Image via demahjiae/ Instagram
The Bay Area doesn’t sleep, and neither does Yousef Srour.
Welcome to the BAY AREA TYPE BEAT series, a recurring column in which Yousef Srour sheds light on Bay Area artists and Bay Area-adjacent artists. Each week, he handpicks five cuts that are either brand new or have been victims to the Spotify algorithm. Lo and behold, BAY AREA TYPE BEATs:
When some of us watch The Sopranos, the experience is like a night at the opera. We witness bloodshed warranted by family ties and devout Catholicism. When Acito watches The Sopranos, he sees himself as one of Tony’s disciples repeating back his oath to the family: “May I burn in hell if I betray my friends.”
Spread over an Italian vocal composition not too far-off from The White Lotus Season 2 theme, Acito prowls into the night. He’s pictured on Undefeated’s album cover in all black, smoking a blunt at an unknown grave, with the grim reaper patiently waiting for him to turn around and face death. With a hand on his pistol, the artwork is a bleak looking glass into what comes after the events of “Different.” Acito confesses the answer to his wishes: ‘I want the opps dead, not no Montcler.”
The sample sounds ghoulish and the reverb of the 808s bellows with retribution. In a Nike Tech and a diamond chain around his neck, Acito seeks vengeance. He plays a mob boss: “Got more lead than I’ve got friends, could you say the same?” With five bullet capsules spread across the cemetery on the cover, Acito values loyalty over everything.
Freestyles aren’t particularly rare in the Bay. You might find any given artist unremarkably rapping over a booming 808, eighth-note hi-hats, and off-beat rim shots and they’ll call it a day. The process works, don’t get me wrong, but more often than not the beats become formulaic and the flow blends in with the constant influx of music released every day.
Krishu and YUNG BAMBI blast over Hounds’ rage beat, spiraling through high-pitched alarms and detuned saw synthesizers. The thunderous bass repeatedly punctuates itself as a foil to Krishu’s mezzo-soprano voice and Yung Bambi’s tenor. Their “Mace Lee Freestyle” swiftly moves between raps about spraying 7.62mm bullets to the “various streams of income” that they keep under wraps. The song anchors itself around Yung Bambi’s ad libs about selling “shh and that ahh,” playfully scatting about drug flips. It’s a throwback to freestyle sessions with your best friends, not knowing what to rap about next, but still spirited until someone hops in for the next verse.
Whether you’re talking about the Black Panther Party’s founding in 1966 or Black Jazz Records’ 20-album run in the early 1970s, Oakland has been the long-time home of empowerment. Nowadays, we see artists like Michael Sneed, Ovrkast., and demahjiae carrying the torch of self-love, preaching the everyday man and woman’s ability to break through the glass ceiling and achieve greatness. “815” is a continuation of Oakland’s legacy.
Demajiae repeats the phrase, “They can’t break us/They can’t hold me,” six and a half times within a slim 1 minute and 52 seconds. Supported with the twinkling bells of a mark tree and a cut-off sample of a harmonizing soul singer lulling, “Time goes by, I try not to-,” demahjiae reverts to boom-bap to preach his message of perseverance. The track is a testament to an Oakland mentality that has lived through generations who that have fought for their own livelihoods and have constantly battled oppression, whether that be from OPD, naysayers, or gentrification-minded landlords. There’s a fire in demahjiae. Holding onto the words of his mother, reminding himself to stop backpedaling his most profound thoughts, dehmajiae aims to overcome any obstacle he might face.
Over a sorrowful R&B sample, Verde Babii lets us in for a brief moment of emotional intimacy. He dubs this heartbreak anthem: “The realest shit I ever wrote.” Typically I find lines like this to be trite, a tagline for artists who have heard one too many TikTok-isms, suffering from “Main Character Syndrome.” This B-side from Verde Matters doesn’t hold back as Verde Babii explains his shortcomings in a past relationship and the abandonment he’s felt for the entirety of his life, from both his partner, his friends, and the passing of his father when he was two years-old.
Verde Babii is a defeatist. In the booth, he’s grim: “Damn, I’m really dead inside.” Verde explains that he’d prefer a pretty lie over an ugly truth, a moment of protection instead of the disappointment he faces everyday. In this cathartic bow to his losses, Verde Babii speaks like a man ready to see the other side, painfully gripping his poles and his double cup until the moment comes. With no support system, he treads to the studio for solace.
EBK Jaaybo’s Letter 4 The Streets is a Stockton sample drill opus that introduced Northern California and beyond to the introspection that involuntarily attaches itself to the music of EBK Jaaybo. The project featured bedroom pop and emo rap samples from the 2010s to paint a dissociated picture of grief, a result from wounds that are far too recent to be fully understood. Jaaybo continues this style with “Unfaithful,” a collaboration with A-Bliccy that speaks to despondence over a silky soul sample, complete with twinkling keyboard chord changes and muted bass drum kicks.
Teary-eyed and begging for mercy, EBK Jaaybo is searching for peace. He has his eyes set on extrication, holding the emotional burden of his brothers’ incarceration on his back, just as Atlas did with the weight of the world Jaaybo is spiteful from the unfaithfulness of his friends that should have been there for him; he’s battered by the thought of his own loneliness, alienated by an absent higher power. He’s calloused and alone: “Posted on the block because I be feeling like she all I got.” A-Bliccy shares the same sentiment, with more emphasis on the weaponry that EBK Jaaybo holds close in place of a body. Half-growling, he only dubs his choppa as something worth cherishing and he only wishes for his incarcerated friends to be freed too.