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O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson is the man.
Let’s not forget this.
This era is one in which a rapper can’t just be a rapper. These days they need to do it all. And let’s not forget the archetype. Let’s not forget who helped pioneer the idea that a rapper could express their art any which way they wanted. Ice Cube never dropped albums. He wrote and directed films that just happened to come in album form.
1991 Los Angeles is what we should be talking about. Cube, just 22 years old at the time, already had a platinum album with the Hip Hop equivalent of The Beatles, a platinum solo album even among their bloody split, received veiled threats from the FBI, had his image banned in select stores, and got his first starring role in a major motion picture. There was just something about LA at that time and Cube happened to be one of the few able to articulate it. Bubbling beneath the surface was some of the most prolific and influential sounds the genre has ever seen and one of the most catastrophic events in modern US history. What I’m saying is, before the LA Riots, there was Ice Cube and his art: vocalizing the day-to-day riot he and his city lived before it bubbled over and manifested itself in the form of fire and mass violence visible to the world.
Death Certificate is a movie. Rappers started incorporating skits, storylines, and other cinematic qualities in order to more properly convey a mood and Cube was one of those leading the charge. And it was effective. Just know that when suits talk about the dangers of “gangster rap”, the conversation essentially started with him. And while the label gangster rap devolved into a caricature of itself, it is important to understand the man behind it and the artistic genius it started with. He was on a mission. He had a picture to paint and Los Angeles was the color palette he had to work with. Prior to the riots, those colors looked like police brutality, mistrust in government officials, mistrust in one’s own community leaders, tensions among communities of color, an AIDS epidemic, a crack epidemic, a very palpable gang culture, and the growing prison industrial complex. He took those colors and clashed them with a new, more funky sound that would become a staple of the West Coast; not unlike the clash between the image of sunny California and the ugliness evidently below its surface. He spoke with an urgency, a youthful rage, and an old soul’s clarity. And thinking like a director, he couldn’t just leave it up to his words.
There are two characteristics of Hip Hop that keep it relevant and razor sharp in my eyes. This man excelled at both. For one, it is perhaps the last truly rebellious genre. Cube was one of its first rebels and going into this album from the way it was packaged to the way it was structured, his message is clear. From the get-go the cover features America laid dead in the morgue with Cube standing over it, a hand over his heart. Conceptually, the music itself comes with a storyline split into two chapters: the death side having to do with the above mentioned ills in America, and the life side having to do with what he saw as the solution. Though he didn’t do it politely, never held his tongue for even a second, and was never afraid to be imperfect. He embodied the menace that America created and was effective in getting America’s attention where others failed. The other characteristic of Hip Hop that keeps it thriving artistically is the fact that it has no boundaries. It can morph and bend into just about any form and while simultaneously releasing an album that sounds like a movie, Cube starred in Boyz N The Hood, a film that looked just like his music. Is he a rapper? Is he an actor? Cube helped make it so that those questions are irrelevant. He was just an artist giving a voice to the voiceless any way he could.
“Don’t wanna go out like Rodney King”, Cube rapped.
America has a lot of demons swept under the rug. Those demons often take the form of people, of words, or of actions and every once in awhile we get that clear glimpse. Before social media made it an everyday occurrence, racial injustice within the legal system all of a sudden had documented proof blind to no one. Yet it still made no difference, bursting the bubble of the American Dream on the world’s stage. Then in the early 90’s America’s demons took the form of the city of Los Angeles bursting into flames. However, before then, they came in the form of Ice Cube’s words, his sounds, his demeanor, and his imagery. He’s the man. And all I’m saying is some how, some way, that man managed to say what so many of us wish we could say out loud. Some how, some way, that man managed to use his art to call out the system and rigged it to where he made the system pay him for it.
Now that’s gangster.
Happy 26th Birthday, Death Certificate!
What if I told you Hip Hop is in another golden age? Every generation of music is an answer to the generation before it. The divide between tastes of the young kids coming up and the new old heads is proof a changing of the guard took place. This is Hip Hop’s first true Internet era. I think about how Napster ushered in the 21st Century by obliterating the music industry; more or less giving the world access to every piece of music ever recorded. I think about that and wonder what kind of effect that single event had on the way music in the 21st Century evolved.
Hip Hop just isn’t the same anymore. We can literally all agree on that. And Good Kid M.A.A.D City is one of the most important markers of its evolution. This shit is dope. Years from now we’ll talk about it like a myth. I mean let’s talk about how, before the release, Kendrick shed tears on stage as Dr. Dre, Snoop, and Game passed him the torch. Like a ritual. West Coast alumni of the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s all gathered around this kid to to tell the world he’s next. This kid who sat on his father’s shoulders and watched ‘Pac perform on the set of California Love was given the biggest shoes in the world to fill. And he did that thing.
Something really interesting happened to Hip Hop. The death of the CD is part of a ripple effect that started with Napster. This is a playlist world now. And the artistry changed with that. Our era is one of blurred lines. This is the “get you a _____ that can do both” era. There’s no such thing as genres. There’s no such thing as regions. There’s no such thing as rules or labels basically. We don’t know who’s rapping, we don’t know who’s singing, we can’t tell who’s from where, and stylistically just about anything goes. And as the young artists break every traditional convention of Hip Hop and the old heads reminisce about what things used to be, we got us a rapper that does both. Good Kid M.A.A.D City was the start of the masterful tightrope act that is Kendrick Lamar’s career. How can one rapper sound like an East Coast artist like Nas, a West Coast artist like Ice Cube, a Midwest artist like Eminem, or down South artists like Outkast? How is it that he has the message 80’s Hip Hop fans felt the genre lost, the grit 90’s Hip Hop fans feel is missing, and the flash of 00’s Hip Hop? All of that and he speaks the language of the youth today.
The industry isn’t the same. It broke apart and right this moment we are witnessing it come back together as something new entirely. And I look at Dr. Dre as almost a Steve Jobs figure in Hip Hop in that he comes out every few years to reveal his latest product; one that goes on to revolutionize the industry. And Kendrick Lamar is like the latest iPhone.
Happy Birthday to Good Kidd M.A.A.D City!
I mean that less in the sense of this October heat our Indian summers provide us and more in the sense of the general spirit felt. They found gold here. And from then on it’s as if this was a place one could always find gold in. “Staying true to yourself,” I told a customer when she asked what True means. I was only a couple of days into the job and unsure if that was actually the right answer. But, given the shop’s 21 year-run in a city being gutted of everything true to it, whether or not that was the intended meaning,
it is a meaning so rightfully earned.
The city not being what it was is a song we all sing in tandem. For those that used to be young and those that currently are, the shop retains a rare familiar feeling. There was gold out here and the natives could tell you just how dug up and excavated the city feels as a result. I could tell you where to find some if I wanted to, though. When I say it’s hot out, I mean in the sense that there’s a fire under so many of us. I believe every action we take echoes through time and there’s a certain do-it-yourself spirit out here that hums through every body. It’s damn near a prerequisite to have a hustle not unlike those pans in the river sifting through rocks, is all I’m saying. And the city is scattered with creatives: all with the common goal of making something out of nothing.
Gold doesn’t rust nor does it tarnish. And there are certain characteristics of where we live that, even among this rapid change, just can’t be shaken. I think about the ground we walk on and who populated it. It was Too $hort selling cassettes out of his trunk in the 80’s because he wanted to do it himself. It was Allen Ginsberg howling from his typewriter in the 50’s, daring to think for himself. It was Harvey Milk daring to be himself in the 70’s and Tupac Shakur daring to risk himself, just him against the world, in the 90’s. It was James Baldwin touching down to meet with Huey Newton in the 60’s, daring to free themselves while just a few neighborhoods over, artists like Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia dared to express themselves. Why so much gold here of all places? That I don’t know. But I do know I see a certain glow in the generation walking that same ground today.
True birthed a culture in 1996.
Streetwear didn’t exist in the Haight until then. We just took matters into our own hands, per tradition I guess. Making something where there was nothing, today the neighborhood is home to a prominent streetwear scene and a handful of shops both national and international that got their start on True shelves. As any young knucklehead that wants to make something for himself and of himself would feel, I am honored to play a role in this. While navigating, documenting, and taking part in the creative scene, I often find myself searching for gold. And the shop is proof that there’s still some scattered about if you’re looking for it. Stay true to yourself.
That’s an idea that just won’t tarnish.
My name’s T and I’ll be blogging for True from now on, stay tuned!
State your stage name and profession, for the record.
Teeko – producer / dj / musician / innovator
How long have you been DJing, and do you remember your first DJ gig?
Somewhere around 1997-98 I started rolling with bay area mobile dj crew “Divide & Conquer”. After being introduced to the crew by some members I was friends with in high school, I started rolling with them on the weekends setting up speakers and lighting systems. It wasnt until late 98 or 99 that they started letting me open up the events as a dj. I think the very first time was a small family party at a restaurant in top of the hill Daly City. I was terrified! Shoutout to my OG crew for giving me a shot and letting me get my feet wet!
What’s your favorite DJ era in the Bay Area and why?
Of the past – 1997-2003 – the battle scene was at its peak and the music of the time was still hype – digital djing hadn’t come into play yet so the scene was relatively untapped. You had to really want it and put that work in, there were no shortcuts (only Shortkut)
But really Im looking forward to the next era!!! I see some emerging djss that integrate the tech with their own styles and its starting to come together in the ways I had envisioned. And of course, I plan on coming out with some ideas I’ve been working on myself with the hopes to inspire.
“I don’t really feel like what I do is DJing anymore and as an artist I reserve the right to change my name for stylistic purposes.”
You dropped DJ from your nom de plume a while back — break down why you are known as Teeko these days instead of DJ Teeko?
Yea I decided to drop “Dj” for two main reasons – one is that I started feeling the over-saturation of the dj culture and felt like it was becoming less respected. Secondly, for me personally I started feeling like I wanted to be known as more than just a DJ; as a producer and musician. So it made sense to me to just use my nickname and set myself apart. I don’t really feel like what I do is DJing anymore and as an artist I reserve the right to change my name for stylistic purposes.
You’re on stage in front of all your heroes and you gotta rock a 5 minute all vinyl set to prove your worthiness. What records do you choose?
Fortunately, I’ve had a little chunk of my own music pressed on wax – so I’d grab all that shit and representa! Lately I’m really in the direction of pushing myself as a producer/musician so when I do my performance sets its mostly all my own productions and exclusives.
You are a constant innovative creator and put out groundbreaking content on a regular basis. Talk about some of your current and upcoming projects, and maybe even touch upon some past experiences in the last couple of years that have gotten you to where you are today.
First off thank you for the respecognition. Currently I’ve been working on the new T3 (Slum Village) album along with my bro Ruckazoid. It’s such an honor and Im extremely grateful to have been recognized by someone who I’ve been a fan of for so long. He discovered me during last years Playlist Sessions at Jazzy Jeff’s when we were recording the “Chasing Goosebumps” album. There was a night in the “Wave Cave” (aka Jeff’s movie theatre) where I had set up a studio and I was IG snapping a bunch of clips of beats I had been making there. I guess T3 had started following me via Jeff and he messaged me saying he wanted some joints for his new album. I sent all the instrumentals from me and Rucks BeatDiscovery “The Findings Vol. 1 and 2” (available on wax at TouchingRecords.com). We recently released his first single as a teaser check that shit and support that – i’m really hype for him to bless the scene and put it down for Dilla and Baatin!
For more on BeatDiscovery the VST and albums go here (we released 3 albums using this revolutionary sequencer, all recorded live)…
Also, this past summer I had the opportunity to tour the US with the great DJ Shadow. Really amazing show and he’s definitely someone I’ll continue to support as he cares so much about the culture. Dude puts in work! We had a great time and all the shows were amazing. I really enjoyed opening up for him and being able to do my thing the whole way. For the most part, I was new to the crowds and really won them over playing all the styles I produce from boom bap, funk, turnt bangers and all the in betweens. Really great open minded crowd who just wanted the dope! Much love to my man Shadow for having me. I would close each set by performing a live version of my remix of “Best Foot Forward” from his Entroducing anniversary release. Check the recorded version here…
After our last show in Nashville, I headed straight to the airport for a flight to Philly for Jazzy Jeffs 2017 Playlist Retreat. Such an honor again to be invited and not only as a guest but this year myself and Ruckazoid were presenting BeatDiscovery. It was amazing to say the least. Like the previous year, we had another music challenge and I was hype to find that Dres from Black Sheep was on my team (along with DJ Jaycee and Maimouna aka MuMu Fresh). We made a crazy joint that will be released soon along with all the others (super heat in there!!). Dres and I continued to stay in touch and actually have been working since. He has a new mixtape in the works that myself and Ruck both produced on. Def look for that!
Favorite burrito joint?
Not only for the food (which is top notch) but the love and compassion shown for his community and family makes Papalote a top pick for me! I tell people that I was raised on his salsa – and I was! Every month back at Zebra Records on Filmore, Mr. E would bring all the djs chips and salsa!! My dude!!
You travel, like a lot. You just had a couple of healthy runs while rockin’ Jazzy Jeff’s “Playlist Retreat” in between. Please share some insight on how to stay healthy on the road and what it takes to stay focused and productive while being so busy and traveling.
Generally I try to keep it righteous when it comes to intake. On the road it’s definitely a bit tricky. I stick to lots of water and since i’m a vegetarian I like to pack dry snacks like nuts and chia bars. My rider tends to be consistent with my diet. My friend recently hipped me to this app called “Happy Cow” which locates all the nearest vegan/veggie options while on the road. I see health and productivity hand in hand, when my health is up i’m able to maintain high productivity levels and continue to heal the game. 😉
Curry or Kobe? Rane or Vestax? Soundcloud or Mixcloud (or none of the above)?
Curry, Rane, aaaaaaannnnnnnnd i’ll pass.
Shout outs to your folkers, and where folks can find you on social media.
So blessed to have so many amazing people around me who keep me on point – much love to my G Ruckazoid, Starship Connection (B.bravo), Mugpush, 4onefunk, B. Lewis, Diamond Ortiz, Jazzy Jeff and all my Playlist Retreat fam, T3, Dres and all my real ones who been on the wavestrength. Let’s keep riding!
Socials = ayything @TeekoMusic
Congrats to the Bay Area’s very own Miles Medina, winner of the first ever “Goldie Awards” that went down in NY last night. Peep his intro set below and his submission below that. A beast on the turntables is an understatement, as all of us here in the Bay already know…and now the world does.
State your stage name and profession for the record.
My stage name is Truthlive and I do a handful of things professionally, but for this interview it’s probably most relevant I’m a DJ.
How long have you been DJing? Do you remember your first DJ gig?
I first started as a self taught DJ when I turned 13. I took a long hiatus from DJ’ing to fully immerse myself in creating and releasing original music. I’ve come full circle as my current primary focus is once again DJ’ing. I’ve mos def come a long way considering my first gig was during my Freshman year in High School for a birthday party.
What’s your favorite DJ era in the Bay Area and why?
My favorite era in the Bay Area DJ scene is now. I think it’s an incredibly exciting time when tremendously creative and talented people are constantly given new tools and technological improvements to open up the possibilities and push the boundaries of what it means to “DJ.” Social media allows creatives to easily share their ideas and contributions. It feels very communal and cooperative, with a healthy sense of collaborative competition. It’s like people keep building on top of each other’s most recent breakthroughs to improve the baseline standards of the craft. The overall talent pool in the Bay is unrivaled in my opinion, in terms of both technical skills and diversity of taste. I’m frequently blown away by the things people come up with and share.
You’re on stage in front of all your heroes and you gotta rock a 10 minute set to prove your worthiness. What songs do you choose?
Wow. Fuck. 10 minutes on stage in front of my heroes to prove my worthiness, what do I play? It would depend on the nature of the event, so I can’t really say what songs considering I’m not a genre or sub-scene specific DJ. But I do know I’d go for some of the unexpected, semi-forgotten, underplayed feel good gems. Not too abstract or self indulgent, but the real shit that moves the casual crowd as well as the people emotionally invested in the music. My gut says James Brown, Depeche Mode, Outkast, Kendrick, Wuki, Little Dragon, Dilla, SpydaTek, Tom Budin, Prince, and a Baysik Moombah edit are clamoring to be blended together from left field.
Rebel Pop Radio has has become a bit of an institution here in the Bay. Talk about the history and influence y’all have had and what it means to be a part of such an important outlet in the Bay Area DJ scene.
That’s quite a compliment to call our radio show (Rebel Pop Radio) an institution. It’s sincerely an honor to be able to curate, produce, and ultimately invite such amazing people to contribute to the show. We air on Saturday nights on WiLD 94.9 locally and iHeartRadio globally.
We, my partner Cutso and I, have been at it for over 2+ years now. It’s been semi-surreal to go from my original pitch to a very controlled and corporate entity, to being so well received today. The concept is to embody DJ culture, club culture, break new music, and refresh classics. Which really means cover all ground, hopefully in an interesting, fun way. Vibe, not genre. It’s truly a HELLA open format interpretation of guiding Top 40/Pop familiarity along with lots of remixes and curveballs outside of the safe zone. The weekly guests and resident DJ’s we’ve had are so dynamic, it really makes the show unique week-to-week, yet easily digestible at the same time. It’s a privilege our bosses at the radio station allow us to step outside the general confines of traditional programming, as long as we hold it down with good selections/mixes. It’s been incredible how well it’s gone thus far and how it opens doors at major venues to provide similarly dynamic programming co-branded under the Rebel Pop banner.
To me, community is everything. Rebel Pop allows a space and forum to commercially appreciate and better expose the range of talents and music for Bay DJ culture, and DJ culture at large, on a mega iconic platform. Let the brightly talented lights of others shine. It’s a blessing to do it.
“To me, community is everything. Rebel Pop allows a space and forum to commercially appreciate and better expose the range of talents and music for Bay DJ culture, and DJ culture at large, on a mega iconic platform. Let the brightly talented lights of others shine. It’s a blessing to do it.”
Favorite burrito joint?
Shit, I know it’s cliche and often alcohol induced, but I love El Faralito burritos. There’s so many good choices, probably “better” places for the snob types or long time true SF born and raised in the city natives, but I’m partial to El Faralito… for burritos specifically.
Curry or Kobe?
Ha! Trolling me. Steph or Kobe? Of course Steph! I mean, Kobe’s career was amazing. He’s easily one of the most talented players of all-time with an unrivaled will power and determination. He’s probably the second best Two Guard/Shooting Guard of all-time. But where most saw 60 points in his farewell game, I saw 50 shot attempts!! Who in the fuck does that?! Even in that context. Disgusting and shameful to the game in my opinion. The guy liked scoring, more than winning, otherwise he probably gets 7, 8, 9 rings, not 5. And I’m not knocking the 5– huge achievement, but I really feel Kobe actually underachieved in terms of potential and legacy by being such a selfish decision maker and bad teammate. He’s the greatest ball hog of all-time, in the ultimate team sport. Fuckery.
Steph on the other hand, is the consummate “team first” guy and without question is the greatest shooter, ever. Catch and shoot, self created off the dribble, range, around the basket, mid-range floaters, free throws, both hands, after contact, etc. He’s unreal. And it’s all technique and self made development. He’s not bigger, stronger, faster, born physically superior like most of the other greats. That shit is work and living inspiration. And Dubs up, Beat LA, off top, automatic, duh.
What’s one of your favorite places to go unplug and unwind on the West Coast?
I don’t do it often enough, but I love to go to Bodega Head to unwind. It recharges me. I like it windy, sorta overcast, and less populated. It’s beautiful. I’m also a semi high maintenance fancy hotel staycation room service and do nothing type. I love hotels. Sleep, eat, lay around, fuck (hopefully), watch movies, shut off the outside world for a bit.
What’s a current favorite album you’re listening to that you think you’ll still be listening to 10 years from now and why?
Again, maybe cliche, but hella real– DAMN. I’m 1,000% certain I’ll still be listening in 10 years. I initially lightweight hated on Kendrick when Section 80 dropped. I like bold opinions, but don’t do for blog buzz from internet critics or sensationalized hyperbole. Once I truly took it all in though?! Game over. He’s the truth. DAMN is such important art to me. To be able to mass appeal in the moment, but not dick ride a sound, still take risks, and be authentic to yourself while making relevant insightful commentary, is special. He’s on the GOAT trajectory in my opinion. It’s like NWA, Outkast, Nas, Eminem, Public Enemy, Freestyle Fellowship/CA underground shit, and lots of Southern bass/boom got blended up in a mixer of creation. Dude is the voice of the generation. Dare I call him the 21st century Pac with much better technical skills? Yep. I’m sayin it.
Drop some shout outs and where folks can find you on social media.
Yo, you can find me @truthlive universally across social platforms and @rebelpopradio as well.