Sunday, March 26, 2006

origins of an icon

T$: Who came up with the Hieroglyphics logo?

A-Plus: Del made up that symbol. But, as it turns out, it is actually an ancient Mayan hieroglyph for the number eight, the concept of infinity and the concept of harmonic resonance. And Del didn't even know that! Like, one day some chick came to my house and had a book on Mayan hieroglyphs and was like, 'Dude, did you know this?' And I'm like, wow, and I was there when Del made up the shit.

Is it possible that he somehow knew?

Nah, not at all. I've known him since the first grade--we've been best buddies. He was shocked when I told him. Yeah, that's some Twilight Zone shit, you feel me? That's crazy.

bay area rap video lounge, vol. 2

Zion I - "The Bay (Original Mix)"

Del Tha Funkee Homosapien - "Mistadobalina"

Balance - "Gotta Get It"

Mac Mall - "Sick Wid This"

San Quinn - "Look What I've Done For Them"

Mac Dre - "Rapper Gone Bad"

2Pac - "If My Homies Call"

Souls of Mischief - "93 Til Infinity"

The Team - "Bottles Up"

Oaktown's 3.5.7. - "Juicy"

Spice-1 feat. C-Bo and Yukmouth - "Killa Kali"

Frontline feat. E-A-Ski - "Bang It"

Dru Down - "Pimp of the Year"

Murs feat. Shock G and Humpty Hump - "Risky Business"

JT The Bigga Figga - "Game Recognize Game"

My Block: The Bay (21-minute MTV special)


People really want to know about hyphy, a particularly vibrant strain of Bay Area hip-hop youth culture. What is it?

At its heart, hyphy is just an expression of energy. And it's captivating: Maybe that's why vets like E-40 and Too $hort are helping introduce it to the rest of the world.

The day before Too $hort shot the video for his new single, "Blow The Whistle," we talked about hyphy (among other things, for a future interview on AllHipHop).

"That’s the part I’m trying to explain," he said, "Hip-hop is always evolving and it’s always mutating and it just mutated into hyphy. It just took on another leg, another arm, and it’s not really saying that this [alone] represents the Bay. From my experience, in the last 12 months a lot of people are uncomfortable with the hyphy. It’s not for them. But what I say is whoever’s doing it, whoever’s endorsing it, I’m not trying to put it down anyone’s throat. I’m just saying I like what all these youngsters are doing, and let 'em do it. That’s all I’m saying. Let 'em do it, and let 'em go as far as it can go. It’s just a dance, it’s just an attitude, it’s a movement. It’s just a certain musical sound emerging from it that makes you do the dance.

"Just this past week I talked to a lot of little white kids. I did a show in Santa Rosa [Sonoma County suburbs] and I’m like, what do you guys know about the hyphy movement? And they’re like, 'Oh we love it.' And I’m like, well can you do the dance? 'Nah, we can’t really do the dance.' Well, do a lot of people out here in Santa Rosa do the dance? 'No, not really but we like to dance to it. That’s all we listen to.' So they’re listening to the music because they didn’t hear about the actual hyphy dance, they don’t care about that. All the thizzing and stuff like that. They just love Keak Da Sneak and Mistah F.A.B. and all the songs they put out.

"To me that’s the most important part of it, the dance is what brought the whole movement about, but an actual musical sound came up out of it and that’s where I step in and go whoa, you’re on to something. There’s a sound and if you hear that sound it makes you do that dance, now you onto something. So basically as it becomes more of a movement people like me gotta step up and say here’s the music here’s the dance--you want any part of it? You like it? You don’t have to do the dance to like the music.

"It’s an endorsement, that’s all. I don’t think 40 would say, 'I’m about to stand up on a pedestal and take this movement to the masses, everybody follow me.' That would be wrong. Cuz me and him sat around and talked about the youngsters and how much our songs influenced them, but . . . me and 40 don’t jump out of cars and ghost ride the whip and go stupid hanging out of windows. We don’t do that shit. Somebody who does that needs to lead it. Mac Dre did that stuff. Keak da Sneak does that stuff. Mistah F.A.B. does that stuff, they need to lead the movement.

"40 and me just need to be the Bay Area ambassadors we are, just stayin up on the throne or whatever and just overlook the masses and just say, handle your business. I’m trying to be a guiding light, I’m like, man, don’t make the wrong decisions. Don’t sign stupid contracts, don’t let nobody else get your money and jack it off. I’m thinking like that. I’m like turn this into a business. Don’t turn the hyphy into a dance that comes and goes. Turn this into a business that families and kids and generations, try and get some money out of it. It’s somebody’s kids going to go to college because of crunk music. Somebody’s kids are gonna get a trust fund because of crunk, you know what I'm saying? Let’s do that with the hyphy."

I am learning that I can always count on $hort for some tight analysis. But, since pictures are always so much more descriptive than words, here's some "hyphy in action" shots I got on the set of "Blow The Whistle." I wasn't allowed to use a flash, which led to some of these great abstract shots, where the blurs really tell the story of the motion.

One of my hobbies that ties into my work is photographing people dancing, and I've had the opportunity to snap people in some of the funkiest cities in the world (Detroit, Atlanta, London, Berlin). So I can't say that I haven't seen this kind of spirit before, but hyphy is definitely a Bay Area thang.

Keak Da Sneak's "Super Hyphie (That's My Word)"

Federation feat. E-40's "Hyphy" (poor quality, but just to get the idea)

trust life

T$:What are some of the most lasting pieces of musical advice that you've
gotten from George Clinton?

Shock G: Don't take yourself so seriously and allow the bigger, simpler messages of nature to flow through you. In the studio George taught us to allow it to happen, encourage the best of the people around you, and then just trust it, sit back & watch it grow. Incorporate everything life throws at you into what you do, and don't block the magic. The magic is in the variety, the hookups, the unexpected. Trust the simple & plain, the weird, the different, the fun, the goofy, the nasty, the funk; trust life.

exclusive interview with droop-e

Droop-E (aka Earl Stevens III) is finishing up his last year at Dublin High School and has recently been named the president of Sick Wid It, the independent record label founded by his father E-40. He's one of the most in-demand producers not only on Sick Wid It, but in the Bay Area at large.

His impressive discography, which includes a song on pop's new album My Ghetto Report Card, is up on his MySpace page. Those familiar with Bay Area rap should be impressed by the number of local hits he's helmed recently.

I caught up with Droop-E after school one afternoon as he was headed down to the Guitar Center to pick up some more tools of the trade. The interview was for my recent story on 40 in SF Weekly, but I thought more of Droop-E's words deserved some light. Watch out for this hungry and humble producer. . .

T$: What's it like to be a part of this amazing family business, where everyone is both musically inclined and super creative?

Droop-E: It’s kind of hard to explain--because I’m very grateful, but I really don’t know anything else. This is all I know, this is what I was born into. So I don’t know much else. It’s just so natural.

This wasn’t even enforced upon me, you know what I'm saying? More or less I was doing the basketball thing and all of that. The beats, that just happened. I used to be more of a rapper--that’s all I did was write raps all the time and I don’t know what happened, I just started making beats and stuff and now that’s what I’m doing. My pops didn’t influence me on this and nobody else did, it just happened.

It might have been different if you had only stuck with rapping and not ventured into production, huh?

It woulda been a lotta critics on me too just because of the legacy that my pops put down. If I was just strictly rapping it would be real hard on me because I’d have to live up to that. More or less I’d probably always be in his shadow. But now I’m doing my own thing.

You are a prolific producer. I just noticed that you produced many tracks on recent Sick Wid It albums by the Mossie and the DB'z.

I got like four or five on each one of those and I think I got one on Mistah F.A.B.'s brand new album that he’s supposed to be coming out with. I just work all day, it’s all I do.

Do you still go to school though?

Yeah, still in school. Still in high school, this is my last year though.

Do your parents have rules about making music versus schoolwork?

Not really. I mean, it’s something like that but I’m basically grown. I’m a senior and I’m 18 so I don’t really have homework anyway and all my grades are good and all we do is sit in class and watch movies anyway. It’s the end of my whole school career or whatever. So not really, I mean I’m doing pretty good in school now. In the past if my grades was bad, like last year or the year before that, if my grades was bad they wouldn’t let me do music. But now, it’s too serious, it’s not like it used to be. If they was to do something like that I’d be missing out on a lot of money and that’s not too cool. It’s really my job now so they don’t really try to restrict me from my music. They might make me cut it off early instead of being up all night like I usually do, but they don’t tell me like I can’t do it, period. Nah, not really.

Now that you are the president of Sick Wid It, are you taking a lot of time to learn the business?

Man, all the time. Sometimes I’m in school and I’ll have to go outside and make a couple business phone calls during school or stuff like that. But I’ve been around a lot of people so I’ve been learning a lot and it just comes. I don’t have to take time out of my schedule to learn that. It’s been going good though.

How do you feel about your father's album having a big shot at success?

It’s a great feeling, cuz we’ve just been working real hard. All he do is work hard and grind and it’s starting to pay off now and he’s the one that’s bringing the Bay back so hopefully we’ll be back into the mainstream light sometime soon. I mean, he bust open the doors now all we gotta do is flood it. So I’m just praying to God that everything goes through the way it’s supposed to.

He is very generous with his time as far as helping younger artists. He seems to go out of his way to do that.

Yeah he does, that’s why it’s real messed up that a lot of people aren’t grateful for that. A lot of Bay Area artists aren’t really giving him his props for that. Prime example, the "Tell Me When To Go" thing. He could have easily went with a popular single, he could have had anybody, any rapper on the first single. He coulda had anybody. But what he did was he made a hyphy song, a Bay Area-type track so that people would start looking at the Bay more. And he didn’t have to do that. A lot of people don’t see that, they don’t really just put two and two together. It’s real simple. Basically they just gotta appreciate what he’s doing. He’s working on bringing the Bay back. It’s not just him that’s doing it, he’s the main factor and push behind it but a lot of the Bay Area artists out here that’s holding it down that’s giving the other regions reason to look at us and try to get at us so everything going good.

He bust it open and everybody else is holding it down out here so that when the companies do look they’ll see all the radio spins and how the kids out here react to the music and they see that it’s really something. So hopefully everything follows through, but it’s looking good right now for the Bay.

Don't a lot of people appreciate his efforts though?

A lot of people do, yup, but I think a lot of people do and a lot of people don’t. It’s 50/50. He do get his props but not everybody is necessarily feeling him like that.

Are you about to drop your own album?

Yeah, April 4, Droop-E and B-Slimm we got our own album coming out on Sick Wid It. That’s my rap thing but after that I’m gonna take a break from that and work on my productions. I have my [compilation] Bay Bridges that came out last September and has everybody from the Bay on there. It’s a good album.

I really like that album; you make sure that you've got a lot of different types of beats and sounds on there.

I tried to mix it up. Everything happens for a reason, but what I did was I gave the artists two or three beats to choose from so they’re the ones that picked the album. I had an idea of who I wanted on what track but I think on the next one I’m gonna control it and make it sound how I really want it to sound.

What software would you recommend to new producers who want to get their feet wet?

You probably should go get this program called Reason, it’s $399, I’m at Guitar Center right now. That would probably be the best thing to do. The main factor is for producers to sound different. Do something different, don’t try to copy what’s going on right now. Just do your own thing. That’s the only way you’re gonna stand out.

What's next for you after graduation?

After I graduate I’mma probably just take a little community college--just a little something, not too big. I don’t want to leave the Bay, I just want to keep doing my thing out here. Hopefully everything works out for me. . .

I'm sure it will. You have a good example of hard work in your family.

Yup, that’s for real.

bay area rap video lounge, vol. 1

Mac Dre – Thizzle Dance

Kirb and Chris – Closer

E-40 – Captain Save a Hoe

E-40 – Sprinkle Me

Nump feat. Turf Talk – Slizzerd

Nump feat. Federation and E-40 – I Got Grapes (live)

Keak Da Sneak feat. E-40 – T-Shirts, Blue Jeans and Nikes

DJ Shadow feat. Turf Talk and Keak Da Sneak – 3 Freaks

Ghostriding the Whip Gone Wrong

Too $hort – The Ghetto (1990)

Richie Rich – Let’s Ride

Luniz feat. Dru Down, Shock G, Richie Rich & E-40 - I Got 5 on It (Remix)

E-40, B-Legit and Richie Rich – Yay Deep

Rappin 4-Tay – Player’s Club

West Coast All-Stars – We’re All in the Same Gang