Believe it or not, "Digital Underground" used to mean something other than that secret server farm 400 feet beneath South Park. Want proof? This just in from the Good Records blog, via Tumblin' Erb: Cities of Dope, an expertly mixed and surprisingly instructive hour of Bay Area rap.
Jonny Paycheck -- not to be confused with the late honky-tonking rebel Johnny Paycheck -- takes it back to the scene's golden early days, with old-skool numbers from the likes of RBL Posse and Rappin' 4 Tay, gems from luminaries like E-40 (a lot of E-40, in fact) and the late hyphy progenitor Mac Dre, classics from The Coup and Too $hort, and deep cuts from Eyedle Mode and expansive backpack crew Bored Stiff. Also, some young upstart named Lil B.
My personal favorites come late in the mix's second act, including the freewheeling thuggery of San Quinn's
"Shock the Party" and Black Dynasty's 2Pac-channeling, Ice
Cube-referencing pseudo-unity anthem "Deep East Oakland." And of course
it's always a pleasure to hear The Coup's "Me and Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night," especially in its regional context. And check the way this E-40 beat adds a little Cali funk to the principles of Big Boi's "Shine Blockas," more than 15 years before the fact.
For me, the best part of Cities of Dope -- and at the same time the most humbling -- is the occasion to dig a little deeper into the work of the acts I've never heard of and see how long most of them have been around, how tirelessly they've been peddling their wares since, in some cases, the early 90s. Hell, look at San Quinn's discography. By comparison, Lil B's overnight fame seems kind of scandalous (although, to be fair, his contribution here, "Myspace," finds him at just about his most lucid and listenable).
Anyway, stream or download the mix here and take an hour to appreciate the depth of the scene. Here's an epigraph, courtesy of The Dereliks' "Searching for the Perfect Beat":
Scene two: I seen these two members of this crew that I didn't like, acting like he didn't see me
I hesitated 'cause I wasn't gonna say shit -- but if I didn't, that wouldn't be west coast, now would it?
So whatchu wanna do, whatchu wanna do? We spoke about the revolution,
then came to the conclusion that the rhyme was our solution