Someone e-mailed me this old Street Music interview so I thought I'd share it here. I have no idea where it was originally published, so if anyone knows (or wants credit) let me know. Enjoy!
CIOBIN: A little history of San Francisco
CHAZ: San Francisco has always had rich musical lineage. When I was in grade school, I can remember going to the record store and browsing through the rap section. Back then (80�s) all rap was �Underground�, so you could find local artists in the same section as 2 Live Crew and EPMD. I used to be into Bay Area artists like Too Short, APG Crew, and 415 to name a few. A big turning point in Bay Area music was when Del the Funkee homosapiens first album came out. Not only was it something I could relate to, but also it had that funkee NWA produced sound which I loved. Del talked about smoking weed, riding the bus, and things that I identified with. Prior to that I was bumping music that dealt with topics I could not relate to on a personal level. Del used to come out with some amazing songs as B-sides to his singles. I just remember being so jacked the first time I heard �Eye Examination�. It was so original and so powerful. I can still listen to that songs and take something from it. From that point on, it seemed that Bay Area rap really changed. Nationally groups like Tribe called Quest, and De La Soul were becoming popular, and it opened the door for a lot of us to be ourselves. In San Francisco, during that time, I really used to dig Bored Stiff. They would make these scrappy 4-track tapes that really captured something special. Listening to those tapes, you really felt the fun these guys had making the music. They were kids my age, and they really inspired me to do my thing. I had always written raps, but I just started making beats around this time (1992). After meeting some really gifted MCs, I rapped and produced for what would later solidify and resurface as SFSM. At this point there were a ton of rap groups coming out of SF. I started hearing about Mystic Journeymen, and they were touring and blowing up in Europe and Japan. That totally blew my mind. I started realizing then that local artists could reach a larger audience.
C: This is your first cd?
C: My first commercially released album was Word of Mouth with SFSM. At that point it was only myself (Chaz) and Corey (Young C). We recorded that album during the Summer of 1994 and the beginning of 1995. Most of that album was recorded in a cottage in a suburb of Berkeley, Albany. At that point I was into a lot of folk and world music samples. I was sampling Oregon a lot! That album seems to be peoples favorite. I still get praise for what we did back then. After that we had a house on a street called Duboce, where a lot of music was made. People were always coming through, and during that time an album called Defiant Ones was put together. It was a 90-minute tape full of songs and snippets. What I really liked about that album was the diversity of voices on it. It featured artists like Big Shawn, Joe Dub, Jess, Poem (Knot Tight), and many others. After that tape was compiled, I trimmed it down to a 60-minute tape and threw on some odds and ends, and called it Still Defiant which surfaced in 1997. After that, the Duboce household got out of hand with people crashing there, and I moved out. During the period following my departure, I worked on a solo album called Instrumentals and Coincidentals. That's as a 45-minute tape that was a mix of songs and instrumentals. That album remained unreleased until recently, when I made some copies. In 1998, after being absent from the group for a while, we all got together to create an album called �From There to Here�. Most of the production on that album was by a good friend of mine, Alex75. We made 300 tapes, which sold out. I recently made CDs available on beneath the surface as well. Around this time, I was making a lot of instrumental tracks and was getting bored of rapping. I started listening to a lot of Sly Stone, and Prince, and I wanted to make SONGS. Being that I can't really sing, I started trying to compose beats that sounded more like music instead of beats. My beats always had a melodic quality, but I really started making that my objective. My last album �Ironic City� was kind of created for someone to sing on, but I never got around to hiring anyone to laying down vocals for it. So if anyone out there thinks they would sound good on these tracks, get in contact with me!
C: Tell me something about Big Shawn and Ironic City
C: Big Shawn is a member of the SF rap group "Bored Stiff". Since the early 90's Bored Stiff has released a number of classic albums such as "Explainin'" and "Timeless. Big Shawn has always been one of the most recognizable voices in the group, and he's eventually became one of the most sought after producers in the Bay Area.His prolific musical output has yielded numerous tapes such as "Big Time", "Legion of Honor", "Home Grown", and many, many others that have only recently been released on CD. Big's always working on music, and his positive, yet humorous rhymes are a breathe of fresh air from the stale rap formula.
C: Do you know something about hip-hop in Italy?
C: I actually don't know ANYTHING about Hip Hop in Italy. But hip hop is such a lrage part of modern culture, that it doesn't surprise me that so many countries have adapted it to fit their culture. I just don't like when people use fake accents and shit like that. If you speak Italien, rap in Italien...The same goes for Americans! If you 'aint ghetto (myself included) don't front, just be yourself.
C: Do you think that new technologies can help hip-hop?
C: I think new technology has helped not only hip hop but music as a whole, by bringing music and recording into peoples homes. With a few hundred dollars, you can have a whole computer set-up complete w/ sampling programs, and a virtual 48-track studio. But, there's a down-side to everything. While more people can now record, you also get more crappy music. Especially with hip hop, there's sooooo many people just laying down cookie-cutter, non-artistic music. I am a throw-back to the old days. I still use an Ensoniq ASR-10, and before that an EPS 16+. I have a old Fender Jazz bass, a Rhodes electric piano, and I record on a 8-track reel-to-reel. For me, I find that using classic equipment helps me create a more classic sound. I think that computers are a great tool for their editing capabilities, but when your entire sound is created in a sterile environment like a hard drive, I think that the music lacks life. It's the same when some of these producers make entire songs, or even albums for that matter on the Triton. Tritons are cool, but when all your sounds come from the same piece of equipment, it looses variety, which as a friend of mine one put it "is the spice of life".
C: What do you think about the situation of women in hip-hop?
C: have always been an integral part of hip hop. Go back to MC Lyte (of the dopest MCs hands down), or Queen Latifa. They added so much to the development of hip hop. Even before that, all the funk and soul acts like Aretha, or Dianna Ross, helped to build the ground work for what was later called rap. Take a woman like Joni Mitchell. I consider her the best lyricist ever! Her descriptive, and poetic songs were based on 4-bar rymes, and artists like Prince all the way down to Q-Tip were greatly influenced by her words. Women have also been the indirect subject of soo much current hip hop, it's crazy! For example, what would Jay-Z or Ludacrist rap about without women being such a huge part of their subject matter. While they often portray women in a negative light, they still depend on women to provide material for their rhymes.
C: Have you performed live?
C: Back in 1994-5, me and Corey (the original SFSM crew) did a bunch of local shows in San Francisco. We eventually did a show opening for Ben Harper at the Mission Cultural Center in SF. That show was pretty unorganized and the sound was terrible! We had to have drummers playing because we couldn't hear the beats. SFSM really started growing at that point and a lot of the MCs we grew up with started hanging out with us more, and we all kinda merged. SFSM did a number of other shows with other local hip hop acts like Hiero, and a lot of those shows are on tape somewhere! I still gotta track them down. Out of all of the SFSM crew, Joe is the only one who still performs regularly. On a personal note, I just kinda traded the mic for my bass and keyboards. I really didn't like the direction hip-hop was going, and I began to withdraw. Mainstream MCs became thugs, and underground MCs became just plain annoying. All the underground MCs started coping styles from That whole LA scene, and unltimately Freestyle Fellowship. Now, believe it or not, Freestyle Fellowship is OPENING for the same guys who stole their style! Now that's a modern day tragedy.
C: In which way you live hip-hop?
C: I live hip-hop by continuing to try new things, while maintaining that asthetic that seperated hip-hop from the other variations in the genre. Hip-hop is Flash, Diamond D, Tribe, Jungle Bros., James Brown riffs and scratching. It's always important to move forward, but it's also important to maintain the integrity of the art. I still love the dirty, bangin' drums...the deep, filtered bass, and the whole loop sound. Check out artists like Madlib, and MF Doom. They arestill keeping true to that hip-hop sound, while adding their own unique textures.
C: The future of hip-hop is...
C: I don't really know what the future holds for hip-hop. I think that hip-hop is a lot like baseball. A few years back, they started adding all these expansion teams, and the effect of that was wattering down the talent pool. i think the same is true for hip-hop. Since, it's one of the highest selling genres of music, a lot of artists were signed, or independently put out albums. I think eventually we'll see the music shift back to an arena with less artist, but a higher quality of music. I am hoping that hip-hop will become more personal, and artists might be able to share more of their personal struggles, rather than trying to impress me with styles or material wealth. Back in the early '90s hip-hop was at that important point, when artists were beginning to explore rap as more than a means to gain respect, but as a tool of self-exploration. I just hope rap can once again endure these current growing pains, and mature as an artform.
C: Future projects.
C: I am currently working on an EP, which I will release as a 12". On this upcoming project, I am trying to incorporate some live instrumentation into my music. I like being challenged when I listen to a record, and having some elements that aren't loops helps to achieve that aim. I play some of the instruments myself, but bringing in outside musicians helps adds flavors that I couldn't create myself. I am also looking to work with other vocalists. I have produced some tracks for a few other artists, but I would really like to work with a talented singer. I think my sound has evolved musically to the point where someone with a strong voice could really shine over my beats. If anyone out there is feelin' what I am doing, please send me an email and we'll talk.
C: Thanks and hello to...
C: Firstly, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to feature some underground San Francisco hip hop! I want to say what's up to all my family, SFSM and all those who keep it real, MC ID, Jes, Joe Dub, PK, Cool Breeze AC, Sam, www.CommunityMusician.com , Shane (Below the Surface), P-Minus (ATAK), Big Shawn, Spank Pop and Hot Box Records, Sacred Hoop, DJ Marz, Bruce L., and all the real 'Frisco headz. Peace.