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Monday, November 5, 2012

Thizzler's Bay Area Freshmen 10 Cypher: Local Hip-Hop Tries To Get Its Game On

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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Young Bari and PlaneJane
  • Young Bari and PlaneJane

Most of the audience members appeared to have some sort of mercenary interest, be it promotional (many people were handing out fliers and CDs) or carnal (there were also plenty of adoring "sweethearts"). Several people toted video cameras or documented the event on iPhones, a practice that's particularly conspicuous in hip-hop -- no other genre is quite as compelled to mythologize itself. In large part, the attendees had come to glad-hand and/or muscle their way on stage, which might explain why the event was so top-heavy with "surprise guests."

Werner, who started Thizzler on the Roof as a blog but transformed it into a well-intentioned "platform" for the hip-hop community, seemed remarkably tolerant. The long, deafening, mid-afternoon set by East Oakland rapper Stevie Joe, the rather unceremonious absence of San Quinn, the dissolution of a much-anticipated freestyle battle, and the rather prolix speeches of Big Rich -- which often devolved into shout-outs - all came as last-minute surprises, he said.

Still, Werner was pleased. He said he's changing the direction of Freshmen 10 by making it less beholden to mainstream radio -- in past years, the grand prize was mention on KMEL and a few spins on the station's "Home Turf" show -- and turning it into more of an "exclusive club." It's not clear how he's going to accomplish that, but he seems to have a good goal in mind.

Matt Werner, aka Em Dubious
  • Matt Werner, aka Em Dubious

"Home Turf is great," Werner said in an interview after the show. "But it's not proportional to the actual amount of talent here."

He managed a wan smile. After four hours of trotting around in a suit coat, trying to corral rappers and keep the showcase from veering into chaos, even the most bright-eyed of rap boosters couldn't help looking a little beleaguered. But he still had time to patiently explain his philosophy. "What it all comes down to is infrastructure," Werner said, adopting a tone of smug superiority. "As it is now, it's a little bit like the Wild West."

The Bay Area has never exactly been awash in hip-hop infrastructure, but Werner thinks he can rectify that, if only by imposing a sense of order and a regime change. Judging from the Sunday cypher, that might be a long time coming.

But Stresmatic has faith it'll work. He came at Werner's behest, after all.

Critic's Notebook: Matt Werner, on getting his picture taken: "I need to look like a drug dealer. That's the only way people will take me seriously."

-- @RachelSwan

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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