Hip-Hop Fridays: Part 2 Of Exclusive Q & A With Davey D
Today we continue our exclusive Q& A with one of the most influential opinion leaders in Hip-Hop Davey D.
Cedric Muhammad: Being based in the West do you see substantive differences between the East Coast and West Coast when it comes to the Hip-Hop music industry?
Davey D: Definitely.. Here in the Bay Area its known as the land of Game.. Meaning people are all about Hustling.. They pride themselves on that and hence they do whatever it takes to out Hustle the system. When it comes to the Music Biz a lot of cats made up their minds real early that they weren't gonna get ripped off by the industry. So almost every major artist from this area including Hammer, Too Short, Master P, Digital Underground, E-40, Hiero, Mystik Journeymen, Living Legends, Solesides, Rappin 4Tay etc all came into the game with their own independent record labels... They figured out that they could make more money selling 10 thousand copies from the trunk of their car as opposed to 500 thousand signed to a major that collects 90%..
Many cats saw the record game as a variation of the dope game and applied the same principals in terms of making a profit. The Bay also recognized the importance of establishing and maintaining their own identity. Very few cats looked toward the early dominance of New York rappers and tried to be like them. Bay Area cats saw it as a mark of pride to keep their accents, slang, style of dress and overall flava when doing rap. At first cats from NY would hear a guy like Too Short or Hammer and say its not 'real Hip Hop.. Guys like Hammer and Too Short would respond It may not be 'real Hip Hop but cats from the hood love it and its getting me paid... Most artists never waivered on this aspect..
Finally from an musical tip, the Bay also recognized and embraced its own uniqueness and musical heritage.. Funk played a major part in shaping Hip Hop. Cats was strutting and pop locking as far back as 1967 in the Bay Area and that became a foundation for the early dance scene. There was a vibrant DJ culture early on which spawned hundreds of crew.. In the Filipino community along there were more then 150 groups which gave rise to modern day turntable wizards like Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike etc..
At the same time you had a viable and aggressive college and community radio scene which sought to establish itself and be better then its commercial counterparts. No one can doubt the importance of community and college stations like KPOO 89.5 or KZSU in Stanford or KALX in Berkeley..KPFA in Berkeley, KSJS in San Jose, KUSF in San Francisco.. In 1989 we formed the Bay Area Hip Hop Coalition as a way to unite all the Hip Hop college shows.. Today we have more then 60 shows on 20 stations with more then 170 hours of Hip Hop programming.. At any given moment there are at least two Hip Hop shows on a Bay Area radio station. The Bay is the place that gave birth to the Wake Up Show with Sway and King Tech.. Its also home to radio station KMEL which went on to be the prototype for stations like Power 106 in LA and Hot 97 in New York.. from 1991- 1995 KMEL was recognized as the most influential Hip Hop station in the country.. At the same time some of our college stations and shows including mine on KALX were awarded most influential Hip Hop college station or show in the country..
Some well known artists started out doing Hip Hop radio.. Money B, DJ Fuze, Timex Social Club The Conscious Daughters, producer KutMast Kurt and Paris were all doing radio before and while they had out albums..MC Hammer took it to a whole other level by conceiving and bringing about a program called Street Soldiers which was a call in talk show for troubled youths and gang bangers to call in and get help.. That show is now hosted by Dr Joe Marshall and Margret Norris of the Omega Boys Clubs.. Over the years they have had all sorts of artists like Big Herm Lewis and others to come in and guest host with them..
Cedric Muhammad: Do you think there is a difference in the political consciousness and level of activism of the Hip-Hop community on either coast?
Davey D: The Bay is very active.. This is home to the Black Panthers, the Free Speech Movement, the Peace Movement and the Black Cultural Arts Movements.. Many of the people who were a part of those early ground breaking eras are still around and have stayed in touch with the Hip Hop scene.. It was old Black Panthers like sista Kilu who took artists like Paris, Boots and writers like Adissa the Bishop under her wings and gave them political game. Brothers like Marvin X work with rappers.. Brother Rafique is father to Muhammed Bilal of Midnight Voices .. That whole click gave birth to the Nu Upper Room which was in many ways a continuation of the Black Cultural Arts Movement.. where education , conscious raising and Hip Hop performances were combined.. This was one of the first places where you saw what we now know as Hip Hop Theater. The Nu Upper Room was one of the few places where everyone from the Last Poets to KRS came through.. Before a performance the audience was treated to an intense Q &A session by rappers Will Power, Muhammed or Sister Iesha.. It was here that I saw KRS get jammed up for doing a Nike commercial. Those Q &A sessions were more exciting then the shows...
Boots of the Coup as far back as 1988 had established the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective which was a consortium of rappers and spoken word artists who came together to build up consciousness as well as perform.. Last year Boots personally trained 35 rappers and help lead them to fight against Cali's Juvenile Crime Bill which was called Prop 21.These guys would rent a flatbed truck and go from neighborhood to neighborhood doing Guerilla Concerts.
There are numerous Hip Hop organizations that go out and make things happen in a major way including the Black Dot Collective, The 2Pac One Nation Committee, Third Eye Movement, Youths Speak and SOUL to name a few .. Artists like Michael Franti of Spearhead continuously hold the flame to institutions and folks who are unjust. For example, every year Franti releases an album that focuses around a cause.. One year it was the prison industrial complex, another year it was AIDs and another year it was focused on political prisoners like Mumia.. One could write an entire book on Hip Hop consciousness here in the Bay.. A lot of cats strive to do things.. What I mentioned is just a tip of the iceberg and a very small part.. Hip Hop being used as a tool to bring about social change is very much on people's minds out here and is aggressively being explored..
Cedric Muhammad: Was there ever a "golden era" in Hip-Hop in terms of consciousness? If so, why do you think it ended?
Davey D: The Golden Era ended because it got co-opted. While many of us were talking about being Afrocentric we all forgot to do two things.. One was stay in touch and active with relevant community based organizations.. and two we forgot to take control of the mass media.. We didn't start up our own outlets nor did we position ourselves within existing structures.. Almost overnight Hip Hop's golden age was extinguished when magazines and radio stations stopped covering and playing the Public Enemy's and X-Clans.. Gangsta Rap replaced that conscious vibe. Once the industry discovered that suburban white kids liked the gangsta material an economic incentive formed which all but insured that negative material would be the order of the day..
Friday, March 23, 2001