September 26, 2013

Max Bell was thizzin when he wrote this.

Bay Area rap comes and goes in the national rap consciousness. In the early ‘90s Digital Underground made impregnating someone in a Burger King bathroom socially acceptable.  Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It” remains in contention for the best smoking song of all time. Hyphy had its moment in the mid-aughts. Lil B made himself near impossible to ignore in his post-Pack incarnation. At the moment, artists like IamSu!, Sage the Gemini, and Clyde Carson seem to be enjoying, at the very least, left coast love from Oaktown to Inglewood. True, underground mainstay Hieroglyphics (all members and side/sub groups included) haven’t stopped chilling since ’93, influencing everyone from Kanye West to Freddie Gibbs. But when it really comes down to it, apart from chart-toppers from player pillars E-40 and Too $hort, Bay Area artists have often been relegated to the local success and notoriety.

For instance, if you live in L.A., only a six-hour drive from Oakland, you’ve probably never heard The Jacka, who’s been repping for his city for over ten years. Yet his weathered posters still (last I was in Berkeley) wave in the Bay wind outside Rasputin Music on Telegraph Ave. Sure, every Drake stan now knows the name Mac Dre, but how many leather-pants-in-the-strip-club simps have ever heard “Thizzle Dance” or “Dollalalala Lotsa Paypa?” And so it goes that fewer still have listened to the other Andre from the Bay: Andre Nickatina, the fly Fillmore rhymer who’s had “Powda 4 the Hoes” since ’93, the street scholar who once taught us the difference between ‘money and pussy’ and ‘pussy and money.’ It’s the little things.

Twenty years in the game, Nickatina has had little to no radio play and very little blog coverage, as is the case with many artists who were rapping when people still purchased CDs sold out of candy painted trunks. Seemingly, it’s been his independent grind that’s kept him afloat and his loyal fan base sated — every time I’ve met a Nickatina fan, their stoned eyes lit up at the mention of his name.

Now, I’m not saying Nickatina’s music is revolutionary. While his songs are almost always competent, confident, and impassioned, many miss the mark. And few Nickatina albums are playable front-to-back. That’s perhaps why he’s still a relatively obscure rapper. In other words, it takes some digging to find the good-to-great tracks on each of his records. With that said, a Nickatina greatest hits collection would definitely be a double disc affair. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least seven or eight songs that would meet the criteria for said compilation (hit the comments section for your suggestions).

In any case, Nickatina is still at it, slanging bars about coke and candy paint and ladies of the night like the rap game Fillmore Slim. After over ten albums, he’s finally released a self-titled album. Had it not been for sir Piyevsky over at Steady Bloggin consistently doing Gods work, I probably wouldn’t have known about it until a post, much like this one, would’ve been long over due.

One of his best, most cohesive albums yet, Andre Nickatina features appearances by Krayzie Bone, Clyde Carson, and Problem. The latter appears on DJ Mustard-esque beat that’s immediately going on my never-ending ratchet playlist right next to 2 Chainz’s “Mainstream Ratchet.” But the song that’s really peaked my interest, the one that will go on the Nickatina greatest hits, is the silky perm smooth “Candy Paint.”

With fellow Bay rappers 100s and Mac Mall, “Candy Paint” is pimp funk at its finest. 100s, who’s Ice Cold Perm is still egregiously slept on, is in top form. He opens by borrowing Jay-Z’s catchiest hook, and there are lines about rocking Eddie Murphy’s Raw jumpsuit. He also has one of the best ad-libs of 2013. Nickatina does what he always does best, riding the beat while rapping about candy paint, kush, seafood, Jordans, and cocaine. He also sounds like he’s really enjoying himself. It’s as if 100s has injected some of his youthful energy in his predecessor. And Mac Mall, who’s been at it as long as Nickatina (he also had a video directed by 2Pac), closes the track with taught turf talk only afforded to tried and true veterans.

“Candy Paint” probably won’t make any year-end lists (maybe it will here). And Nickatina’s album will most likely stay under the radar, as history often repeats itself, or something. But I’m hopeful for 100s. He just signed to Fool’s Gold in June. Maybe he’ll be the Bay Area’s next artist to break nationally, if only for a little while.

Below are some of the Nickatina cuts mentioned above alongside some of his best from over the years. There’s also the new 100s track “Life of a Mack.” In the name of DJ Quik, let the pimping commence.

Listen:

Watch:

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