23 hip-hop summers ago back in mid-1992 the song heard everywhere across the nation (including and especially in their native Bay Area where KMEL had it on constant replay) was "Back To The Hotel" by Vallejo rap group N2DEEP. The song, which these days is heard in regular rotation on hip-hop oldies or "throwback" stations like the Bay Area's Q102, became a global hit for the Bay Area group signed to prestigious New York hip-hop label Profile Records. The album of the same name was produced by founding member Johnny Z along with the two official group members/rappers James "Jay Tee" Trujillo and Timothy "TL" Lyon. In fact the "Back To The Hotel" single (one of three from the successful album along with "Toss Up" and "The Weekend") was such a big hit for the prolific North Bay crew, that it overshadowed all their other work and hence would garner them in later years that unfortunate tag of "one-hit-wonder" status by such outlets as Complex magazine and BuzzFeed. That is too bad since N2DEEP recorded so much more equally great music (before and after) as the beloved "Back To The Hotel" song, which the average pundit mistakenly believed was their debut single. That song wasn't meant to be a single, or even initially titled "Back To The Hotel" but rather "Telly" when it was released a year earlier in 1991 on Johnny Z's Vallejo-based indie label Rated Z Recordz. Hence for this Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog, I caught up with mastermind behind the song, Johnny "Z" Zunino, to go back in time to the early 1990's and jog his memory about N2DEEP, their recordings before their big hit single, and to find out why they changed the title and their original group name ("3DEEP"). That conversation appears immediately below the video for the 1992 Profile single.
In honor of the legacy of San Francisco rap legend Cougnut and just in time for tonight's (Sept 13, 2014) heartfelt 13th anniversary memorial concert at Brick & Mortar Music Hall - with Baldhead Rick, Shag Nasty, TC, Equipto, Michael Marshall, Cellski, Black C, and more - today I uncovered a radio interview I conducted with the late, great SF rapper 19 years ago. It aired back on November 18, 1995 on several pirate stations I was on when the beloved hip-hop artist, who died on September 4, 2001 in a car crash while returning from a fishing trip, was readying for the then-upcoming release of I.M.P.'s Ill Mannered Playas, which would be released in early 1996 on In-A-Minute Records.
In the interview, Cougnut talks about such things as the production and guests on the 13 track album focusing on tracks such as "Shinin' Star" (one of a few he personally produced on that LP) and the ever-engaging album track "Public Execution," which he relayed was the "story of when I was locked down and my celly who is never getting out....He's on life with no parole....on death row in San Quentin" and the life story that person shared with Cougnut while they were incarcerated together. He also talks about UNLV who contribute to several of the album's tracks including "The Bay Way," the song that Cougnut stressed that he really wanted people to listen to out of all the ones featuring UNLV on that 1996 I.M.P. album. Coincidentally, UNLV's Baldhead Rick is the person presenting tonight's highly recommended show at Brick & Mortar at 1710 Mission Street in San Francisco. Saturday, September 13th. 9pm show. 18+ $10 More info.
Originally known as Sir Quick Draw, Naru Kwina began his hip-hop career when few others were recording and releasing music in the Bay Area compared to nowadays - and those that did make rap/hip-hop music had a tough time getting their music out there and heard. "I started rapping in 1979, the day I first heard Rappers Delight," he recalled recently. However it would several years later, in 1986, when I first met the artist. He had submitted a demo cassette tape for a Bay Area rap contest I produced on UC Berkeley radio station KALX in the Fall of that year. With a fresh upbeat inspired style and flow on the song he submitted ("Rapaholic") Sir Quick Draw's tape was so good that the judges of the contest (including Davey D Cook) all agreed that he was the best out of all the demo tape submissions. In fact in the months following the radio contest win, into the following year of 1987, the song "Rapaholic" that was recorded with his David K-OS got signed and released by Baywave/Macola Records as a 12" single. Then the year after that, in 1988, he would record another 12 inch single - this time under the name MC Quick but again along with David K-Os entitled "I Like It Like That" (b side "I'm Just Rollin'").
Seagram "The Ville" (from The Dark Roads)
Today marks the eighteenth anniversary of the death of talented Oakland rapper Seagram who on July 31st, 1996 was shot and killed on the streets of East Oakland. Seagram Miller was only 26 years old with two albums to his name (his third would be released posthumously) and had not yet reached his artistic potential nor had he gotten the full level of appreciation that he deserved. A smart, intelligent, articulate wordsmith whose way ahead of its time debut album (The Dark Roads on Rap-A-Lot) addressed the realities and consequences of the gangsta life that he was unapologetically a part of right up to his tragic death - a violent shooting murder that was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle at that time as such: "Oakland police Sgt. Gordon Melera said the two men had just exited a van in the 1900 block of 24th Avenue, an area in East Oakland known for violence and drug trafficking, when they were fired upon Wednesday night." That same article also noted how three years previously Seagram had escaped an assassin's bullet writing that, "Police said Miller's song about a rival gang in 1993 angered an Oakland drug kingpin, which led to an attempt on Miller's life. Miller escaped injury in that shooting, but a San Leandro police officer was wounded" but that OPD would not speculate whether his fatal shooting, in which Seagram's rap associate Gangsta P was seriously shot but not killed, was related to the earlier 1993 attack. Even 18 years after that fatal night in East Oakland the murder is still unsolved. Also of note from a Bay Area hip-hop historical perspective is that in that same year of 1996 two other Bay rap greats were also shot and killed: Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas two months later, and Mr Cee of R.B.L. Posse who was killed in San Francisco on New Year's Day of that year.
The other day I stumbled across the above flyer from now (gasp!) 20 years ago. It was for a rap/hip-hop concert with mostly Oakland/Bay Area acts at the long gone Townsend Club in San Francisco that took place on a Friday night, August 12th, 1994. It was for The Conscious Daughters (TCD), who that year released "We Roll Deep" on Bay Area hip-hopper Paris' label Scarface Records distributed by Priority Records, along with fellow Oakland rap talents Seagram, EA Ski & CMT, and Rally Ral, plus visiting Texas rap star Big Mike of the Geto Boys affiliation (misspelled "Ghetto Boys") on this basic design flyer. Beyond the initial reaction, as a longtime hip-hop fan/follower, to fondly reminisce on a golden time period in Bay Area rap the other thing that jumps out at me from this flyer is the sad realization that we have lost two of the famed Bay Area rap artists on this flyer way too early in their lives: promising East Oakland rapper signed to the Geto Boys' Rap-A-Lot Records label Seagram died at age 26 (he was shot) just as his career was starting to take off, while fierce female emcee Special One who was one half of The Conscious Daughters tragically died a little over two years ago (only in her 40's) as a result of complications associated with blood clots that had reached her lungs. In honor of both of these two fallen East Bay talents below are music videos from each: TCD's "We Roll Deep" and Seagram's Oakland themed 1993 gangsta rap single "The Ville" from the late rapper's album The Dark Roads (inset).