As part of San Francisco's Jazz Mafia collective, Brass Mafia brings a unique, improvisation-heavy vibe to its performances. With an emphasis on horns — specifically the tuba — the Brass Mafia is a mobile unit, marching in parades as well as taking the stage in more old-fashioned venues secured to the earth. The group has backed up burlesque dancers, told off-color jokes between songs at corporate events, and played with a genre-bending array of cats including Lyrics Born, Carlos Santana, and Bobby McFerrin. A new album should be out in December, which will reflect the group's commitment to bringing brass to places it rarely goes.
Zeph & Azeem
Although they've been around for years, DJ Zeph and MC Azeem are still an underground act, even in their native Bay Area. That could all change as folks near and far take note of last summer's release of . on Om Records, and the duo's blazing live shows in support of their first album together. Zeph has been rocking the local clubs for years, and champion slam poet Azeem has five solo albums under his belt, but it wasn't until 2001's single "Rubber/Glue" that they joined forces and their powerfully eclectic hip-hop partnership was born.
J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science
J-Boogie is the cohost of the long running Beatsauce hip-hop show on KUSF. He's also released a couple of albums under the moniker of J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science, and has put in plenty of sweat equity on various remixes and collaborations. Boogie travels the globe spinning records from his signature jazzy, downtempo, and hip-hop collection, one that's also liberally splashed with dub reggae, Latin, and African rhythms. You'd be hard-pressed to find a San Franciscan with the same intrepid DJing spirit as our veteran. From intimate club nights in the Mission to festivals in Golden Gate Park, live or in the mix, the man knows how to get your feet moving.
Fronted by charismatic crooner Bart Davenport and featuring French-born keyboardist Herve "RV" Salters and Tony Sevener on the beats, Bay Area trio Honeycut delivers potent grooves that cross the slinky electro-Britpop of Primal Scream and Kasabian with classic, creamy Motown soul. Formed five years ago, the band came to the attention of Blackalicious DJ Chief Xcel, who signed them to Quannum in 2006. Honeycut's well-received debut, ., dropped earlier this year, and its energetic live sets — during which Salters simultaneously jams on the keys like Bernie Worrell and dances like Bez from Happy Mondays — leave revelers breathless.
Lo-fi singer-songwriter Stoltz is the epitome of DIY. Aside from playing nearly all the instruments on his debut, . (1999), he also recorded the album himself at home on his 4-track. Upgrading his equipment for 2001's . didn't change his self-reliant ethic: He hand-painted the cover art for each of its few hundred copies and spent three years touring behind it without major-label support. Recognizing what the majors overlooked, Sub Pop inked a deal with Stoltz and released the stellar 2006 disc . — which was home-recorded, of course, on 8-track reel-to-reel. Although Stoltz performs live with a full band, he's still basically a one-man show with a library of influences, his sound ranging from bubbly Beach Boys pop to fuzzy Velvet Underground jangle. Expect more intrepid invention when he releases a new record in February 2008.
Sterling James has cemented her presence in Bay Area radio over the past twenty years, progressing from her high school station to KSOL 98.9 and Alice 97.3 to her current gig as the weekday "Afternoon Drive" host on The Quiet Storm, 102.9 KBLX. James provides the smooth R&B outlet with a sassy, intelligent on-air personality and draws a loyal flock of listeners in return. Her gregarious nature and support of local music keeps her intimately tied to homegrown organizations like Youth Speaks, the Hip Hop Dance Festival, and the North Beach Jazz Festival.
To whet your appetite for winter sports in San Francisco, Icer Air hosts a small "rail jam" in front of Ruby Skye starting at 7 p.m. Icer Air's official annual tournament goes down November 2 and 3 at AT&T Park with athletes competing in events ranging from air skiing and snowboarding to skateboarding, wakeboarding, motocross, and BMX. Tonight's fare will be downsized quite a bit, but expect pro skiers and snowboarders to take advantage of a snowy quarter-pipe to execute the sorts of tricks that'd land us commoners in traction.
Sponsored by Mr. Nice Guy
This gangbanger-turned-rapper from Eddy St.'s notorious Marcus Garvey Projects is known for the street-savviest flow in the Sucka-Free City. Since first emerging as a solo artist back in the "mobb music" era of the late '90s, Mess, as he's affectionately known, has sold hundreds of thousands of records independently, despite frequent run-ins with the law. Although currently incarcerated, over the past two years he's somehow managed to release eight albums, including his own Draped Up and Chipped Out, the Fillmoe Nation and Muzik fo tha Taliban compilations, Bullys Wit Fullys' The Infrastructure (with Guce), and Da Bidness (with PSD and Keak Da Sneak). If Messy isn't the realest hood cat in rap, he's pretty damn close.
The Berkeley hip-hop foursome is probably best known because the video for its viral hit, "Vans" — which seems to sample a vibrating cell phone — was censored by MTV. (The highly principled network doesn't tolerate product placement, don't you know.) Needless to say, hella publicity followed; the group toured the country this fall ahead of its Jive Records debut, Based Boys, slated for release on October 30. The group mixes the local hyphy sound with a bit of down-South snap style, and proudly displays its influences, ranging from Run-D.M.C. to Too $hort — the East Bay godfather who helped the Pack get its deal.
West Coast Vaccine, the second album by E-40's cousin Turf Talk, confirmed Turf's status as the future of hyphy. He's the exciting, innovative lyricist the movement needs to take its scrapers-and-stunna-shades shtick to the next level. Okay, Turf's topics may seem like typical Cali thug-hop fare, but that's so not the point. Sure, he's got gats, cash, and hos, but he's also got flows for days, yadidahmean? Turf's wide-ranging tonal acrobatics are unparalleled by his street-level MC peers; his ability to shift his delivery and cadences from low whispers to high-pitched drawls makes what he says far less of a focus than the way he says things.