Longtime Bay Area MC Dub Esquire Talks About "Living The Struggle" And His Forthcoming Album, The Odyssey

Posted by Billyjam, August 24, 2011 02:15pm | Post a Comment

Dub Esquire "RapStarz (feat Dirt Nasty & Del the Funky Homosapien"

Dub Esquire (a.k.a. Dub Esq)
is one of those Bay Area hip-hop soldiers who has been quietly on the grind for two full decades.  Since the early '90s, the Oakland-born and bred emcee has been tirelessly putting his heart and soul into his favorite art form. He is one of those dedicated hip-hop heads who may not be known on a mainstream level but yet has been paying his proverbial dues since the early '90s when he first arrived on the scene in the long-defunct but oft-referenced underground Bay Area hip-hop group Misfitz Ov Stylz. More recently he's been getting props for his solo recordings -- recordings that often blur that division between so-called "rap" and "hip-hop" with the release of the album G-13 and the EP Rap Starz. However, soon both of these fine releases will be eclipsed when, in 2012, he drops his most ambitious project yet, his album The Odyssey with its impressive line up of guest spots that include such luminaries as The Grouch, Del the Funky Homosapien, and Sadat X.

But getting to this career point in 2011 has not been easy for Dub Esquire. In the time frame between his original forays on the local scene and his more recent solo output by the artist (born Aaron York), it may have appeared like he had disappeared altogether. Truth is he was just dealing with life and all the baggage it can bring. In the case of most underground hip-hoppers life is rarely easy; typically the financial rewards are scarce and the challenges are many. But for Dub Esquire its been an especially challenging uphill road. Euphemistically, or rather poetically, he dubs a good chunk of his life as "living the struggle." Beyond all the usual ups-and-downs and drama of the rap music biz (including his crew breaking up just as they were about it make it), he found himself homeless at one point with his music having to take a backseat to the harsh realities of survival. He also worked behind the scenes of the music biz doing street promotions for a well known hip-hop label. I recently caught up with the artist to ask him about his multifaceted life and the many tangents it has taken. That interview follows below.

Dub Esquire "We Can Get Down (feat. Tino from Children of Sin & Mel Yel)"

Amoeblog: When you think of the 1990's East Bay hip-hop scene versus the 2011 hip-hop scene, what are some of the key differences between the two?

Dub Esquire: There is a very big difference now versus then. For one, now everybody is biting something else; no originality! I'm tired of muthafuckas reinventing the wheel and I'm tired of muthafuckas trying to tell me what the game is now, and you redoing what somebody else did; like don't nobody care Drake rap like Kanye and Big Sean? They might as well be the same person! And the world just eats it up! I'm not hating on anyone; I'm just sayin' the game used to be about not sounding the same, about being original! Also the world is in chaos and turmoil just like people said it would be to a degree. Ain't no more conscious or political hip-hop. Everyone is a gangbanger and or some form of criminal. The younger rappers don't know who Tribe [Called Quest] and Brand Nubian is or Gang Starr. Now it's only gangsters!

Amoeblog: Who else was in Misfitz Ov Stylz? I remember DJ Lex who is still around. But what about the other members? And what was the history of that Bay hip-hop group?

Dub Esquire: Misfitz Ov Stylz was born Rhymes In Progress in March of 1990 when the original members were me (Kid Haavic, a.k.a. The A-Double), my boy Ron, and my boy Deion. But that didn't last long; kept gettin' into trouble. My homie Jon Jordan laced me up with hella books on the supreme knowledge of self where I hanging in different circles. I met Bert Thomas (Ibany). We took him under our wing so he wouldn't get picked on anymore. Plus Jon and Mike knew his brother. We started another crew called Constant Elevation. They called them Nubians (laughs). We used to have gold fronts, nose piercings, baggy pants, Hilfigger. Jaboe rapped about devils and weed! We were soon alienated from others [but] we didn't care. We was practicing for our show at the Black Rep [Theater in Berkeley]. I did the show, met Paul Stelly (Erias); we met on stage and kicked it everyday. One day around Christmas time we was at my cousin Ray`s house and Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer came on [TV]. The Island of Misfit toys was singing "Why Am I Such A Misfit" and then it hit: Misfitz ov Stylz. I kept it to myself. Two weeks later we met Alex Swaine (DJ Lex) aka Musty Have A Drink (laughts). We met, we kicked it, and we started Misfitz ov Stylz; the original core members - the ones that set the fuckin' hip-hop scene on fire in the Bay. We never really put shit out but we smashed on everything. Then I ran into Del (Tha Funky Homosapien).

He hooked us up with our first producer CPMX (Complex). We recorded "Seeds Are Opening." The same sample Pharcyde used for "Passin' Me By" and after a while Bert had to leave the group. I regret that to this day. But it was for the best. You gotta understand the game will tear frindships and families apart. It will make you lose your fuckin' mind! We did the two rapper thing for a while, and then met Matthew Washington (Yapose) and we were back. Tried to get a manager, [but] that fool tore the group apart and I let it happen! We went from doin' shows six days a week to a complete stop. Were too big for our britches and some were out of control. It was too much going on everywhere else but [in] the studio. We had been in cahoots with Universal Joint (Ces One, DJ Jester, and DJ Racus) so I just know, in groups, there are fights. In crews. There are wars [and] when the pieces fall you end up where you at. Erias went with Ces. Me and Lex went with Jester. Pos went his own way. Don't get it fucked up though; we all still good to this day! MOS was a training camp and I'm honored to have been a part of that. And I wanted to really explain as much as I can on that topic, I feel the world got robbed of some greatness. So I do this in memory of my era and my hommies that been on the journey with me. So rest in peace, Misfitz Ov Stylz!

       Dub Esquire "Who's That"

Amoeblog: You guys were deep in that early East Bay underground scene before a lot of other cats that followed in your footsteps and you were interrelated with the Living Legends crew back in their formative East Oakland days. Right? Didn't you guys do some of those UHB [Unsigned & Hella Broke] parties back in the day with those guys?
Dub Esquire: Yes. I was a part of the UHB shows. But more so the Broke Ass Summer Jam 2 [the Legends' tongue-in-cheek underground alternative to KMEL's Summer Jam]. That was all Sunspot [of Mystik Journeymen] really. The way I got in on that was I had the club. Sunpot`s other location fell through so we did it in Alameda at the Saloon. The rest is history! That was the show that got them to Europe for the first time and help fuel the legend of the Legends. I also helped out on the Return of Broke Ass Summer Jam at Sweets Ballroom. I felt it was time to do it again, just like it's time again now. Only people I got credit from was those that knew what I did. I'm not a glory dog like that. The Legends know I will do anything for them. They like fam to me. Fuck rap! So I was honored every time we collaborated on some shit. By the way, my new album The Odyssey, which is dropping soon, got [Living Legends members] The Grouch, Sunspot, and Lucky I Am, so that says it all right there!

Amoeblog: A few months ago, when you did that show at Ashkenaz in Berkeley, you had mentioned how you lost all your worldly possessions but we left it at that. What exactly happened there? Do you want talk about that?

Dub Esquire: Yeah. I lost all my worldly goods. Never go against God! Always try to keep your word and remember karma is a fucking bitch (laughs). Music in the homeless is very stressful. You gone all the time, girls be on you constantly coz you rap, people always wanna hang out, drop by. Then you gotta do regular work too. Anyway I lost my girl. Then I lost my good ass job. Then my visits with my son stopped. I was doing everything under the sun to get money, but shit didn't work. Bills came faster then the loot. I was overwhelmed. Non of the "friends" was even trying to help. Then I fell into a deep depression and I stopped giving a fuck. I wanted to just die! But it's something inside me that won't let me quit or self destruct. I only had two garbage bags of clothes, two CDs with my music, and two rap books. I had to be out of my spot, so the hustle got real.

Ran into my boy DJ D Funk and he gave me a job at Def Jam; I became street team captain but even that couldn't save my situation. I was out sleepin' on a girl's floor on 100th and MacArthur with her crazy ass room-mate Saucy Mike. He got stabbed. We had to go. I called my big cuz Sean and moved out to Richmond. I didn't call anyone or do any shows for two years. I was over this shit. Now I'm with Def Jam and these fake ass fools wanna call me and act concerned. I felt like god was punishing me. Then I thought about all them bible stories: a dude in a whale, a lion's den, gettin' cured of disease. And I thought, it's not punishment. The heavenly father is teaching me how to not depend or need anyone, but to get mine and not loose my integrity. For you to have nothing else to lose now; you have been stripped. So I promised if I could get my normal life in order I would always try to do the right thing and not do people how they did me! I took the hate and resentment out my heart. Then shit was clear. I'm still the best rapper out here. Now that I'm in the famly biz, I got money again!

Hooked up with my cuz`s homie from school who happened to be one of E 40's producers, Tha Rolla. I met Tha Rolla in front of his house in Vallejo, California.  He asked me, can you rap? I said, you tell me! He said, bust over this!! Slid a beat he just made in the ten minutes it took to get there. I ripped it freestyle! He was like, '"Be in the studio tomorrow at 3pm!'" Thats how G-13 started!! I wanted to keep it under wraps! I had something that knowbody else had -- a real album with credible rappers. Only thing though, it made me out to be a gangsta rapper. People make decisions before they hear or see something. That album was so original, classic!. And it got a real message. I should have said, E pill in it! They would been on it harder.  

Shout out to LayLow!! Rest in peace my lil homie!!! Peace to MugzillaD Shot, E 40, Tha Rolla, and Baby Bash.

Dub Esquire "Who The F R U?/Raise Yo Cups" (from G-13)

Amoeblog: You mentioned your solo project G-13. Tell me how different was that from your RapStarz EP and the new one, Odyssey, that is about to drop?

Dub Esquire:  RapStarz is completly different from the last one [G-13]. I got better everything; even a remix for "Who Tha Fuck R U?" with Dirt Nasty and Andre Legacy. RapStarz was a little bit more mainstream and geared for a younger crowd. I battle myself to make better songs anyway, so everything you hear from me will be different and slappin'. I can't wait for the Odyssey to drop. I pushed it back coz I want it to be a classic ass album. I got production from KU (Kaos Unique), Ugly Fingers, Jon Jordan, DJ Tim Diesel, and guests include Prince Poetic (a.k.a. Prince Po of Organized Konfusion fame), Dinco D (Leaders Of The New School), and Sadat X (Brand Nubian). It's gonna be a scorcher!

Relevant Tags

Mos (1), Hip-hop (217), Bay Area Hip-hop (36), Interview (341), Misfitz Ov Stylz (1), Sadat X (8), Del The Funky Homosapien (13), Dj Lex (2), Dirt Nasty (3)