From the soundtrack of an Apple commercial to the stage at GAMH


When Steve Jobs calls, you answer. This was certainly the case for songstress, Yael Naim, whose folk ditty “New Soul” was handpicked by Jobs to soundtrack a landmark commercial for Apple’s first generation MacBook Air in 2007. As the company demonstrated the laptop’s sleek and simple design, Naim’s lyrics took the spotlight. “I’m a new soul / I came to this strange world / Hoping I could learn a bit ’bout how to give and take,” she sang over a bright and bubbling melody, before breaking into a catchy chorus of la la las. The world was hooked.

Naim went from virtually unknown to global sensation in a matter of days, as “New Soul” rocketed to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The self-titled album from whence it came received critical acclaim across the continents, hitting #11 in France and charming listeners with its sweetly bilingual discography, including a uniquely pared-down version of Britney Spears’ hit single, “Toxic.”

Born in France in 1978 to Jewish Tunisian parents, Naim has long heralded a diverse array of inspirations. After moving to Israel at age four, she became enamored of pop music upon discovering the Beatles and soon fell in love with Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell as well. She cites all these artists as some of her earliest and strongest influences.

Before long, young Naim was performing with Winton Marsalis and backing musicians in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv. She started her first band, The Anti-Collision, while fulfilling her required military service for Israel, returned to Paris at age 21 to pursue a career in music, and soon snagged a record deal with EMI. Her first album, released simply under the name Yael, debuted in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2007 that Naim got her big break.

Naïm attributes much of her success to a very strong creative and romantic partnership with West Indian musician and producer David Donatien, who has collaborated with her on her past three albums. “When the Steve Jobs thing happened, it was amazing because we didn’t imagine this kind of impact,” Naim has said. “We were still sitting in my little apartment in Paris. We didn’t have any money, anything. It was a homemade album.”

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Artist Spotlight: C.W. Stoneking


C.W. Stoneking is a born entertainer. Dressed in all white, he emerges onstage in a black polka-dot bowtie with slicked-back hair, looking like a blonde Pee Wee Herman with hand tattoos. Surrounded by a full band complete with a horn section and sexy backup singers in spangly outfits, Stoneking flashes one of his signature showstopping smiles and grabs the mic. He talks and laughs and jokes with the audience, telling tales of voodoo and vaudeville, African tribal mythology and the history of yodeling, in his strange Australian/American drawl.

The showmanship is disarming, but when he starts to sing, Stoneking’s voice is nothing like anyone could have expected. It is low and scratchy and woeful. It is Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bukka White, Big Bill Broonzy. It is the blues, as if packed into a time capsule and siphoned all the way here to 2016.

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Click the poster for show info

Born and raised in Australia’s remote Northern Territory, Stoneking learned to love music from a very young age, thanks to his American schoolteacher father, a fan of 1920s and 1930s blues. The genre provided a welcome alternative to the ’80s pop music that dominated radios at the time, and young Christopher (as Stoneking is known to family and friends) consumed it voraciously and from every angle: gospel and ragtime, calypso and hillbilly, boogie woogie and hokum, Chicago and Memphis and Mississippi Delta. By the time he entered adolescence, Stoneking had taught himself to play the banjo, the guitar, and a prized vintage dobro from 1931—the same instrument that classic blues legends of that era used to play.

By 13 he was performing with local bands and busking around town, developing his skills as both a serious musician and a lighthearted performer. In 1998, after moving to Melbourne, he privately released a self-titled album of covers and started a band called C.W. Stoneking & the Blue Tits. The band broke up less than two years later after the death of mandolin player Charlie Bostock, but Stoneking soon went back to playing solo, doubling down on his classic early blues sound.

READ MORE ON SF GATE

 

The Bay Beat Vol. 8 – Call Me Ace talks moving to the Bay, his artistic growth Out the Wilderness


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Bringing The Bay Beat back with a brand new interview!

Benjamin Cohn: Can you introduce yourself for anyone who may not know?
Call Me Ace: What’s good everybody! Call Me Ace - I got what you need, check me out! Haha.

BC: How long have you been in the Bay Area and what has your impression been so far?
Ace: I moved out here in summer 2014 to get my MBA at UC Berkeley, and I’d be lying if I tell you I ain’t love it here! Most my family and friends are still out East, so that part’s tough. But this weather man…also, just the fact that everybody’s mad laid back here. Being here also has given me more exposure to new experiences, lifestyle, and people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I can’t complain at all.

BC: Where did you grow up? What are some of the biggest differences and similarities to California?
Ace: I grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, man, which is much more like Oakland than it is Berkeley. So when I go to Oakland I get that small feeling that I’m back home. And of course, what you see going on in parts of Oakland you also see happening back in Bridgeport, too. The biggest differences I’ve seen though would be the slang, attitude, and music styles. The Bay is it’s own unique bubble – I’m still learning about it.

BC: You took 5 years off from making music. You’ve said that you aren’t picking up where you left up but rather starting over completely. Why is that distinction important?
Ace: Back in the day, even though my nickname had always been Ace, my stage name was “Tha Pyro” - a “fire spitter,” as it were, haha. When I look back on what I rapped about though, while there were small glimpses of deep content, despite my thinking that I was being different, I was really just rapping about the same ol’ things as everyone else, maybe just with bigger words or a more detailed rhyme schemes.

Coming back now into music, I’m starting over. I’m not bringing old “Pyro” tracks into my track lists (even though with some searching, you could definitely still find some of that stuff online). Instead, it’s a new leaf, new mindset, new perspectives. I’ve grown a lot in those 5 years – my life is literally not the same as it was in many different ways. That’s why I’m saying that my goal isn’t to pick up where I left off or try and make up for “loss time.” For me, this isn’t just a whole different chapter. It’ s a whole different book. A sequel, rather than just “chapter 26.” That’s how I’m treating my resurgence in hip-hop.

BC: How does it feel to be back? How has the reception been?
Ace: It feels great man! People that knew me back then called me Ace anyway, so the name change wasn’t crazy, and they love the music still which is great. People that didn’t know me before are also feeling the vibes and songs I’m putting out too. I’m still someone who cares about what I’m saying and how, and that’s what’s been receiving the most positive feedback. That’s the gift. People also have given me great feedback on how I speak about various aspects of my life, from my past experiences to my faith. It makes things much realer for the listener, allows them to engage with me more, and, in a sense, make it feel like we’re having a dialogue about it all. Definitely inspires me to make more.

BC: 5 years later, you must have a much different view about a lot in regards to music and the music business. What do you hope to achieve this time around?
Ace: Oh for sure – being in business school also helped to give me a more professional perspective about how to engage in the music world. From having my own label – Light Armor Music – to not taking shortcuts around high-quality music. I definitely understand and appreciate the business side of music much more than when I was a 19-20 year old just trying to write, record, and throw in the blind.

At the same time though, I’m not doing this to become famous and make a lot of money. I don’t need to make music to put bread on the table. I don’t have to depend on my art as my “one shot to having a successful life.” Not having that burden is very freeing. It allows me to really be an artist, to express myself the way I want, and use my gift in the way that I feel called to do. I love to entertain, encourage, and inspire, and that’s what I intentionally hope to achieve this time around.

BC: And lastly, can you tell us about your upcoming project? The Out the Wilderness series, why did you call it that? What is this project all about?
Ace: Yea man. From a logistical standpoint, the Out the Wilderness project is a monthly series of track releases, and at the end there will be a final full project available. Conceptually, “Out the Wilderness” means two things to me: 1) simply, five years of “not creating” has been somewhat of a wilderness, so making music is coming out of that environment, and 2) moving from New York/Metro Area to the Bay Area and leaving my friends and family behind has made these past couple years also feel like a different type of wilderness in a way. Now though that I’m about to graduate from business school, get married, and start a new career, there’s just this huge sense of transitions and new phases that I’m experience in this season. This project is me expressing all of that.

BC: Thank you for your time! Any final/last thoughts you want included?
Ace: I’m a fan of real support and conversations, so if you’re feeling the music and want to stay up-to-date with me, please join me newsletter (http://eepurl.com/bYii1b) and follow me on the Instagram (@acexpatt) and Facebook (Call Me Ace) And we can stay connected!

Purple Passion Playlist – 52 Tracks from Rihanna, Maxwell, 112, The Pharcyde, Kehlani & more!


Purple Pam (aka DJ Pam The Funkstress) is going to be taking over Slim’s for the Purple Passion Dance Party 7/29! Get ready for a night of singing, dancing, and well… more dancing. It’s Purple Pam, so naturally, there’ll be plenty of Prince in the mix, but this time, she’s bringing you some current faves and throwback jams, too. Think, Rihanna back to back with Salt-N-Pepa. Yeah. We’ll see you there.

Get a taste of what Purple Pam has in store for the Purple Passion Dance Party with a playlist curated by The Funkstress herself.

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Robert Ellis brings experimentation blended with a knowledge of what works


Born and raised in Houston, Texas, a town steeped in classic country music and the culture that surrounds it, Robert Ellis has been performing since his teens. Now at the ripe old age of 27, the singer/songwriter and guitarist can look back at a career that already spans over a decade, starting out in 2005 under the moniker Eyes Like Lions. In many ways, Ellis’ musical journey is a classic tale of growth, of experimentation, of creating and dismantling the various identities that we all create and dismantle as we mature.

But one thing is clear: Ellis is better now than he’s ever been. His latest album, the boldly eponymous Robert Ellis, is a clear indication of a young musician coming fully into his own, finding a solid sense of identity and basking within it, allowing for all the discordant parts of himself to float and settle. The self-produced record is number four for Ellis, one that critics have called “his finest work to date.” With the help of his trusty lead guitarist, Kelly Doyle, who has been recording with Ellis since 2011’s breakout LP Photographs, and a variety of other musical collaborators, the album incorporates Ellis’s signature country-folk sound with a wide variety of instrumental experimentation, from MIDI keyboards and ambient noise to synths and string sections.

Read More on SF Gate

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Cold Summer Days Playlist


“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Mark Twain might not have said it, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Here’s a playlist for those cold summer days featuring a few artists that will be playing Slim's & GAMH soon (and a few that aren't, but are still worth hearing).

Interested in these artists? Browse their shows here - #coldsummer.

An Evening of Immersive Audio-Visual Entertainment with Stellamara


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And now for something completely different! Get ready, San Francisco, for an evening of immersive audio-visual entertainment with internationally acclaimed electro-acoustic music ensemble Stellamara, belly dancer extraordinaire Zoe Jakes, and avant-pop mastermind SORNE. All on their way to perform at this year’s Lighting in a Bottle festival at the end of May, these three one-of-a-kind acts will team up at the Great American Music Hall on May 22nd for a performance guaranteed to stimulate all the senses.

After over a decade of recording and performing an elegant blend of folk and classical music borrowing from a diverse range of traditions, Stellamara stands at the forefront of modern world music. Led by vocalist, composer, producer, and percussionist Sonja Drakulich, the group seamlessly blends the modern with the medieval. Drakulich’s haunting vocals evoke mist rising over the verdant plains of Westeros, bolstered by a profusion of rare instrumentals from bandmates Gari Hegedus, Evan Fraser, Sean Tergis, and Dan Cantrell. From the mandocello to the jaw harp to the n’goni to the oud, Stellamara’s musical artillery is one of the most impressive you’ll see on a single stage.

Born of Serbian and Hungarian heritage and raised in Los Angeles, the ethereal Drakulich found her passion early in life when she began studying classic Eastern European and Balkan singing as a child.

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Imarhan brings a new sound that is funky in all the right ways


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The Tuareg people live across the hot sands of the vast Saharan desert, in a land many might deem unlivable. A subset of the North African Berber ethnic group, the Tuareg are a nomadic pastoralist community known for moving constantly across national borders in Niger, Mali, and Algeria.

While much of the Tuareg music that reached Western audiences in the past tended to follow certain patterns, a new wave of Saharan musicians are dedicated to dismantling any preconceived notions one might have about the genre. The distinctive vocal distortions popularized by bands like Mdou Moctar or Group Inerane are gone, replaced by a new sound suffused with tranquility and passion, complex of composition and funky in all the right ways.

Imarhan, which means “the ones I care about” in the Tuareg language of Kamashek, embraces this new sound. Band members Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane, a.k.a. Sadam; Tahar Khaldi; Hicham Bouhasse; Haiballah Akhamouk; and Abdelkader Ourzig grew up together in Tamanrasset, Southern Algeria, in a Tuareg community of Northern Malian descent. Today, the five friends are poised to begin a world tour, ready to share their deep-rooted yet hip-shakingly modern desert rock from California to Copenhagen. They’ve held on tight to the deep bonds connecting them as band members and lifelong friends.

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The Bay Beat vol. 7: Kahlee, Uptown Swuite, Kamaiyah, Mr. Lif


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“Might not be there when you want me but I’m on time.” – Kanye West.
Not that I really want to compare myself to ‘Ye nor am I THAT late. I do have some great new music from the Bay Area. I always place link my personal twitter on here but I will direct y’all to @DaWhat where I host ticket giveaways for great shows! – Benjamin Cohn


 

Kahlee – For My People (Remix) ft. Uptown Swuite & Odessa Kane

With clips of protests, wars, corrupt politicians, state sanctioned violence and other impactful images spliced into the video, Vallejo’s Uptown Swuite joins Kahlee and Odessa Kane on a new people’s anthem. If you’re looking for music with a message, look no farther and stand with indigenous peoples around the world.


 

Kamaiyah – A Good Night in the Ghetto

I have been talking about this for a while but the noise has gotten a lot louder as of late. I haven’t read any negative reviews of the mixtape; I am pretty impressed with the debut as a whole and believe that it shows a lot of potential. Some of my initial favorites are “I’m On,” “Ain’t Goin Home Tonight” and “One Love” but nothing really touches her breakthrough single “How Does it Feel.”


 

Mr. Lif – World Renown ft. Del the Funky Homosapien Produced by Pas Doo

This busy, enticing beat is courtesy of Pas Doo, an Oakland emcee and producer that is also an integral part of Today’s Future Sounds (whom I’ve mentioned before). For most, this would be a very challenging instrumental to find a pocket but two veterans like Mr. Lif and Del somehow make it seem easy. In the words of Mellow Music Group, the song’s home, Don’t Look Down, “mirrors this personal descent and rebirth, a hero’s journey worthy of Joseph Campbell.” This track specifically will help fill the middle portion of the character arc, “the central character creates his own world, barricading himself from the ills of society.”

Mount Moriah, Southern Rock roots with an Indie twist


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Something of a musical chameleon, North Carolina-born vocalist and guitarist Heather McEntire is no doubt a force to be reckoned with. Starting out her career as the leader of indie-duo-turned-punk-trio Bellafea, McEntire now stands firmly upon her Southern Rock roots as the fierce frontwoman of indie country rock outfit Mount Moriah.

Since coming out in 2013, McEntire has used her songwriting to explore and dissect the often-difficult experience of growing up queer in the South, particularly within the confines of her provincial Southern Baptist upbringing. McEntire’s piercing lyricism cuts to the core, exploring themes of religion and sex and the everyday melancholy of small-town life. Her gritty musical prowess has made her a critical darling and her soulful, twangy vocals have earned her comparisons to a young Dolly Parton.

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The Bay Beat vol. 6: Nef the Pharoah, Berner, NorCal Nick, Galaxy Stoner, Mistah FAB


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Going to keep this pretty short because there is a ton of new music this week. But before we get into that, two quick, non-music announcements.

1. Did you see this video of Oakland’s own Marshawn Lynch riding a camel listening to “F*ck It Up” by Richmond’s Tay Way? Also including the NSFW music video.

Listen to the full song here (NSFW)

2. Kamaiayah released the artwork and release date for her debut project A Good Night in the Ghetto - March 14th. I’m excited to see a complete project of work from her after some dope songs.

Kamaiyah

-Benjamin Cohn, @DaWhatBenja


 

Nef the Pharoah – “Mobbin”
A brand new video from Nef’s self-titled EP shot around the Bay Area. Nef has co-signs from some of the Bay’s biggest names and seems to be in a prime position to step onto a bigger stage.


 

Berner – “Best Thang Smokin” featuring Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg & B-Real
The Taylor Gang emcee is preparing to release his new album Hempire at the beginning of next month. Even if this song had no name, you could probably guess what Berner, Snoop, Wiz and B-Real are going to rap about. Especially for Berner’s album about the business that he has built out of marijuana strains/dispensaries/clothing line.


 

NorCal Nick – “GoingNowhere” Produced by D-Rock
Formerly known as Swerve916, I’ve been a fan of NorCal Nick’s for some years now. The Sacramento rapper stays honest and can really portray the things that he is going through. If you are looking for someone to tell you how amazing they are or about the things they have that you don’t or their ridiculous sexual prowess, then this isn’t the music for you.


 

Galaxy Stoner – “GoEyo” featuring Pok’Chop
The name Galaxy Stoner and the spacey intro to the song may lead you to anticipate another kick back song to chill to but he really spits. Between the catchy hook and onomatopoeia title, Galaxay Stoner packs a wide array of accelerating rhyme schemes.


 

Mistah FAB, Stevie Joe, AOne and Remy R.E.D. – “Fake Ones” Produced by DosiaDidTheBeat
A true posse cut as four talented artists trade thoughts on the real, and subsequently fake, ones in their lives. Dosia provided the backdrop for sage advice including “a lot of fake ones now-a-day that appear true, keep your eye on the road AND the rearview.”

 

The Bay Beat vol. 5: Young Mix, Rye Mann, Balance, Mal Forte


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The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA and Steph Curry’s celebrity is reaching levels that are rare even for the NBA. After an MVP season, Championship and another All-Star game, Curry has made his way into the hip-hop lexicon with a notable reference already by Drake. Chicago’s Lil’ Bibby took it a step further with his new track “Steph,” an ode to one of the greatest shooters of all time filled with a long list of comparisons. He isn’t from the Bay Area obviously but I felt it still fit. – Benjamin Cohn @DaWhatBenja

P.S. Don’t forget to catch J. Stalin, Aka Frank, TrilL Youngins & Lil Yase at Slim’s on Saturday March 5!

 


 

Young Mix – Winter in Brooklyn Ep

San Francisco’s Young Mix released a new EP packed with honest lyrics about personal relationships, career aspirations, failures and more. The laid-back production is reminiscent of California vibes (not the G-funk descendants like DJ Mustard/Hyphy. Cali but the Souls of Mischief  Zion I, Cali). My personal favorite is the psychedelic “Sunrise, Sunset” but there is something in there for everyone. For instance, “PTSD” speaks on a number of social issues including police brutality and immigration.

 


 

Rye Mann – We Love It Here

It took 3 years for Oakland producer Rye Mann to finish We Love it Here and he can be proud of the time he spent. Two traits that immediately come to mind are Rye Mann’s ability to create diverse instrumentals, which can be seen in the range of featured artists on the album, and the fact that he just makes catchy beats. I found myself being drawn into each song almost immediately after the track started. There is room to grow but overall, a very exciting project from the East Bay.

 


 

Balance – Always Playin ft. Symba Produced by Cisco

Tomorrow, Balance will be releasing a new EP 41510: Redwall and I have the last preview he released. Cisco provided the piercing beat for Balance and Symba to ask girls why they’re playing if they want a real n**** around verses filled with lists of ways that girls do the wrong things to them.

 


 

Mal Forte – Worthwhile ft. Kehlani

I think this qualifies as one of those “love songs for guys.” Although Mal Forte is speaking to a girl, persuading her of his validity, he switches the flow up a few times and displays an impressive lyrical ability throughout. As far as the Bay goes, having a hook from Kehlani is about as good as it gets, right? “Worthwhile” can be found on Mal Forte’s sophomore album Better Late Than Never which is out now.
New sophomore Better Late than Never album out now

The Bay Beat vol. 4: Grammy Awards, Don Toriano, Outrageous Karina, Antwon


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Monday’s 58th annual Grammy Award Show was yet again, one of the biggest events of the year for the Music Industry. Admittedly, neither the Bay Area nor hip-hop have a huge overlap with this event but there were a number of locals that received nominations and a few even took home some trophies! Although not taking home a trophy, we were excited to see Kehlani, Colin Tilley (who directed Kendrick Lamar’s video for “Alright”), the Grateful Dead (a box set was nominated for a packaging related award) and the country singer Cam honored with nominations. However, the Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte that relocated to San Jose in the 1960s won for their recent album Realidades. There is also a jazz musician, Mario Silva, who played on this year’s best reggae album – Morgan Heritage’s Strictly Roots – and will get a plaque for it. Lastly, the director of music recording at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, Lisa Ann Jones, took home her 4th Grammy after Ask Your Mama was selected as the best engineered classical album. Not only did she win again but she actually in charge of mixing the sound FOR THE GRAMMYS on Monday. Some more info and an interview here.

Benjamin Cohn, @DaWhatBenja

Don Toriano – Bay Shit ft. Berner, Rich Rocka & Goldie

Got a laidback anthem for you to play out for the rest of 2016. Now that the sun is back out, we have some smooth “Bay Shit” from Don Toriano with Rich Rocka and Goldie of Federation. The song is just littered with homages to the Bay starting from the RIP shoutout to the Mac in the opening seconds. I mean, I really don’t have to sell this one, just hit play! This is for everyone “on that bay shit, every single day bitch”.

Outrageous Karina - Ready [produced by Nate Hendrix & BarzMakesBangers]

“Ready” is actually my introduction to San Jose’s Outrageous Karina. The last track on her debut .evoL EP was enough to make me want to listen to the first four. I am immediately drawn to the song’s lack of real structure; it is very unique yet still maintains a fluidity that you find in more traditional popular music. Nate Hendrix, who produced the whole EP, got some help from BarzMakesBangers for “Ready’s” instrumental. It lets her take a slow start and warm up to a burst of lyrics before finishing with another melodic re-work of a ‘chorus’. The beat honestly isn’t the highlight but it gets the job more than adequately done.

ANTWON - Luv

I’m not sure if this song really belongs in the strip club despite that it was probably made strictly for that purpose. It definitely belongs on the soundtrack of a chase scene in the upcoming “Fast and Furious” movie. I listened to “Luv” by Antwon over and over again trying to decide whether I really liked it and needed to include it in The Bay Beat or if I didn’t want to hear it again. Obviously I chose to include this track from the upcoming Double Ecstasy EP out on April 1st. Antwon himself said that this EP was “definitely the most fun to make. It showed me why I started playing in bands and collaborating with other people.”

Artist Spotlight: Pat Martino Trio


When Pat Martino woke up from brain surgery after a near-fatal aneurysm in 1980, he remembered almost nothing. He barely recognized his parents, had difficulty recalling his own name, and could no longer remember how to play the guitar. Considering the fact that Martino was one of the world’s foremost jazz guitarists, this was a serious problem.
Born and raised Pat Azzara in Philadelphia in the mid-1940s, Martino’s early exposure to jazz music came from his father, Carmen “Mickey” Azzara, who once studied with Eddie Lang, the so-called “Father of Jazz Guitar.” An avid member of the city’s music scene and a singer at local clubs, Mickey took young Pat to all the local hotspots, introducing him to jazz legends such as Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane. To this day, Martino cites his father as one of his greatest influences and inspirations, and credits him for the decision to pursue a serious career in music.

Martino began playing guitar at age 12, dropping out of high school as a sophomore to focus on his craft full-time, and became deeply involved in Philadelphia’s growing rock scene alongside early luminaries such as Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, and Bobby Darin. He toured with jazz organist Charles Earland and gigged with Lloyd Price, Slide Hampton and Red Holloway before deciding to relocate to Harlem to immerse himself in the vibrant hard bop and soul jazz movement that was forming there.

Read more on SFGate

The Bay Beat vol. 3: E-40, Dregs One, Iamsu!, Daveed Diggs


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Got some real heat coming out of the Bay Area recently! A few different generations, underground to some of the higher levels of success, all great music and all from around here. If you are a part of the Bay Area scene – dancer, rapper, DJ, artist – please hit me up when you have something to promote! –Benjamin Cohn, @DaWhatBenja

E-40 – Slappin ft. Nef the Pahroah and Dram

E-40’s latest song “Slappin” is like an updated version of our hyphy movement. It is unmistakably Bay Area from the Rick Rock beat to OG 40 water punch lines and one of the more buzzin up-and-comers, Nef the Pharoah. Plus now E-40 gets to reference Sluricane and his various other alcoholic beverages. The instrumental takes the staples from 2004-2009’s music but stripped away many of the more annoying elements that didn’t age as well. And I couldn’t believe how at home D.R.A.M. sounded on this cut! Is he really from Virginia??

Dregs Ill Sugi – Emotion ft. Gas Mask Colony

This is proof of hip hop’s ability to transcend borders, a true display of hip hop’s global reach. Dregs-One is the wordy, intelligent emcee from San Francisco that many of us already know. Ill Sugi is a producer from Tokyo, Japan that found Dregs’ music on the Internet; the two worked together online until Sugi visited the Bay and the Universal Language album was born. Cascade Records is the French label that released this album. The gritty, grimy video matches the beat’s vibe on “Emotion”. Dregs-One and fellow SF natives of the Gas Mask Colony take you to a few spots around the city as they rap about situations where one might get emotional.

“Keep the melody moving / going through the motions when my emotions are flowing through the music / it’s proven, the beat therapeutic / tradition is deep rooted”

Iamsu! - Dogs

Wooo!! Suzy goes IN! I love when Iamsu! makes those super catchy, more melodic tracks but it is also fun when he decides to really rap too. Like his verse on E-40’s “Function”, Iamsu picks his flow up a bit and delivers a straight barrage of non-stop bars. Trauma Tone’s bare, trap sounding beat only lasts 2 and a half minutes but sets the pace right as needed.

“Speak to the plug in Spanish / Hola amigo, que paso? / On 23rd with the vatos/ Niggas be feeling themselves, get filled with them shells / Bitch it’s like a taco”

Oakland rapper Daveed Diggs is having quite the year. He has been starring in the musical Hamilton on Broadway and it was just announced that the play would be making a run here in San Francisco next year, 2017. He recently sat down with 7x7 to discuss his Oakland upbringing, how the Bay Area will receive Hamilton and hip hop’s influence including, “In the Bay, we breed nimble-tongued rappers, and we also over-enunciate; we hit our Rs really hard… So, I get a lot of really good, fast rap moments [in the show]—stuff that plays to my strengths.” Read the full interview here.