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....”.

In the hours following the social media post by Pam the Funkstress many of those in the Bay whom African Identity's music had somehow touched woke up this morning to the tragic news of his passing and posted eulogies online. Longtime Bay Area based producer, club & radio DJ, and Pandora curator J-Boogie also recalled times from two decades ago of the dope freestyling emcee, "killing it on KUSF." But perhaps the most in-depth and heartfelt tribute was posted to Facebook by fellow Fillmore emcee Sellassie who wrote, "Worse news to wake up too! One of my inspirations for afrocentric thought provoking conversation since I was a teenager, and we had many of them. I could always count on AI (as I called him) for a comprehensive, what would it be like if we were in Africa. And of course a #Fillmoe before gentrification legend and OG. May the Universe rest his soul. Pretty tore up today. Sellassie."  Indeed we have lost yet another hip-hop hero from Bay Area rap history! And in an unsettling scenario similar to very the recent passings of both renowned Bay rapper Derrick "Digg" Reed of Hunters Point, San Francisco group U.D.I., and Duck Down icon Sean Price in which both hip-hop artists from opposite coasts were each still relatively young men, only in their forties. Similarly so too was African Identity, only 47 years of age, and taken prematurely from this earth.


                                                     Rest In Power African Identity!


African Identity "17 Slaves (feat. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien)" (1995)

Relevant Tags

African Identity (1), Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (3), Del The Funky Homosapien (13), Del (12), Hieros (17), The Coup (26), 1990's Fillmore Rap (1), Bay Area Hip-hop History (12), Nick Peace (1)