Remembering San Francisco MC African Identity

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 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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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.

Hip-Hop Rap-Up: Top 5 Chart, Killer Mike's Political Career Postponed, New Oakland Party "Wax Poetic"

Posted by Billyjam, June 20, 2015 08:14pm | Post a Comment

Amoeba Music Hollywood Hip-Hop Top 5 Chart: Week End 06:19:15

1) Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 2  (LP) (Mass Appeal)

2) Czarface Every Hero Needs A Villain (also in LP) Brick Records)

3) Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly (Aftermath)

4) Slum Village Yes! (also in LP) (Nestra Music Group)

5) A$AP Rocky  At.Long.Last.A$AP (RCA)

Thanks to Daniel at the Amoeba Hollywood store for the current week's top five hip-hop album chart (CD and vinyl) that includes the brand new anticipated releases from A$AP Rocky (At.Long.Last.A$AP), and the second comic book-inspired Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric project Czarface's new Every Hero Needs A Villain, which features the sick lead single "Ka-Bang!" with MF DOOM and "The Great" (see new music video below). Also under new hip-hop releases is the just released eighth studio album from late J Dilla's group Slum Village. Entitled Yes!' and available in both CD and LP, this recommended guest-heavy album from the Detroit group features such collaborators as De La Soul and Phife Dawg. The latest hip-hop top five chart also includes two not-so-new albums that are still in demand at Amoeba Hollywood. These are Kendrick Lamar's much heralded album To Pimp A Butterfly that's been out since March and Run The Jewels' Run The Jewels 2  that first arrived in Amoeba back in November, when El-P and Killer Mike dropped their long awaited second collaborative full-length. It's timely too that Run The Jewels 2 is back in the number one slot since one of its creators has been in the news this past week due to his near official entry into politics. 
It almost happened! For a minute it looked like Killer Mike might land a job in political office in Georgia’s House of Representatives. Anyone who has read his excellent op-eds or who has heard him speak, including on Real Time with Bill Maher, knows he would have been a refreshingly welcome voice in political office. Exactly what Killer Mike had in his sights was the state rep for Atlanta’s District 55. Guilty of tax, wire, and mail fraud charges, the disgraced and resigned Tyrone Brooks was vacating his seat in a hurry, so Mike saw it and thought to himself, why not go for it. He Instagrammed about it before the June 16th deadline but then afterwards posted a follow up to say he found out that is ineligible for this year's election. He said that he does plan to run for office in the future. He will do it too, I bet, and he is so made for the job. Always informed and engaging on current topics including all angels on race in America, education, the prison complex, militant cops, and the politics behind it all, he's got a good handle on the most important things in need of vital change in America today. I wonder if he had actually landed the political office, would he have found himself getting frustrated with the political system itself? And what about Run The Jewels and his music career?  Hopefully he would become a hip-hop politician by continuing his hip-hop career while assuming his political role.  Meantime, for a refresher on how Killer Mike really feels about Ronald Reagan as president, check out the animated music video for the R.A.P. Music (also avail in vinyl) track "Reagan" off his amazing solo release via Williams Street from 2012.

Hip-Hop Rap-Up, Week End 05.02.14: DMC Battles, Supa Dave West on Dilla, Dopestyle 1231, Hip-Hop In The Park, + more

Posted by Billyjam, May 2, 2014 11:18am | Post a Comment
Amoeba Hollywood Hip-Hop Top Five Chart: Week Ending 05:02:14

1) Army of the Pharaohs In Death Reborn (Enemy Soil)

2) Freddie Gibbs & Madlib Pinata LP (Madlib Invazion)

3) YG My Krazy Life (Def Jam)

4) DJ Quik Safe + Sound  (SONY)

5) ScHoolboy Q Oxymoron (Interscope)

Clocking in a just under an hour is Army Of The Pharaohs anticipated new joint and this week's number one hip-hop chart entry at Amoeba In Death Reborn which is the fourth studio album by the non-commercial yet hella popular Army of the Pharaohs featuring the all-star lineup of Vinnie Paz, Apathy, Blacastan, Block McCloud, Celph Titled, Crypt The Warchild, Demoz, Des Devious, Doap Nixon, Esoteric, King Magnetic, King Syze, Planetary, Reef the Lost Cauze, and Zilla with production from various studio talents including Apathy, C-Lance, Leaf Dog, Panik, and Stu BangasThe release, which is the group's first new studio album in four years, is packed with rapid fire wordplay by this talent-packed collective and features such memorable tracks as the lead single/video “God Particle” (below). Also below is the video for YG's Drake featured single "Who Do You Love?" off his current chart entry My Krazy Life on Def Jam. Other chart entries at Amoeba this week are Freddie Gibbs & Madlib's Pinata ScHoolboy Q's Oxymoron, and (in throwback style) DJ Quik's 1995 album Safe + Sound  which is one of two older releases that have been moving at Amoeba Hollywood this past week. The other older release that, for some reason, began selling briskly over the past week at the SoCal Amoeba is Lauryn Hill's 1998 post Fugee's solo classic The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

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