Today's richly vibrant, prolific, and diverse Bay Area hip-hop scene, with thousands of artists currently making a broad range of styles, humbly began in Oakland 32 years ago back in 1981. It was early in that year when the very first Oakland rap release (also the very first known Bay Area rap release) dropped: Motorcycle Mike's single "Super Rat." The record arrived in a time when hip-hop or rap music was still considered an East Coast/New York artform that, for some odd (elitist?) reason, could not hail from the West Coast. This belief was challenged with releases like releases like Motorcyle Mike's debut 12" rap single. That record by the artist, who was also known as Motorcycle Mike Dappa, was entitled "Super Rat" and was produced by Gerald Robinson and released on the tiny indie Hodisk Records -- the label run by Nicky Moore that also released the Numonics. Born Phil Lewis and influenced by Bootsy Collins as much as the Sugarhill Gang, Motorcycle Mike was, not surprisingly, a motorbike fanatic. Pro-Black in its message, "Super Rat" featured the early Oakland rapper drawing an analogy between the then much talked about Norwegian "super rats," who could not be killed by poison but instead got stronger, and the underdog black man in Oakland and other American urban areas who could not be kept down. Motorcycle Mike's original Oakland rap record was followed up later that same year from the East Bay city by the 12" single “Tally Ho!” on Walker Star Records from Steve Walker - an artist who would re-emerged some years later to record under the name Biscuit.
For me, a lifelong hip-hop fan, 2013 was another great year for both new hip-hop releases and hip-hop in general - a vibrant genre that humbly begun four decades ago and that for much of the first half of its lifespan was considered a passing fad by a large segment of people. Sure some begrudgers today might argue that there are no new hip-hop classics - a la golden era hip-hop circa 88-93 - being made these days and/or that today's hip-hop is lyrically one-dimensional and musically just not exciting. I think I know what they mean but honestly but am guessing that they are simply referencing certain artists among the pop/Top 40 spectrum of today's hip-hop; the hip-hop that dominates the airwaves and popular culture. Simply put they are not looking at the big picture of the endless amazing hip-hop releases (a great many of them on small indie labels) being quietly but steadily released nowadays. The positive reality is that there is a vast and most diverse wealth of hip-hop being made today: so much that it is impossible to keep up with it all. There is hip-hop spanning more musical ground and cross-pollinating with other genres than in any previous time in the genre's forty year history (just peep the list below of 2013 releases from Amoeba hip-hop charts over 2013 that, note, are listed in no particular order).
Speaking of that 40 years of hip-hop, August 11th, 2013 was the officially recognized date of the 40th anniversary of hip-hop music and culture when hip-hop's recognized creator/godfather DJ Kool Herc kickstarted the genre/culture with a party in the rec room of the South Bronx building located at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. back in August 11th, 1973. To celebrate the occasion Herc did two big anniversary shows in New York City - both of which were reported on here on the Amoeblog: one on Saturday August 10th in Manhattan's Central Park with such performers as Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, DJ Red Alert, Roxanne Shante, and Grand Wizzard Theodore, and the second the following day on the actual anniversary date, Sunday August 11th, at 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens where, along with Marley Marl from nearby Queensbridge, played music all afternoon for dancers and celebrants of the culture. Graffiti artists at 5Pointz did some nice pieces - like the one above - to mark the occasion. Sadly, as reported here more recently, the 5Pointz location has been whitewashed of its art and will soon be bulldozed to become new luxury condo buildings.
Amoeba Music Berkeley Hip-Hop Top Five Chart Week End 11:22:13
1) Bun B Trill O.G.: The Epilogue (Rap-A-Lot)
2) Latyrx The Second Album (Latrymid)
3) Jel Late Pass (Anticon)
4) The Godfathers Once Upon A Crime (Psycho & Logical)
5) Death Grips No Love Deep Web (Universal)
Thanks to E-Lit at the Berkeley Amoeba store for the above latest top five chart and accompanying video of the hip-hop fan/KALX DJ/Amoeba hip-hop buyer running down the latest batch of new/recent hip-hop arrivals (CD and vinyl) into the Telegraph Avenue store where things, in terms of new 2013 releases, are slowing down to a halt now as we rapidly approach the end of the year / holiday season when traditionally only major labels release new albums while most labels wait until the new year to drop new releases if not already out by now. Of this week's new chart entries and new releases included are the return in stock of Denmark Vessey & Scud One's Cult Classics, Anticon co-founder and member of numerous groups and collabs including Themselves, and Subtle, Jel's excellent new solo album Late Pass, and Latyrx's The Second Album (read the Amoeblog interview with Lateef and Lyrics Born I did earlier this week). Also charting this week at Amoeba are The Godfathers (not the 90's UK rock outfit of same name) - the unlikely duo of Kool G. Rap and Necro who just dropped Once Upon A Crime via Psycho & Logical, and Sacramento's in-your-face hardcore, noise-making, hip-hoppers Death Grips with their brand new No Love Deep Web album. Below is a new video from the talented pair - albeit from the also recently released Government Plates for the song "You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for."
What do you do if the exact type of musical instrument you want to play music on does not yet exist? If you are GYREFUNK - the diversely talented Bay Area guitarist, studio musician, producer, DJ, visual artist, and teacher - you create your own instrument. That is exactly what GYREFUNK, who I first met earlier this year at the San Francisco DMC Regionals DJ battle where the multi-instrumentalist beat out about 15 other DJ audience members in a fun informal scratch battle that followed the actual competition. Also at that same event was Mitch Manchild who, at that time was working with the company DJ Techtools who custom made DJ auxiliary gear (things like sound pads that trigger and loop various effects) but since has set up his own design company: a manufacturing brand called Lookwright. Manchild and GYREFUNK teamed up to execute GYREFUNK's vision of a new guitar styled instrument and make that vision it a reality. Since that time, about six months ago, the pair have been busily working on or "steadily attacking" this new instrument as GYREFUNK told me this week when I reached out to him again. "It's cut and gutted and being worked on and hopefully to be completed in a few months," he reported. "I'm hella juiced about this contraption. It's literally gonna change my life; allow me to put food on my table," he chuckled enthusiastically. Scroll down, immediately below a video of GYREFUNK jam session of him playing a myriad of instruments, are more in-depth answers to questions I posed to GYREFUNK about this new musical invention.
Despite the fact that it was clear that the battle to save 5 Pointz was lost and that the demolition of the NYC graffiti mecca in Long Island City, Queens was inevitable - expected to begin early 2014 - New Yorkers and graffiti fans alike were in utter shock yesterday morning to awaken and discover that the beloved aerosol art soaked building had been quietly whitewashed over in its entirety overnight as in photo left.
On Friday last a Brooklyn judge announced to lawyers fighting for the building's preservation that he could not and would not grant an injunction to prevent demolition of the graffiti-covered factory building as soon as late December. For years owner Jerry Wolkoff had allowed, under the curation of Jonathan "MERES One" Cohen, the factory building to be completely adorned in aerosol art but now wanted to knock down the famous building and in its place build two big high-rise luxury condos. But, despite the fact that Wolkoff and his son David (who is also on the title of the building) had graciously allowed aerosol artists to use the building as their collective canvas for many years, Wolkoff had become art enemy number one since announcing his plans to demolish what had become an internationally recognized art mecca. Obviously he knew he would continue to face strong opposition by artists and art lovers and hence why, I am assuming, the rush to whitewash the building with no pre-announcement late Monday.