HYPED UP: The Bay’s Non-Hyphy “Area”
By Jake Clement
Since the 60’s, the Bay Area has been an epicenter for art: one of the biggest art forms being music. The biggest names in rock would perform all over the city, and sometimes even for free in Golden Gate Park. As time went on, and the music scene began to broaden, we were introduced to some artists that many people my age would deem THE artists of the bay. They’ve probably already popped up in your head after reading that sentence, yep you guessed it: The Counting Crows. You cant walk into a coffee shop anywhere in the Bay without hearing their incredible cover of “Big Yellow Taxi”. They’re truly the epitome of our musical genius! Wait, were the Counting Crows not your guess?! Then who could you have possibly been thinking of?!
Okay, all jokes aside, if you’re in your twenties, even thirties, and grew up in the Bay, you most likely have heard of the actual defining “movement” I was eluding to. The Hyphy Movement, known from Fairfield to San Jose, is the genre most kids grew up on out here. So much so that if you’ve been to a Bay Area party of any sort, you most likely heard at least one Mac Dre song yelled at the top of the entire party’s lungs, with the most enthusiastic of the bunch hitting the best Thizzle Dances you’ll ever see (besides the one Ronald Dregan himself used to perform). The Mac was the trailblazer for the movement, and other Bay legends such as E-40, and Too $hort kept it alive after Mac Dre’s untimely death (may he Thizz in Peace).
Today, young rappers like Nef the Pharaoh, Kamaiyah, and up and coming group SOBXRBE are continuing to keep the hyphy movement alive, with modern twists that appeal to the current rap audience. These artists are talented, hard working, and making names for themselves as the “next up” from the Bay. But I also can’t help but hear a lot of similarities to all of their music, which of course makes sense, they’ve all no doubt been influenced by the same artists. It also poses a few questions in my mind. Have you heard a rapper recently who’s making their own style of music? Are we only paying attention to artists who fit the Hyphy mold? Do we as an audience want to hear different flows from these other rappers? The first question is a pretty easy one to answer: of course there are. However if you’re like me, you might have found it hard to discover these non-Hyphy maestros, which is why I’m writing any of this at all.
I don’t intend on reviewing multiple artists and writing a persuasive essay as to why they’re “better” than other Bay artists. I just want to make a few suggestions about some guys who I think are gaining momentum in different lanes, and making some sick music in the process. So without further ado:
DUCKWRTH: No K-Dot stans, I’m not talking about the MAAD man himself. I’m talking about a dude who was similarly born in L.A., but has been in/been repping San Francisco for a while now. Duckwrth released a full length project, “IM UUGLY” back in 2016; and its filled with a unique sound that is hard to move away from once you start listening. He’s also very in tune with the new wave attitude many rappers have adopted: he wears what he wants, poses how he wants, and all the while stays happy with being himself. Duckwrth also launched a clothing brand BOY, who’s main goal is to degenderize flowers, and make them a symbol both men and women can enjoy looking good in. if you compared Duckwrth himself to a flower, I’d say he’s currently budding, and you’re not going to want to miss him in full bloom. His whole project was sounded pretty solid to me, but “100 DAYS”, “IM DEAD”, and “Bernal Heights” (whose beat sounds like a sonic representation of the SF neighborhood) are good places to start when checking him out.
REXX LIFE RAJ: This guy is probably the most known artist on this list, but also the one making the heaviest hitters. If you’ve gotten this far into this article, you’ve most likely noticed that this is an opinion piece; and in my opinion, Rexx Life Raj is one of the best rappers to come out of the bay since Pill Clinton himself. That would be another moniker for Mac Dre for those readers who aren’t entirely familiar with all of his nicknames. Raj is a rapper out of Berkeley, who’s been putting in some work the past couple of years. He’s got a song with fellow Berkeley rapper, and everyone’s favorite greaser, G-Eazy, a song with rising ATL singer Russ, and was recently featured on Sacramento rapper Mozzy’s new album. Not to mention he put out one of the most solid pieces of work I’ve heard to come out of 2016, Father Figure. Oh and BTW if you’re worried about his credentials for being a father figure, his name on Twitter is literally just “Dad”, so I think he’s got the paternal vibes going in full force. A rapper with multiple flows and subject matter, who’s also got an affinity for “studying” (why else would he mention Adderall so much? Aka a college student’s best friend during finals) Rexx Life Raj sounds like a guy who’s polished enough to start topping the national charts, not just the Bay’s. Father Figure is for real a great sounding album from start to finish, but “Handheld GPS”, “Shit n’ Floss”, and “Moxie Java” are good places to start checking him out.
RAMIREZ: If you’re into the rap scene at all, you’ve most likely heard the term “SoundCloud rapper”. A few years ago, being called by that name basically certified you as someone who probably shouldn’t quit their day job with the anticipation of becoming the next Tupac anytime soon. Today, SoundCloud rappers like lilpump can repeat the terms “hunnid on my wrist, eighty on my wrist” and “Drose” for a little over two minutes and have a sold out venue shout all nine words back at him for the entire duration of the song. Luckily there are some SoundCloud based rappers with a little bit more substance in their music as well, and Ramirez is one of them. It should also be said that Ramirez’s music is definitely not for everyone, as in he might genuinely scare fans of happier, less bass heavy rap. Repping the “sucka free” city (SF if you didn’t get the connection), he’s fully embraced the metal/trap fusion style of rap that’s cultivated a huge underground following on, yup, you guessed it, SoundCloud. He’s gaining attention after collabing with fellow SC rappers $uicideboy$ and Fat Nick, with the $uicideboy$’s having over 500k followers (and Ramirez himself boasting over 100k). It’s a grungy, angry sound that has become some people’s sole genre of rap that they listen to. And If you’re into that, check out “Grey Gods”, “Blunt to my Lip”, and “Na Na Na Na Na (Caught Slippin)”.
The Hyphy Movement was being called dead a few years back when the music seemed to dry up from the Bay, but we’ve bounced back to show that quite the opposite is true. And honestly, I don’t want to see it “die” anytime soon. Hyphy is one of the most important pieces of influential culture to come out of the Bay, which is probably why YG and Drake hopped on one of Kamaiyah’s songs last year. Everyone in the Hyphy scene deserves the fame they’ve been receiving. And artists outside of the Hyphy spectrum don’t necessarily have to exist as separate entities! In fact, “Moxie Java” features yung Neffy himself (Nef the Pharoah) and he spits one of his best verses on Raj’s song. But I think it’s also our responsibility to recognize hardworking artists from the same areas, who might not always make a banger to slap in the car, but are making strides to find their own path to musical fame. The Bay Area is without a doubt one of the most open-minded places in the world, and our music scene should be no different. So here’s to blasting “Anti” by SOBXRBE, chilling to “BLOW MY MIND” by Duckwrth in the same day, and never calling the “415” San Fran!!!!!