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.
I absolutely love creating and listening to music. Despite frequently wearing ear plugs at shows and concerts, my hearing has degraded somewhat over time, and I’m sure that at some point in the future I will need some assistance to be able to hear correctly.
Fortunately medical science has progressed significantly over the past several decades and we now have options like hearing aids and cochlear implants to help our non-robot bodies. Unfortunately some people cannot undergo a cochlear implant for various reasons. Our awesome friend Great Scott has been working on sensory augmentation for his PhD. His advisor recently gave an outstanding TED Talk:
Improving our lives through technology and the intersection of the virtual and physical worlds have always been interesting subjects to me. This research, along with the aforementioned improvements in medical science, makes me so excited for how we will make life better for future generations. The additional benefit of learning more about how we learn is such a cool bonus multiplier. Science is great.
For a more direct Dual Core music tie-in, I’ll leave you with an embed of our song Painting Pictures. Have an awesome weekend!
This past week I had the privilege of getting unbanned from Facebook AND playing three shows during SXSW in Austin, Texas. This was our fourth year playing at SXSW, and each experience has been unique and unparalleled in furthering my appreciation for hip hop. Since this is a #TBT post, my intent is to reflect on our first year at SXSW: 2011.
Before I could jump into the SXSW artist showcase full force, I had the good fortune of making a few extra appearances. Upon arriving in Austin, I learned that BSidesAustin was under way and was invited to stop by. Arriving toward the end of the event, the staff — including Snipe, @diami03, and Jayson Street — hooked up a PA in the back and an impromptu Dual Core show got under way.
After BSides we crashed attended the icanhazcheezburger/Bing party where Microsoft unknowingly gave us VIP access, repeatedly. Social Engineering ftw! It was an unexpected and fun start to the event; which is not unlike most trips I’ve taken.
I had another scheduled show with C|NET prior to the proper Artist Showcase. This show had everything: free tacos, open bar, Felicia Day, and a fantastic audience. At the top of the excitement list was rapping; with meeting Felicia Day being a close second. The show went really well and was tons of fun, then after us the hosts had Ms. Day for an interview. Once the interview concluded, she came upstairs to the “green room” area to hang out.
I remember trying to work up some sort of introduction that was at least half-way clever without being randomly weird… then getting nervous as I was drawing a blank… then just standing there and doing nothing. Eventually Felicia Day left and I didn’t even get to meet her because I clammed up. It was such a strange feeling. I had met famous people before — no problem. I had just shared my rap music with a crowd of complete strangers — no problem. The previous night I had snuck walked into a Microsoft party uninvited — no problem. At that point, I resolved to not let myself be intimidated by someone’s status/persona and to just meet the people I wanted to meet. It’s not always the easiest thing, but that specific experience drives me to be more personable in overcoming the introverted aspect of me that loves to sit at my desk all day.
2011 was a highpoint of collaboration for us with other nerdcore artists. We were on For The Gamers with MegaRan and Schaffer, All The Coins with The ThoughtCriminals, and Zero Day with MC Frontalot and ytcracker (above) just to name a few. At this point I felt confidently established in the nerdcore scene, but still had something to prove with it being my first appearance at SXSW.
I honestly don’t remember everything about my show in the Artist Showcase (lots of shows, it happens); but one thing I do remember is getting to rap in almost everyone else’s set. Collaboration among my contemporaries in nerdcore had been commonplace since the release of Zero One in 2007. Sharing the stage repeatedly with everyone in 2011 really cemented how ingrained I was in the nerdcore scene. It was a pretty fantastic realization.
Thanks to ytcracker’s friend Rory, I also got to meet and interview one of my favorite rappers: Pharoahe Monch. While the interview was mainly about Monch’s (at the time) upcoming album, We Are Renegades, he did ask me about my cinci2600 t-shirt and hacking, which was pretty cool. I had a photo of this but now I can’t find it
Each year at SXSW has been its own set of bonus rounds in that I enter the week of SXSW feeling like I’ve got everything under wraps, only to leave the week of SXSW with a whole new slew of influences and music to check out. Obligatory + voluntary shoutout to Lynda who makes SXSW happen for all us nerd rappers each year. I would have missed out on all these experiences without her <3
You can keep up on our current experiences, SXSW or otherwise, via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (assuming I’m not banned again).