Image via DaBoii/Instagram
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The Bay Area doesn’t sleep, and neither does Yousef Srour.
Welcome to the first article in the BAY AREA TYPE BEAT series. This will be a recurring column in which Yousef Srour sheds light on Bay Area artists and Bay Area-adjacent artists. Each week, I’ll be handpicking five cuts that are either brand new or have been victims to the Spotify algorithm. Lo and behold, BAY AREA TYPE BEATs:
EBK Young Joc – “Get It Right”
It doesn’t matter which beat EBK Young Joc hops on at this point; the indifference in his tone suits the heavy-handed hits of his producer’s 808 drum kit. The beat just needs to knock. In the last year, he’s rapped over a traditional NY Drill beat, a sample from the Star Wars score, and ‘90s-era R&B vocal chops. Joc’s style is fluid and sways back and forth if he’s huddled up with his crew around him in anticipation for the beat to drop, and “Get It Right” showcases just that.
EBK Young Joc turns to SparkyMadeItSlap for an abridged microhouse beat. It’s a disjointed four-beat techno loop that slides up and down octaves. “Get It Right” feels like the electronic version of “No Days Off” from his latest project, Nightingale Legend. Why use such a glitchy beat? Because it’s sporadic just like him, sometimes dulled with codeine and sometimes bouncing off the walls with an ecstasy pill. Even with single verse and no chorus, Young Joc experiments outside of his traditional sample selection to create a stripped-back electro anthem that doesn’t require any electronic knowledge to know that it slaps.
Michael Sneed – “Sometimes Blue (feat. GrandBankss)”
There are underground rappers, there are indie-singers, and then there’s Michael Sneed. Sneed sounds like Guapdad 4000 if he inhaled a helium balloon and started using even quirkier adlibs such as, “Yip Yip!” Sneed’s a wide-eyed cartoon character whistling down the street trying to beat the blues. His lyrics are just as tender as his voice. I can’t name one person other than Sneed that uses the term “misty-eyed” and isn’t above the age of 63. Sneed’s old soul comes through his voice with scats and jolly ‘ole hums.
There’s a gospel that defines the Oakland-based rapper that reassures his listeners that everything’s going to be alright. It’s the voice of the restless. It’s the voice of the optimistic and hopeful. With childlike purity, Sneed is accessible to both neo-soul fans and youth pastors alike. “Sometimes Blue” is a hymn that you’ll find solace in; Sneed colors the bright blue sky with the same soft color palette that blurs his eyes.
SSRichh33 x Verde Babii x EBK BCKDOE – “Angry Africans”
Any sample would be better as a Bay Area type-beat, and “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy is no exception. Most popularly used on “Famous” by Kanye West, EBK BCKDOE remixes the song for his latest mixtape. Trife God is a compilation of sample-heavy pieces with blistering bass thumps that rework songs ranging from Ciara’s “1, 2 Step” to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” BCKDOE’s use of the reggae classic makes you question whether or not he’s the Bruce Almighty of sample drill (see: album cover). He’s the Stockton Jim Carrey, using his ungodly powers to turn an otherwise ordinary Central California backyard into what could be the Great Green Wall of Africa.
I doubt that Sister Nancy ever thought that she would be the sound that defined Kanye’s 2016 diss to Taylor Swift, but I’m sure that even her wildest dreams could put together that her sung “Bam Bam” would be a reference to the blast of 9mm ammo shells. The airy, summertime anthem gets repurposed as a score for drills and shit talking. A tribute to Drakeo the Ruler’s “Hundiddy Bop Bop” lies within Verde Babii’s verse calling this song a “Hundiddy Bam Bam” – yet another twist upon the Sister Nancy sample in the same way that Drakeo would distort the English language to his liking.
Mozzy & Gunplay – “Chain Gang”
Before Mozzy started making acoustic guitar-centered songs with Blxst about how syrupy love could be, he was making dark, cerebral music that would mourn the losses he’d face in the Sacramento neighborhood of Oak Park. His music was debilitating, painting delicate pictures of survivor’s guilt and the emotional dullness that enveloped him while he was in the streets. His music wasn’t commercially viable; it was grainy and poorly mixed, leaving only the slow-draw of his voice and the realism in his imagery to reel listeners in.
With only a couple ascending piano chords and the sample of R&B singers hushing in agreement with a subtle “mhmm,” the song works as a light at the end of the tunnel in Mozzy’s discography. Gunplay’s aspirational and you can hear a slight smile as he’s “riding down Crenshaw” and “throwing rocks at the chain gang.” When Mozzy comes in for his verse, he slows down the tempo, nostalgically rapping about Pineapple Fanta doused with medicine, trapping, and how he no longer has to sell dope out of his grandmomma’s house. Gunplay and Mozzy are standing tall at the mountaintop and they’re rapping about how the pressure no longer makes them feel like Atlas; the world that was once on their shoulders is now theirs to behold.
DaBoii – “Bananas”
Breakups are hard, but the end of SOB X RBE might have been the hardest. Every one of its members moved onto solo careers, leaving us with semi-frequent collaboration of DaBoii with Slimmy B as SOB (Strictly Only Brothers). Sonically, DaBoii has always been my favorite artist to come out of the collective, coloring himself as the group’s leader. This was once showcased aesthetically with his signature nappy ‘fro, the throwback to Andre Nickatina in his wonky flow, and ‘90s-inspired tracksuits. On “Bananas,” DaBoii internalizes the style and fills his pen with the same ink that his predecessors once used.
Following in line with the sample-based drill that the EBK Hotboiiz have been perfecting in Stockton, DaBoii flips “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani to create a song that has the bounce of a South Vallejo drumline. Alongside the stomps and claps of the Y2K-era, MikeyRare shoots DaBoii in 35mm film as he switches back-and-forth between rapping and sung interpolations to match the sample. Offered with his usual bravado, DaBoii itches for one-liners about YWN supremacy, as he has everyone around him dancing around in a corner store, making Mac Dre’s thizz face. And yes, his face is scrunched because he’s disgusted by the smell of “Black N Milds” on your breath. Gwen Stefani, I’m begging you, please clear this sample.