I’ve said it a few times, you can look at the idea of having a Bay Area Freshman 10 in one of two ways: some might feel like it’s directly taking from XXL’s format and therefore is pretty lame and shouldn’t exist, and others will just be happy that there is a platform to give recognition and exposure to local artists that truly deserve it. The inaugural Freshman 10 all had legitimate talent, and also witnessed their exposure significantly increase after being put on the list. Hopefully like the XXL list, being added to the Bay Area Freshman 10 will continue to have a larger impact each year it exists.
So with that in mind, and the fact that we have all just entered 2011, I wanted to make some predictions about who will make the list this year. As a little precursor, this isn’t a list of my 10 favorite upcoming Bay Area acts, but instead it’s a list of the 10 I think have been getting a lot of love recently, and have the ability to shake things up in 2011. Also, the videos I have included may not be the most impressive tracks that each artist has, but they are the songs that to my knowledge have received the most positive feedback from fans, which ultimately is what creates an artist’s identity. Finally, despite a lot of exciting artists coming from Sacramento, I have left them off the list. Just like San Diego isn’t a part of L.A., Sac is it’s own entity, and isn’t exactly a part of The Bay. Even despite the similarities. So if you’re interested in the dope new MC’s from Sac check out: Chuuwee (who’s project with Sacramento producer Lee Bannon we reviewed), Bueno and C Plus.
So with all of that out of the way, let’s get it started. Also, let me know who you agree or disagree with, and who I should have included in the comments section.
Young Gully: Little needs to be said about Gully, his music has absolutely no problem speaking for itself, and there is no question that he deserves to be on the list. We’ve written about him a bunch of times, whether it be in regards to his Definition Of Gas (https://zebraisfood.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/spewing-gas-like-the-deepwater-horizon-well/) or Grant Station (https://zebraisfood.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/young-gully-the-grant-station-project-review/) free mixtapes (http://younggullyyh.bandcamp.com/), and I have yet to be even somewhat disappointed in anything he’s dropped thus far. While every new Bay rapper claims to be “gassing”, Gully is one of the few MC’s that can actually follow through with the statement. His lyricism, flow, and subject matter out shines practically all of his Bay Area peers.
Most known song: Definition Of Gas (Produced by DJ Fresh)
GQ: How does an up and coming MC from Oakland get the attention of 9th Wonder? Well attending UNC, winning a national championship with their basketball team, and spitting flames all help. So much so that GQ is an official signee to 9th’s JAMLA record label. While that, and his song placement on NBA2K10 as result of the signing, alone should be enough to place him on this year’s freshmen list, GQ has moved back to The Town and continued to build a name for himself in his home stomping grounds. 2010 saw him tear down two solo mixtapes in Blended (http://limelinx.com/files/cb14129c929a9672597d4420dfb90145) and Blended 2 (http://www.sendspace.com/file/a7l5e5), as well as churn out a collaborative effort with fellow Oakland rapper, ST Spittin, in Double Jepordy (http://www.limelinx.com/files/d954a38103985261bdb636b895a957aa). All three of which were offered for free. Needless to say, it will be exciting to hear him move up to a regular diet of 9th’s instrumentals.
Most Known Song: S.P.I.T. ft. David Banner (Produced by 9th Wonder)
Erk Tha Jerk: As any hip-hop fan from The Bay knows, at times it seems impossible for local artists to receive legit national attention. While no one new from The Bay has really broken into the national TV or National Radio audiences, Erk is one of the few new Bay Area MC’s to get internet love from all over the country. Additionally, although it was more auto tune crooning than straight ahead hip-hop, “Right Here” was one of the biggest and most recognizable hits The Bay has seen in a while. 2010 also saw Erk drop Right Here Tha EP, The Prelude Mixtape for free (http://media.audibletreats.com/Erk_Tha_Jerk-The_Prelude.zip), and his debut album Nerd’s Eye View. Combine that with the fact that he’s an in demand producer, and a member of the closest thing the Bay has to a supergroup, in The FNM, with 2010 Freshman Nio Tha Gift, Willie Joe (who I also think will be in this year’s Freshman class), and Traxamillion, and that THEY released a mixtape as well (http://www.datpiff.com/DJ_Ambidekstres_The_Fly_Nigga_Movement_Traxamilli.m97272.html?), it’s pretty clear that he deserves to be considered one of The Bay’s hardest working artists out.
Most Known Song: Right Here (Produced by Erk Tha Jerk)
Willie Joe: The other member of The FNM that will most likely be a part of the list, spent the early part of his career in Atlanta building his skills and media presence, as well as collaborating with the likes of B.O.B. Now he’s back in his native Bay Area, and working hard at being one of it’s biggest names. 2010 saw him drop his debut street album, Focus, which had features from B.O.B. and Playboy Tre among the usual Bay Area suspects of Mistah F.A.B., Jay Stalin, and Big Rich. If the recent history of Bay Area hip-hop applies to his case, his local and southern connections will put Willie in a perfect place for success.
Most Known Song: Its Ova (Produced by Traxamillion)
Stevie Joe: The other man who goes by Joe on this list is a part of the most popular crew in The Bay Area right now, and that is without a doubt Oakland’s Live Wire Records. And 2010 has seen Stevie Joe putting in some serious work for the crew. He dropped a ridiculous amount of material including the free mixtape Cofee & Kush (http://hulkshare.com/yyy6x33kc9xb) as well as his debut solo album 80’s Baby, and other digital albums in Quit Hatin’ On The Bay: Thuggy Fresh Edition, The Leak, 7 Grams, 14 Grams, and Thuggy Fresh Vol. 2 The Street Album. While his technical abilities aren’t necessarily breaking new ground, Stevie more than makes up for it with the honesty and realism that he brings to his raps. Stevie’s music, filled with first person accounts of drug sales and arrests, embodies the mentality of a grown man who’s spent the majority of his life in the streets. His confidence and pride immediately stand out, but upon closer listen they’re balanced out by his reflections on the impact the game has had on him and others.
Most Known Song: 80’s Baby (Produced by The Skoolboys)
Sleepy D: The success of D-Lo’s breakthrough hit “No Hoe” not only put his name on the map, but it opened some major lanes for his younger brother Sleepy D as well. Although he’s still a teenager, Sleepy made some serious moves in 2010 with the release of his debut album Sleepy Deprivation, a Tonite Show album with DJ Fresh, as well as gang of features on Fresh’s other projects, and a Rude Boyz group album with his big bruh D-Lo as well. Sleepy’s style is unabashedly street, and it’s the type of in your face and unapologetic music that could very well incite listeners to participate in some activities that could get them shackled in cuffs.
Most Known Song: Sleepy Fuckin’ D (Produced by Royce On The Beat)
Hongry: Richmond’s Hongry is one of two artists on the list that doesn’t have the catalogue as my other predictions (which may mean he may be more likely to be a 2012 Freshman), but he’s closely affiliated to and has spit really ill features with some of the Bay’s most exciting rappers. Along with repping the Rude Boyz with Sleepy D and D-Lo, Hongry also has close connections with fellow South Side Richmond spitter, and current BAF10 member, Nio Tha Gift, and has collaborated and done shows with Young Gully. While in the studio working on his debut mixtape, he has dropped stand out verses on albums by Nio, D-Lo, the Rude Boyz, and Young Gully. If his solo music is as consistent as his guest appearances, Hongry is no doubt going to be a problem in The Bay sometime in the near future.
Most Known Song: 93 Freestyle ft. Young Gully and Pep Love (Hongry spits the 3rd verse)
Yung Moses: Moses is in a similar situation as Hongry. He doesn’t have an official project to his name, but he’s got friends across the Bay and has been murdering features every time he gets a chance. You can find him on projects with J Stalin, Shady Nate, Beeda Weeda, San Quinn, D-Lo, Young Gully, Sleepy D, DJ Fresh and more. He has strong lyrical ability, but balances it out so that everyone in the street can follow what he’s saying with it as well. It’ll be interesting to see whether in 2011 he can emerge from the crowd and be a force as a solo artist, or whether he’s going to stay in the role of that dude who doesn’t have music of his own, but outshines big names on their own tracks.
Most Known Song: All Gas
Otayo Dubb: Some one’s gotta prove that The Bay is about more than standard synths and 808’s, and this year Otayo Dubb is a great candidate to do so. The rapper/producer’s So Opinionated free mixtape (http://otayodubb.bandcamp.com/) found him spitting over some of the dopest straight ahead hip-hop production I’ve heard from a new Bay Area artist in years. To add to the value, unlike most spitters from The Bay that rap over sample based, boom-bapish beats, there’s none of the preachiness about how to live your life or how he’s smarter than you. It’s just honest, feel good, laid back music perfect for cracking open a cold beverage. Being signed to Beat Rock music (the home of Bambu and Kiwi who combine to form the The Native Guns), should increase his presence up and down the golden state as well. It feels good to have a new non gangster rapper from my home turf for whom I can root again.
Most Know Song: Get Mine (Produced by Tahaj The First)
Meko McAfee: Despite being the city with the largest population in the Bay, San Jose is incredibly underrepresented in the local hip-hop scene. One person apparently determined to change that is Meko McAfee. After his label situation fell through, 2010 saw him grabbing what tracks he could from the album he was working on, teaming up with Dubcnn.com and releasing The Wrath of Ghenghis Khan for free (http://www.dubcnm.com/audio/mixtapes/p.m.t_&_dubcnn_present-the_wrath_of_genghis_khan-(dubcnn).zip). With one of the biggest West Coast websites backing him, and some creative wordplay to boot, if Meko continues to goes hard he could be a major factor in putting San Jo on the musical map.
Most Known Song: No One
Honorable Mentions: Lil Rue, Joe Blow, Gigs, & Stik Gilatine
Check back next week for my predictions of the 2011 XXL Freshman 10.