Bay Area Part. II
Strength, Issue 10
By Billy Jam
THE BAY AREA SCENE
The setting is The Viper Room; you know that famed Hollywood nite club co-owned by Johnny Depp and frequented by all the stars. The one where River Phoenix took too many drugs on that last fateful night of his. Tonight however the Sunset Blvd. club is not its usual superficial tinsel town self. By no means! The backroom heroin snorting has been replaced by a fog of sticky Humboldt green blunts on the packed dance floor while the usual house/disco music has been replaced by straight up pure West Coast underground hip-hop. It's totally unlike the usual Viper Room with the exception of a couple of celebrities who braved it in tonight. But even they, including Bill Maher of TV's "Politically Incorrect" fame, seem transformed by the raw uncut hip-hop that tonight's two super swift DJs (San Francisco's Peanut Butter Wolf and hometown hero J-Rocc from the Beat Junkies) are ripping up on the wheels of steel as adrenaline fueled MC Cokni O'Dire on the mic keeps the crowd totally hyped. Simultaneously in a hidden cramped little room off the dance floor area of this weekly Tuesday club ("The Bridge") every bit of the hyped live set's proceedings are being broadcast live on Internet radio station 88HIPHOP.COM. The tiny makeshift radio studio is packed with both energy and die hard West Coast hip-hop heads: Kut Master Kurt, DJ Rob-One, Frank Sosa, and DJ Wyze-1 are all jumping in on the row of mics to do a play by play of the happenings as well as running down news on the West Coast's healthy underground scene. "This is all about love for hip-hop," shouts Sosa over the loud music. Sosa, as a die hard promoter of such West Coast acts as Hieroglyphics, Solesides, Jurassic 5, and Aceyalone, clearly practices what he preaches.
THE BAY AREA’S HEALTHY CLUB SCENE
At this exact same moment four hundred miles up the California coast at the Bay Area weekly hip-hop spot "The New Rotation", the underground West Coast hip-hop revolution is simultaneously in full effect. The cool long two-roomed Cat's Alley club on San Francisco's Folsom Street is the perfect place for these weekly hip-hop events thrown by three dedicated deejays; DJ Rasta Cue Tip and Serg from the Various Blends/Stones Throw camp and their partner DJ Stef, publisher of the highly respected monthly DJ newsletter, The Vinyl Exchange. Overflowing the small stage this night is the Executive Lounge hip-hop family of emcees and DJs; a large crew that includes G-Luv, Homeliss Derelix, Endlessness In Machinery, Encore, Holekost, Persevere and Kedar. Clearly the emphasis here is on respect for hip-hop as an art form. On other nights this same club is taken over by The Mist, the production of two British ex-patriots Aki and Angel who also run the "Calvin Crack" fashion company, who regularly throw parties with such talents as the Solesides crew (Blackalicious, Latryx), DJ Quest (Space Travelers, Live Human), Mystik Journeymen and their Living Legends crew, Hobo Junction, and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz DJs. Meanwhile cross town at an even cooler Frisco venue, the Justice League, whose walls are adorned with dope-as-fuck graffiti art by world renowned Bay Area graf artist Twist, hip-hop shows by the likes of DJ Shadow and Latryx, the X-Men, Peanut Butter Wolf, and The Beat Junkies are all the call of the day. And then there's such other Bay Area clubs as the DJ oriented Future Primitive Sound Sessions where for their '97 Thanksgiving party such turntablists as Jurassic 5's Cut Chemist and Nu Mark and Z-Trip and Radar (a.k.a. The Bomb Shelter DJs outta Phoenix) all wrecked shit on the one and two.
THE BAY AREA/L.A. HIP-HOP REVOLUTION
Without a doubt something big is bubbling on both the Bay Area's and LA's hip-hop underground; a whole new movement of emcees, DJs, graffiti artists, and breakers have risen up over the last few years to redefine exactly what "West Coast" rap/hip-hop means. Quickly disappearing are the tired notions that West Coast is purely profit driven "reality" gangsta rap. Responsible for redefining this image are artists such as LA's Ras Kass, Aceyalone and his legendary Freestyle Fellowship, the Beat Junkies, Defari, and Jurassic 5, and also the thriving Bay Area scene's countless contributors including Hieroglyphics, Hobo Junction, Peanut Butter Wolf and his dedicated Stones Throw family, the Solesides, Living Legends, and Executive Lounge. Furthermore, virtually all of these artists are doing it independently on their own terms without the backing of some big profit driven record company; hence the art form's continued preservation. Today the West Coast underground, which once largely existed in a bubble cut off from the rest of the world, is warmly embraced not just on the (traditionally dismissive) East Coast but also as faraway as Japan, Australia, and Europe. In fact, the monthly club "Moments" in Helsinki, Finland is dedicated to West Coast underground hip-hop. Recent performers there included the Bay Area's Eclipse 427 and Plado and Sudani from Twisted Mind Kids. Lateef, who along with Lyrics Born makes up the Solesides' group Latyrx, also notes the respect that Bay Area hip-hop receives all over the world; partly he feels because of its individuality. "The Bay draws a lot of inspiration from LA and New York, but it has its own very distinctive identity too. What's great about it is that it's totally independent here," said Lateef adding that in New York or LA it's easier to get signed by a big label. "But there is a similar indie scene also in LA with such pioneers as Aceyalone and Freestyle Fellowship", he said.
DJ Babu of the Beat Junkies believes that the West Coast's strength lies in its unity. Not only is his LA DJ group always welcome up in the Bay but they share members, Shortkut and D-Styles, with Frisco's Skratch Piklz. Babu, who appears on a couple of releases by Peanut Butter Wolf's Bay Area Stones Throw (ST) label (Superduck Breaks and Fanatik's album) sees labels like ST and Beni B's Bay based ABB (home to LA's Defari and Dilated Peoples) as strengthening and elevating the whole art form and culture to a higher plain. "It's not just about Frisco and LA anymore," he said. "It's a worldwide indie hip-hop movement. Like, I've been to London and met very same minded people." Understandably then, Babu notes many similarities between such respected East Coast indie labels as Rawkus and Fondle 'Em and the countless ones out West. As longtime staffer at Hollywood's Fat Beats Records, where J-Rocc and Nu-Mark also work, Babu is witnessing a healthy indie hip-hop renaissance with the store's inventory now boasting 50% indie label titles. "It's almost like 1988/89 all over again," he said positively. In full agreement is the Bay Area emcee Rasco whose tight new album, "Time Waits For No Man" (Stones Throw), features PBW, Fanatik, Saafir, Encore, Defari, and Evidence of Dilated Peoples. "The whole hip-hop scene is very strong right now in Canada, in New York and over in Europe too," he said. "The Bay Area is a particularly supportive scene. Everyone comes together and does shows. Shadow had Q-Bert do the megamix for "Pre-Emptive Strike" and Latryx worked with DJ Disk on "Burnt Pride" and this week Latryx are performing with DJ Quest," commented DJ Zen, managing partner of Solesides Records. Zen also sees unity among the Bay Area "rap" and "hip-hop" communities. "I try not to draw distinctions. In a lot of respects people like E40 and Too $hort made it possible to do what we're doing. We look to them as models. Shadow can go into a room and play Souls of Mischief and Too $hort in the same set and that's what makes the Bay Area so dope," he said. Zen figures that today's independent scene was born out of about three years of people diligently doing singles and putting them out and learning the whole business end such as finding distributors. "What really broke it open was the Dr. Octagon record," he said. Coincidentally, the Dr. Octagon record was produced at Dan "the Automator" Nakamura's San Francisco studio where Solesides have done much of their recordings also. Released initially on the tiny Bulk Recordings label, the acclaimed Dr. Octagon project (The Automator, Kool Keith, Sir Menalik and DJ Q-Bert) superseded anyone's expectations. Dr. Octagon is just one of the many aliases of former Ultramagnetic MC's Kool Keith. Now living in LA, where he produces himself as well as working with longtime production partner Kut Master Kurt, Kool Keith explained, "Octagon was just like all my other projects. I love it, but I got other stuff. I'm changing my route again." One of these new directions will be his character Jimmy Steel. Former Bay Area resident Kut Master Kurt, who produced 1997's Kool Keith album Sex Style, credits Kool Keith's move out West from New York a few years ago as helping to kick start an already burgeoning scene on the Left Coast.
100% OF THE PROFITS
One of the Bay Area's most distinctive features is how it's all done independently. "It's more work but you control your art," said Peanut Butter Wolf. Quick to echo this sentiment was Corey from Oakland's infamous "unsigned and hella broke" duo Mystik Journeymen. "You've got to get out there and sell your own tapes on the street, literally. You control your destiny, not some fuckin major label," he said. Fellow "dirt hustlers" Hobo Junction can also be found hawking their tapes on street corners around the Bay. "This way you make 100% of the profit," commented Hobo Eye Cue. Commented Tajai of the Souls, who got dropped by Jive Records, "Actually, I'm glad that we're independent right now. It gives us more control." Domino, the Hiero's producer and manager, is also happy with their newly forced state of independence. "It gives you a lot of freedom. For example you can go in and record a song today and release it next week; not like with a major," he said. Note that the Hieros sell much of their music via the Internet at www.hieroglyphics.com.
ROOTS OF BAY AREA/WEST COAST HIP-HOP: THE BOMB
If one were to trace the roots of most of the Bay Area hip-hop artists mentioned in this article or of such respected hip-hop DJ/journalists as DJ Zen, Jazzbo, Spence Dookey, Cheo Coker,or Kut Master Kurt the common thread is that they were all at one time associated with BOMB; the legendary San Francisco hip-hop zine and record label headed by David Paul. In fact, if one had to trace a starting point for today's West Coast hip-hop scene it would undoubtedly lead back to the BOMB. During the 10,000 circulation monthly zine's five years (91-96) it gave love in its black and white Xerox pages to all the real hip-hoppers. Furthermore, occasionally it included free flexi-disk 7" singles boasting such artists as the then unknown Automator. And by the time the pioneering David Paul unveiled the BOMB Records label four years ago with "Bomb hip-hop Compilation", he presented a virtual blueprint for what was to come in Bay Area underground hip-hop. The collection featured for the first time ever on wax DJ Q-Bert (with Mad Child), Charizma with Peanut Butter Wolf, Blackalicious, Homeliss Derelix (feat 50 Grand), Mystik Journeyman and others. Then in 1995 Bomb Records released the world's very first ever turntablist compilation, Return of the DJ Vol. I, which introduced the world to the turntable wizardry of Invisibl Skratch Piklz (Q-Bert, Disk, and Shortkut), Mix Master Mike (solo), Peanut Butter Wolf, Beat Junkies, Cut Chemist, and Rob Swift (X-Men). Its 1997 follow up, Return of the DJ, Vol. II, was equally well received. David Paul, who began his hip-hop career as a mobile DJ in 85, has closely studied the development of Bay Area hip-hop music and culture. "In the early to mid nineties I noticed that along with all the great people I got to work with, that there was also a lot of suckers or hangers on involved at the time. But now they're all gone and the scene is better than ever on all levels," he said.
Meanwhile back at the Viper Room, the packed dance floor is being worked up into a frenzy by J-Rocc's tight set. Kut Master Kurt is now on the dance floor's perimeter bobbing his head to the beat of the Defari single in the mix. What's the future of Bay Area/LA underground hip-hop? "Its bright 'cause there's a bunch of new people coming to the table and it ain't going to stop either," said Kurt. "And as long as people support these artists it will only get stronger and stronger."
Of all Bay Area emcees, Saafir is perhaps the most brilliant and talented, whether performing/recording solo or with his extended musical family the Hobo Junction (Saafir, The WhoRidas, Eye Cue, Big Nous, Poke The Martian, Third Rail Vic, Mahassin, and D.A.). Unfortunately, however, as you'll read below, not everyone can appreciate the sheer genius of Saafir's unique rhyme flow.
Has hip-hop changed a lot since you started out?
Yeah. I come from the Kool G Rap days and the Rakim days when it was all lyrics and skills and beats, but it's changed in the nineties.
Do you divide between rap and hip-hop?
I divide the Hobo Junction from anything as far as rap or hip-hop. I mean it's so diverse now. There's so many different facets of it. I just do what I do.
How did you develop your style?
In the beginning, I was more of a substance rhymer as opposed to a battle rhymer. I used to rhyme more about stories and analytical things. Then my focus got switched to style and swing and doing acrobatics with the sound and it just kinda merged and then whatever came natural to me, I just did it.
And how did you get into the battle style?
Cause it's just a part of my character. I'm a competitive brother, so I tend to deal with a lot of things real intense and aggressive.....which means that you usually want to fight which means battle.
Now you had a famous battle with Casual a few years back at the Kennel Club in San Francisco. Do you still battle like that publicly?
Naw, those were more like what you'd call my more green days. Nowadays I'm just focused on a whole other realm. That seems immature to me now.
How would you describe Hobo Junction?
I would call it an exclusive conglomerate in hip-hop.
It also includes two of your brothers right?
Yeah, my brother King Sann (WhoRidas) and also my brother Third Rail Vic, who has a real ill style which is all hip-hop and street tough. He's going to release something on South Paw.
Is the Bay Area a positive place to be for a hip-hop artist?
Yeah, positive in terms of creativity, but it depends on who you're down with. But in terms of trying to get connected with the industry, no, it's not a positive place.
What music do you listen to these days?
I like Portishead a lot. I'm diverse. I like Janet Jackson and a gang of different muthafuckas. I like rap, alternative, and even Indian music and a lot of soul. Back in the day I really liked Funkadelic.
What are you working on these days?
We're working on a Hobo Junction album called Dirt Hustlin’ with some real hard shit. We also have two very powerful females in our crew, DA and Mahassan; they can flow. They like heavyweights. I'm also working on a solo album called "Watch How Daddy Ball", Basically, I'm a real fly dresser kind of cat, but I really didn't have any occasion to dress up except for a funeral. I like to look good and feel at the top of my game physically as well as mentally and I'm a baller in my own right, but in a more untrendy thing.
And Mix Master Mike is working on this album with you, right?
Yeah. He's cutting up on some of the songs.
You've always been a big fan of the DJ, right?
Always. I remember how DJs used to rock it back in the parks. When I used to live in San Pablo we used to have DJ parties in the parks at this spot called Davis Park when I was about ten years old. DJs would cut Sugar Hill and Kurtis Blow up. I used to DJ, when I was like 15 or 16.
Do you skateboard or snowboard?
No. I jet-ski; a 950 or 1100 I can serve 'em. I love 'em.
What else do you do for fun when you're not doing music?
Man I don't even have fun no more. I used to have fun doing hip-hop, but now it's just a survival to me. I done really lost the love for hip-hop.
Are you serious?
Yeah, 'cause I'll come original with some sick shit and I know it's hard and ill, but people just don't appreciate that shit no more. People don't like to chew and taste no more.
Years before becoming popular in his native United States, the Solesides' most visible member DJ Shadow was a household name in the UK thanks to his releases on Mo’ Wax and was even credited with creating the then burgeoning "trip-hop" movement. His 1996 landmark album Endtroducing.... was a critics and fans fave alike on both sides of the Atlantic for its lush cinematic vibe and innovative use of samples. Just back from a tour of Europe with Radiohead, Shadow chops it up:
How was it touring with Radiohead?
It was different cause I did mostly arenas and also cause people are a lot more familiar with the material out there cause its done (sold) about three times better. I went gold out there, so I can be a little more creative than when I was on the Jeru tour here in the States, which was a more hip-hop tour.
Now you've been called hip-hop and trip-hop and a few other things, but do you label your music?
No, not anymore because more and more, especially after "High Noon" and the stuff I've been doing recently, I just don't feel like its hip-hop or trip hop.
Now you originally started out on the reel to reel, cutting and splicing. Is your music today a direct continuation of that style?
What keeps you going or inspired?
I love music, so the best thing that can happen to me, inspiration wise, is hearing another good record. I love old music and I particularly love funk as a genre, but I don't really sample it that much and I don't really have any interest in sounding retro. It's the same with hip-hop. I don't want to go make an '85 era electro West Coast record just because that's what people are feeling at the moment. You know what I mean?
Yeah, but doesn't it all depend on how you use your samples. Like Beck is totally retro, but he sounds current.
Yeah, but he chooses his references very carefully and he's never so specific. Like he never throws all his weight behind just one thing like the Cold Crush thing. You didn't see him coming out wearing an old sweat suit or anything. He mixes that while he's wearing a country and western shirt and a narrow jacket or something, some ill combination.
I've heard you're selective about doing remixes. Have you done many remixes over the years?
The only ones I've done remixes for besides the old Hollywood Basic label ones would be Depeche Mode. When I was growing up, I used to listen to a lot of things that involved sampling and other things that involved a high degree of technology; things like Depeche Mode and Art of Noise, a lot of Trevor Horn produced stuff and a lot of synth stuff cause I would hear a lot of the same synth sounds in an Egyptian Lover record that I was hearing in a Depeche Mode record.
Do you think that hip-hop today has become somewhat segregated or subdivided into little camps?
Yeah, like on the North American tour I noticed that every night there was a completely different crowd. There was always a contingent there only to see Jeru and there was always a contingent there only to see my shit.
Do you think that hip-hop has changed?
I feel that at a certain point once it all became about the money or the hustle or getting over or rather pimping the music by any means necessary to get over, it changed.
What do you think of today's popular rap?
I'm old enough now to remember what everyone is borrowing from now and it just doesn't have the same spark to me. All the mainstream stuff today, I just can't tolerate it.
What are you working on these days?
Besides the Solesides group project, the main thing that's occupying my time is the UNKLE record which is James Lavelle's (head of Britain's Mo’ Wax Records) group and it’s a chance for me to work with vocalists.
Do you like to skate or snowboard?
I'm pathetically inept at both.
So what do you like to do in your spare time when you're not making music?
When I'm not doing music, I'm just buying records. That's what I love.
DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN
Based on his early creative collaborations with his LA cousin Ice Cube, Oakland's Del Tha Funkee Homosapien landed a major label deal with Elektra Records in 1990 while he was still attending high school. He recorded three incredible albums for Elektra Records (one of which - Future Development - was never released but can be bought on the Hiero web site or at shows), but despite the fact that he won all levels of international critical acclaim and even scored a hit single with "Mistadobolina", Del got abruptly dropped by Elektra. He wasn't alone however since his fellow Hieros suffered the same fate with their label, the appropriately named Jive Records. These days Del, who has a passion for Japanese video games, is happy with both his life and music.
When you look back now at when you first signed did you then believe that you were set for life?
I wasn't even tripping off the set for life bit. It was what I wanted to do at the time. I just didn't know that it would become so difficult. I thought all it was about was being dope and that was it. I was kinda young too, so I really didn't know about the business end of things. But now it's different cause so many rappers is talking about it. At the very least if I was starting out today I would know that the record company business is funny sometimes. Back then I was just happy to be signed to a big label. But nowadays these youngsters know exactly what's going on. It was an educational period.
So how do you feel now about major label deals?
In my position, it's not for me, but it all depends on what avenue you want to take. You can sign with a label, but have a lawyer.
So why did Elektra drop you?
There was no reason behind it. I'm sure it was just to cut back on the money they was paying me. I didn't get no clue as to why it was except that one day I wasn't signed no more. I already knew that the whole company was switching around and cutting back.
Why does Bay Area “gangsta” rap sell more than the type of hip-hop that you do?
Cause, it's more accessible and interesting to the people. Like everybody is hella fascinated with gangsterism. And it's easier to get into and understand right away. And heavy promotions play an important part.
Tell me about Third Eye Vision, the new Hieroglyphics family project that you guys have come back with independently. Who's on it and how does it sound?
It's me, Casual, Souls of Mischief (A-Plus, Opio, Tajai, and Phesto), and The Prose (Pep Love and Jaybiz). Pep is featured on this album quite a bit since he was the one who never got a chance to come out before. The album is very varied; you've got stuff that's freestyles, stuff that's concept, music that's more jazz, and stuff that's more hard. We've been working on it for a long time.
What music do you listen to these days?
I was wearing out that Company Flow for a minute and The Artifacts, Common, Organized, EPMD, and Rakim.
Do you think there's a definitive indie hip-hop scene today?
Definitely. There's now a whole underground scene with all these independent labels coming out.
Do you ever skate or snowboard?
No I don't do either but I respect them as an art form. Actually, Tajai sometimes goes snowboarding. I'm mostly into the video games and studying Japanese.
You study Japanese?
Yeah, I've been studying it for a year. I got into it cause I'm into Japanese cartoons and comic books and I've got hella import Japanese video games. I want to learn how to speak it and write it too!
So what's your favorite video game these days?
It would have to be Dragonball GT.
And what about the future for you?
I dunno. I wanna still make records, but I want to go to art school to practice up on my art skills. I'm good at cartooning and stuff, but I want to get better to the point where I could make a comic book or a cartoon or something, maybe design characters for video games and even make beats for the video games too!
Of all "turntablists", it is Q-Bert who is arguably the best known and respected the world over. Together with his pioneering battle/scratch hip-hop DJ crew, the Invisibl Skratch Piklz (Mix Master Mike, Shortkut, D-Styles, and A-Trak), he has over the past dozen years elevated DJ'ing to a fully recognized art form. In person this Bay Area Filipino is always most modest, unassuming, and more than willing to talk music.
Are you pleased or surprised with all the attention that the Invisbl Skratch Piklz and all the other DJ crews like the Beat Junkies and the X-Men have been getting lately?
Yeah, it's great that the art is becoming stronger every day. You know over in Japan right now, the sales of turntables is even greater than guitars! There's a lot of people wanting to be DJs everywhere, wanting to master the art of sound manipulation.
Is turntablism reviving hip-hop's forgotten roots?
Yeah, like some people ask what's scratching got to do with hip-hop and we tell ‘em that it dates back to the origins of hip-hop. A lot of people don't know the origin of hip-hop before the drum machines. It started in Jamaica and Kool Herc took it back to the States and instead of using reggae beats, he was using disco or funk beats.
But you've advanced it far beyond Kool Herc or Grand Master Flash ever did.
The techniques get crazier and more intricate every day, but for some reason we're still using the same records that they used. I just use them in a different way.
Who was in your original crew when you started out DJing a dozen years ago in San Francisco and what were Mike and Apollo doing?
Our crew had people like DJ Cuts, Dreamy D, Toad Man, and an emcee called Johnny Crush who is now a big rap star in the Philippines. At this time Apollo was in a Daly City group called Unlimited Sounds and Mix Master Mike was in a group called Hi Tech.
Initially what was it that attracted you to turntablism; the whole cutting and scratching aspect of DJ'ing?
I guess it was the search for the latest scratch. We always loved scratching since we started in '85. The first thing I learned was how to scratch rather than to mix and that just amazed me. Just manipulating sound with your hand is like a miracle; bringing sound in reverse and forward and chop it up.
And what artists or records inspired you?
Records like (Malcolm McLaren's) "Buffalo Gals" or (Herbie Hancock's) "Rockit", Mix Master Mike showing me stuff and DJs like Cash Money and Jazzy Jeff. And everytime we would hear a new scratch, we would want to do that. It would just drive us nuts til we could do it. It's like a thriving thing in your heart; a passion that you have to pursue.
Was there one day that you just woke up and realized turntables were actual instruments?
We always knew it; you know, just the basic root of scratching is a musical instrument; you're figuring out all these time signatures and rhythms and patterns and notes.
Where will you take turntablism to next?
There's a lot of musical compositions that we're looking at and thinking about how we can rearrange them and experiment with them. Like what if we play in three time or whatever. For us, we are hip-hop based but sometimes we go off into other worlds and start doing thrash or turntable country, you know we just try to experiment.
Another area of experimentation is your popular Turntable TV videos.
Yeah, they're fun and instructional at the same time. They're these behind the scenes with different DJs such as number 5 which is in Canada with Turnstyles Crew and number 6 which is behind the scenes at the DMC world battle in Italy.
So I hear you're a big video game fan. What's your favorite?
Yeah, I have every video game system there is. My favorite would be James Bond Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64.
Do you skateboard or snowboard?
When I was a kid I totally skateboarded but not now.
What's lined up for '98 for you and the ISP?
A Mix Master Mike album, an ISP album, and a Q-Bert album. And lots of other stuff always. Just hit up our web site: skratchpiklz.com.
We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this special news bulletin. There's been a wide spread of DJ's coming out with albums lately. If you happen to come across one of their CD's or cassettes in your local stare, snatch it up, but please listen with caution.
After a massive nationwide man hunt we tracked down DJ Rob Swift, 1992 East Coast DMC finalist of the infamous X-Men organization: a notorious band of cutmasters and vicious turntablist that also includes Roc Raider, Mr. Sinista and Total Eclipse among others. We caught up with Rob in his new hideout in Q.Boro (Queens, New York) after an anonymous tip.
We thoroughly interrogated the suspect and are now ready to release a transcript of that conversation with you, the public. Please, I urge you to pay close attention, because this band of spin doctors are probably headed to a city near you and knowledge is power.
Which one of the Marvel Comic superheroes, best represents you?
For me, I would have to say Cyclops.
I find myself to be the one as far as decision maker and in the role of road manager a lot and Cyclops is like the field leader of the X-Men.
What about the other three members?
Roc Raider would be Wolverine. Wolverine is always ready to fight, Raider is always ready to battle. Mr. Sinista reminds me a lot like Beast. Beast can be mad aggressive, Mr. Sinista can come off mad aggressive, to take you out on the tables. But there's a real soft side to him. Like Beast, the humanitarian of the squad. Whenever there's beef or whatever, he's the one that wants us to sit and talk it out and Total Eclipse is like Gambit. Eclipse is the newest member and we still don't know everything about him. Gambit is the mystery man.
How many X-Men are there?
Eleven. Rob Swift, Roc Raider, Total Eclipse, Mr. Sinista, Dr. Butcher, Steve D., Exotic E. from Florida, Boogie Boy from Chicago, Sean C., Diamond Jay and Johnny Cash.
You changed the name because of Marvel?
Our lawyers was like, "Yo, you guys are gonna drop an album and profit off whatever name you use." And the X-Men was already licensed, we weren't tryin' to go through the hassles. For me, the whole name change was cool, I think it kinda symbolizes growth with us. When you hear the name the X-Ecutioners, you'll think of recording artists.
Why that name?
The name's been around two or three years, we started it with Babu and Shortkut. We wanted to make up a crew that consisted of DJ's from all the major crews, to show even though we were in separate crews there's still a connection there. It's Shortkut from the Invisibl Scratch Picklz, Babu and Melo-D from the Beat Junkies, the four of us, Cutmaster Swift and DJ Pogo from London. We never got to launch that, because everybody was busy doin' their own thing with their crews, so we figured since we needed to change the name. It was the perfect time to use the name The X-Ecutioners.
What's your favorite DJ battle?
It would be two, Aladdin versus Miz in the 1989 New Music Seminar and Steve D. versus Francesco in the 1990 NMS. Aladdin and Miz were goin’ at it. It was cool to see DJ's just go all out like that. With Steve D. and Francesco, not only were they goin' at it, it was two totally different styles. Miz and Aladdin had similar styles, but in 1990 it was two different styles.
Favorite emcee battle?
King Sun versus Grandmaster Caz in the 1987 NMS. Wait, there was actually another before that. Kool Moe Dee versus Busy B.
Flyest rhyme or line you can remember?
“Pain In Full”, the whole song. The way he talks about money, tryin' to go the right way and gettin' in the studio. Yo, that was the jam.
Favorite rhyme or line you love to cut?
That would have to be "I'm gonna make it real funky for you" in “Heartbeat” by War.
Flyest shit you seen a DJ do?
Cash Money cuttin' up double of LL Cool J and making the turntables talk, connecting words like I never seen before. Also DST scrathin' on “Rock It” for the first time, actually realizin' the turntables could be used as a musical instrument.
What do you do to relax?
Read, do a beat or get on my Sony Playstation, which I'm about to do right now and play some Madden '98 and shit.
Favorite DJ from back in the day?
DST. He was truly the first turntabalist.
Emcee you'd love to spin for?
LL Cool J. I was such a big fan of his growin' up, also Public Enemy and KRS One.
Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Rebel Without a Pause by Public Enemy.
If you were a ball player, what position would you play?
Footbal l- wide receiver.
Baseball - first base.
Basketbal l- shooting guard.
If your house was on fire and you only had time to grab three things what would they be?
My Sony Playstation, my equipment, and my degree.
If you were on a sinking ship and the lifeboat only had room for your records or your girl which would you choose?
Damn, I would have to take my girl, it would be foul if I took my records.
Ten records you can’t live without?
“Heartbea”t by War, Fusion Beats, “Welcome to the Terrordome” by Public Enemy and “Nobody Beats the Biz”, that's all I can think of now.
Best Old School hip-hop movie?
Wild Style, it was the purest. It focused on a little bit of everything.
Condom of choice?
Roughriders, 'cause them shits don't break.
Turntable of choice?
Sampler of choice?
SP-1200 and the Akai 950.
Best place to buy vinyl?
Fat Beats, no doubt.
Favorite underground joint that didn't get the props it deserved?
There wasn't so much a record, but an artist that comes to mind, Large Professor. The most underrated artist period, man.
What Old School DJ you wished you could have battled in their prime?
To be honest with you, no Old School DJ. For one I have too much respect to even think about battlin' them.
What DJ would you elect for president?
Grand Wizard Theodore.
It be between DST, Cash Money or Steve D.
Mayor of New York?
Dr. Butcher, no doubt.
What jam do you play during sex?
I don't play music, just the music we make.
How do you prepare for battle?
I try to study who the competitors are, study their styles, what makes them different from me and then compare myself to each competitor to see how I might be lackin'. How can this guy beat me.
Last but not least, what Old School attire would you bring back in style?
Wind breakers (laughter) word, I used to love rocking those.
Beware, the X-Ecutioners have released the deadly CD X-Pressions on the nation. Also look out for their double A-side single “Musica Negra” (Black Music) and “Word Play” on the Asphodel label. Once again I urge you to be cautious and do not try to apprehend these suspects yourself or take their CD lightly. This has been AJ Woodson yo man around town, always alerting the public to the latest national threats. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program already in progress. . . . Peace!
THE ROOTS OF IT ALL: THE BAY AREA BREAKDOWN
Bomb hip-hop zine (1991-1996)
01. Peanut Bitter Wolf
02. DJ Shadow
03. DJ Zen
04. Cheo Cdker (L.A. Times, Vibe, XXL)
05. Jazzbo (Rap Pages, OM Records)
06. Kut Master Kurt (Funkyass Records, Kool Keith, KKBT FM, L.A.)
07. Billy Jam (Strength, Vibe, XXL, San Francisco Chronicle)
08. Spence Dookey (Raygun, Source, Gavin)
Bomb Records (Same as the zine.)
Artists have included:
02. Peanut Butter Wolf
03. Homeliss Derelix
04. Cut Chemist
06. Rob Swift (X-Men)
07. Beat Junkies
08. Invisibl Skratch Piklz
09. Mystik Journeyman
10. Z-Trip and Radar
KDVS FM, Davis
01. DJ Shadow
02. DJ Zen
Stones Throw Records
01. Peanut Butter Wolf
02. DJ Fanatik
06. Loot Pack
SoleSides Records (All five together known as Quannum)
01. Lateef the Truth Speaker
02. Lyrics Born
03. Gift of Gab
04. Chief Xcel
05. DJ Shadow
01. Del tha Funkee Homosapien (former DJ: Mix Master Mike)
03. Souls of Mischief (Former DJ: Apollo)
05. Domino (Producer and manager)
Oakland collective some people have called the West Coast Wu-Tang
01. Saafir (a.k.a. Mr. No No)
03. Third Rail Vic
04. Big Nous
05. Eye Cue
08. Poke the Martian
02. Homeliss Derelix
03. Endless in Machinery
Living Legends Crew
01. Mystik Journeyman
03. The Grouch
04. G.U. Senshi
Invisibl Skratch Piklz (I.S.P.)
Before, I.S.P. were known as West Coast Rock Steady D.J.’s
In 89/90 Mike and Apollo were a duo called T.W.S.
Current I.S.P. lineup:
01. DJ Q-Bert
02. Mix Master Mike
03. Short Kut
06. Yoga Frog
I.S.P past members:
01. DJ Apollo
02. DJ Disk
03. DJ Quest
05. Short Kut
01. Cut Chemist
02. Nu Mark
03. Chali 2na
06. Mark 7even
Former Ultramegnetic M.C.’s frontman, has lived on the West Coast (Bay Area and L.A.)
He has worked with many including:
02. The Prodigy
03. Kut Master Kurt
05. Peanut Butter Wolf
Peanut Butter Wolf
CEO of Stones Throw Records, long time Bay Area DJ/Producer has recorded with:
01. Babu and J-Rocc
02. Kool Keith
03. Company Flow
05. Short Kut
Critically acclaimed Bay Area emcee and member of Various Blends has worked with:
02. Peanut Butter Wolf
04. Dilated Peoples
A note from the editor: This is only a brief and small example of the Bay Area’s artist interconnection.