NPR logo

The Many Sounds Of 1993 Bay Area Rap

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Many Sounds Of 1993 Bay Area Rap

Hip-Hop's Golden Year

The Many Sounds Of 1993 Bay Area Rap

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This year marks the 20th anniversary of a remarkable period in American music. And all year, we'll be looking back at 1993 and how it came to be that the Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, and dozens of other rap groups released albums that helped change the sound of America.


QUEEN LATIFAH: (Rapping) Black Reign, 1993.

DE LA SOUL: (Rapping) Well, it started in the year of '78. But it's '93 or should I say '94...

SALT-AND-PEPA: (Rapping) So I tried rap. Now in 1993, I'm living that phat. Check my attitude, it comes with the territory, baby...

SNOOP DOGG: (Rapping) Follow me, follow me, follow me but don't lose your grip. Nine-trizzay is the yizzear for me to hook up...

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: (Rapping) So, my man, watch your back. Ninety-three means skills are a must, so never lack.

WU-TANG CLAN: (Rapping) Nineteen-ninety-three exoticness, know what I'm saying? Let's get technical.

GREENE: Today, our series about rap's greatest year takes us to the San Francisco, Bay Area. The music industry was slow to see the Bay Area's rap potential, instead focusing on New York and Los Angeles.

NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji reports that the Bay's contribution to hip-hop in '93 was a do it yourself and be yourself approach.


TOO $HORT: (Rapping) Money in the ghetto ain't nothing new. It's been like that way before you was even born. Get up from the down stroke. Chocolate City for the black folks...

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: 1993 in Oakland, California: Too $hort was rhyming about having money in the ghetto, while The Coup rapped about the communist manifesto.


THE COUP: (Rapping) Presto, read the "Communist Manifesto," Guerillas in the midst, Che Guevara named Ernesto. What a brother with afro know? Yo, go a flow...

SWAY CALLOWAY: To me, it all represented Oakland. Oakland was never a one dimensional place.

MERAJI: Sway Calloway's an Oakland native and MTV personality. In '93, he hosted a radio program in the Bay called the "Wake Up Show." It aired on KMEL and featured popular rappers and up-and-comers.

Sway says, in the early years, the music industry kind of ignored, not just Oakland rap but Bay Area rap - San Francisco, Richmond, Vallejo.

CALLOWAY: The record labels weren't signing a lot of Bay Area artists in the late '80s. Instead of our music being overseen by and A&R guy that worked for a record company that knew nothing about the region, a lot of artists had the freedom to make their own music.

MERAJI: He says, take that freedom, mix it with influences from Black Panther revolutionaries to beloved pimps and drug hustlers, and you get the trendsetters and entrepreneurs of 93's rap game.

Too $hort.


$HORT: (Rapping) I got money baby just tell me the price 'cuz short dog ain't nothing nice...

MERAJI: Del the Funky Homosapien.


MERAJI: (Rapping) People having memory loss. They don't remember I'm the boss. You're claustrophobic, when I close...

Mac Dre...


MAC DRE: (Rapping)) I'm from the V-A-double L-E-J-O, where making dope raps is all I know...

MERAJI: The Coup


COUP: (Rapping) Oakland, California 94610. Dig it. Dig it. Yeah The Coup coming at you in '93...

MERAJI: They all had banging tracks in '93 that were all so different. And you can't forget...

E-FEASIBLE BELAFONTE BELLAGIANO BELLWEATHER: I go by the name of E-feasible Belafonte Bellagiano Bellweather.

MERAJI: Otherwise known as...


MERAJI: The self pro-claimed King of Slanguistics from Vallejo introduced new slang to rap's vocabulary: You Feel Me, Fo'shizzle, PoPo. But he's probably best known for this top 40 hit from 2006.


BELLWEATHER: (Rapping) Ooh. Tell me when to go. Tell me when to go. Tell me when to go. Dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb...

MERAJI: A year before he was signed to a major - Jive Records in '94 by the CEO himself - E-40 released his first solo album, "Federal," on his own label.


BELLWEATHER: (Rapping) I'm going Federal. I'm just a hustler. I'm just a hustler, don't you know? I'm just a hustler...

MERAJI: What does that mean to be Federal?

BELLWEATHER: You know, big business. I had big dreams, big ideals. A large amount of money stacked in my head.

MERAJI: As 40 tells it, he had been a rap hustler for six years, selling tapes and CDs to whoever would buy them by the tens of thousands.

BELLWEATHER: You got to treat the rap game like the dope game. You feel me?

MERAJI: Drug hustling was big in the '80s and '90s in poor urban neighborhoods. The lack of good blue-collar work, plus the crack epidemic, left a void filled by street entrepreneurs. The lack of a music industry in the Bay, that left a void, too. So rappers like E40 treated the rap game like the dope game.

BELLWEATHER: It's a beautiful thing. You're claiming more fame than the dope game. You're making more money than the dope game. And it's more legal than the dope game. How bout that one? Give myself a hand clap. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Forty water - mm-hmm.


DRE: (Rapping)) California livin' take (Bleep) take from me. Yeah, my (Bleep) that's what's really going on...

TAJAI MASSEY: It's scrappy, you know?

MERAJI: For Tajai Massey, the Bay's scrappy DIY mentality helped inform his group's sound. But even more influential for the Soul's of Mischief, he says, was the juxtaposition of the gritty East Oakland streets he grew up on with the serene beauty of the Bay's nearby beaches and forests.

MASSEY: So that's our Oakland. Talking about the variety of different groups coming out: The Coup, Too $hort, E40, Del. As far as our Oakland, we used go hang out in the forest, for heck of hours, rapping.


SOULS OF MISCHIEF: (Rapping) Well, we from east Oakland, California. And sometimes it gets a little hectic out there. But right now, we're going to help you on how we just chill. Dial the seven digits. Call up Bridget. Her man's a midget, plus she's got friends - yo, I can dig it. Here's a 40, swig it. You know, it's frigid. I got them chillin' in the cooler. Break out the ruler...

MERAJI: Tajai says the title track of Soul's debut album, "'93 till Infinity,"- was an anthem for an era. A time and a place where rapping about money in the ghetto and the Communist Manifesto under a redwood canopy, there was room for all of it.

Where do it yourself and be yourself could get you radio play.

MASSEY: You know, like if I turn on the radio now it sounds like one long song. And, it's a good song. It's a good song. Like, you can turn it on and bounce for hours. But it sounds like one long song. You know?


MISCHIEF: (Rapping) Ah, this is how we chill from '93 till. This how we chill from '93 till. Huh...

MERAJI: Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR News.


MISCHIEF: (Rapping) This is how we chill from '93 till. Ah, yeah. This how we chill from '93 till...

GREENE: And if you want to hear more from the Bay Area's rappers, you can visit Next up in our series, the Wu-Tang Clan's 1993 debut. It was not just an album. Group member, the RZA, says it was an idea - a five-year plan.

RZA: I use a bus as an analogy. I said I want all of y'all to get on this bus. And I'm the driver and nobody can ask where we're going. I'm taking us to Number One. Give me five years and I promise that I'll get us there.

GREENE: And he did. That story next in our series on Hip-Hop's Greatest Year.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Linda Wertheimer.


CLAN: (Rapping) Dollar, dollar bills, y'all. Cash rules everything around me. C.R.E.A.M., get the money. Dollar, dollar bills, y'all. Cash rules everything around me. C.R.E.A.M., get the money. Dollar, dollar bills, y'all. Cash rules everything around me. C.R.E.A.M., get the money. Dollar, dollar bills, y'all. Yeah...

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.