doesn’t say it to shock, he’s just from there.

It’s exciting to see the spotlight come back to California. Tracks like Earl Stevens that salute the legacy and career or E-40 bring a smile to my face. As hated as 40 was by East Coast cats (and Rasheed Wallace) back in the day, so many artists now have weirdo flow lanes open to them now because Earl blazed that trail. And he’s still dope; just listen to his verse on track 11 of Allegiance.

On the negative side of the ledger this mixtape is way too long. I always feel bad saying this about bay area mixtapes because for the bay it’s not bad. Every mixtape in the bay is 20 tracks minimum but this one is a LONG 19. You could easily cut Pop Dat P, Flip Phone, and I Got That Fire without feeling their loss. In a digital mp3 age this is a quick solve (delete what you don’t dig from your files).

Hip hop not only needs good goon music, It needs good high energy goon music cause the day is long and sometimes a snarl is exactly what I need to hear. The content is dope dealing, sex brags, and generally stewing in the finger snaps and base lines but he’s done it right this time and I’m banging Allegiance.

Stream or download Allegiance below:


Mixtape Review-Roachy Balboa 4 by Roach Gigz

Mixtape Review-Roachy Balboa 4 by Roach Gigz

by Dan-O

The mental picture created when listening to Roach Gigz is that of a race car driver or X Games participant. He seems to have a flow faster than his mind if that makes sense. He doesn’t just surprise listeners with odd entertaining imagery at times he seems to surprise himself. His new mixtape Roachy Balboa 4 is full of smiling shake your head moments like stunting so hard you get a crook in your neck (Too Easy) putting in more work than your right hand (Like This) and the line “thank you Mom you did not abort me now I can get drunk and have orgies (Misfit).” This kind of careless freewheeling imaginative sex and party talk is what sucked America into early Lil Wayne and we are talking about skill level in that ballpark.

Unlike vintage era Wayne this isn’t someone who switches gears into different tempos. Gigz runs the track like the 7 seconds or less Phoenix Suns always pushing the ball. Not only does he never stumble but he can’t help but find the craziest things to say “kill that p#$% now we talk through a Ouija, psychedelic Gigz might walk through your TV (Zombie).” If you feel as if you’ve exhausted your love of ratchet let me pitch you. I don’t think you have. The problem is not the proliferation of a trend it’s the decay of its quality. Great ratchet is still inescapably dope and three elements hold it there: great flow, fun rewindable raps, and a beat that feels like the collective hum of a crowd losing their mind. All are present on Roachy Balboa 4.

While Jay Ant could bottle and sell his cool demeanor resulting in a large profit Roach is the opposite (their collaboration on this project I Just Want works despite any logical assumption to the contrary). He seems to be running with the bulls all throughout Roachy Balboa 4 trying to move faster and more uninhibitedly through whatever it is he wants to discuss whether its meeting women on Telegraph Ave or snakes. In my running of the bulls metaphor C-Loz is the bulls. He produces seven out of thirteen tracks including the first three which really set the pace of the race. C-Loz determination to maintain the stampede velocity is as pronounced as Gigz. Any sample used, every clatter or jangle or hand clap you can hear is moving in the same direction; forward and fast.

If you were to tell me that what Gigz does is stupid I’d call you half right. Have you ever had a friend that you thought was stupid but the more time you spent with him the more you found genius in what from far away seemed daft? That’s how it is for me. The first time I heard “rather be loved than feared rather make love from the rear (Talking My Sh#t),” my face looked like a confused dog but at this point if you think its stupid its my kind of stupid. The kind that glimmers like a sharpened blade and slices through ratchet beats. When you mention the top ratchet names or top Cali rappers Gigz should be amongst them. None of the others would even think about saying the stuff he does. That counts for something.

Download and bump Roachy Balboa 4 below:

Song Review-Home Again by E-40 featuring Mike Marshall

Song Review-Home Again by E-40 featuring Mike Marshall

by Dan-O

Criticism by its very nature is reductive, by writing an “angle” or “theme” into a review you cut away all the other rough edges that don’t fit. It’s been a gift and a curse for E-40. Being from the East Coast I always knew you had to respect the man’s slanguage but the music was supposed to be far too silly.

In reality, songs like Home Again off Block Brochure 4(he dropped 4,5, and 6 same day) have always been a core part of E-40’s identity. He doesn’t do sensitive songs that feel forced or mandatory instead he peels away all the layers of thesaurus bravado and street encyclopedia to give us warm thoughtful insights and sometimes shockingly honest statements. How many platinum selling rappers do you know who have the stones to say “I’m on the phone with my auntie she’s my bread wearer giving me scriptures to read to protect me from the destroyer. This is my letter to God I hope that he reads this please cover me with the blood of your son Jesus.” He talks about prisons overfilling, unnecessary violence and amidst it, like so many other E-40 songs, you can find axioms to live by “All I got is my word and my name, a good reputation is better than fame.”

For the last two years E-40 has given us three albums a year and they represent him best. They include everything; disgusting sex songs, Cornell West shout outs, cocaine conversation, somber recollections about death and inequality, and chair dance causing posse tracks about having a ball. It’s almost like the real legacy of Earl is talking about absolutely everything. How can you not respect that?