Monday, October 31, 2005

New Interview: Sean T


You've been around since the early '90s. How does it feel in almost 2006 to still be a factor after all those years?

It feels real good man because I done seen a lot of different things as far as musically, as far as the way people rap now, the way that the independent game works. Everything is way different from what it was when I first started. For me to evolve and adapt to what's going on is always a plus, man.

What do you see different about the independent game?
The only difference that I see is that it's not as easy as it was before because there's a lot more artists now and the market is a lot more flooded. Back in the day I used to be able to just make a CD and just take into the stores and sell units. I could press up two thousand and sell out in a couple of weeks, press up another thousand and keep sellin' like that. Now artists is strugglin' to sell six thousand units.

What do you think happened that caused that?
A lot of people bein' careless in the game. Everybody thinks that they're a rapper, everybody thinks that they're a producer and they don't wanna get their tracks produced by a real producer and sit down in the studio and take they time. They wanna go buy their own equipment and try to just put out anything. That's really what it is.

The Bay had that part of the '90s where we were sellin' a lot of units, major label deals, radio, video, the whole thing and then it really just died. A lot of it was based on what you said just now about a lot of people gettin' in who really weren't built for it.
Doxx, to tell you the truth, I could tell you where the downfall is. As soon as 2Pac was gone it was like a big change and the industry didn't know what to do, especially in this market. Everybody was ridin' with Pac, all the music was good, it was quality. Pac set that example so everybody was like, "I gotta make my stuff sound better than Pac or as good as Pac." As soon as that was over it was like, "Oh, we can do anything now."

The way things are going now there's a lot of people gettin' in who really shouldn't be there, but there's a lot of really good quality stuff comin' out too from new people and the older people who've been in it for a long time. Do you see the Bay Area having a repeat of those big years we had?
It all comes back around, man. Whatever was here ten years ago is all comin' back around now. And all the people that's not really all that good is gonna be shifted out. Everybody knows who's tight and who's not. If you're good then you're gonna move shit. If you're not then you just gotta play the background until it's your chance or until you get up to par.

That one quote you had on "Rowdy" on the new album about puttin' the whole Bay on your back. I really liked that quote, I liked what you said right there...
Really, what I meant by that is there's a lot of people that's just comin' okay. They not puttin' they all into it, just doin' stuff to do it or play the songs for they potnas and ride around town and all that. I'm tryin' to set an example productionwise and lyrically to let people know that OG cats is still doin' it and I'm steppin' my game up so y'all look at me and follow in my footsteps. The whole thing is in the Bay is that we need unity here, man. If everybody quit hatin' on each other and get together like how they do in the Midwest and the South and stick together and eat together, then it'll be big here. Real talk.

Have you experienced that a little bit? People maybe bein' shady on you and not really supporting you like they say they do when they see you?
Yeah, I know there's a lot of cats like that. I gotta keep on movin', I gotta keep on pushin'. And I know a lot of dudes that's out here is respectin' me and what I've done in the past. But a lot don't know what I've done in the past. They think I'm new! You just gotta roll with the punches. I'm gonna do the best at whatever I do. I make sure I put time and work into it. I'm not gonna give nobody no half-ass shit when I put out a album or when I do production. But that's all we need man, more unity and less hate. That's the bottom line.

A lot of people might not know how long you've been doin' this and some of your past work. They might think you're new 'cause they were young when you startin' out.
A lot of people think my first release was Pimp Lyrics & Dollar Signs.

Give a quick background on the releases you did back with Murder One (Records) all the up to the new stuff.
Actually, even before Murder One I started off with a group called Parts Unknown. That was like 1989, 1990. And I was in a group called MOG. And another thing that people didn't know... East Palo Alto, we the first ones in the Bay to put out a comp, the EPA City compilation. After that comps just went crazy, there was comps everywhere. Where we got it from was a click from LA and they was called Chuck Small and Tweedy Bird Loc. That's where we got the idea from. From there, I'd say '91, was a artist named Chunk that I did production for. Then after that I signed to Murder One Records and I did my first solo, Straight From The Streets. Actually before that we did MOG, Exposed To The Game. Then from there on is Pimps Lyrics & Dollar Signs and the rest of the albums.

Who was in Parts Unknown with you?
There was Kilo G, Studio B and then another rapper named Low Key and then Top Dog.

What's the history on Murder One?
Murder One Records was started by my boy Pedro... He goes by Front Page. He was just like a baller in the hood lookin' for artists and stuff. He heard that I was a producer/artist and I signed with him and the rest is history after that.

What was your involvement with the label? I know you rapped and did the production. Were you also behind the scenes making decisions?
No, at that time I was just a artist and producer because I didn't know too much about the business back then. That's why my career didn't go where it needed to go and where it could have went. You learn as you go along and I learned the business and how everything works.

The label had you, Kaos...
Papoose and Mobboss. Actually that was Roots From The Underground. Papoose is still one of my artists right now. He's changin' his name now though. His name is J. Streets.

With that big roster of talent a lot of good albums came out of that era when you were with them and at that time a lot of deals were happening with the majors. Did Murder One ever have any major offers?
We had a lot of major offers, but we didn't ever take 'em. We had Priority, we had Relativity, Capitol. There was a lot of record labels lookin' at us. What Front Page was tryin' to do was get the whole label signed. They just wanted to sign either me or Chunk and not sign everybody else and we didn't go with it. I think it was a mistake because we should of went with it and once one of us got in the door we could of brought everyone along.

When I interviewed Mac Dre a long time ago he told me that once things started really movin' for him he didn't really look at himself as being a celebrity so he was just out there bein' normal, but he realized that it was a problem because there's a lot of jealous people. Comin' up and bein' a rising star in somewhere like EPA, did you encounter a lot of jealousy and things like that?
Well, if it was it wasn't brought to my attention because East Palo Alto is real small. Everybody knows everybody. It's like two square miles across the whole city. Everybody from East Palo Alto was lookin' at it as like, "If he shinin', we all shinin'." It's a small town. We called it the "Small Town Cemetary."

I remember it was the murder capital back in what, '93?

Comin' from somewhere like that, how did that shape the music you were makin'?
That was my influence back then 'cause that's all I knew, violence in the streets and hustlin' and prejudice and police brutality, so that's what I talked about.

Productionwise, you were the one who made that EPA/Menlo Park sound. You put the stamp on that and that sound comin' out of there is basically you.
I was like the only producer that was doin' hardcore production from East Palo Alto. There was another producer by the name of C-Funk. He was doin' his thing. He was more on a mainstream level. He was an influence on me too to make me wanna do it.

What would you say your production style was? At the time the mob shit was real big with Studio Ton and K-Lou and you had somethin' similar, but it was on a whole different page.
My production style was kinda like a mixture of East and West really. A lot of people back then was doin' live music, playin' live basslines, live guitars and all of that. My influence was Dr. Dre and then the Juice Crew like Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap and all of them. It was like a mixture of Marley Marl and Dr. Dre together and heavy 808, deep basses and stuff like that. And samples, I was a heavy sampler.

You used to work a lot with G-Man Stan doin' the guitar. What's up with him, are you still workin' with him at all?
Yeah, I work with him from time to time. Not as much anymore, but he does his thing. Me and Stan did a lot of work together back then, comin' up.

Let's get into the new album. It's called Ain't Playin' and it's on your own label, Get Gone. Tell me about some of the stuff on the album and what the feel is.
I really just balanced the album out to give everybody a little bit of somethin'. I tried to give you a little bit of lyrical, somethin' for the ladies, gangsta stuff, even some radio stuff. I'm really tryin' to let cats know that just because I was rappin' back in the day don't mean that I still rap that same way. A lot of people judge you by how you used to rap or they feel you can't adapt to what's happenin' now, but that's not me. I'm a chameleon man, I switch up.

What are some of your favorite songs you did on the new album?
"Punchlines." I like that song because I'm showin' the lyrical skills. The song is all punchlines. I'm just sayin' that it's my time to blow and I'm lettin' cats know that I don't just do the gangsta rap. I can do lyrical stuff too. I like "Ain't Playin'," "Transformin," "Long Time Comin'." That's like one of the real heartfelt ones. That was real spit on that song right there.

What kind of words of wisdom do you have for some of these new kids that are just tryin' to get into it? They might have the talent, some of 'em don't. What kind of advice do you have?
I just wanna tell 'em to stay humble. I mean it's good to be cocky to a certain extent, but you can't get cocky to where you're downplayin' or disrespecting the OG's or anybody that's been in the game longer than you or know more than you. Just be humble. If it's workin' out for you and it's startin' to blow for you, stay humble. Don't ever get big headed. Like for instance, Mistah FAB is a good example. He hasn't got big headed or nothin' and he's doin' his thing man. All these other youngsters need to look at him as an example of how he does it, his work ethic and everything.

What are some of the next steps for the label? I know you got 18 comin' up.
Got 18 comin', got Sand (formerly Mr. Sandman) and his album is called The Subpoena, J. Streets (formerly Papoose) and then Alabama Slim. And the name of 18's album is Access Granted. J. Streets' album is called No U-Turns and Alabama Slim's is Guilty By Association.

What about some of the other people you used to be with on Murder One? Like where's Kaos, where's...
You know what? A couple of months ago I talked to all of 'em. I talked to Kaos and Top Dog, but they doin' other things now. They still do they rap thing, but they not real serious about it how they was, like the drive how they had back then. I still keep in contact with 'em, everything is good.

What's up with Chunk? I heard him on the new mixtape you just did (see below interview).
Yeah, me and Chunk been talkin' about doin' a album too. He wants me to put a album out on him so we just been talkin' about that. They need to know about Chunk 'cause Chunk was a firespitter... Still is a firespitter. The mixtape is called Get Gone and Lawless Radio-Volume 2 and y'all need to check that out. There's some nice stuff on there. We tryin' to showcase that we got skills out here. Palo Alto shouldn't be forgotten, you know?

RELATED: If you see it, make sure you get your hands on the new mixtape that Sean mentioned in our interview. Real solid all the way through with great tracks from Hoodstarz, Sean T, Chunk, 18 and more. Here's the cover...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

2nd Annual BARS - Bay Area Rap Summit

This should be a huge event for the Bay Area hip hop industry. I've got a lot of respect for a young guy by the name of Danny Dee who put this together because this is exactly the type of thing the Bay needs right now.

Back in the day I would have gotten free VIP passes for something like this in the Bay, but this time I gotta pay 'cause let's be honest, I'm a nobody in the Bay Area hip hop industry these days. At least for now. Once the blog starts gettin' going real strong and more people are checking it out I'll be back on the invite list to all these type of events just like how my old newsletter and magazine granted me access to everything back in the day.

It'll be real nice to be back at another "industry" event. I'm excited about seeing a lot of familiar faces from back in the day (like B-12, Rhythmx, Rob Nonies and more) and re-connecting with them as well as networking my ass off with all the new industry names that I've not met yet. So if you're gonne be there, I'll see ya. I'll be handing out a bunch of flyers promoting STRIVIN' and my business card will be in heavy circulation so say hello.

And if you're interested in going, check out for more information.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bay Area Classics-Volume 1

Every couple weeks I think I might throw some classic Bay tracks up here for everyone to listen to. Some will be very well known songs by very well known artists and others will be lesser known songs by lesser known artists, but all will be good. Here's the first installment:

"Stuck In The Game" - 51.50 (Marin City)
This track is actually just Ryan D. of 51.50 and comes off the group's excellent second album, Crazy Has Struck Again, which was released in 1995 on Arrogant Records. You can probably still find it on ebay or on rapbay. A true must have for a Bay Area collector.

"Goal Tendin'" - E-40 (Vallejo)
This gem is on the Sprung soundtrack from 1997 on Qwest Records. Studio Ton gave 40 a perfect backdrop with his
production here. This is vintage mid-'90s Earl. "...push pause, pump yo' brakes batch / might not be a disc jockey, but I got a little scratch..."

"Thug Thang" - IMP (San Francisco)
I used a picture of the cover for IMP's Ill Mannered Playas album because I wanted people to see the two rappers on this song-Cougnut (RIP) and C-Fresh, but this song is actually from the Notorious Pimps, Playas & Hustlas compilation released in 1997 on Loc-N-Load Records. This is one of my all-time favorite IMP tracks because it's kind of fast, but still ridiculously rugged because of Fresh and Nut's verses and voices. "...What? / You want me to come to yo' hood and feed ya' bullets?..." And I don't know who Steve Jones (the producer) is unless he goes by another name maybe, but this track he gave IMP is perfect.

"Off The Hook" - Seagram (Oakland)
They don't come much realer than Seagram Miller (RIP). Before being gunned down in 1996, Seag released a few albums that were well-received on both the West coast and down South. Seag was really one of the first Bay Area artists to network with the South and this was way back before that was the popular thing to do. Seag had a very confident flow and voice and a very hands on knowledge of the dope game that made his songs all the more realistic. Produced by Terry-T, this song appeared on Seag's posthumous release, Souls On Ice, on Rap-A-Lot Records.

"Mr. And Mrs. Abuser" - Rondo & Crazy Rak (San Francisco)
Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture to go with this song. Rondo & Crazy Rak (RIP) were a pretty much lesser known duo in the Bay back in the '90s so you never really heard too much about them. I remember hearing this song get played on KMEL back in the day on the "Street Soldiers" program and I always thought it was a very poignant, powerful song. This song is from their album, The Abused, which I believe was released in 1994 or 1995 (the CD doesn't say) on High Power Records. Not too much was heard from them after this album. Rondo released a solo album in 1999 I believe that generated some buzz and unfortunately Rak died in a fire a few years back if I remember correctly. If anyone remembers more details about that, please let me know.

There you have it... Volume 1 of my Bay Area classics. More to come soon. I guess these yousendit links die after a while so let me know if you need anything re-upped.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Review: Sean T - Ain't Playin'

Ain't Playin'
Get Gone Records (
Produced by Sean T

As a producer, Sean T pretty much established the Palo Alto sound and was the talented backbone of all the classic Murder One Records releases as well as being a hit maker for hire on countless albums throughout the years. But make no mistake about it, he was no slouch on the mic either as he had a powerful, commanding voice and delivered picture perfect street tales throughout his career. If you don't remember how menacing "All In A Niggas Look" was both musically and lyrically, you need to pull Straight From The Streets out of the vault. A true Bay Area OG in every sense of the term, Sean T returns with his new album, Ain't Playin', on his own Get Gone Records and lets it be known without a doubt that regardless of how long he's been in the game he is still in the upper echelon among Bay Area rappers and producers.

Ain't Playin' opens with a confident Sean T over an anthemic track that sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album. Sean still has that thunderous, slow rolling production sound that made his early work so memorable, but he's also adapted to the times and switches things up well as evidenced on "Punchlines," "We Don't Stop" featuring Keak Da Sneak, "Thas The Spirit" and "We Beastin'" featuring Turf Talk and Sand. "Scream At Me" goes back to the anthem styled sound similar to the intro and provides a solid backdrop for Sean to establish his name for those who may have forgotten and to check those out there who may be exaggerating a little too much in their raps. A memorable section of the song includes these lyrics: "...niggas layin' down fibs 'bout how they live/speakin' on the past tense on what they brothas done did/I wasn't born yesterday/I know who done what and do shit/who got the fake, who got the weight and who move kicks/I ran the streets with murderers and thieves/pullin' all nighters/didn't change my clothes for weeks/the game was good sometimes/but it wasn't always good nigga/got shot at then had to bust caps at a few niggas..."

The women and the clubs should love "In Yo Look" with it's good time lyrics and smooth hook work courtesy of Mike Marshall. New Get Gone Records artist, 18 from Hayward, is featured on "All We Do" and doesn't let the opportunity go to waste as he comes with a confident flow that should keep people looking forward to his upcoming album. "Rowdy" is easily the strongest track to me as Sean T delivers both the hardest beat and lyrics on the entire album. To me, the beat and the smooth, but aggressive vocals show just how hungry Sean T is even though he has already become a prominent figure in the Bay Area rap industry. Sean's quote, "...Sean T be a monumental figure in rap/and if I have to I'll put the whole Bay on my back...," instantly made me proud to have him as one of the people representing the Bay Area as it showed me that he really believes in himself and the other talent we have out here and is willing to do anything to get us to our proper place in the industry. PSD, one of my all-time favorite rappers joins Sean on "Down Ass B" along with Blu Chip. Another flawless, laid back production job from Sean almost takes center stage over the trio's lyrics about finding a women willing to do anything for her man.

Other strong tracks include "We Don't Stop" with a trademark Keak appearance, "Just Don't Get It" which expresses some feelings about the rap industry and "We Beastin'" featuring Sand and a nice showing from Turf Talk.

I've been listening to Sean T since 1993 and the fact that I can review a new album from him in 2005 and be extremely pleased with it is a great thing. His lyrical and production skills still have that certain vibe to them that I remember from back in the day, but he has also made great strides in terms of advancing his trademark sound which makes for a great all-around album.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I Got White Girl For Sale!

The title of this post is the first thing that popped into my head when I came across this picture tonight. Anyway, on to the actual topic...

A lot of times I go on binges when it comes to Bay Area rap. For instance, right now I'm on an E-40 binge which means I'm digging through my archives and pulling out all my E-40 and E-40 related CD's and tapes. Next week I may pull out every SoleSides related piece of music I have. Anyway, at this moment I'm listening to not only the best all-around album to ever come from our friend, Mr. Earl Stevens, but also one of the best to ever come from any Bay Area rapper, which is In A Major Way. I defy you to argue with that. You can't.

For older Bay Area rap fans, In A Major Way is a landmark album, an audio reminder of when the Bay Area scene was at it's best. Who else out there can play this album now and instantly flashback to when it first came out and actually visualize what you were doing when you listened to it? I can clearly see myself in a friend's car driving through Novato, CA listenening to "Fed" with its rumbling Funk Daddy production matched with three perfect verses from 40 and thinking it was the greatest damn song I'd ever heard. To this day it's still one of my favorite tracks. Earl destroys that song!

First let's look at the production on this album, shall we?

Sam Bostic and Mike Mosley
Funk Daddy from the Northwest
Studio Ton
Kevin Gardner and Redwine, also from the Northwest

All he needed was a track or two from K-Lou and 40 would have had every top "mob" producer at the time on one album. Maybe some Ant Banks too, but he wasn't as much of a "mob" producer. There isn't a throwaway beat on the entire album. These are the kind of beats that the Bay needs to get back on and I don't give a fuck what anyone says about "living in the past" and "the Bay needs to move on." What's funny is these same people are the ones who also say that the Bay needs to embrace our own sound and expose it to the masses to blow up. The mob shit we were doing back then IS our sound and is what we should be beating into people's heads until we catch the break that the South got, specifically the Houston area. They did THEIR OWN shit from top to bottom from the sound of their music to the lifestyle they lead. They pushed Houston onto people real heavy and it worked. To me the majority of shit dropping these days from the Bay Area is sounding too much like what other regions are doing. How is that embracing our own sound? I see good things happening for us if we embrace our past and bring that "mob" sound back.

On to the features.

Suga T
Mac Mall
Spice 1
Celly Cel

This is how I like 40's features... Family, labelmates and associates. Shit, he even had Mac Mall on there which, for you youngsters who may not know, was kind of a big deal at the time because that was one of the first collaborations for rival Vallejo neighborhoods, the Crest and the Hillside. Then you throw in some solid, laidback B-Legit ("...take her for a ride in my blue Lex Luthor..."), some vintage Spice 1 and Celly Cel, slap Levitti-the best hook man in the Bay-onto a couple tracks and you got a short, but effective list of features. And don't forget that 40 got Pac on "Dusted 'N' Disgusted" which was a definite album highlight. He kept his features to a minimum and everyone put in some good work, no canned verses from anyone. Even Suga T fit in good on the "radio" track, "Sprinkle Me." And hey, for all the new Bay Area fans, you even get to hear a very young Droop-E rap on "It's All Bad." I was never a big fan of 40's feature choices on his later albums though. Obviously, he was reaching out and trying to draw in a wider range of fans on his more recent albums and sure, some of the features worked and sounded good with 40, but others just seemed forced.
Even the damn cover of In A Major Way was perfect! 40 cooking up a big ass pot of crack with a chunky, old school brick cellphone on the stove!?!?!?!?! Classic!

One thing that saddens me about this album, which deserved to go platinum within a few months of release in 1995, is that it didn't actually earn that plaque until SEVEN years later! That's ridiculous.

In closing, if you're an older Bay Area fan like me, pull all of 40's old shit out (especially In A Major Way) and listen to all of it again. And if you're a youngster who only knows 40's new music, find some of his older works and soak 'em in. E-40 and his older music (along with many other rappers and their past catalogs) defined and made the Bay Area scene that you get to enjoy now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sean Combs Is Delusional

I know this is a Bay Area hip hop blog, but since it's mine I'll do what the hell I want and post about other stuff whenever I want. That being said...

Sean Combs knows how to make hits and stars (if you don't count Da Band or whatever) so I'll give him that. And I guess he's so famous that it might be hard to not have an ego of some size, but this is ridiculous...

from Rolling Stone, Issue 982-September 8, 2005:
Sean "P.Diddy" Combs declared that he will be now be known simply as "Diddy." "I felt like the P was getting between me and my fans," Diddy said on the Today show on August 16th. This is the fourth name change for Combs, who has previously gone by Sean Combs, Puffy and Puff Daddy.

That one quote from him tells me that he's off the deep end and his vision of himself is way out of control.

Ol' Dirty Bastard (RIP) on the other hand had a pass to change his name as often as he wanted. He was a cuckoo mad genius for Christ's sake! As soon as Sean Combs takes a limo to pick up his welfare check with an MTV camera crew filming it all, rushes the stage at a major awards show to declare his love for the children, gets arrested for making terrorist threats, lifts a car off a little girl and gets arrested for wearing a bulletproof vest in California, then and only then, should he be allowed to randomly change his moniker. Until then he's still Sean Combs.

In conclusion: ODB > Sean Combs

The Vallejo Giants

Here's some real good new interviews with E-40 and B-Legit...

E-40 at Fader

B-Legit at Hip Hop Game

(both links via Catchdubs)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bay Area Hip Hop Bloggers In SF Weekly

Much appreciation to Tamara Palmer and the SF Weekly for throwing me in the mix! Feels good to get some shine on a larger level especially since I just started really doing this.



The 707's "Strivin'" actually began as a mid-'90s Yay Area newsletter called No Joke. Publisher Doxx then joined up with local hip hop champion Billy Jam to create the magazine Strivin' in 1997. It folded after just two issues due to lack of advertising revenue, but is now reincarnated online with interviews from the vaults, some of which haven't seen the light of day until now.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Back In The Bay

Fresh and relaxed from vacation, I'm back and am about to start up with the new interviews, reviews, etc... Right now I'm trying to line up interviews with Sean T, Skip Dog of EZSD, The Jacka and AP.9 of the Mob Figaz, C-Fresh of the legendary IMP and MANY MANY more, including a couple biggies that I'll keep quiet about for a minute.

I should have at least one up by the end of this week.

PS - During my vacation I decided to go into a little record store in North Conway, NH which is a mountain town with a population of about 10,000 (mostly burly mountain men, skiiers and retired people) and see what Bay stuff they had in their rap section. Surprisingly enough I found The Jacka, Yukmouth, Turf Talk, Spice 1, Baby Bash, Ya Boy and a few others. Good to see that we're invading the North East.