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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
When Al Bell, co-owner of the legendary record label Stax, calls your band “one of the best live soul bands I have ever seen,” you know you’ve gotten something right. This is the reality for Monophonics, a sextet of San Franciscans who have been playing together for over a decade now.With a sound they describe as “psychedelic soul” and an energetic live show, Monophonics has been cultivating a fan base that spans the globe, from London to Istanbul and back home to the Bay.
Despite starting their career as an all-instrumental band, Monophonics added keyboardist and vocalist Kelly Finnigan to the mix in 2010, bringing a notable dose of soulful grit to their classic grooves. Over the years, they’ve performed with a wide range of music legends, from Al Green to Karl Denson to folk musician Rodriguez. They’ve toured music festivals and venues around the world, known for their superb musicianship and uncanny ability to make an audience get up and dance.
Before I get started, I HAVE to take a moment to honor, remember and extol The Jacka. The Oakland Native was tragically gunned down one year ago, yesterday, February 2nd. Mob Figaz, the solo work, collaborative projects with Andre Nickatina, Freeway, Berner, Dubble-OO, Lil Keke, Messy Marv and so many more. He gave us a ton of music, was an influential member of the Bay Area’s scene and was taken far too soon.
As most of the United States knows, Super Bowl 50 will be played in Santa Clara this Sunday, February 7th. What does that mean for the Bay Area hip-hop scene? Well Miguel, DJ Khaled, Fabolous, Travis Scott, Eric Bellinger, Diddy, Ne-Yo, August Alsina, Pharrell, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, French Montana, T.I., 50 Cent, Alicia Keys and I’m sure many many more will be joining some of our biggest names from Keak Da Sneak and E-40 to star-in-the-making Kehlani on stages across the Bay. I can’t tell you how many hip-hop artists will be out here performing, hosting events or just partying at your favorite club. Keep your eyes open; you don’t want to miss these chances!
Next up I got a new video from J.Lately. The well-composed video features J.Lately reflecting back on someone that plays a much larger role in his mind than they do in his life. Director Andrew Elsayid’s rain and low-lit video backdrop builds on the foundation that Oops darker production’ built. “How many mother#$%in songs can I write?” J.Lately and Della ask, admitting both regret and fault about things past, asking for a potential shot in the future. “All About You” can be found on the recently released album Let’s Just Be Friends. J. Lately was also recently named one of 2016’s Top 15 to Watch For by Da-What+Friends.
J. Stalin and Philthy Rich stopped by Sway’s Universe while out in New York for an in-depth interview. I hope I don’t have to remind y’all about Sway’s hometown or that this is an all Bay affair. In addition to the standard radio interview discussion about the respective artists’ background, their upcoming projects and what the world has going on, J. Stalin and Sway dug a bit into the Bay’s history. These guys give us a very long list of talented artists from all around the Bay; Stalin admits that for the first time, he thinks, the movement is working together. Sway even confirmed that one of the main reasons he left the Bay Are in the 90s, after creating the Wake Up Show, was a lack of unity and backlash. If you have 45 minutes or need something to throw on while you work, here you go.
Lastly, I’ll conclude with a Bay Area shoutout to another hip-hop educational group: HipHopForChange. This Oakland based organization uses hip-hop music and the surrounding culture to help combat socio-economic injustice. Their grassroots activism includes speaking engagements, educational discussions and workshops to engage in important discussion; HipHopForChange even raises money for efforts that help alleviate these problems too. To accomplish these goals hip hop concerts are produced, they broadcast on KPOO, and even release mixtapes with progressive messages. If you are looking for ways to get involved in using hip hop for good, this is a great place to start.
Tune in next Wednesday for Volume 3 of the Bay Beat. If you want something considered for a future issue – reach out on Twitter with the hashtag #TheBayBeat!
The first installment of “The Bay Beat” a new weekly column covering Bay Area Hip Hop brought to you by Slim’s Presents and Da-What. Although I have been out of the City much of the last 7 years, I was born and raised here in San Francisco. An avid hip-hop fan for much of my life, I’ve been running Da-What.com, bringing what's new to the public. Now that I am back in The Bay, I am working with our local venues to promote our local music. Slim’s believes in this as well and is providing a platform for the latest in Bay Area Hip Hop news. Moving forward “The Bay Beat” will appear every Wednesday at SlimsPresents.com. My coverage of the week will include newly released music, event info, cultural discussions and typical rap debates. We want you to have a voice as well! If you have some ideas for upcoming editions, hit me up on twitter @DaWhatBenja and make sure to use the hashtag #TheBayBeat.
Having introduced myself and the column, starting next week I will begin to cover new events. In the meantime, we have videos from some of my favorite Bay Area emcees – Kamaiyah, Mozzy, Caleborate, Locksmith, Zion I, The Jacka - and a few shout outs below.
Q102 – The Throwback Station
Since 2014, Q102 has been blasting old school hip hop through the Bay Area’s speakers at a consistently quality rate. It is nice to have a radio station that is playing anything different than the popular rotation, no shots fired!, let alone 80s, 90s and 2000s hip hop/R&B. If you don’t know about the Bay Area’s role in hip hop radio history, please go check into KMEL/Sway & King Tech and that era!
I’m sure there are other hip hop blogs dedicated to Bay Area hip hop but The Thizzler is the first one I knew of and one that has done a great job of promoting our music. What started as Matt Werner’s personal blog now reports shows, introduces Bay Area Freshmen, releases mixtapes and more. If a Bay artist releases a new track, I will bet that The Thizzler will let you know about it.
Today’s Future Sound
These are the guys creating the next generation of Bay Area musicians. And the one after that. The Oakland based organization teaches music production, beat making and DJing to youth around the Bay Area. In fact they have put on workshops all over the country and executive director Dr. Elliot Gann recently traveled to Senegal for a program on conflict resolution and diplomacy in partnership with the State Department and the University of North Carolina. TFS hopes to further their mission based in the belief in “the power of music to transform and inspire youth to create positive change in their lives and communities.”
I had just started working at Slim's (in the box office) in 1997. The ladies of the office (Dawn and Dana) had somehow managed to keep it QUITE a secret that Live 105 was planning a Breakfast with Bowie morning here at the club. The day I found out, I nearly fell out of my chair. I offered to do anything to help... serve bagels, pour coffee, etc.... whatever it took. That's exactly what I did (at the rather ungodly hour of 7am!)To be in a room with just a couple hundred lucky fans... and Bowie... was amazing. I also decided to be brave and brought along my copies of Ziggy Stardust and The Hunger soundtrack on vinyl. Having only worked here at Slim's a few months, I had no idea if I might be crossing any lines, but I was ready. So ready.
The interview & performance were (of course) amazing. A car was parked and waiting in the alley and Bowie was soon to leave. I knew I had the green light when Dawn said "if you're going to do it, now is the time." I met him at the top of the stairs, said hello, thanked him for a wonderful morning and asked if he wouldn't mind signing my records. He joked that he had never seen The Hunger on vinyl - so of course I offered him my copy. Thankfully I got to keep it.
Needless to say, it was one of the best days... ever. I think of that morning quite often. The audio of that amazing morning surfaced on YouTube a couple of years ago and I've made it a habit of posting it on FB every year for his birthday.
Some people say the music scene in SF is dead - while we could debate that statement at length, it is much simpler to exemplify it, with a band like Whiskerman. Known in the Bay Area for their often raucous shows, Whiskerman is a Bay Area band that gives us hope for local live music (*please don't move to L.A.!). Now, withNOMAD, their new album produced by Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, Dept of Eagles), there’s no holding back. Whiskerman has taken to lush string arrangements framing bold prophetic lyricism in their most recent effort. Fronted by Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Graham Patzner, Whiskerman utilizes the structure of a classic rock band to convey a timeless familiarity, luring the listener into a new mythological landscape with a story for our time. The songs ofNOMADwere written through the anxiety and uncertainty constantly revealing itself in our society towards the collapse of industrial civilization. Somehow they manage to make it all sound so catchy.
Whiskerman has gone through basically all of the growing pains a band can go through from their folkier self titled first album to their soul driven EP,BAD NEWSProduced by Tony Berg.Drummer Nick Cobbett, Lead Guitarist/Sitarist Charles Lloyd and Bass player Will Lawrence, all active members of this growing machine for 5 years, bring a tight groove, powerful dynamics and virtuosic chops to the landscape of Patzner’s songs. They finally found a match in Jeff Saltzman, who worked closely with the band to push them from their rock and roll backbone into a grander more symphonic sound. Working with their new label, OIM Records, the momentum and ambition continues to grow for this humble quartet.
On Friday January 8 at Great American Music Hall, Whiskerman will have their Album Release Party. Featuring Papa Bear and the Easy Love & Scary Little Friends - 2 more Bay Area bands that keep the flame burning, deep inside San Francisco.