Lil B is fucking weird. The Berkeley rapper, born Brandon McCartney, scored his first hit, 2006’s sneaker anthem “Vans,” with The Pack, a group he formed in high school. But rather than build on that group’s success, Lil B retreated to the Internet.
Stuntdouble & Tenshun have been making funky, intelligent hip-hop since the mid-’00s. In 2011, the duo released the first of three EPs as part of Welcome to San Diego, a series that speaks to local issues with biting humor.
It’s a Friday night in October, and local rapper and producer Michael Quiñones is setting up a projector at Headquarters Café, a coffeehouse in El Cerrito that might be the ideal new spot to showcase his music.
When rappers like Common and Mos Def got big in the 1990s, record companies concocted a new label, “conscious hip-hop,” to neatly package their sociopolitical-themed music and exploit an older, more affluent and often elitist demographic.
On a Saturday afternoon in June, local rapper Perry Wilkins Jr. stares out across several houses. Dressed in a flannel shirt with rolled-up jeans and boat shoes, he’s hanging out on a large wooden balcony at “The Flight Deck,” the home of a friend, on a steep hill in Encanto, in San Diego’s sprawling 4th City Council district.
On a Saturday afternoon at Ranchos Cocina restaurant in North Park, Jack King, Jamal Smith and Brandon Zamudio bounce off each other electrically. Between the three members of local hip-hop group Parker & The Numberman, you can hardly get a word in.
The first installment of Critical Beatdown—a monthly series dedicated to a new class of glitch-laden, avant-garde, instrumental hip-hop and electronic music known simply as “beat” music—took place at Kava Lounge in January 2011. A year-and-a-half later, the series is going strong.