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.
For this week's hip-hop history installment, rewind back 23 years to 1992 -- a time when E-40 and The Click's careers were on the verge of blowing up majorly. Below is an audio YouTube clip of a KUSF radio interview I conducted at that time with The Click's four members E-40, B-Legit, D-Shot, and Suga T, and with their producer Studio Ton.
It was before they had gone federal (signed to the national label Jive Records), E-40 had just released his solo album entitled Federal, and when The Click as a group had released the album Down and Dirty care of their game-changing little indie label Sick Wid It Records (both later reissued by Jive Records). It was a time when B Legit was still sometimes known as Legitimate B and when D Shot was sometimes still known as Mac D Shot. As for the group's name, it was also something they changed as they had originally been known as MVP. "Now we're The Click. We needed a spicier name," explains E-40 in the interview. "Back in 87…we was doing local stuff. It is really a family thing," said E-40 at the time.
Even back then, the Bay Area rap icon, who these days is known for tirelessly cranking out triple volume albums on an annual basis, was most prolific having recorded both a group album and a solo album simultaneously. "I was putting in work," he said modestly of his impressively busy recording routine back in '92 but again stressing how even with his solo album that it was "a family thing" with his fellow group members (all related) helping out in some capacity. In fact, all of the immediate Click members as well as the greater Sick Wid It family crew were all very busy back then. Suga T was gearing up to record her debut album, It's All Good, that would drop the following year while extended Sick Wid It crew members Lil Bruce and Rhythm X were all prepping to drop solo joints. And while it was E-40 who would become the best known member of the Click as a group - each of the other three members were talented and historically significant in their own respective rights - Suga T as among the pioneering female rappers of the Bay's history, B-Legit as an incredible wordsmith with a most distinctive flow, and D-Shot was both a strong rapper and among the original wave of Bay Area rap compilation producers (along with Herm Lewis and Master P, who was still living in Richmond in the East Bay).
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.
1) RBL Posse - Ruthless By Law
2) Spice 1 - Amerikkka's Nightmare
3) Lil Ri - Deep N Tha Game
4) West Coast Bad Boyz - High Fo' Xmas
5) Dru Down - Explicit Game
6) Goldy - In The Land of Funk
7) D-Moe - Do You Feel Me
8) Young Rich The Factor - Gettin' A Grip
9) V/A - West Coast Bad Boyz
10) Young Joker - Who's Laughin At Cha
11) C-Bo - Gas Chamber
12) A.M.W. - The Real Mobb
13) Rappin 4-Tay - Don't Fight The Feeling
14) Paris - Guerilla Funk
15) Fly Mar - Ya Betta Ask Somebody
16) Ray Luv - Last Nite
17) Rondo & Crazy Rak - The Abused
18) Roots From The Underground
19) GLP - Straight Out The Labb
20) Hugh EMC - The M.O.B.