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Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Zen Buddha of the N-Judah: Rapper Richie Cunning

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 7:30 AM

From this week's issue of SF Weekly:

Some San Franciscans make a Mission burrito run as soon as they return to town. Rapper and producer Richie Cunning just takes a deep breath and says, "Oh, thank God." He loves the city's air enough to give it a shout-out on his debut LP, Night Train, a record with a Blue Note look and a Golden Age hip-hop feel. "There's definitely a different smell in different parts of town, but there is always the air," he explains. "In a literal sense, it's not so much the smell as the texture, the moistness of it."

There was plenty of moisture -- buckets of it -- in the air the day I met Cunning at the High Tide, a cozy Tenderloin dive bar his father used to own. "When I was a wee lad, I used to come here with my dad [while he did] the books on Saturdays and Sundays," he recalls. "I'd just drink 7-Up and grenadine [and play] Pac-Man."

Richie Cunning was born Richard Lipton; he remembers the day, 15 years back, when he swapped one name for the other. He was lugging a stack of LPs from Amoeba Music to the Sunset District, mulling over rap names. "Richie Cunningham [from Happy Days] just came to mind," he says. "I was like, 'That would be cool, without the ham on it.' I always thought of it like I sampled the name -- I only use the part that I want."

Read more about Richie Cunning, including his beliefs about Muni-as-muse, here.

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David MacFadden-Elliott


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