Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
The Bay Area is a hotbed for hip-hop talent, and has birthed superstars such as Too $hort and E-40 who have undoubtedly impacted the culture, but when compared to cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, The Bay just hasn’t made the same type of noise, or gotten the props that it deserves, on a nationwide scale. But this is not a knock at all on their artists. The Bay has their own hip-hop scene that’s been flourishing for years, where dope rappers have been able to build careers solely off their success moving units in their local market, thanks to strong hometown support from fans, radio stations, record stores, and live venues.
One artist who has been able to put himself on the map outside the region in recent years though is Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B., who has more than solidified himself as one of the Bay Area’s premiere talents coast to coast, thanks to his highly-respected freestyle and battle skills, and his ability to pen hot records, too. Check out his latest mixtape Hella Ratchet, and this murderous freestyle he spit on DJ Kay Slay’s show during a recent trip to New York for proof.
But truth be told, there are a slew of artists in the Bay Area that are killing it right now. Some are starting to get national exposure, while others are bubbling heavily on the local level. So for this special edition of Heavy Rotation, we asked Mistah F.A.B. to pick five songs by Bay Area artists that he’s currently listening to the most, and that we should all have on our radar. And F.A.B. is a highly trusted source for this endeavor. He hosts a bi-monthly, open mic-style showcase called Oakland Live, where all the dopest up-and-coming artists come through to perform, and around-the-way legends like Spice 1, who made a guest appearance at this past week’s event, pop up too. So if anyone knows who’s doing it right now in The Bay, it’s Fabby Davis Jr. Get familiar.
1. Iamsu! ft. Juvenile and Kool John “100 Grand”
Mistah F.A.B.: “Su’s definitely a hot commodity right now in the Bay Area. Him and his whole crew, the HBK Gang, have brought back a signature sound that’s been missing for a few years. They’re definitely the hottest camp in the Bay Area. They have a nice following, and a nice fan base going. The people believe in them, and the support is there from radio, and from the college and high school kids. The kids love ‘em. The girls love ‘em. And they get a lot of burn on the radio. They’re definitely doing their thing. And people are buying into their image. They’re definitely pioneering the resurgence of a Bay Area signature sound on a nationwide scale.
“He’s working hard. He’s got a song with Wiz [Khalifa], ‘Bout Me.’ He’s featured on 2 Chainz new album. He’s a good kid. Very hard worker, very creative. My brother manages him. And we got a lot of records together, like three or four on my new mixtape. Su’s definitely where it is right now.”
2. J. Stalin “Stay Strapped”
“J. Stalin controls the streets. He has a street following that’s impeccable. His company is called LiveWire Records, and they sell the most records. They always top the charts when they drop projects. Their street presence is crazy. They’re real, real street dudes, that just happen to do music. But the beauty in J. Stalin is that he paints a picture of the inner city of West Oakland, California so vividly that you feel as if, just listening to the song, you can smell the neighborhood. The picture is that vivid, that you actually feel like you’re on that corner with him. That’s how vivid he paints the picture of West Oakland life. And if you’re from Oakland, or familiar with that area, then you’re like, ‘Damn, he’s on point with the description of it.’
“He’s the dude. I would love to see someone big, like an MMG, come grab him so they could take his whole movement to another level. That would be insane. Stalin’s a star. He could go. He could definitely go.”
3. The Jacka ft. Freeway “Combine the Coasts”
“The Jacka is my favorite rapper. He’s been around for a long time, but he’s still very current in the Bay Area. He’s my favorite artist, because I know when I listen to The Jacka I’m listening to real stories based off real life experiences, backed by progressive lyrics. He makes the struggle not seem so bad. He could be [rapping] on a song that’s [all about] poverty, but his perception of it is like a prescription. Like a dose of medicine that helps you get through. And his wordplay is definitely underrated. He’s a pioneer in the Bay Area, but he’s still making music on a consistent level. He constantly drops projects. I [recommend] his whole catalog to someone who doesn’t know about him. If there’s something out from The Jacka, I listen.”
4. Philthy Rich “Not Enough Real Niggas Left”
“He’s one of the hardest working people. He’s a part of LiveWire Records, but he definitely has his own thing going. His project Not Enough Real Niggas Left is dope. He’s got everyone on there, from Alley Boy, to 2 Chainz, to Jim Jones. Everybody’s on his project. He’s dope. And his work ethic will make you respect him. I’ve seen where he’s come from, and what he’s done to put him where he’s at now. He’s working hard.”
5. Blast Holiday ft. HD and Mistah F.A.B. “Price of Fame”
“Blast Holiday is incarcerated right now. Lyrically, I think he might be one of the best in the whole Bay Area. When we talk lyrics times actually living the lyrics times untapped talent, he’s definitely a perennial performer. But that’s also the negative side, because when you’re trying to do business, it’s hard to separate the streets and the music industry. And you get caught up in a situation like the one he’s currently in right now, fighting a homicide. It’s serious. And the D.A. is really on his ass, just based off his criminal record. But they are also using some of the lyrics and some of the things [in his music against him]. It’s an unfortunate situation, because he’s a great dude. We’re from the same neighborhood, North Oakland. Ice City, that’s our neighborhood.
“HD is from my same neighborhood, too. They’re both like my little brothers. If you’re looking up HD’s numbers right now, as far as YouTube views, he has a nice following. The streets is real, real hot behind him.
“They stay working. I think with the right situation behind them, they could be [big]. But even without anyone, they’re gonna be okay. They just have to continue to make proper business decisions, and make the music that they’re making. They’re growing, and building.”
For more information on how to be a performer at Oakland Live, hit up firstname.lastname@example.org.