Archive | April 3, 2013

The Many Sounds Of 1993 Bay Area Rap

A still from the video for E-40's 1993 song "Practice Looking Hard," in which rappers like The Coup's Boots Riley (second from right) and Tupac (not pictured) also appeared. Enlarge image i

A still from the video for E-40’s 1993 song “Practice Looking Hard,” in which rappers like The Coup’s Boots Riley (second from right) and Tupac (not pictured) also appeared.

Couresy of Zomba Recording

A still from the video for E-40’s 1993 song “Practice Looking Hard,” in which rappers like The Coup’s Boots Riley (second from right) and Tupac (not pictured) also appeared.

Couresy of Zomba Recording

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a remarkable year in music. Over the 12 months of 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah and more than a dozen other rap groups released albums that helped change the sound of America. In the late ’80s, a music industry focused on New York and Los Angeles was slow to see the San Francisco Bay Area’s rap potential. And so the music made there followed two rules: Do it yourself, and be yourself.

In 1993 in Oakland, Calif., Too Short was rhyming about having money in the ghetto, while The Coup rapped about the Communist Manifesto.

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“To me, it all represented Oakland,” says Sway Calloway, an Oakland native and MTV personality. “Oakland was never a one-dimensional place.” In ’93 he co-hosted a radio program in the Bay called the Wake Up Show. It aired on KMEL and featured popular rappers and up-and-comers.

Sway says in the early years the industry kind of ignored not just Oakland rap but Bay Area rap: San Francisco, Richmond, Vallejo. “The record labels weren’t signing a lot of Bay Area artists in the late ’80s,” he says — which was a good thing. “Instead of our music being overseen by an A&R guy that worked for a record company that knew nothing about the region, a lot of artists had the freedom to make their own music.”

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Sway says if you take that freedom and mix it with influences, from Black Panther revolutionaries to beloved pimps and drug hustlers, you get the trendsetters and entrepreneurs of the ’93 rap game. Too Short. Del the Funky Homosapien. Mac Dre. The Coup. Spice 1. They all had bangin’ tracks in ’93 that were all so different. And you can’t forget E-40.

The self pro-claimed King of Slanguistics, from Vallejo, introduced new slang to rap’s vocabulary: “You feel me,” “Fo’shizzle,” “It’s all good.” But he’s probably best known for “Tell Me When to Go,” a top 40 hit from 2006.

A year before he was signed to a major — Jive records in ’94 by the CEO himself — E-40 released his first solo album, Federal, on his own label. I asked him what it meant to be “federal.” “Big business,” he says. “I had big dreams, big ideals, a large amount of money stacked in my head.”

Dr. Dre (right) with Snoop Dogg, who played a starring role on Dre's The Chronic. Here they pose after a 1993 performance in Chicago.

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The Pharcyde (from left to right, Tre "SlimKid3" Hardson, Romye Robinson, Emandu "Imani" Wilcox and Derrick "Fatlip" Stewart) backstage at KMEL's Summer Jam in July 1993 in Mountain View, Calif.

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As 40 tells it, he had been a rap hustler for six years, selling tapes and CDs by the tens of thousands. “You gotta treat the rap game like the dope game, you feel me?” Drug hustling was big in the ’80s and ’90s in poor urban neighborhoods. The lack of good blue-collar work plus the crack epidemic left a void filled by street entrepreneurs. The lack of a music industry in the Bay — that left a void, too, so rappers like E-40 treated the rap game like the dope game.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” he says. “You’re claiming more fame than the dope game, making more money than the dope game, and it’s more legal than the dope game. How ’bout that one? Give myself a hand clap, yes. Yes, sir, 40 water.”

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NM governor signs space travel liability bill

Susana Martinez on Tuesday signed into law liability-waiving legislation aimed at saving the state’s nearly quarter-billion-dollar investment in a futuristic spaceport and retaining its anchor tenant, British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

The new law exempts spacecraft parts suppliers from liability lawsuits by passengers. Lawmakers had previously exempted spacecraft operators from liability, but some space companies began passing up the New Mexico spaceport in favor of states that had extended those protections to suppliers.

Martinez said in a statement after a signing ceremony at the nearly complete $209 million project in southern New Mexico that her administration was “not only reaffirming the major commitment New Mexicans have made to Spaceport America but we now have an even stronger opportunity to grow the number of commercial space jobs at the spaceport and across our state. This legislation will prevent lawsuit abuse and make it easier for businesses related to the space travel industry to thrive and succeed right here in New Mexico.”

Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America officials have been fighting for years to get the legislation enacted, saying commercial space companies have passed over New Mexico in favor of states with more lenient liability exemptions.

Virgin Galactic had hinted last year it might abandon plans to launch its $200,000 per-person space flights from New Mexico if the bill failed again this year.

In January, Virgin began paying its $1 million-a-year rent. But it told the state it was doing so only under protest and without making a commitment to some of the other provisions of its long-term lease. Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides last month said the company and the state still had a “laundry list” of issues to resolve.

Virgin Galactic issued a statement Tuesday saying it “has been committed to the success of the Spaceport since it signed the original deal with the state.”

The company also said “all stakeholders must now turn their attention to the future and to recruiting additional companies to the spaceport to fulfill its full potential and maximize new job growth.”

Whitesides, in an interview last year, said it was “very concerning” that other space companies were not coming to the spaceport. Virgin Galactic, he said, signed up for a “healthy spaceport” with multiple businesses that could divide the costs.

Texas, Florida and Colorado are among several states developing spaceports. Most are revamping old airports or other facilities, but New Mexico’s is unique because it is the first to be built from scratch.

Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson said Tuesday that she hoped the new law, as well as commercial tax breaks passed as part of a last-minute deal between the Legislature and Martinez, will strengthen her recruitment efforts.

“With this protection enacted, NMSA is now ready and able to get back to the business of building the commercial space industry here in New Mexico,” Anderson said in a statement issued by Martinez’s office.

DE Williams upbeat arriving for Bills workouts

Defensive end Mario Williamsarrived for the start of the Buffalo Bills offseason voluntary workouts Tuesday pleased to learn he’ll have one less burden to lug around this season.

The Bills are finally entering the digital age after each player was presented a brand new iPad, which will store the team’s hefty playbook.

”It’s pretty neat,” Williams said. ”You don’t have to carry that big book around.”

More intriguing for Williams is what that game plan will resemble with Mike Pettine taking over as defensive coordinator.

As part of rookie coach Doug Marrone’s new staff, Pettine’s preparing to bring to Buffalo the aggressive approach he was known for running during his previous four seasons with the New York Jets.

”He definitely has a very outstanding resume,” Williams said. ”I’m up for anything, anything that’s going to put us in a better position to go out and be successful, and change our defense and get us in the right direction.”

And if that wasn’t enough, Williams learned shortly after finishing his workout that the Bills added depth to their defense by signing versatile free-agent lineman Alan Branch to a one-year contract.

”I’m excited,” Williams said. ”More power to us.”

Williams has much to prove after failing to play to the high expectations he raised after signing a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency a year ago.

Hampered by a sprained left wrist that required surgery in October, he finished with a team-leading 10 1/2 sacks. But he was part of a defense that was among the NFL’s worst and contributed to the 6-10 finish that led to Chan Gailey being fired.

Chalking up last season’s struggles to a ”learning experience,” Williams dismissed the perception that Buffalo finds itself in the midst of another offseason of transition.

”Everybody else is saying, ‘Ah, it’s the same old Bills,”’ Williams said. ”We’ve all been down the road. This is definitely not a rebuilding season.”

The Bills are an unknown quantity under Marrone, who was hired after spending four seasons turning around Syracuse’s struggling football program.

On Tuesday, Marrone got a chance to address his new players in person for the first time since he was hired in January.

”It kind of reminds me of that first day of kindergarten a little bit,” Marrone said. ”When you go into that room, you’re not really sure what it’s going to be like.”

After spelling out his ABCs to the players, Marrone was short on providing details on the status of Buffalo’s QBs.

He declined to talk about the addition of free-agent quarterback Kevin Kolb because the sixth-year player had not yet officially signed a two-year contract he reached on Saturday. Numerous media outlets, including The Associated Press, reported the former Arizona Cardinals starter had agreed to a deal with Buffalo.

Though it’s unclear when Kolb will sign, he will be competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job that was left vacant after Buffalo released Ryan Fitzpatrick last month.

”Whoever comes in, what we’re looking for is competition at that position,” Marrone said. ”And then at the end of the day we’ll be able to make a decision on who gives us the best chance to win now.”

Numerous Bills players credited Marrone and his staff for making a good first impression by having an upbeat approach.

”Yeah, there’s a lot of excitement around here,” center Eric Wood said. ”First day back there is always going to be some new energy, but coach’s enthusiasm, a lot of the vets back from Day 1, there’s a lot of positive energy around here.”

Also not lost among the players were a few cosmetic additions to the team’s fieldhouse. The Bills, who haven’t made the playoffs since 1999, have hung large banners on the walls of each end zone celebrating their four AFC championships and two AFL titles.

There’s also a 20-foot poster of the Lombardi Trophy attached to one wall.

”I like it. A lot of Super Bowl aspirations,” Wood said. ”That’s a good message to have around.”

NOTES: Branch, listed at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, is entering his seventh NFL season after spending the past two as a starter in Seattle. He played four seasons in Arizona after being selected 33rd overall by the Cardinals in the 2007 draft. … Last year, Gailey was intending to have the playbook stored on iPads for this season because the NFL was switching its game video to high definition. … On Tuesday morning, Buffalo re-signed backup running back Tashard Choice, and tight end Dorin Dickerson has accepted the team’s tendered contract offer.