Image via Jay Fully/ 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:
There’s been a fair amount of discourse on fatphobia, recently stemming from Brendan Fraser’s role in The Whale. These conversations trace back more recently to Norbit and Fat Albert, whose brand of self-deprecating humor to fight off grief is more funny than it is demeaning. Jay Fully embraces the playfulness of being a big-boned teddy bear as he stands outside, hugging the pole of a street lamp in an empty In-N-Out parking lot.
Rolling out with the same bassline as Bill Cosby’s animated series from the 70s, Fully begins the track with a few mumbled words to his producer, TBoogieBeats: “I want to do some different shit, something creative.” TBoogie instantly transforms the kids’ tune into an anthem where the 808s bellow with the same heaviness as Fat Fully himself.
In the music video, Jay Fully initiates the first 808 with a shirtless chest bump after tearing off his red rugby tee lined with Fat Albert’s signature white sleeves. Cleverly placed at an In-N-Out, colored with the same red and white backdrop, Fully begins rapping about his love for food with a face full of shoestring fries. Even as he trips and falls, knocking down the double-double in his tray, Jay’s Fat Albert remix is a testament to rappers’ aphrodisiac-like allure: “‘Fully, how you f*ck all these bitches and you got a tummy?’ I slapped the f*ck out of that n***a, ‘You a f*cking dummy.’” As Jay Fully rubs his stomach in the front of the camera, the answer’s obvious – he doesn’t care about his looks and neither do his suitors.
Unlike Fully’s brand of comedy, Stank Stankk’s verse is a less direct take on Stockton rap’s insurgence of dark humor. His lines stretch longer than Jay Fully’s short phrasing, rarely taking a breath during off-color jokes about putting “a hole in one like TopGolf.” Without winding down his pace, Stank Stankk returns the mic to Fully to adlib about his upcoming album and body positivity: “Stop playing with us n***a, fat n****s go crazy.”
There are tons of great uses of the “I Get High” sample (most notably, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s rendition of “High” on Piñata.) However, within ten seconds, G-Bo Lean mutates the sample from chipmunk soul by inserting the pounding knock of his dense 808s. Pictured on the album cover folding his hands above a car littered with money clips, Pastor G-Bo has opened deacons’ doors of the church and is about to hotbox the place.
The 808s ring like church bells; the vocal chop pans from left to right as if it’s a stereo recording of a church choir; G-Bo preaches one-liners with a silky baritone. Playfully sacrilegious, every line is a devout Christian’s worst nightmare. Pastor G-Bo’s gospel ushers in a medicinal scripture: “Baskin Robbins with exotic, got 31 flavors.” The “Yoc City [Antioch] native” elasticizes his singular verse with a voice that calls back to Snoop Dogg’s cartoonish flows and his ever present infatuation with flower.
The Alchemist’s piano key stutters as the song begins, unable to reach the next chord until Larry clears his throat. Larry June is a positive force of nature, promoting health and wellness. Whether it’s drinking orange juice or enhancing your financial literacy, the San Francisco native wants you to do something for your own benefit. Effortlessly, Larry captures exactly what Jay-Z attempted on 4:44; his lyrics are a ten-step guide to success, told by a 31 year-old rapper in the process of building an empire of his own.
Like the infamous 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake, Larry wants to shake things up. The Alchemist’s disjointed piano loop is wobbly, capturing the late-’80s bustle of San Francisco, perhaps even the lobby music of Nob Hill’s Fairmont hotel. Larry June stays in the penthouse. He lives a life of luxury but refuses to be comfortable. Two-thirds into the song, Larry challenges himself once again: “Sing it, Larry.” In a bridge marked by assonance, Larry glides into R&B with the same nonchalance in his raps. A full-length collaboration with The Alchemist is long-overdue, but at least now they’re both veterans with an ear for the finer things.
At the intersection of internet rap and plugg music, there’s a subgenre of melodic hip-hop that leaves candy-coated instrumentals at the whim of auto tune, hi-hats, and generally more relaxed flows. Artists like Ken Carson and D. Savage exist in a post-Soundcloud space where their music still exists on the platform, but it’s moreso subject to cult-like circles on Twitter, “underground” hip-hop accounts on Instagram and subreddits that claim to be the younger antithesis of r/hiphopheads.
Artists in the Bay Area such as Hi-C, Marjorie -W.C. Sinclair, and Aflacko have laid their own blueprints for internet music that doesn’t fully deregionalize itself. If you replace the high-octave bells on “SRT” with a thick bassline and if you boosted the tempo, the song would be indistinguishable from Oakland’s iteration of drill music. Aflacko delivers bubbly raps about dismissing opps and the SRT’s superiority over Scat Packs over a backing track that’s as deceivingly whimsical as a Young Nudy beat.
Typically, “Dreams and Nightmares” freestyles fail to live up to Meek Mill’s original rendition. Either the heart isn’t there, the once-burning hunger has been satiated, or the ferocity has been tamed. But J Blacc, on the other hand, matches Mill’s emotional range. His story raises the stakes. His voice quivers with despondence and croaks with frustration.
Over a grand piano and viola swells, J Blacc tells the story of his adolescence in South Stockton. He was tired of his Payless shoes and making money became more and more of a necessity, so he dropped out of school. There’s a glimmer of naiveté in Blacc’s eyes; he was fascinated by the block, hustlers and killers still seemed immortal. His innocence was unscathed by reality.
808s ring in the beat switch, now calling onto a choir to harmonize and lift their voices to the next octave. It’s a night at the opera – tragedy unfolds, Blacc seeks redemption, the score feels more grandiose than ever. J Blacc reminds us that he was locked in prison from age 17 to 23, dutifully taking his time and not snitching. He rattles off the sentences of each of his friends while manifesting the freedom of others. As the dream becomes a nightmare, J Blacc interpolates one of Meek Mill’s final vindictive statements: “They gon’ remember me.”
J Blacc passed away on March 4, 2023.