From '93 Til: Rehashing Mac Dre and the Conscious Daughters
[You could argue that 1993 was the most formative period for West Coast rap music, especially when it came to the Bay Area. Definitive lists and superlatives aside, we're just gonna take you on a trip. Every week, From '93 Til will dig up something that came out of the Bay Area roughly around the same time, 20 years ago.]
20 years ago this month.
We missed last week for the holiday, so this week we're double-fisting. In case you weren't already convinced, November 1993 was brimming with new and insightful hip-hop, and that was true until the very last day of the month. And it wasn't just your typical gangsta shit. From Vallejo to East Oakland, there were scrappy, unique new MCs lighting up the Bay Area like butane. And though their half-lives were sadly not as long as a luminary like E-40, they nonetheless left a permanent mark.
No one could have predicted from the bouncy, anthemic quality of "California Livin'" quite the impact young Andre Hicks would have on the rap world, but as we all know that -- despite a whimsical demeanor -- he became one of the most respected Bay Area stars ever. Young Black Brotha: The Album, a redux of three previous EP's, was his proper debut. Tracks like the Crestside-establishing "My Chevy" or the classic "I'm In Motion," better foreshadowed Mac Dre's nascent style, complete with tinny filter of the prison phone line over which he legendarily recorded some of his vocals.
A few freeways away, The Conscious Daughters debuted with Ear to the Street on nearly the same day as Dre. TCD was comprised of MCs CMG and Special One, and the hip-hop community was riled up about what this new female duo were bringing to the table. It was a novel sound: hardcore riding music fronting as gangsta rap but boldly addressing many of the realities of being a female MC. Linking up with West Coast rap tycoon Paris and slipping him a demo earlier in '93, TCD quickly had a deal.
Here's Rachel Swan's description from the 2004 East Bay Express cover (published about a month before Mac Dre was shot in Kansas City), on TCD's signing with Paris' Scarface Records and breaking into the mainstream:
The result of that love connection was the Daughters' debut album Ear to the Street, part Ice Cube, part Big Mama Thornton, released on Priority in 1993. That year, the album sold more than 200,000 copies, hitting Billboard charts and allowing the Daughters to appear on "Soul Train" and MTV -- in fact, Special One says the two battled Ice Cube on KMEL's "Make It or Break It," and won. Their slick single, "Something to Ride to (Fonky Expedition)" -- which Paris describes as a G-rated answer to Dr. Dre's "Ain't Nuthin' But a G Thang" -- hit national airwaves hard, and soon there was nary a car speaker on the West Coast that didn't reverberate with the song's whomping beat. Although the Daughters congratulate themselves for being harder and more street-oriented than many of their peers in hip-hop, the joint that actually made them famous featured a more positive tip. Void of bullets or sexual references, "Fonky Expedition" was a chilled-out West Coast anthem about rolling through the 'hood, directed more to club DJs than to mobb music audiences, who liked it anyway.
Even after Billboard success, The Conscious Daughters only put out a few albums over their nearly twenty years as an active duo. Special One's untimely death came shortly after TCD parted ways with its longtime label and inked a new distribution deal with Sony, so there's no telling whether TCD was simply trying to make ends meet, or was poised for a comeback.