Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

La Vida Frisco: San Francisco Rapper Adam Vida Explains His Recent Name Change and How to Keep it Local 

Wednesday, May 11 2016

Mission District native Adam Traore has been a firsthand witness to the upheaval San Francisco has experienced in the past decade.

High housing costs and a new generation of tech workers have displaced many of the people with whom Traore, 29, grew up. For those who hang on, increasing tensions between minorities and the San Francisco Police Department have compelled many of his friends to speak out against brutality and discrimination.

Traore — a hip-hop artist who performs under the moniker Adam Vida — doesn't shy away from discussing those harsh realities in his music. Yet his focus, he says, is less about shining a light on the negative than it is about delivering messages of hope and resilience.

"Even when I rap about issues that are sad, or focus on the struggles that people are going through, I want my fans to leave the song or the show with the feeling of being inspired," says Traore, a first-generation American who is half-Senegalese and half-Italian. "People who are natives to this city are really feeling the negative effects of so many things, and now, more than ever, they need music and art that's going to recharge their spirit."

That contrasting mix of songs that appeal to both the brain and the hips is fully evident in Traore's 2012 album, The Thurl Tape, released under his previous recording identity, A-1. The album contains smoky, ominous tracks detailing the day-to-day struggles of life on the streets, as well as ebullient party anthems celebrating the joys of living for the moment. It's a manifestation of Traore's life philosophy — which he has dubbed "Thurl" — and it's about thinking for yourself, accepting others, and working hard to accomplish your goals.

"That philosophy of Thurl is something we can all relate to, no matter who you are or where you're from," Traore says. "Growing up in San Francisco taught me a lot about that. As different as we all are, we're really the same — we all want to be loved, we all want to enjoy each other's company, we all want to be safe and secure."

Traore began making a name for himself as a rapper in the mid-2000s, garnering his first 15 minutes of fame through a music video of himself rapping while walking around San Francisco during the Giants World Series victory riots in 2012. (In 2014, when the Giants won the World Series again, Traore filmed a second music video as he navigated the streets of San Francisco on foot.) Both videos — which captured both the joy of Giants fans and the ugly confrontations between local residents and the police — were picked up by the blogosphere and local news channels, giving Traore, then known as A-1, name recognition beyond the Bay Area.

Still, Traore maintains that a name change was necessary.

"I just thought that A-1 was a little generic for what I'm trying to do," he said, adding that he was often mistaken for a Norwegian boy band with the same name. "I've established a good buzz for myself in the Bay Area, but I'm trying to take my sound across the globe, and Adam Vida is a name that's just a little more worldly, I think."

Despite his recent stage-name change, Traore's Thurl viewpoint remains the framework for his hip-hop career. His confessional, narrative rhyming — where he invites listeners into both the mundane and explosive parts of his life — will continue, as will the hazy, laconic beats that back his delivery.

"It's all the same thing, just better," Traore says. "The beats, the production, the rhymes. I'm just really trying to step it up right now."

Traore makes his debut under the new name this Friday at The Independent, where he'll showcase material from his upcoming EP, tentatively titled Viva Vida. The EP will be released in late May or early June under his own imprint, Thurl Records, and he's hoping to put out a full-length album by the end of the year.

For the show, Traore will be supported by local rappers Mikos Da Gawd, Richie Cunning, and Dregs One, and the gig is scheduled to be hosted by Equipto, one of five local residents who spent 17 days on a hunger strike, attempting to compel Mayor Ed Lee to fire police Chief Greg Suhr. (As of press time, with the strike ending Saturday, Equipto and the rest of the "Frisco 5" were recovering in a hospital.) Traore said the event will show solidarity with the hunger strikers, part of a sizable contingent of protesters calling for Suhr's ouster following revelations of racism within the department. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate San Francisco's hip-hop scene, which Traore said isn't quite thriving, but is surviving for the moment.

"It's amazing every time I headline a San Francisco show," Traore says. "As discouraged as I get with the state of San Francisco and how it's looking, during these shows, I'm reminded how present we are as a community and how much support we can give one another. It's a beautiful thing."


About The Author

Will Reisman


Comments are closed.

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.'"