Remembering San Francisco MC African Identity + How You Can Help His Family

Posted by Billyjam, September 16, 2015 02:26pm | Post a Comment

Late last night Pam the Funkstress posted a sad social media update to her Instagram and Facebook pages with the news that fellow veteran Bay Area hip-hop artist African Identity, who rose to fame in the early nineties with his firebrand mic skills and hardcore political hybrid style, had died yesterday, September 15th, 2015. In addition to her update, including noting how she had just seen him in the past month, Pam posted the above photo of the late great artist for whom no cause of death has yet been announced. The Fillmore, San Francisco emcee named Hunafa, but known to most as African Identity and sometimes as just Identity, will be remembered for such releases as Ransom Note and You Won’t Come To My Funeral. By the time his debut album You Won’t Come To My Funeral was released in 1995 the microphone master was already a respected mainstay on the healthy 1990's Bay Area hip-hop scene - ever since arriving with a bang in 1992 with his acclaimed single, “Let’s Get It On (Pullin That Trigger).”

In the capacities of hip-hop journalist, radio DJ, and concert producer I worked directly with African Identity on numerous occasions throughout the decade of the nineties and always knew him to be both a good person and most talented (albeit largely underrated) artist, especially when it came to flexing his freestyle skills. In the first half of that decade I would have him as a regular guest on my KUSF hip-hop radio show on the USF campus, not far from where he lived. I remember how listeners really appreciated his improv rhyme skills and how they nominated him as the “number 1 Bay Area freestyler" on the now defunct San Francisco radio station. Meantime over at KMEL African Identity had been nominated as the first runner up in their heated Battle Of The Rappers. With a now eerie sounding reference to his own funeral, the San Francisco artist's debut album, You Won't Come to My Funeral, was a largely slept-on, talent-packed Bay Area hip-hop gem. It featured an impressive roster of his peers as guests that included Pam the Funkstress' group The Coup, Del tha Funke Homosapien (who also did some production), the GLP's JT Tha Bigga Figga, and D-Moe, Shock G of Digital Underground, Young Woo, Psycho Gangsta, Double D, Cisco The Frisco Mack, Blackbook, and Screwface. Produced mostly by Nick Peace but with some additional studio work by Del and J-Mack, the album defined both the Bay Area sound at the time as well as that of the artist himself. In the period right before its mid-nineties release he summed up the richly diverse 14 track album as “enlightening, tantalizing, sensational, provocative, political, Afro-centric, Euro-centric, it’s everything that we are....”.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: When Bay Area Political Rapper Paris Got Dropped By His Record Label Over Content

Posted by Billyjam, September 15, 2015 11:51pm | Post a Comment

25 years ago outspoken San Francisco rapper Paris burst onto the national rap scene with his politically charged debut single for New York's prestigious Tommy Boy Records - "The Devil Made Me Do It." (see the accompanying music video that was banned by MTV at the time). The Devil Made Me Do It was also the title of the politically charged debut album that the single was taken from by the self-described "Black Panther of hip-hop." Continuing that no-holds-barred angry rebellion rap music was Paris' follow album, Sleeping With The Enemy that was slated for a 1992 release on Tommy Boy. But then the record label suddenly dropped him from their roster.  Tommy Boy Records you see was distributed by Warner Brothers who were already getting heat and feeling pressured over Ice-T/Body Count's highly controversial 1992 song "Cop Killer."  So when they got wind of what was to be on the forthcoming Paris album (songs about killing cops - "Coffee, Donuts, & Death" as well as none other than the president himself Dubya's dad - "Bush Killa") you can bet they (and their shareholders) wanted to distance themselves as far as possible from this outspoken and out-of-control militant (in their eyes) Bay Area hip-hop artist. So they sent him packing with a nice payoff check that the artist born Oscar Jackson Jr. took to invest in his own (already established) label Scarface Records. With new offices in Oakland and a locally hired staff from the community, he released the album himself.  And in the years since - and the various distribution deals and all through his own independently owned record labels including Guerrilla Funk Recordings - Paris has not stopped nor ever once toned down his message or caved into pressure to stop speaking what he believes via his music. The latest example is recommended just released latest 2CD album Pistol Politics (also avail as download) that arrived in Amoeba last Friday, September 11th, and features the powerful, anti-police violence single "Night Of The Long Knives." The album, that will be featured here in an upcoming Amoeblog indepth interview with Paris, was the inspiration for this Hip-Hop History Amoeblog on Paris from that includes a selection of rare press and publicity clips from those early 90's years of his first two well publicized albums.

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Hip-Hop Rap-Up: Hiero Day 4 Review, Seagram Biopic, RIP Kool DJ AJ, Digg Tribute Compilation + more

Posted by Billyjam, September 14, 2015 11:51pm | Post a Comment

"I live in the Town now. My son goes to school here," LA born emcee Bambu (pictured above) told the early afternoon audience at Hiero Day 4 this past Monday (September 7th) between songs by his political rap group Native Guns from the Imperium Stage - one of several
performance stages simultaneously featuring a rich diverse array of mostly local or Left Coast hip-hop acts. The recently relocated SoCal artist was making the point of how important Oakland had become to him personally as well as how incredibly impressive was this independent and unique urban event that he and his hip-hop group were invited to be a part of.

"No negativity," stressed Bambu gesturing out across the large scale, violence free, annual festival that would again prove the naysayers wrong in that Oakland (aka The Town) can indeed produce a peaceful,  positive, uplifting hip-hop festival with no negativity, just positivity! While the credit for this accomplishment goes to all of the participants - both on stage and off - it primarily goes to the Hieros themselves. As the event's producers, they have crafted something quite amazing out of their combined love of the culture that gave them their careers and the city that gave them their start. Indeed Hiero Day is the ultimate celebration of all things positive about Oakland, CA with the Hieroglyphics collective embodying and embracing the very essence of Oakland in 2015. Not too surprisingly then that former Mayor Jean Quan formally recognized September 3rd (9/3) as Hiero Day two years ago. However the Hieros themselves have done more to uplift The Town than any politician with a skewed agenda ever could!

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#TBT To Earlier Era SF Tech Gentrification Backlash Pt II: Interview with Mission Yuppie Eradication Project's Kevin Keating

Posted by Billyjam, September 10, 2015 04:29pm | Post a Comment

A little over a month ago on a Thursday in late July I ran an Amoeblog piece entitled #TBT To Earlier Era San Francisco Gentrification/Tech Invasion Backlash in which I looked back at a period in recent decades of San Francisco real estate and cultural history when an earlier era of tech fueled gentrification of The City was well underway. It was the late 1990s and while, in contrast to 2015, things may not seem as drastic as they are nowadays it was in retrospect clearly a warning signal of what was to come in 2015 when SF rentals now rival Manhattan's most expensive.  The previous first wave tech invasion was when struggling local musicians and other artists were fleeing San Francisco due to being unable to keep up with increasing housing costs - prompting me at that time to theme and entitle one of the five Amoeba Music Compilations I produced Just Payin' The Rent  because at the time that was about all most artists could at most afford to do (scrape by and barely pay their monthly rent that they hoped didn't get jacked up). It was a period seen by many as the "dot com" invasion of areas South of Market, particularly the Mission District. And it was when a housing rights activist/protester who went by the pseudonym of Nestor Makhno (the name of a pre-Russian revolution era anarchist) operated an ad hoc organization called the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project (MYEP). In 1997 he began a controversial street level poster campaign that involved the sniping of anti-gentrification posters plastered on walls and mailboxes all over the Mission that encouraged fellow longtime residents to slash tires and damage the property of the perceived culprits of that tech invasion of two decades ago. Eight months into his grassroots campaign, that raised the ire of the SFPD and the FBI who he successfully eluded for a long time, he got caught in the act and arrested for "suspicion of making terrorist threats and malicious mischief."

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Del Promotes Hieros & Freestyles in Rare January 1993 KUSF Clip

Posted by Billyjam, September 8, 2015 11:45pm | Post a Comment

Inspired by Hiero Day, I just digitized and uploaded this old short interview and freestyle from Del who was the Hiero crew's lead ambassador back then. Del, who also created that instantly identifiable Hiero logo, introduced most hip-hop ears to the Hieros via his 1991 album I Wish My Brother George Was Here single "Mistadobalina" 12" B-side only track "Burnt" that featured members of the then unknown Oakland extended hip-hop crew, the Hieroglyphics. In this January 10th, 1993 interview the Oakland artist born Teren Delvon Jones takes the shine off himself and makes a point of giving mad love to his fellow crew members by plugging the 1993 debut album releases from both the Hieros' Souls of Mischief and Casual. Note that this was at a time when really not too many knew much about the Heiroglyphics hip-hop collective, who they all were, nor ever guessed how important they would go on to become two plus decades later. It was also fitting and prophetic that Del would focus so much on those two fellow Hiero albums by both Casual and the Souls since, combined with his post-cousin Ice Cube produced (read totally different sounding), they would define the sound of the so-called Hiero Golden Age.

Originally aired on KUSF during a blunted hip-hop special I produced, I invited Del because I knew he liked to smoke and he could play some exclusive tracks from his forthcoming second album No Need For Alarm. But more than promoting his own album that was expected to drop in the coming few months (it did not finally get released by Elektra until late November of that year), Del was more interested in talking about the Souls and Casual whose forthcoming releases he was clearly excited about. In mentioning the '93 Souls debut album '93 Til Infinity, he said it would be out in the coming few months when in fact it did not get released for another eight full months in September of 1993. Meanwhile the Casual album would be released in 1993 in turned out. It was not until the following year, 1994, when Jive would release Casual's debut album Fear Itself. In the brief clip you will hear Del, who I introduced as Del tha Funkee Homosapien (note later spelling would be Del the Funky Homosapien), say how his name is Del and "the group is tha Funkee Homosapien." He then goes on to spread Hiero love and spit a great freestyle. Hear below.

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