Just a quick trip down the memory lane of West Coast hip-hop will bring back memories of a different era. Too $hort blared from the trunks of cuttys and caddys everywhere. Digital Underground busily told us to do what we like, and everytime you checked your watch (or T..V. screen), it seemed to be Hammer-time.
Then, just as soon as it had come, it was gone; the Bay Area's turn to get its national shine on was over, swallowed whole by the dawning of So Cal's G-funk era (I ain't mad at 'em--that was sick, too).
Now, of course, that's not to say that hip-hop disappeared from the Yay, by any means.
When the corporate music money quietly left the scene, things went right back to where they started from--the underground. The earthy and conscious back-packers lived on with Del and the Hieroglyphics, the streets still slapped with the sounds of E-40 and Mac Dre, and there were occasional glimpses throughout the '90s of the glory days, like when The Luniz let it be known that they had five on it.
Then, in the early part of the 2000's, something strange happened: a quirky new over-the-top form of rap began to emerge from the super-charged sideshow scene in the East Bay.
Hyphy music began it's transformation from a new sub-style of Bay Area hip-hop, to an overused household word (verb?). And, once again, the major music industry machine came calling. But after a few botched signings and mishaps with Clear Channel Radio giant KMEL, the national break-out that Hyphy seemed poised to receive ended with the collaboration of E-40 and Little John on 40's commercial smash My Ghetto Report Card.
Rising from the dust of this toppled second shot at West Coast prominence, is a talented Bay Area foursome called The Bayliens.
Effortlessly blending just about everything that came from the 415/510 before them, plus managing to weave in a clever pop sensibility to boot, The Bayliens ironically seem to stick out from the current landscape like a sore thumb. Their 2007 debut set Crop Circles features emcees Jay Three and Enzyme Dynamite (Spaceman Cell and DJ True Justice had not yet been beamed aboard) trading intelligent, commercially viable, but slightly futuristic flows. The tracks sparkle, with a regional hit jumping off the disc in the Cait La Dee-assisted "Bubble Gum".
The fellas took a quick timeout from abducting wack MC's (and performing a slew of club shows plus a trip to Europe with activist/rapper icon Paris) to chop it up with SoulsandSounds.com and give us all a glimpse at their plans for the musical universe.
S&S: I know The Bayliens dropped Crop Circles a couple years back--y'all been on my radar screen for about a year now. For those who don't know, what's the concept behind the group and how did you all come together?
Enzyme Dynamite: We all were individually doing our own things in the Bay Area hip hop scene for quite some time. Jay 3 and Enzyme Dynamite met battling each other @ a monthly battle in Pacifica, DJ True Justice and Enzyme Dynamite had known mutual people in the scene and just kept running into each other. Spaceman Cell was introduced to everyone through Enzyme as well. The 4 linked up and combined each others movements into one.
True Justice: I would say the concept behind the group is Originality with a dash of Out Of This Worldness. We really strive to be ourselves which is really different from what everyone else is doing. We encourage our fans, friends, and strangers to accept who they are first and then make no apologies for it. We came together by a catastrophic explosion in the milky way. But on the real, I have a lot of respect for these guys because they took their time to create an great album, a great concept, a unique look and sound, and when all that was set into place, they were ready to start doing shows to promote themselves. They made a decision to seek out a dj for their live shows and when I got the call, it seemed like that other puzzle piece just fit and we been tearing it up ever since. FYI our first show together was December 30th, 1996.
Jay 3: Yeah, me and Zyme came together thru the battle circuit in 03-04. Then we ran back to each other attending school at Chabot College in Hayward, Ca. We were both doing our own thing and decided to combine forces. We still didn't have a name so we put out some mixed tapes i was Tripple J at the time. We began doing some shows with True Justice at his weekly jumpoffs in the bay. Spaceman Cell was connected thru another group called Forensic Science and started getting down with us around 05.
Spaceman Cell: Well I was doing a show as an mc for the first time and after the show and I saw enzyme and he was with j3, and at the time enzyme told met that I should dj for them. Then we were working on this mixed tape called Hella Music. I always thought that zyme should have had a dj and that rocking shows off of a cd was not a good idea. I was really about rapping at this time and didn't wanna be any one's dj but I was like its like my dj duty so I was like fuck it I will do it....
S&S: I think at this point, it's safe to say we are in a "post-hyphy" era in terms of what's coming out of the Bay. Hyphy seemed like it was just about to jump off and get some national shine before it sort of fizzled out. But tell me what impact hyphy has had on The Bayliens sound, and overall, was hyphy a good thing for Bay Area hip-hop in general?
Enzyme Dynamite: When it comes to Hyphy we were always kind of the outcasts of the movement. We wanted to be a part of it, but for some reason or another we just didn't fully fit into it. We were around during it and well aware of it but cruising in our own lane. A lot of people say that Hyphy is dead, but I run into people outside of the Bay in other states that are still aware and repping it. I don't look at Hyphy as a bad thing for the Bay, it gave the Bay a moment of attention from the industry and the world. There will be another cycle and the attention will be back.
True Justice: To start off with "Hyphy" is a term that we have been using in the Bay Area for years and years. When something so familiar to us becomes a so-called "movement" you can tell that outsiders were quick to coin a term. The Bayliens' sound transcends all labels, we just happened to come out during all the hoopla surrounded by the "Hyphy Movement" The Bay Area has always been and always be known for all types of styles and genres of good music. Trying to label what comes out of the Bay Area was doomed to fail from the start. The only good thing I feel that came from that whole period was that the whole country took a minute to re-acknowledge how much talent is coming from this area.
Jay 3: Hyphy to me was a real crazy time in the Bay. It was exciting to see our artistic neighbors gain world wide attention. The scene jumped off after the death of the late Mac Dre. The Bay was popping hard at that time. But like Enzyme said, we knew all the hyphy artist but it was like we were black balled or the movement already had there stars. So we just kept grinding our music thru different channels of what Bay music represented. We branched off into the more hip hop genre but still kept our connects with the hyphy scene.
Spaceman Cell: Well hyphy was a good thing for the Bay! Cuz the Bay has a lot of good music but to me it was the Bay's way to define it self with a name. But it had to much of a negative impact so quickly. Due to the side shows, drugs and kids emulating it all over the country getting hurt, ghost riding, and it making it on the major cable news and people bashing the Bay and its new found glory. Plus the drama with the big local hip hop radio station 106 KMEL and hyphy rappers. It started dying out, Plus you had the indie scene that later turned into what we call the hipster/hipster hop movement going on in the Bay at the time.. There was only a few Bay groups that we're tapped into that.
S&S: You guys now have DJ True Justice rollin' with the Bayliens. I come from an era in rap production where you absolutely had to include some turntable action in your hooks or at the break. In mainstream hip-hop, at least, we've gotten away from that (unfortunately). Tell me what elements does True bring and how does he change the dynamic of the Bayliens live show?
True Justice: Good question man! I want to hear the answer to this one-Guys?
Enzyme Dynamite: True Justice definitely adds the flavor of a party rocker...the way he commands the crowd is incredible, he is really good at that. He is basically like the back bone to the live show. We definitely wanted to keep a strong presence of the DJ in our group.
Jay 3: I've always looked at The Bayliens as being a hip hop oriented group. So to add True Justice was like the icing on the cake ya know. Ive always been into the old school vibe with a futuristic feel. True Justice has been been a Dj for many moons so it was destined that we combine the elements together. There wasn't a Fresh Prince without Jazzy Jeff, no Run DMC without Jam Master Jay, no Rakim without Eric B' so it just felt natural to work with True Justice.
Spaceman Cell: Well the fact that I was the original dj it changes a lot of things but in a really good way it allows me to get from behind the tables and be on the mic or the roland sp808 sampler or even back on the cuts.. Im a turntabalist @ heart so I love to cut.
S&S: Let's talk about the state of hip-hop and the music industry, period...We all know the business is in a state of transition, and so many things have altered the old record company/distributor/radio way of doing things--the Internet being the most obvious one. Speak on what you guys think of the current music industry machine, and what will we end up with when the dust all settles?
Enzyme Dynamite: Truthfully I'm not really worried about where the industry is going. I cant see entertainment ever falling off, and I am an entertainer so I will always have a place in life. The thing that is happening though is that the industry is changing and I'm sure it will change several more times in the future. I personally think that the best thing to do is evolve with it. If its becoming more digital become more digital. If it means doing more shows, do more shows, it's just about creatively flowing with its movements.
True Justice: I feel like it is a great time in the music industry for independent cats like ourselves to tap into a major label. I say that because the climate of the industry is yelling for fresh, new material. Where as back in the day we would be worried about being duped into faulty contracts, nowadays these companies know that The Bayliens, Living Legends, Zion I, Mistah F.A.B., Wallpaper, Hot Tub, etc. have built their own fan base, secured constant tour schedules, and sold crazy units on their own so they have no choice but to throw some money our way jump on the wave that we have already created.
Jay 3: I feel like with the economy being what it is that the industry is going to suffer first. But on the flipside it gave independent artist like ourselves a better stance in what was considered a industry. I mean we literally cut out our own lane in this industry. So I couldn't tell you how it feels cause I've never experienced being signed to a major label. We just go hard and people support us for what we represent. I think that people are more likely to support artist like us cause we don't wait for our music to magically pop up in your hand. We do a lot of live shows and push merchandise to the consumers face to face. It helps people feel like they personally helped you as a artist to have direct contact with you. That's what our formula has been for many years.
Spaceman Cell: Well the industry is a machine. When its time to upgrade or time for some things get replaced, you always have to be ready..if the industry is a machine then you gotta make your own robots..
S&S: Alright, so for most of the 2000's it's pretty much been the South and the East Coast trading the "crown" back and forth, as far as dominating commercial mainstream hip-hop. Nothing earth-shattering has really been comin'' from us out here in the West. Is it about that time for the West Coast to rise again, and if so, is the Bay Area poised to be the jumping off point?
Enzyme Dynamite: The reason why the East coast and Down South are so successful in the commercial scene is that they are unified and they all work with each other and pass the torch. Most of the West Coast and the Bay are fighting each other. If we can work together and pull each other up and put each other on there is no reason why we can't be successful in the commercial scene as well.
True Justice: I would say that you cant have a "crown" with sub-par, mind-numbing material. Sales and popularity doesn't always equal quality material. I think that to focus and strive for thought provoking, and even sometimes downright clever songs is as much a trophy as the commercial accolades of today. I see the shift coming back to really good music regardless of the region it comes from. Real will always recognize Real.
Jay 3: We represent the Bay Area regardless. The Bay to me has always represented what was happening musically anyway. It's so diverse that you have no choice but to recognize what pops out our region. Its like one of the rare places in this world that you can get every race, nationality or creed in one show. Its beautiful to be from the bay. The world sees it and respects it regardless of hype or title. It's just about the artist taking responsibility for their actions. Hopefully people look pass what they consider to be a title and just appreciate good music again. Being from the bay gets me a lot of attention outside of the Bay so I'm rolling till the wheels fall off. The Bay is on smash pie!!
Spaceman Cell: Who knows !! All I know is that The Bayliens have landed and we are smashing down all walls in front of us. We move out side of space and time. So the same rules don't apply. I can only speak for myself but I won't stop ''til I'm at the top.
J. "Fresh" Quintella