I’m back in the Bay for work this week so it seemed apropos to talk about some west coast hip hop. My main
GOTOs for underground hip hop were midwest and east coast flavors for a long time. But music from the west coast had a distinctively different feel to it that I enjoyed in its own way.
My first introduction to underground sounds from the west coast was Hiero. Talk about setting the bar high. Hiero is such a great group with fantastic composition and chemistry. The beats are so unique and each rapper has such a distinctive style. In 2014 the city of Oakland declared September 3rd as “Hiero Day”, an official holiday. Since 2013, Hieroglyphics have been putting on an all-day event by the same name which boasts multiple stages of hip hop acts in a friendly and fun atmosphere.
My first hacker-hip hopper crossover involving Hieroglyphics goes back to the early 2000s. A friend that I used to program with also listened to Hiero. We did some searching and maybe a little bit of Social Engineering to come up with the phone number to Hiero’s studio… which we promptly called. I unsuccessfully tried to convince them to send me street team materials (stickers, posters, CDs, etc) to promote them in the bustling hip hop scene of Cincinnati, Ohio. Even though I failed to get freebies, it was a cool experience to semi-anonymously chat with hip hop artists that I looked up to and admired.
Del / Deltron 3030
One of the rappers in Hieroglyphics is Del, short for Del The Funky Homosapien. Del is arguably most popular for his project with Dan The Automator named Deltron 3030. The Deltron 3030 album is a fantastic sci-fi hip hop album. Published in 2000 it was a fresh taste of hip hop, unique and different and personally preferable to music on the radio. For nerdcore fans, Deltron 3030 is essentially the progenitor project that preceded this scene and community we’ve cultivated.
Prior to 3030, however, Del had a powerful foundation with his history in Hiero. In fact, quite possibly the first ever nerdcore song was by Del. The song is called Proto Culture and is all about video games. 15+ years later, it’s still a classic.
Zion I is another west coast underground act that I found via P2P. I don’t remember the specific application but I do remember thoroughly enjoying their sounds. Good beats, good flow, good west coast underground feel. I saw Zion I live for the first time at a music festival about a year ago and it was a solid hip hop show that cemented my appreciation of their work. This is one of the first Zion I songs to ever hit my mp3 player:
This one was a surprise to me, but not a disappointment. Some of my friends were big fans of Tha ‘Liks but it wasn’t until I heard them that I understood the draw. Really cool sounds and impressive lyrics. They also worked with some excellent artists making for some fantastic collaborations. This is one of my favorites.
This post only scratches the surface of our experience with west coast hip hop. I’m sure we will re-visit the area, both literally and figuratively. Meanwhile you can visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.