Tag Archive | Hip Hop

Ion’s Ten Fave Bay Area Hip Hop Albums of 2010

What’s up everybody!

First off let me say what a year it has been!  As someone who has only been in the Bay since fall 2008, I’ve really learned a lot about the history of Bay Area hip hop and have come to embrace the local scene.  While the Bay Area scene may not get as much national attention as the NY or LA scenes, hip-hop that grows from here is as diverse, conscious, tough and quirky as anywhere else, due to many reasons (the interaction of asian, white, hispanic and black cultures, portayals of rap as a “glamorous style” in times of economic downturn and record unemployment, fallout from the death of Oscar Grant and Mehserle trial verdict, etc.).  There have been many worthwhile releases this year from rappers all over the Bay, veterans and newcomers, of different rap styles and philosophies, and because of it I have gladly had the chance to bump music in my headphones a whole lot more.  Putting all personal feelings towards artists aside, I’ve settled on my ten favorite local albums released in 2010, in no particular order, excluding mixtapes and unofficial albums.

Chosen Few – New World Symphony

After listening to the first two tracks on New World Symphony, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Chosen Few has found a great home with Hiero Imperium Records.  Unjust’s production on “Few are Chosen” takes you back to the sound Domino crafted throughout Hieroglyphics’ debut Third Eye Vision. Though the members of Chosen Few are originally from Ohio (they have spent the past decade in the Bay), the handful of guest spots from Dilated Peoples’ Rakaa Iriscence and Hiero members Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Pep Love, Opio and Tajai pay off and make this album feel right at home on the west coast.  But no doubt, with its powerful messages and the drifting between golden and buckeye states of mind, this is more than just a Hieroglyphics record.  Check out “Dreamscape”

DaVinci – The Day the Turf Stood Still

The “urban renewal” of the spot known as Fillmoe in San Francisco is the prologue to the story contained in The Day The Turf Stood Still.  Hailing from the same place as SF veterans San Quinn and Messy Marv, DaVinci comes out with a strong debut album, smoothly delivering tough lyrics over spooky-yet-soulful beats.  I first became aware of him this past February when he performed at a show with headliners Freeway/Jake One.  The way DaVinci had the crowd moving with his honesty, storytelling imagery and undeniable passion, his fanbase should only grow in 2011.  Check out “Concrete Jungle Juice”

Do D.A.T. – Oakland In Blue

Since hearing Gang Starr and A Tribe Called Quest records in high school, I’ve been a huge fan of jazz and hip-hop combinations.  Do D.A.T.’s Oakland In Blue is a refreshing album using Duke Ellington recordings as sample and inspiration.  On face value alone, I never would have believed this album came out of the birthplace of hyphy, but the descriptions of Oakland life that Do D.A.T. offers up go seamlessly with this sonic landscape.  Sometimes lighthearted, other times somber, this album travels all over the city with the ability to take you from Yoshi’s in Jack London Square to 12th street & Broadway in a second.  Check out “The Bridge” featuring Melina Jones

E-40 – Revenue Retrievin’: Day Shift/Night Shift

With two discs and 38 tracks, E-40’s mega release was very hard to get an overall feel for if simply because there is so much.  My first impressions of a release this big is that there is a lot of filler and skippable tracks, and while that is the case for some tracks here, there are enough jams, slaps, catchy hooks and tongue-twisting verses to have me coming back to Revenue Retrievin. Both collaborations with Too $hort are huge bangers, plus there are a slew of appearances from other Bay Area artists to keep this album interesting.  It is not E-40’s best or most well-conceived release, but he impresses by constantly changing between his many rap styles, a reminder why the Bay Area has embraced him for so many years.  Check out “Can’t Stop the Boss” with Snoop Dogg and Too $hort.

Erk Tha Jerk – Nerd’s Eye View

Ironically, Erk tha Jerk stands out from other East Bay rappers because of his everyday realism, rapping about many topics that are relatable to the listener.  The production on Nerd’s Eye View is top-notch, and Erk’s flow works best riding comfortably with the beat rather than trying to outdo it.  Sure, singles like “Right Here” and “Hands Up” are little too R&B for my taste, but I found plenty to like over these 19 tracks. With the success of Erk’s Hood Nerd mixtape series and a collaboration with Nio tha Gift, Traxamillion and Willie Joe known as The FNM, its hard to argue any other Bay Area artist has had a bigger year.  Check out his new video, “Ha Ha” featuring London.

Kero One – Kinetic World

Not to be forgotten is Korean-American rapper Kero One, who released his third full-length album Kinetic World in June.  Independently writing and producing the entire album on his own label, Kero One pulls off a beautiful-in-its-simplicity piece of work while making the most of stellar guest verses from Fashawn on the title track and Tablo, Myk and Dumbfoundead on the standout “Asian Kids”.  His lyrics are very positive and upbeat, while his at-times speedy flow makes me think he would fit in well with the Project Blowed artists in Los Angeles.  But with the many talents he demonstrates on this album, I’m very happy that the Bay Area claims him.  Check out “On Bended Knee” featuring Sam Ock.

Moe Green – Rocky Maivia: Non Title Match

Vallejo’s Moe Green has admitted he needs to win a few belts before getting his shot at being the heavyweight rap champ.  With Rocky Maivia: Non-Title Match, he took a huge first step towards just that, spitting thoughtful lyrics over many different types of production, from the La Roux-sampled “Going For The Kill”, to the instrumentation of “Emerald City” which sounds like it belongs on a Deerhunter record, to the UGK-sounding “Preliminaries”.  Even with all this, there was no way one could have prepared for the adrenaline-boosting bonus track “Lights Camera Action”, accompanied by easily the most entertaining music video of 2010 kudos of the cast of Jersey Shore.  Not only is this album legally free, but Moe Green is set to release a new LP, To Whom It May Concern, on December 28th: Other emcees should be concerned.  Check out the infamous “Lights Camera Action” and get down wit’ yo self!

Raashan Ahmad – For What You’ve Lost

We were not likely to get a new Crown City Rockers album this year after 2009’s The Day After Forever, but member Raashan Ahmad’s solo effort is a huge surprise and welcome treat. Ahmad’s lyrics shine with engaging lines like “too beautiful to hate/too ugly to love” and clever references to golden era hip-hop “do what you like/one love  but two make a thing go right/some eat soul food and throw guns in the ghetto/my philosophy on the show like Edo/G see we go to have it/so check the rhyme anything can happen”.  The jazzy instrumentation is fun and addictive on such tracks as “Sunshine” and “Falling”, while delicious soul samples bring out songs like “In Love With Wax” and “Understanding”.  Not to mention guest spots from Count Bass D, Aloe Blacc, Gift of Gab and many talented vocalists.  Check out “Beautiful Ugly” featuring Adam Theis.

Richie Cunning – Night Train

My apologies to Richie Cunning because I think I was in a beat battle with him in July and didn’t know about this album he released.  Through word of mouth I heard about it and immediately got into Night Train, Cunning’s 45-minute ballad for the city of San Francisco which he grew up in.  Though as a white kid who went to UC Santa Cruz he may not look the part of a Bay Area rapper, he proves with his precise lyrics and soulful boom-bap production that he is as San Francisco as it gets.  With a record that’s perfect for listening during a BART or Muni ride, and having opening gigs for Little Brother and Hieroglyphics among others under his belt, Richie Cunning is poised to entertain many Bay Area fans who are now waking up to his rapping and producing talents.  Here’s a video for “My City” done for Warriors’ Weekly. Slam!

Zion I – Atomic Clock

Zumbi and Amp Live, who individually released projects earlier in 2010 (Amp Live with his hip-hop-turned-electro Murder at the Discotech and Zumbi with his collab with producer the ARE called The Burnerz), show exactly what great things Zion I is capable of in Atomic Clock. Compared to 2009’s The Takeover, this album shows a definite synergy between Amp Live’s electric production and live-performed instruments, giving the album some gorgeous reggae undertones.  Collaborations with reggae band Rebelution and Seattle rapper Macklemore further show how on-point Zion I is and how they’ve grown in the ten years since their debut.  “Clock”ing in at around 40 minutes long, its the shortest album on this list, but I feel there is no one bad track on this album.  If you want more after its over, there’s nothing wrong with playing it from the beginning again.  Check out the new video “Always”

UPDATE: Another album I would have put on this list was Esinchill’s Vigilante, but I found out from many sources that that was a December 2009 release.  Still another dope album to check out!

Besides these albums, there were many quality mixtapes released in 2010 which I haven’t all got to yet.  Here’s an incomplete list of some I was digging the past year (feel free to add)

  • Roach Gigz – Roachy Balboa
  • Young Gully – Grant Station Mixtape
  • Fashawn – Grizzly City 3
  • The Jacka – GSlaps Radio Vol. 1
  • Mistah F.A.B. – Prince of the Coast
  • Erk tha Jerk – Hood Nerd 2: Memoirs of the Invisible Man

Make sure to come back tomorrow to catch my Ten Fave NOT-SO-Hip-Hop albums of 2010!




Review: Rhythm Natives – Rhythm Natives

Rhythm Natives‘s self-titled debut out October 19th.  Self-released, available on the group’s Bandcamp (rhythmnatives.bandcamp.com) and website (www.rhythmnatives.com)


Upon seeing The Roots in concert several times and seeing some of my favorite hip hop artists performing with live musicians, I have to say that seeing hip-hop performed with a live band is a much richer-sounding experience (no offense to the rapper-DJ combo).  Growing up in the early 00’s, the members of Rhythm Natives form a six-piece band that shares a common love of hip hop and live instrumentation and delivers such an experience.  Their music is rooted in the Los Angeles indie hip-hop scene and shares many similarities of their  Los Angelean genre-blending counterparts.  Specifically, RN’s brass sections and rockability are reminiscent of Ozomatli‘s work without as many activism viewpoints, while the soul and funk influences are very much like Orgone‘s “Cali Fever” release from earlier this year.  While Rhythm Natives comes together to produce an organic mix of many genres, they are certainly hip-hop oriented, and the rapping duo of Exaktoh (Glen Techico) and Kreative Thought (Jon Narboneta) evoke the light-hearted and clever exchange of People Under the Stairs or the short-lived Colorado Springs group The Procussions.

The challenge for any band that becomes popular through live performances is translating that to the recording studio.  Rhythm Natives makes a natural progression here, keeping the percussion sounding real and interesting and letting each instrument stand out in the mix for the listener.  “Take Off (Intro)” is a simple yet well-crafted opening number that hints at the multi-dimensional potential this band has.  “Move” featuring Farmer JohnEric takes the same excitement of an Ozomatli jam and expands upon it with entertaining wordplay, offering perhaps the album’s best cut.  “Miss Universe” is a chill jam that feels like it belongs on an Ohmega Watts record, however the backing instrumentation tends to be more interesting than the lyrical subject matter here.  “Make Up Your Mind” is a definite highlight in the band’s songwriting skills but also in large part due to the uncredited female vocalist.  This flows right into the exciting “Holdin’ It Down” featuring Miss Jenn K and the funky soulful “Trust Me”, showing off the band’s versatility in playing to different moods and styles.  “So Fire”, the album’s first single, is a gorgeous rush of chord progressions with a beat that surely could make people drop everything and dance in the streets. One possible drawback for the listener and that may keep RN from achieving more airplay may be the occasional obscenities that surface and seem unnecessary at times.

Overall, Rhythm Natives’ self-titled debut is loaded with many interesting and head-nodding tracks, worthwhile guest spots (Bambu, Farmer JohnEric, Miss Jenn K and battle rapper Kronic Plague), and does not miss a beat.  While they are not breaking much new ground in the genres they mix and the lyrics they write, this album definitely belongs in anyone’s collection of organic-sounding hip-hop and is sure to work generously in promoting their live performances.

-Ion The Prize

Rhythm Natives is:

Bojo1 – drums
Chezzy Chez – keys
Chooboy – bass
Mart – guitar
Soy – DJ/band photographer
Exaktoh – vocals
Kreative Thought – vocals
Asi Friedman – producer

website:  www.rhythmnatives.com


1. Take Off (Intro)

2. Move (feat. Farmer JohnEric)

3. Miss Universe

4. Make Up Your Mind

5. Holding It Down (feat. Miss Jenn K)

6. Trust Me

7. Mess With (feat. Kronic Plague)

8. Lost Angels

9. So Fire

10. Like This (feat. Bambu)

11. Take Off (Outro)

For the band’s take, check out the video below:

Shout-Out! Do D.A.T.

Oakland rapper and musician Do D.A.T. was the MC for last Tuesday’s event  “Hip Hop for Justice” where he did a fantastic job keepin’ the crowd into it, but it is clear that he is also a man of many talents you should become more familiar with.

From his website:

“One interaction with Do D.A.T and you’ll quickly figure out that he’s not the average artist coming out of the Bay Area’s music scene. Listening to a few songs will leave you with the understanding that this is an artist with a passion for making quality music. Do D.A.T. is all smiles. If you were one the bay area’s most promising young personalities, you’d be smiling too.

Many people believe that hip hop is dead. Do D.A.T. is evidence that hip hop is not extinct, but that Hip hop has evolved.

Listen to his music and decide for yourself.”

This past May, he released his second album, the  Duke Ellington-inspired “Oakland in Blue”, which is now available on iTunes and CDBaby.  One listen and you’ll hear how he stands out from other local rappers and is raising the bar for a new-era of jazz-rap artists.  Check these links out and look for him performing in the Bay Area and beyond in the near future!

Check out this May article in East Bay Express:  http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/cool-like-do-dat/Content?oid=1753295

Website:  http://dodatmusic.com/Do_Dat_Music_Group/Home.html

Purchase at CDBaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dodat11

Like on facebook: http://www.facebook/dodatmusic

Follow on twitter: @dodatamen

MidWeek Mixes: DJ Ion the Prize – “Blastin’ The Past: 1985”

This is the first in (what I hope will be) a weekly series where I share hip hop mixes by me and many different DJs as well.  Today happens to be my 25th birthday, and I realized that I had very little knowledge of all the hip hop that came out the year I was born, 1985.  It was a very different time, but a very crucial year in hip-hop culture.  This was the year that Krush Groove came  out, the year Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick released “The Show” and LL Cool J debuted with “Radio”, electro-hop acts like Egyptian Lover and World Class Wreckin Crew were playin’ everywhere, and little known acts like Salt n’ Pepa and Beastie Boys were just gettin recognized.  Enjoy this 70-minute single-file mix I made of hard-to-find records and some adventurous mash-ups with 1985 pop and R&B hits.

Download:  DJ Ion the Prize – Blastin\’ The Past: 1985


  1. Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew – “The Show”
  2. Super Nature (Salt n’ Pepa) – “The Showstopper”
  3. Grandmixer D.St. – “The Home of Hip Hop”
  4. The Organization – “The Big Beat”
  5. Simple Minds vs. The Organization – “Don’t You Forget About The Big Beat” (Ion the Prize mashup)
  6. Kid Frost – “Terminator”
  7. The Boogie Boys – “A Fly Girl”
  8. Run DMC – “King of the Streets”
  9. NYC Cutter – “DJ Cuttin’”
  10. The B-Boys – “Girls”
  11. Whodini – “Big Mouth”
  12. Bobby Jimmy & The Critters – “Big Butt”
  13. MCA – “Drum Machine”
  14. Krush Groove Allstars – “Krush Groovin’”
  15. Mantronix – “The Album Mega-Mix”
  16. Beastie Boys – “Rock Hard”
  17. Schooly D – “PSK (What Does It Mean?)”
  18. LL Cool J – “Rock the Bells”
  19. Marley Marl feat. MC Shan – “Marley Marl Scratch”
  20. Death City Boyz – “Bopsey Twins”
  21. Double Dose – “We Got The Beat”
  22. Chaka Khan – “(Krush Groove) Can’t Stop The Street”
  23. Rock Master Scott & The Dynamic Three – “The Roof Is On Fire”
  24. New Edition – “My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?)”
  25. Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force – “I Wonder If I Take You Home”
  26. Freestyle – “Don’t Stop The Rock”
  27. Uncle Jamm’s Army – “Naughty Boy”
  28. World Class Wreckin’ Crew – “Juice”
  29. Egyptian Lover – “Planet E”
  30. Full Force – “Alice, I Want You Just For Me”
  31. Gigolo Tony & Lacey Lace – “Why You Get So High”
  32. Too $hort – “Girl (Cocaine) That’s Your Life”
  33. Toddy Tee – “Batteram”
  34. LL Cool J – “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”
  35. a-Ha vs. LL Cool J – “Take On My Radio” (Ion the Prize mashup)
  36. Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick – “La-Di-Da-Di”
  37. Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick – “La-Di-Da-Di (Sneakin’ In The Back Remix by Ion the Prize)”
  38. Kurtis Blow – “If I Ruled The World”

Download:  DJ Ion the Prize – Blastin\’ The Past: 1985

Shout-out!: Canary Sing

What up y’all!  On behalf of the Students 4 Hip Hop club, I wanna thank everyone for coming out to the Hip Hop for Justice event last night!  It really surpassed our expectations and your enthusiasm played a major part in that!  We have a lot of people to thank, but I’d like to kick off the thanks by showing all the artists that came out some love.

When it comes to showing love, Canary Sing definitely had plenty rocking the crowd last night.  Formed in 2006, the duo of Madeleine Clifford (MADLINES de lioness) and Hollis Wongwear (ISPIRE) rep the Pacific Northwest + the Bay and have performed across the country including at the Bumbershoot Festival, Under the Volcano Music Festival, and the San Francisco Mission Arts Project.  They have performed alongside artists like saul williams, binary star, talib kweli, dead prez, medusa, gabriel teodros, mystic, sabreena da witch & mohammed from P.R. as featured in the incredible documentary slingshot hip hop, piece, cristina orbe, and more of their favorite musicians and poets.  (Read more:http://www.myspace.com/canarysing#ixzz11bC5PjTo)  They have a mixtape out on iTunes called “Boss Ladies: A Mixtape” and have an EP out you can stream and download over the internet called “The Beautiful Baby EP”, which by listening to it will definitely make you want more Canary Sing.  Let’s hope they come back to perform real soon!

Website:  [http://www.myspace.com/canarysing]

Facebook Group: [http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=152203423881&ref=ts]

Twitter:  @canarysing

Rock The Block is HERE

Bay Area hip hop heads unite. Rock The Block: The Bay is finally here! Check it out live and in effect this Thursday, February 4th, at 9pm in the UC Berkeley Multicultural Center. This time, Students for Hip Hop has partnered up with close friends CalSlam (on their way to competing in Boston at this year’s College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational) to put on what is promised to be a solid night.

Confirmed Artists include:

-Mandeep Sethi (Scroll down to check his promo with MC Sahku)

-Chuuwee (Scroll down to check his video for C.R.E.A.T.S.)



-As well as Student performers Alex Park and Riley Kovatch.

Of course, look to see this floating around the East Bay for the next few days. (*cough cough* Put together by our very own in house graphic designer, gabbyzuko)

Everybody over here at (S4HH) has put a lot of work into this and is excited to see it finally come together. In support for the relief efforts in Haiti, Cal Students for Hip Hop is donating all proceeds made by the concert to Partners in Health. $5 dollar donations (or more) are encouraged. It’s going to a good cause.

Help us make this live – The more folks that show up, the more likely (S4HH) will be able to put on quality concerts in the future. We’re doing this in conjunction with the University’s “Welcome Week” campaign so this is for the transfer students, spring admits, lower class men, upper class men, grad students, professor and most of all… the hip hop heads in an around the East Bay community. We hope to see you there.