Posted by Billyjam, January 5, 2009 11:35am | Post a Comment
v.e.r.a. clique
V.E.R.A. Clique
's Fresh Out The Box CD is available at Amoeba Music and other stores but you can also buy it on BART if you're lucky to run into one of its members selling the CD on a random BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train.

The Oakland based group, whose album track "The Movement" is featured on the recent BOMB Hip-Hop Compilation Vol. 2 (also avail at Amoeba), are a talented hard-working hip-hop crew whose pre- Oakland roots date back to 2002 to Bend, Oregon where the group's Anderson Ray and Mascen Apollo first crossed paths at a hip-hop event. Fast forward a few years and both hip-hoppers had moved south to the Bay Area where they formed the group V.E.R.A. Clique, with the name standing for Very Essence of Real Artists.

I first learned about V.E.R.A. Clique only recently and in a most unusual way -- while sitting on the Bay Point / Pittsburg to San Francisco BART, somewhere near the MacArthur stop, Mascen Apollo of the bartgroup walked by dirt hustlin his crew's CD to BART passengers, all the while keeping a watchful eye out for the BART police, who not only frown upon any business being conducted on BART, but will arrest perpetrators for doing so. Over the years I have seen Bay Area hip hop artists sell their CDs or cassettes at various public places. In bygone years, members of Hobo Junction or Mystik Journeymen and their extended Living Legends crew would often be found on Durant or Telegraph (outside Amoba) selling their cassettes. But selling on the BART train was a novel approach to hip-hop marketing or distribution that I had not witnessed before. Hence I was anxious to find out more about it so I recently caught up with the V.E.R.A. Clique member Mascen Apollo to ask him about slinging hip-hop on BART.

AMOEBLOG: What's the best BART line to sell CDs on?

MASCEN APOLLO: Yo! I call the Pittsburg/Bay Point train the money train. That's the train I always make the most money on.

AMOEBLOG: How did you first get the idea to sell your CDs on BART?

MASCEN APOLLO:  Well I used to go to San Francisco's Pier 39 every day and sell CD's so one day I just decided to give it a shot on my way into San Francisco (from the East Bay) and it worked, so what I would do is on the rainy days or during the week I would hit the BART. I would jump on at the 14th Street Oakland station, ride the train all around the Bay for the whole day selling CD's and then I would get off at 19th Street Oakland station (one stop from 14th Street) when i was done. It only cost me $1.25!

AMOEBLOG: Do you have a name for selling on BART and do you sell elsewhere?

MASCEN APOLLO: I call it working (laughs) or BART grinding. But I just grind everywhere. I grind on BART, on the bus, on the street, at the games, anywhere. I will even sell in the malls until they kick me out.

v.e.r.a. cliqueAMOEBLOG: What conflict with the authorities, including the BART police, have you encountered?

: I really just keep it moving. What I usually do is when the BART police come up to me, I tell them Yo! this is for promo. Ask them, do you want one? That usually gets them off my back....sometimes I act real dumb and real nice at the same time and after that they don't know what to do with me. 

...Although the BART police did bust me for smoking in the West Oakland station. You do gotta watch out because they're undercover, not in uniform, and they look, dress, and act like college kids.

Do many other local rap artists sell their CD albums or mixtape CDs on BART?

MASCEN APOLLO: Not much. Mostly bootleggers selling DVD's, but there are a few from time to time.

AMOEBLOG: Do most people insist on hearing the music first before buying?

MASCEN APOLLO: No, not all the time. But it's all in my grind. I want the people to hear the CD because I know once they hear it it's a wrap.

AMOEBLOG: What kind of people buy your music on BART?

MASCEN APOLLO: All kinds of people, but mostly hip-hop heads.

AMOEBLOG: What are sales like on BART and how much do you sell CDs for?

MASCEN APOLLO: It's like this, there are some days when the BART is good and some days when it is bad. I think pay days [are the] 1st, 5th, 15th, 20th (of the month) and also every Friday -- those are the good days. Just on BART I've made up to $200 within a five hour shift grind style. As for how much I charge, this all depends cos we all in a bad time right now and I understand that. I try to sell the CD for $10.00 but if someone only got $7 I will take it. And I'm a sucker for a pretty face (laughs). There has been a number of times that I have just given the CD away to a fine lovely lil lady.

 V.E.R.A Cliques on the block. We got units.
  I got a black backpack with six zippers full of new shit.
  CD's, records, and stickers
 And if they still cant see us then I hit em with a pitcher,
  A well rounded writtin scripture of me and my folks at the BART station sippin on
 henny and smoky smoke, pass the blunt to my folk cause I see a cat that needs a CD,
 And I'm hungry plus I ain't got money,
 So I sell it to him but I might give it to her
And if they both come to the show they having me saying Word
       - from "The Movement"  (V.E.R.A. Clique)

The V.E.R.A. Clique, who recently did a show at the Ashkenaz in Berkeley, will be at Club Six in San Francisco on January, 30 for C.U.M.I. Entertainment & Wannabattle Enterprises' party "Knock 'Em Out the Box!!" also featuring The Loyalists, and DJ E-Train. For more info on V.E.R.A Clique, click here, here or here.

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