The Bay Area has established a counterculture framework centered on rappers’ autonomy. The region’s sociopolitical environment of Black entrepreneurship amplified by Too Short and Freddie B’s hustler mentality provided structure for the development of Bay-Area based record labels who encapsulated the region’s sound, such as Get Low Recordz, In-A-Minute Records, Young Black Brothas and Sick Wid It Records, that inspired the current roster of the region’s rappers, raised on mobb era music.
In the early to mid 2000s, mainstream markets embraced hyphy, an energetic sub-genre birthed from the lived experiences of Black communities in the Bay, characterized by regional signatures of ghost riding and stunna shades infiltrated the Billboard Top 10 through E-40 and Keak Da Sneak’s hit, “Tell Me When To Go” and Too $hort’s “Blow The Whistle.” During this period, E-40 signed to Warner Bros Records, MTV produced a documentary about the region’s sound, and the distribution of street culture DVDs ensured the infiltration of hyphy into NYC, ATL, and music markets across the nation. Yet the lack of intentional leadership, strategic marketing, and controversy over which rapper could claim hyphy resulted in the movement’s downfall.
Over the last decades, mainstream artists such as Drake, Big Sean, DJ Mustard, and Chris Brown have paid homage and been accused by the Bay of appropriated their music. Yet Bay-area artists such as Sage The Gemini, Iamsu!, SOB x RBE, and Kamaiyah rarely achieved Billboard success, in comparison to their industry peers, who flipped their region’s music to be classified as innovative, and thus amplifying their chances of securing a Grammy.
Despite these contradictions, waves of Bay Area-based artists are contributing to the diversity of the Bay’s sound. ALLBLACK, Nef The Pharaoh, and Rexx Life Raj, are on the verge of mainstream success, while Beejus, White Dave, Micheal Sneed, are some dedicated to the continuation of the region’s independent success. In this latter camp is Oakland based rap collective, Trey Coastal.
Trey Coastal is composed of Philip Lang, Cameron Moss, and Ryan Klenk, childhood friends who developed their musical personas of Philip Bank$, Rye Mann, and Cam Moss over a middle school to Washington, DC, where Cam known as DJ Booty Tap produced a mixtape of beats from pirated FruityLoops studio software.
In 2017, the trio went viral throughout the Bay because of their visual to “Polysenian Sand,” a two minute track that paid tribute to the sociocultural factors that cultivated Oakland: Huey P. Newton, Ohlone Land, Tony! Toni! Tone – as Bank$ and Moss donned in Golden State Warriors sail throughout Lake Merritt over a Mann-produced beat.
Within the two years, Trey Coastal has collaborated with over 40 of the region’s independent producers, and rappers through their 20 for 20 Podcast, a multi-faceted auditory experience wherein the group educates listeners about the current trends and movements in the Bay’s hip-hop scene. There’s also the creation of an original song with the featured guest. The finished production is reflective of the organic collaboration among the region’s indie scene, which is primarily composed of formerly childhood peers adamant about contributing to the region’s lexicon, despite the ever rising costs of rent and enduring socioeconomic inequalities.
I spoke with Trey Coastal about navigating the Bay’s hip hop independent scene, and their latest single, “F***K BBQ Becky,” an homage to Jennifer Schulte, the white woman who called law enforcement in response to Black men BBQing at Lake Merritt. — Taylor Crumpton