DaVinci is Latest In Long Line of Hip-Hop Talents From San Francisco's Fillmore District

Posted by Billyjam, August 2, 2011 12:54pm | Post a Comment

DaVinci  "Blame Game"

Geographically the Fillmore District of San Francisco may not be that large an area but, in terms of its influence on, and contribution to the Bay Area's rich rap/hip-hop legacy, it has played a major role. Since the late 1980's when rappers such as Hugh EMC and Rappin 4 Tay from the Fillmore (aka Fillmoe, or The MOE, or Filthy Moe) first broke on the Bay hip-hop scene, there has been a non-stop steady flow of rap talents coming out of this SF hood (check back in two days on the Amoeblog for Jim Browskee's list of Fillmore rap acts), which have included such notables over the years as San Quinn, JT The Bigga Figga, Andre Nickatina (formerly Dre Dog), Equipto, Big Rich, Roach Gigz, and the subject of this Amoeblog, DaVinci who has deservedly been winning accolades everywhere he goes of late including last year when KMEL radio voted him part of their prestigious Bay Area Freshman 10 list.

Since beginning his career less than a decade ago this super-gifted lyricist has released a series of singles/videos that have gotten play and props all over. Just recently DaVinci wound up production on his soon to drop Feast Or Famine EP. This EP release, which will include such winning tracks as "Pangea," will be the prequel to his forthcoming & highly anticipated, next "real" album The MOEna Lisa whose title is a loving nod to his SF neighborhood.  In fact, as a few listens to any of his music will quickly attest, the Fillmore is never far from DaVinci's heart or his thoughts, nor his lyrics. For example on last year's album The Day the Turf Stood Still  on songs such as "What You Finna Do?," which included a sample culled from a PBS documentary on the SF district, he lyrically examines the negative impact of the gradual gentrification of the area he grew up in. He accurately notes how, over the past few decades, longtime African American residents of the Fillmore are systematically being relocated to outer Bay Area suburbs - only to be replaced by more upscale, typically white, residents. "Down the corner of the street used to be the spot/Till they replaced all the liquor stores with coffee shops," raps DaVinci in the song - just one of many that focuses on his beloved Fillmore hood. I recently sat down with DaVinci to talk about San Francisco and his promising rap career. That interview follows below.

DaVinci  "What You Finna Do"

What is your personal hip-hop history & when exactly did you start in this rap game?

DaVinci: I've been rapping ever since I was a kid. But like for real, like when I started really taking is serious was about '02. In 2002 I was in the studio just rapping for fun, like I still do now. Ya know what I'm saying! It really just came together where I put together enough by me putting out enough material where people in the Fillmore started rallying behind me. And then people in Hunters Point starting rallying behind me....just family and close friends was rooting for me and saying when's the next music, asking can I get some more music?  Even today if wasn't a [professional] rapper, I would still be rapping; still be in my homeboy's closet recording songs just for fun because that's what I like to do. But it pretty much came from that and just built from that.  Now we're putting together four albums. I teamed with with [DJ] Ambush and the Sweetbreads [Creative Collective] family and they was like Yo! let's sit down and do a real album.

Amoeblog: You mentioned Hunters Point. You are from the Fillmore district, with its rich rap legacy, but that other part of San Francisco - the Bayview/Hunters Point area - also has a significant track record in terms of rap/hip-hop but for a while there, back in the 90's especially, it was well known that there was some friction between the two hoods. Is all cool now? 

DaVInci: Definitely! Ya know, we had our differences coming up in the early 90's, but were able to patch it up , through music mostly. Shout out to Herm Lewis and people like that. Always reached out on the Stop The Violence and unite and bring these community centers , get them involved in keeping the music and kids out of the streets. Shout out to them and the RBL's and Black C, Mr Cee R.I.P. Yeah but Fillmore and Hunters Point have always been tied in as far as the music goes.

Amoeblog: Considering that your career started into the 2000's and developed throughout that decade which coincided with the full blossoming of the Digital Age - a time when CD sales continually diminished as digital sales (and illegal downloads via file sharing) kicked into top gear. So, while your reference points may not be as tangible as an artist whose career began in the 90's, do you think the music biz is in a better state now in terms of the easy accessibility to get music out now via so many channels and so instantly - even if there is not nearly as much profit in selling music nowadays?

DaVinci: I do for me.  For me, I think it's better. It's definitely an even playing field now. Back then it was like record sales! If you didn't have record was a vicious cycle. If you didn't have record sales the record stores would only take a hundred of your CD's. It was a numbers game just like it is now but we now have YouTube views, video views, and downloads, stuff like that.

DaVinci "Concrete Jungle Juice"

Amoeblog: And speaking of YouTube, you have some really great videos up there.

DaVinci: Aw, I appreciate that man. Shout out to our video production team MajorMinorSF - our boy Marcus Ubungen; he do a great job! And Prince Aries and Ariel, his twin brother, they do videos too.

Amoeblog: Do you want to break down some of those videos and suggest ones that people should check for?
DaVinci: Definitely, make sure you check out "Blame Game," that's produced by my man , Al Jieh, DrumsnAmmo. Check out "Concrete Jungle Juice, check out "Clean Ass Whip" featuring San Quinn. That's produced by myself.

That video for "Clean Ass Whip" that you mentioned, the one with Prince Aries, is a great one!

A lot of people don't know this but the song "Clean Ass Whip" we did that in '06/'07 but it just now came out, so just now people are starting to hear it.

Amoeblog: Why is that?

DaVinci: Just because back then ,we really didn't have an avenue to get it to people, We were still putting the formula together on how we were going to release it. Are we going to release it on the web? Are we going to shoot a video? It wasn't as easy to go to the radio. Back then if you didn't hear a song on the radio or if everyone wasn't playing on the streets then you really didn't know about it. I would press up like 500 to a 1000 CD's and go downtown selling them at the mall and all that. But with two or three dudes it really only goes so far and at the time there were a lot of people doing that [same thing]. It's kind of hard to filter between a cat who got some music you really need to hear or a cat who is just out there for fun and just not really doing anything. So my music was just sitting just for that reason, just for the reason we had to wait until we got a solid avenue to put it out like we do now. So that's why you are just hearing it now .

DaVinci with Prince Aries "Clean Ass Whip (feat. San Quinn & Matt Blaque)"

Amoeblog:  And "Clean Ass Whip" is the title track of the  current Prince Aries mix CD that features lots of other artists too. Do you recommend it?

DaVInci: Oh yeah; make sure you check out the Clean Ass Whip mixtape. There's a lot of solid on there....If you grew up on anything in the 90's, during the 90's era, what they call the quote unquote golden era of hip hop, period, he put together a mixtape that really captured what was going on in the West Coast during that time. So it's perfect timing for him to do that and it's summertime, ride around in your whip (car) thats why it's called Clean Ass Whip. So make sure you go on the internet and download Clean Ass Whip. Straight up.
Amoeblog: What about your song "Blame Game" from earlier this year- do you want to break it's meaning down?
DaVinci: Yeah, shout out to AL Jieh and Ambush,DrumsNAmno, they basically set it up....said here is the concept, the beat, rap. I just came in and rapped. They basically came up with the idea, the song the "Blame Game." The community blames the government for a lot of their problems. The government blames the community for their own problems. The song is about both sides pointing the finger at each other [and] not really saying nobody is wrong or right; just me stating what the obvious is.

Amoeblog: Thank you so much for your time DaVinci. Do you want to do any shout-outs?

DaVinci: Yeah, shout out to whole Thourougbred /Sweetbreads family, Al Jieh and Ambush, Erica, Prince Aries, Ariel, everybody in the Fillmore!

DaVinci "Ben"

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Prince Aries (5), Ambush (1), Interview (341), Davinci (9), Fillmore (2), Sweetbreads (1)