Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Insurgent Hip-Hop: Kreayshawn, Lil B, and Bay Area Rappers Throw Out the Rules 

Wednesday, Aug 3 2011

Page 4 of 5

Tazz Daddy: Pretty much! Because the black people's like, 'Tazz, we're going to kick your ass if you don't ask her. I don't listen to her music, man, but ... ask her!'"

Kreayshawn: Is someone going to sock me in the face right now? 'Cause I'm feeling a little intimidated.

Tazz Daddy: Why, 'cause I'm all big, you all little, I'm all black, you all white — you feel intimidated?

The word upsets people in Oakland, too. Davey D, a prominent Oakland hip-hop journalist, doesn't even like it when black people use the word. "So I'm certainly not going to give them a pass to do it," he says. "If you stand in front of me, I'm certainly going to say something to you."

The question with Kreayshawn, then, seems to be: Will people eventually accept who she is — especially those outside of the Bay Area?

She has already won acceptance from the likes of Snoop Dogg, who collaborated with her on a song, and Drake, who called in to flirt while she was on a radio show. Yet Kreayshawn's swag-filled ovaries are an unusual product of a unique place — the diverse streets of San Francisco and Oakland. And the last hot rap movement to come from those streets went cold very quickly.

The Mercedes sedan glides into the drab intersection of 45th and Market streets in Oakland, its arrival heralded by a strip of metallic lavender along the bottom and a gleaming sea of gold above. The huge fuselage rolls up next to a curb and out of the driver's side rises a tall, thick figure wearing a blazing red T-shirt, a Young and Reckless baseball cap pointed mostly backward, and impossibly baggy jeans fastened somewhere just above the knees. Around his neck hangs a long golden chain with a diamond-encrusted medallion at the end. "Mistah F.A.B.," it reads.

On his home turf, this Oakland rapper seems to know all and be known by all. He tells the neighborhood kids hanging around to put the bottle of champagne they're drinking in a paper bag. He discusses plans for a block party with passersby. He encourages a 13-year-old to get through school and keep his grades up.

A few years ago, F.A.B. was one of the figureheads of a Bay Area rap movement called hyphy, which seemed poised to be the next big thing. With a likeable goofiness, hyphy advocated "going dumb." It employed a lexicon of alien local slang, and made famous the practice of putting a moving car in neutral and getting out to dance on the hood. (F.A.B.'s biggest hit was about this move, called "ghost-riding the whip.") But hyphy didn't blow up nationwide — at least not the way F.A.B., his peers, and the execs who signed them to major-label deals expected. The movement simply didn't find a large enough appeal.

After things fizzled out, Mistah F.A.B. retained his local stardom and, crucially, his freedom to release music independently. His life experience has arguably made his music more interesting. This year he released a song called "Blame Me" — a biting, sarcastic missive to fans and critics who blamed him and other Bay Area rappers like E40 and Keak Da Sneak for hyphy's failure to go national. "The Bay died, they blamed me," F.A.B. raps. "I got banned, criticized, and ridiculed. Media scapegoat, humiliated like a fool."

Now, Bay Area hip-hop stands on the verge of what many see as another revival — thanks to artists like Lil B, Kreayshawn, and other talented rappers like Roach Gigz. "We're definitely in the beginning phase of a new generation which is about to explode," Prince Aries says.

Yet even among supporters, there's concern that swag rappers like Kreayshawn and Lil B could suffer a similar fate to hyphy. The outrage over V-Nasty — or the death threats Lil B faced this year — could be evidence of that. "A lot of people outside the Bay look at us as crazy," DJ Amen explains. "From dancing on top of cars to Lil B, the outside world hasn't really seen what the Bay Area is all about." Amen continues to be wowed by Kreayshawn, but he also admits that, "outside the Bay, I think it's going to take some time before they understand it."

Mistah F.A.B. isn't so concerned. He's involved in this new movement both as an artist and a mentor: He helped Kreayshawn by supporting her — and as one of the biggest names in local rap, that lends considerable credibility. "She's a superstar," he says. "Her originality is so easy and obvious." And while hyphy was largely a male take on 'hood life, Kreayshawn's image and attitude seem to appeal to a broader, younger, and more female audience.

F.A.B. also released a video this summer explaining why he's okay with V-Nasty saying "nigga." Part of it, he says, is that the word has lost much of its racist dimension after being tossed around so much. And part of it is that V-Nasty's language reflects who she really is. "It's not a fake, it's not a facade," he says that afternoon on the Oakland street corner. "She's earned the right to socialize in that form."

The 28-year-old rapper and father also throws his name behind Lil B, whom he encourages in semiregular phone conversations. "Nowadays, everybody looks like everybody. You've seen one, you've seen 'em all," he says. "And in rare cases, such as Lil B, such as Kreayshawn — shit, such as myself. ... We're bringing back the days of individualism, when people weren't afraid to be themselves, when people weren't afraid to do what it is they love to do."

That individualism makes it difficult to lump Kreayshawn and Lil B, or any of the rising crop of Bay Area rappers, under a specific style. They're of the same generation, work largely through the Internet, and are undeniably controversial — but their music and images are vastly different.

About The Author

Ian S. Port


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"