A little over a year ago people started seeing a change in the sound from the Bay. It was getting thicker, harder and the rhyme schemes over them had a new edge. Pretty soon everybody was gettin’ “hyphy”. Hyphy is to the Bay what Crunk is to the South. It
drives hard, gets people wild and drivin’ scrapers wild in the streets.
EA-Ski and his latest creation, The Frontline represent one group at the epicenter of the new sound. EA-Ski pioneered the early sound of the Bay’s first rise back in the late 80’s and early 90’s through production with Too Short and Spice-1. In the shadows of greatness, The Frontline received a Midas-like presence on their Now U Know album.
As the pioneer and his students speak with AllHipHop.com, the return of the Bay is looked at in its music, its youth, and even its educational programs. The Frontline takes no backseat in awareness, read up.
AllHipHop.com: Ski, you were around in the mid 90’s when the attention was on the Bay. It’s taken a long time, but what’s brought it back?
EA-Ski: Basically, everything is a cycle. We were definitely in the forefront in the early 90’s. We had a lot of hot records. When the Bay started falling off, everything went to the East. Then to the South. We started trying to reinvent – trying to figure out how we could stick together and unite and make good music. Within that process, there were new artists as well as old artists going back to reinvent themselves. Me, being around for a while, I have relationships with new and old artists. We just wanted to create that vibe that everybody is feeling.
AllHipHop.com: The Gavin Convention was a huge Bay area seminar that happened in the early 90’s. Rakim, Run DMC, Jamalski – everybody came to the Bay. Los Angeles and New York came to Bay and saw our hustle and put us down. It seems to me like when they folded, that hurt the Bay’s ability to stay connected with the industry and was a major part in the our downfall. Do you agree with that?
EA-Ski: The Gavin was a big promotional tool for us. It played a role. With the labels being here for that week, and see what’s going on in radio and on the streets. We had already made our impact. People knew what to expect from the Bay. I think with the Bay what had happened is we had prospered a lot. I think if you are not inventing, things get stale. We were hungry but we got caught up with the compilations. It got a little stale after a while. Them not being here played a role. But the biggest thing is time waits for nobody.
I try to tell artists all the time “What do I look like going back talking about what I did in ‘89”? That’s history and I got it under my belt. But they got kids today that wasn’t even born yet, that could give a damn about what was goin’ on in ‘89 and ‘90. They care about what’s goin’ on in 2005 and what’s the new s**t.
When it’s all said and done, if you don’t value the craft of the music, it can all be gone tomorrow. I think it was great for us to lose it. It lets you know you have to take advantage of every opportunity. You
have to value it and make it better, instead of just using it.
So it gave us a chance now to be more serious about the music. For hot artists like Frontline to come out and be like ”I remember when it was hot and I never wanna let that go.” We don’t want it to leave again.
AllHipHop.com: The Frontline went from doing battles and doing the day-to-day grind to getting rotation every hour. Do you feel vindicated now?
Lock: We never feel satisfied. We always looking to the next step. Being involved with EA-Ski and CMT, it just reiterates that. We’re never satisfied. There’s always another step. There’s always more analysis. We want everybody to feel this and create a platform for our music nation wide and internationally. Our hard work is being recognized, but it’s not recognized to where it can be. So we gonna keep it moving, until we can’t go no more.
AllHipHop.com: There’s a lot of crime, a lot of murder in
Richmond. Talk to me about what’s going on out there.
Lock: Me and Left both growing up in Richmond, both were raised in all this violence. The cycle goes up and down at times. At one point, it was at an all-time high. Then it dropped, now it’s back up again. It’s ridiculous. All we can do is be artists and commentators. We both work with kids, before we were doing this music. We’re
trying to provide an outlet for ourselves and anybody that’s trying to escape that.
AllHipHop.com: What children’s work do you do?
Lock: Currently, we work for the Contra Costa Youth Services.
We’re located right in Richmond. Now that we do have some success we tell the kids “Hey look, we been through the same struggle. But look how far we’ve come.” We try to show that example. You don’t have to glorify and make light of things that are so serious. Take that negative energy and turn it into something positive.
Before things popped off on a commercial level, we were working with kids. They felt it, but they did not see the realistic aspects of until like “These guys are on the radio they are doing this and they doin’ that.”
AllHipHop.com: One of the things I like is your ability to tell stories. “I Know,” and “Blackjack” come to mind most immediately. Your ability to bring the streets of Richmond into my mind is impressive.
Talk to me about how you developed that edge.
Lock: With Ski and CMT already being veterans in the game- we
study them. We study all artists. As people you have so many things locked up inside of you. From being a hood street n***a, to a middle class dude- we’ve seen that. We’ve experienced all that. We been to college we been to high school, we been on the
hustlin’ end. We’ve seen our family’s struggles. So of course we’re gonna internalize that. It’s our obligation as an artist to put that out.
AllHipHop.com: Times have changed socially in the Bay. Mayor Jerry Brown recently passed a law that would allow people to get tickets for watching a sideshow. What do you think about what’s going on with the Mayor and how he has treated Oakland youth over the years?
EA-Ski: A lot of the youth don’t have opportunities. There’s not that much stuff to do. That’s why you have sideshows. That’s why you have these kids creating their own outlet. There ain’t abunch of Boys Clubs. When I go there, they are just tore down and disgusting. You can’t even go to a good park in Oakland. They
Mayor has valid points and then he has points I just don’t agree with. On one side the youth are trying to create things because they need an outlet. But on the other side, sideshows are dangerous man. I’ve seen people get hit and killed. I’ve seen violence breakout
because of the negative impact that it caused. I’ve seen things happen. Is it for me to judge how they deal with it?
Lock: The damage has already been done. The school systems are jacked up. The music and art departments are all shut down. They are suffering.
AllHipHop.com: So the issue is not about legalizing or not legalizing sideshows as much as it is about providing good education and solid recreational outlets for kids in safe places?
EA-Ski: Of course. I go into East Oakland everyday. I see these kids man. They are cyring for help. For something. That’s why music is so important to them. There are no other programs to keep these kids motivated. That’s how Hip-Hop started. Cats were suppressed for so long. They were like, I gotta get this out- “Broken
AllHipHop.com: Ski, you seem to have incorporated a new style of production on this CD. I don’t have a real word for it accept to say that it sounds like you have brought in some 80’s epic Rock elements and still managed to keep it grimy. Tell me about how you came to bring in these new elements into you’re your music.
EA-Ski: Well you know me and Blackjack used to produce for
Spice-1 back in the day. These guys are talented. It never was just a EA-Ski and CMT thing. This was about making the best album you could possibly make. Left brought a lot of dope production to the table as well. Me, Blackjack and CMT came in on the second revise of this record. When I hear these guys rap there’s just certain things that fit. The stories they are telling are so vivid you can see it. If you know anything about 70’s and 80’s music it painted a picture. We’re trying to make the music and the lyrics become one. [But people don’t realize,] Left produced like 70-80% of the album. Because he had concepts that fit what they were doing. We came in and tried to give him an edge that we do, and string it all together.
AllHipHop.com: As a Muslim, there is a lot of madness going on in London, Iraq and other parts of the world. What are your biggest concerns with Islam right now?
Left: My biggest concern is being blamed for the acts of men. Islam, is perfect. Islam does not give directions to murder children and innocent people. That’s actually haram [forbidden] for you to blow up a building. But a lot of people don’t take the time to understand
Islam to learn that it’s forbidden. If a person is doing it saying it’s with the cause of Islam then that person is not telling the truth. Islam does not promote that. It’s not in the Qu’ran.
I think it’s unfortunate that whoever is behind what is goin on is putting a very bad face on Islam. Islam is not being represented well [when these things happen]. Islam takes care of the people. It takes care of the women. It takes care of the children.
Adisa Banjoko is author of the upcoming book “Lyrical
Swords Vol. 2: Westside Rebellion”. Check out now at