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 this Hip Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog the focus is on some select Bay Area hip hop/rap concerts from two and three decades (80's/90's) ago and their corresponding advertisement flyers - a time before social networking and free access by all to the Internet. Covering the years from 1984 to 1996, these are a selection of show fliers such as the one left from September 1989 when LA crossover rap artist Young MC was at his prime as were the Bay Area rap acts who opened for him including APG Crew at the long gone, once very active, club spot in North Oakland the Omni ("the Bay Area's largest showcase nightclub" on Shattuck at 48th near Telegraph).
In addition to APG Crew, who were voted hottest local/Bay Area act of that same year of 1989, other acts on this bill included East Bay act Step G with M.C. Sirgeo, and two Bay Area acts that would go on to national acclaim: producer/political rapper Paris thanks to signing with (and later getting dropped over political controversy) with Tommy Boy Records and East Bay hip-hop crew Capital Tax who in the following few years would go from being on the small indie local T-Cap Productions to being signed to MCA Records. Another time within about a year of that show, Too $hort headlined at the Omni -- doing his typical no-frills, straight up rap concert. (This was a time when another Oakland rapper, MC Hammer's stage shows were huge choreographed events -- Too $hort was the proud antitheses of that.)
Hip-Hop Top Five Amoeba Music Berkeley Week End Nov 1st, 2013
1) Greenhouse (Blueprint & Illogic) Bend But Don't Break (Weightless Recordings)
2) Quelle Chris Ghost At The Finish Line (Mello Music/Fat Beats)
3) Jon Wayne Rap Album One (Stones Throw)
4) Ohmega Watts Pieces of a Dream (Mellow Orange)
5) Jel Late Pass (Anticon)
Above is the latest Amoeba hip-hop top five chart plus video of Amoeba Berkeley's E-Lit in costume recorded last night (Halloween) before the store closed early for the holiday. As E-Lit noted the new Jon Wayne Rap Album One (as distinct from his instrumental output) is just out on Stones Throw Records and is available on vinyl too. Other new vinyl releases include LA based longtime Detroit hip-hop ambassador House Shoes who just released the two record set "based around J-Dilla" House Shoes Presents the King Jam Version: Chapter One Verses One - Four. Ohmega Watts, whose last albums were on Ubiquity, have just released Pieces of a Dream on Mellow Orange. The number one album is the return of Greenhouse - Blueprint and Illogic's Bend But Don't Break featuring tracks such as "Microwave America" below.
When it came to the era of the cool promo items courtesy of rap record labels that era would have to have been the first half decade of the 1990's: a time when rap record label promotion and publicity departments seemingly had a lot of disposable dollars to spend on exclusive swag (that, note, the artists themselves ultimately paid for a little further down the accounting road) that included baseball hats designed to coincide with the marketing of new albums. As journalist and radio DJ during that period I was fortunate to receive a lot of these promo items so for this week's Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog I have assembled several of them - all of which are West Coast based. These include (above) the baseball hats for the 1993 rap movie soundtrack Menace II Society (a great album too!) that was released by Jive, and Profile Records' act 2nd II None straight outta Compton who came up thanks in part to their childhood friend DJ Quik whose own hat is down below too. Also included below are rap promo baseball hats for such artists as Ice-T (the $ sign one), Eazy-E (the Compton hat right), P.P.C. (Penthouse Players Clique) from Los Angeles, and MC Ren and E-40 from LA and the Bay respectively, plus two Bay Area rap record label hats from SF and the east Bay respectively: Black Power Productions and Oaktown Records.
Continuing from last week's hip-hop history installment, in which I went back to the formative years of the early to mid and latter 1980's in LA rap/hip-hop, I pick up with more listings of 1980's rap releases - all of which were 12" singles since the full length rap album was not yet so common. Hence why when, in the early 90's, West Coast rap pioneer DJ Flash went back and compiled and licensed many of these singles he did the world a favor. That was for his West Coast Rap history CD compilation series that I was involved in at a research and writing of liner notes capacity. This month I caught up with DJ Flash, who recently re-teamed up with another old school West Coast rap pioneer pal of his Captain Rapp, to executive produce a new album with Ronnie Hudson - maker of the 1982 funk classic "West Coast Poplock" that got repopularized in 1995 when it was sampled for the rap hit "California Love" by 2Pacfeat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman. Entitled WestCoastin' that brand new album, that is available on CD at Amoeba Hollywood, is essentially an update of that influential hit of Hudson's (three different mixes included) with lots more on the new album that features a slew of old school guest producers and rappers adding their talents including Snoop Dogg, Too $hort, E-40, Rappin' 4 Tay, Celly Cel, Zapp Troutman, Battlecat, and Richie Rich. Check for the in-depth interview with Flash on this new project later this week here on the Amoeblog. Meantime back to the old school 80's LA rap records that Flash compiled for his West Coast Rap compilation series for Excello/Rhino.