Premiere: Shady Blaze and Young Gully's Breezy, SMKA-Produced "Greatness"

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Dropping in October, new mixtape Darkest Before Dawn will see a fresh line-up of Bay Area rappers hopping on tracks crafted by Atlanta production unit S.M.K.A. As a teaser for the project, which will include input from Roach Gigz, Mistah F.A.B., and DaVinci, All Shook Down is proud to present the premiere of "Greatness," a slick and slinky future anthem that features Shady Blaze and Young Gully flowing over a hypnotically breezy production. To complete the listening experience, we also checked in with Shady Blaze and S.M.K.A.'s Mike Walbert to get their own thoughts on the song.

How did the Darkest Before Dawn project come about?
Mike Walbert: We reached out to a popular blog in the Bay Area [Thizzler On The Roof] that covers the music and asked about sorting out this project. We're from Atlanta but we've always been fans of Bay Area music.
Shady Blaze: Matt Werner [from the blog] hit me on Twitter saying he wanted me and Young Gully to collab. That's it right there.


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Hear Le1f's "Wut": A Hot Track From an NYC Rapper Who Is, Oh Yeah, Openly Gay

Categories: Hip-Hop, WTF

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Being a black male who raps and is open about his sexuality is still a big, controversial deal in post-Frank Ocean 2012, if the headlines and blog comments surrounding New York rap breakout Le1f are any indication. But before we get into that whole ugly issue of rap's latent homophobia, let's deal with "Wut" on a purely musical level. First and foremost, it's a great track. The dude's got a tall, funky kinda steez, freaky/revealing clothes, and some quick cleverisms on the mic. The spare, bouncy production from S.F./L.A. production duo 5kinAndBones5 just booms (please, turn up your bass). That "Wut" is a hot track and video seems almost inarguable, even apart from the lines about cuddling a Ukranian "he" and feeling light in the loafers. You just wanna hit play again as soon as it ends.


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A-1 and Flosstradamus Flip Lana Del Rey into a Smooth Rap Track in "Now You Do"

Categories: Hip-Hop, Yay Area

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Thirsty?
Here, fresh off his inclusion in this year's KMEL/Thizzler Freshman 10 list of hot young Bay Area rappers, is San Francisco's own A-1, rolling through a corner store and pushing (mostly*) positivity over a Lana Del Rey-sampling beat produced by Flosstradamus. The Woo Staar-directed video is plain -- he buys a bottle of water and say hi to the homies -- but that doesn't matter, because A-1's flow is the important thing, the way it speeds up and slows down, rolling over the syllables of "...you never say a single intelligent word," or, even better, "... especially if you start me with a carbonated barley beverage."


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Watch: Hopie Spitshard Gets Stalked, Kills the Beat on "No Chase"

Categories: Hip-Hop, Video

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If certain other Bay Area-repping female rappers don't quite live up to ideas of what an MC should be, there's always Hopie Spitshard. The Filipino-born female is a graduate of U.C. Hastings law school and, clearly, a powerful force on the mic. In "No Chase," Hopie takes on haters on "the sidelines and my timeline" and waves her fingers at bandwagon-riders and sellouts. If the hook seems a little thin at first, it gets better with repeated listens, and Hopie attacks each inventive line with a ferociousness that feels just right over the classic, saw-synth beat produced by 6Fingers and Exile. The Aris Jerome-directed video turns full-on creepy while it presents a stalker's perspective on Hopie in images riddled with static and video distortion. There's no neon or distractions or gimmicks here -- just a solid video and a hot track from an up-and-coming Bay Area rapper:

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Bay Area Rap Mogul Stretch on the DEA Tying Mac Dre's Label to an Ecstasy Bust

Categories: Hip-Hop, Interview

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Terry Richardson
Kreayshawn with her manager, Bay Area hip-hop mogul Stretch. Photo via Terry Richardson's Tumblr.
[Editor's note: This week's music feature looks at a recent DEA drug bust that claimed a substantial connection between late Vallejo rap legend Mac Dre's record label and a large-scale Ecstasy trafficking ring, of which 25 alleged members were arrested last month. One source for our story was East Bay hip-hop industry figure Stretch, who manages artists like Kreayshawn and Mistah F.A.B., among others. We thought Stretch's comments on the issue deserved reproduction at greater length than we could fit in print. Read our Q&A with him below.]

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently sent ripples of controversy through the Bay Area hip-hop scene by alleging that late rap legend Mac Dre's Thizz Entertainment label is tied to an ecstasy trafficking ring. It's a claim that those involved with upholding Dre's Thizz legacy have sternly denied -- including Bay Area industry figure Stretch, who gave us his views on the matter in a recent interview.

What's your official involvement with Thizz Nation?
I'm a partner in Thizz Nation.

What was your first reaction to hearing the DEA was investigating Thizz Entertainment?
When I heard about it, it was from someone else, and they called me asking what was going on, and I looked at the paper, and they had the indictment on it. I read the entire indictment, 50 something pages, and from my perspective, it was ridiculous. It's one thing to say that these people are doing these things, but it's another thing to say they're all associated [with Thizz], because the thing about it is Vallejo's a small city and the majority of the people that got caught up in this thing are from Vallejo.


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Boot Camp Clik on Their Reunion, Working with 2Pac, and Duck Down Records

Categories: Hip-Hop, Q&A, Rap

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Brooklyn's Boot Camp Clik established its classic New York underground hip-hop credentials starting in 1992 with Black Moon's "Who Got Da Props?" and went on to rule the '90s underground rap scene with its signature raw and grimy sound. Comprised of Tek and Steele (also known as Smif-N-Wessun), Sean Price and Rock (together known as Heltah Skeltah), OGC members Louieville Sluggah, Starang Wondah, and Top Dog, and Black Moon member Buckshot, Boot Camp Clik has gone on to release four albums, including 2002's The Last Stand, which featured well-known singles like "And So" and "Think Back." For much of Boot Camp Clik's career, rap culture was defined by the sometimes violent East Coast versus West Coast rivalry, but the crew set out to bridge these differences by working with the late 2Pac on the One Nation LP. Members of the group recently spoke with All Shook Down about reuniting, their Duck Down Records label, and the possibility of a fifth album. All members of Boot Camp Clik will perform at Mighty this Saturday, March 31, with Triple Threat's DJ Vinroc opening.


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Roach Gigz's Producer CLoz Used to Sell Beats for $10

Categories: Hip-Hop, Q&A

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"C-L-O to the motherfuckin' Z"

CLoz sold his first beat for $10. That less-than-whopping fee came about as the East Bay producer was clawing his way up into the local hip-hop scene. Since then, Cloz has steadily built up an impressive body of beats, most of them hooked around rousing synth lines and synapse-sizzling snares; he's also become something of Roach Gigz's producer-to-go. So with Cloz's stock on the rise, we checked in with him to chat about his Bandcamp hustle, getting props from Shock G, and the hip-hop beatmaker's breakfast of champions.

When did you first start producing?
I started producing in high school. I had a friend who basically got me into it and started teaching me things and I was not better, but more creative than him, and I just kept on progressing.


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Honor Roll Crew Singer 1 O.A.K. on His Debut Solo Album, Studio Mischief, and Covering Wham!

Categories: Hip-Hop, Q&A

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1 O.A.K. performs at Vitus tonight.

"We'll be taking a lot of shots tonight!" 1 O.A.K. is about to head out and celebrate his brother's 21st birthday by hitting up a few local bars -- but the Oakland-based singer and producer has good reason to indulge in some reveling with his debut solo album, Special Request, having dropped last week. A free download, the 13-track project is the latest installment in the mighty Honor Roll Crew's saga, and showcases 1 O.A.K.'s slick and sophisticated vocals over Bay-based soul grooves.

With an album launch party going down at Vitus in Oakland tonight, which will include 1 O.A.K. performing with a four-piece live band, we checked in with the singer to talk about recording at the Honor Roll Academy, hitting up hip-hop in-stores at Rasputin, and a covers project he has planned with Trackademicks that will include the duo tackling songs by Wham! and The Smiths.

Listening to songs on the album like "Weekend" and "High Roller," it seems like your singing and phrasing is influenced by rap music. Is that right?
Yeah, I definitely grew up listening to rap. My music trajectory is kinda weird 'cause I didn't really start listing to anything outside of gospel music and maybe a few records my mother had and a lot of Stevie [Wonder] records until high school. It was at high school where I started to get deep into rap. I went to Berkeley and we were right by Rasputin and Amoeba records, and so I'd pick up various records there.


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Watch: Pep Love Waves the Flag for the Culture in "Hip Hop, My Friend"

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Pep Love, putting all his heart into this.

And today in Reminders of the Considerable Powers of the Hieroglyphics Crew, we bring you this video for "Hip-Hop, My Friend," from Oakland MC Pep Love. It's the first single off Rigmarole, his second solo album and the first in 11 years (since Ascension), and both the song and the video are worth pausing to enjoy.

Building on a sweetly melancholic sample from Bobby "Blue" Bland's "I Wouldn't Treat a Dog the Way You Treated Me," Pep Love renews his dedication to hip-hop and bemoans what he sees as the negative influence of the media, major labels, and suit-wearing cigar smokers on its original values. Of course there's a bit of myth-making going on here, too; any song that begins with the line "I'm a real true artist/ Put all of my heart in this" bears the risk of sounding both corny and arrogant, sorta like those hypemongers and anonymous trolls wagging online fingers about "real hip-hop." But here we'd say Pep Love stays on the good side, coming off more like a concerned wise man than a cranky elder. And anyway, his flow is so impeccable -- effortlessly smooth and rhythmic in that way we've come to expect from Hiero members -- that he leaves no room for shots even if you disagree with his point of view.

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Veteran Rappers: Do You Really Need to Continue Making New Records?

Categories: Hip-Hop

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KRS-One: Great live, but the records aren't what they used to be.
There was a time, back in the late '80s, when the legendary Bronx rapper KRS-One was a candidate for the title of Greatest Rapper of All Time. Twenty-five years later, though, the self-anointed Blastmaster's latest long-player, The B.D.P. Album, suggests that compulsory retirement from the recording arena after 10 years in the rap game would be a good thing. At the very least, putting a cap on an artist's album count would stop some of the music's icons from continuing to release projects that make them come off like the genre's outdated uncles.

KRS-One still puts on one of the few vital live hip-hop experiences: His voice is commanding, his rap recitation skills are still sharp, and as long as he sticks to his hits -- whether those recorded with his Boogie Down Productions crew or his early solo work -- he delivers a rousing set. (He had been scheduled to preach his righteous rap gospel tonight at the Red Devil Lounge, but the show appears to have been canceled.) When KRS-One airs out his anthems, it's like experiencing a journey through the golden era: "Criminal Minded," "South Bronx," "The Bridge Is Over," "My Philosophy," "Jack Of Spades," "Duck Down," Sound Of Da Police." But since his solo albums started to get sloppy -- 1997's I Got Next being the start of the descent -- he's released music that largely sullies his legacy. And he's far from alone.


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