The other night I spent (probably too much) time talking with a friend about the importance of hip-hop and rap being geographically contingent. West Coast hip-hop doesn’t sound like East Coast hip-hop. Rap from the South sounds nothing like rap from the Bay Area. But each artist uses creative embellishments and stylings to tell a story about their hometown, and to musically map the place they grew up.
Because of this, it’s no wonder that Bay Area hip-hop and rap have charted themselves onto the map for decades. We recently did a post highlighting over a dozen new Bay Area rap and hip-hop artists, and the biggest problem we had while compiling the list was being forced to exclude a huge number of artists — a testament to the creative sound and lyricism that’s coming from the larger San Francisco Bay Area.
On that list was Rexx Life Raj, the Berkeley native who has been garnering love from the likes of The FADER, Pitchfork, and beyond with tracks coming from his debut album, Father Figure, a homage to the difficulty and beauty of life being a constant work in progress. Father Figure is slated to contain more than one piece of wisdom from Raj who was a former Division 1 football player at Boise State. Most importantly, the release, set to come out June 24, takes on a positive angle and message — characteristic of what the San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop scene has been all about for years.
Raj told the East Bay Express: “I look at music as an opportunity to spread both wisdom and knowledge to the youth,” he said. “A lot of times, artists get caught up in what sounds good, and in the process they end up feeding people — mostly kids — a lot of bullshit. I don’t want to make the same mistake.”
“Young Wardell,” a track that pays homage to the Golden State Warrior’s Steph Curry, features the catchy line “Young Wardell / Take a shot / Swish,” right in the midst of the Bay Area-based team’s entrance into the NBA Finals. However, it was “Handheld GPS” that immediately caught my ear with a quintessential resonant bass line, a high-stripped guitar sample, and the lyrics “Two cell phones / Still so disconnected / Social media / Discontinuous / It’s that shit that needs disinfecting”.
To celebrate the release of the album, Raj will be holding a limited-entry listening party at Emeryville’s Midsummer Studios. Entrance is free but only guaranteed with RSVP.
‘Father Figure’ Album Release Party
Saturday, June 18
5pm, FREE (21+)