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Hip-Hop Showcase Features Hot SJ Emcees

In Music
Local emcee Dave Dub says San Jose deserves national recognition when it comes to hip-hop.

Local emcee Dave Dub says San Jose deserves national recognition when it comes to hip-hop.

The Bay Area earned the begrudging respect of the East Coast rap elite back in the early- and mid-aughts, with the undeniable impact of the hyphy movement. That respect, however, never seemed to rub off on San Jose, where Dave Dub has been grinding since the early ’90s with the aim of putting the South Bay on the map.

“I think that San Jose is it’s own power, without a doubt,” he says. “You got fools that have toured nationally. You got Kung Fu Vampire. Peanut Butter Wolf went to L.A. and made a whole lot happen. And you got dudes like myself who are in a different lane. We’re the underdogs of the Bay Area, nobody expects something quality to come out of San Jose.”

To showcase the area’s prowess, Dave Dub has organized Monster Balls 3, a semi-annual hip-hop concert designed to highlight lesser-known talent. Many of the artists hail from Isolated Wax, Dub’s independant San Jose based-record label.

“When we come out the woodwork, it’s a major event,” he says. “Or at least to us it is, because we get all the grimy-ass rhymers that nobody is fucking with. It’s gonna be like a mini-festival of genius, underground rappers. It’s gonna be a crash course for the uninitiated.”

One of those grimy rhymers, Opski Chan, agrees with Dave Dub, but highlights the added accessibility of the rap game today, in comparison to when the pair of them spent their days skateboarding, freestyling breaks and keeping an eye out for people with beats and studio time to offer.

“San Jose has definitely got a rich history in underground hip-hop,” Chan says. “It’s a lot more populated than it was. It’s a lot easier to get your foot in the door. Back in the day, you had to know a producer, it wasn’t as DIY friendly. Now, everybody raps. Everybody’s a producer.”

These days, with the power and reach the Internet provides, Dave Dub predicts a shift in hip-hop’s sound—a shift that will turn away from the semi-homogenous club rap that proliferated, when the labels had all the control.

“Rap has gotten so complacent, I think we’re going through our glam rock stage,” Dub says. “Instead of the headbands, it’s the chains. And that’s cool. That’s always been a part of rap music, but when that becomes the norm, it’s just a matter of time before that gets shattered.”

Dub deals mostly in reflective bars, spit in wavy flows that burst with energy and bend with a little E-40 twang. In the video for “Superfly,” he rails at the camera with praises of the underground, while trashing a strobe lit apartment, dressed in a kimono.

Though Dub’s style is more fit for the fringe, it is unquestionable that rap is the predominant music today. It’s a genre that is easily accessible considering the permeable membrane around the style that accepts and gives influences.

“I think it’s gonna keep meshing with every other genre,” Chan says. “If someone’s a fan of jazz, and they recognize a sample, they’ll be more willing to hear a new take on that type of influence. And that goes for rock or classic country music. Rap will always be relevant. It’ll always have a place. It took over.”

The wide-spread roots of the music have produced all shapes, sizes, and colors of rappers. Especially in a melting pot like the Bay, beefy white rappers with beards, like Opski Chan, are no longer a rarity.

“There’s always gonna be someone to categorize a rapper by their ethnicity,” Opski says. “Then they’re gonna question that person’s genuity, but it doesn’t make as much difference as in the past. A lot of people have broken ground, from Asian rappers, to Latino rappers, and white rappers. It’s definitely better than it was.”

Chan’s latest track, “Very Serious” features a staticy, boom-bap beat, a crisp funky bassline, and dozens of double entendres like “I’m sick as they come/only contagious when bit.” Hot lines like these are what Dave Dub hopes characterizes South Bay hip-hop.

“Lyrically, in San Jose, there’s a lot of thinkers,” Dub said. “If this is the turf that dictates where technology is going worldwide, then our music is obviously gonna have complex rhyme schemes, and anti-establishment shit. If we’re gonna be on the cutting edge of technology, you got to be on the cutting edge of music.”

Monster Balls 3 is June 3 at BackBar SoFa.

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