Having been up to the Elbo Room in SF recently to check out a live Latin-Funk fusion (I dislike that word ‘fusion’ but hey) show, I can say that the Bay has a very unique thing going on in terms of its live scene, which seems to fuse together Latin Music, Funk, and Hip-Hop pretty seamlessly, not sounding at all forced like a lot of these hybridized popular bands, such as Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit, tend to. The Malcolm X Jazz Fest in Oakland this last month was another event that also effortlessly mixed Hyphy, old school Funk, live Korean drumming, Latin, Hip-Hop, and of course Jazz. Even a small dorm party we went to in Berkeley (I’m long graduated but can still get down like an undergrad) similarly had the party rocking to a crazy mix of Cumbia and Hyphy like nothing. Fools were locking hands going dumb in a circle to old shit like Too Short’s “Whistle”, that apparently will not go away, while the ladies enjoyed the Cumbia in between. I know that a lot of the most trendy DJ’s of today smash up genres of music all the time but to me it’s just not the same! Hard to explain.

This article, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year kind of touches on the diversity and unique style that is characteristic of the Bay scene and the Bay itself. Please check out the mp3’s to get a sample of what groups like Agualibre, Crown City Rockers, Bayonics, and others are getting into musically. My personal favorite is Bayonics’ “Keep It Clean”, but I’m biased ’cause I know cats who worked with them.

Back to the live show aspect. Way back some years, I guess in 2002 or around then, I remember being really impressed by Lyrics Born’s performance at Fais-Do-Do’s in LA which incorporated a full live band and did it in a way that was natural and smooth, and more importantly uncommon in Hip-Hop. I kind of attribute Lyrics Born’s particular approach to his stage show to his being from the Bay. After all, with all the time I spent staying up with the LA Hip-Hop scene I can tell you it was nary a live Hip-Hop show to be seen, other than perhaps Medusa’s incredible live shows, which also often went down at Fais-Do-Do’s. I’m not saying that there wasn’t a live Jazz / Funk influence in underground LA hip-hop, after all the Blowed was right around the corner from 5th St. Dix, and there were dudes like Miles (producer for T-Love) who would fuck with live instruments during shows, but really I’m just observing a certain penchant for old school, musical showmanship in hip-hop that was rare at the time in the specific geography of LA, which I don’t think was as rare up in NorCal. I guess you can claim that Ozomatli counts as they had a cool mix of styles and even an emcee in Chali 2na, but to me they were an individual band, and didn’t really exist within a cohesive scene. The most live shit you would see at a LA show was usually Cut Chemist and Numark doing something wildly fascinating with obscure instruments, like Come Clean with the original African instrument sampled by Primo, or Tried by 12 with the koto or shit like this:

Even in the case of the new Los Angeles based mixed-genre band Toca, fronted by OG Afterlifer Xololanxinxo, it is the Berkeley-grown Ramos brothers that are ultimately credited for masterminding the outfit. Coincidence? Anyways check out some of these bands. You might be feeling their new school take on old school things and their Bay sensibilities.