Ethnic Studies – Bay Area Rap Music essay

In nearly 25 years rap and hip-hop culture became a really global phenomenon and gave rise to the prosperous industry. Nowadays it is a unique culture with own fashion, lifestyle and language. Many Bay Area rappers were influenced by funk culture a style of music with a strong rhythm that is based on Jazz and African music. In the terminology of rap music, Hip-Hop is usually related to a specific culture of graffiti, break-dance and rapping. As a musical style however, hip-hop refers to the type of music which unites all these attributes. In the 90th rap music began to spread and develop very quickly, and many rappers of those times returned to the old school, following underground musicians. My research paper is a critical analysis of Bay Area Rap culture and its greatest representatives, whose creative work is appreciated by young people around the globe.


Some people admit that music and ideas gradually become less important than image of rappers themselves. Many of them were caught by police with drugs and guns, showing them as cruel gangsters. Hip-hop as a subculture has its own laws, which one should obey in order to survive. People face problems inside the culture as well as outside it. My research deals with an exceptional part of hip hop culture. Bay Area Music is represented by a great number of prominent musicians. MacDre, E40, Too $hort became legendaries of Bay Area hip-hop. They are admired and appreciated by several generations of loyal fans.

In the 80th West Coast rap mainly imitated East Coast party rap, following old-school masters. Bay Area soon became a fertile place for the development of musical culture. Followers of blue rythms, such as Too $hort made a significant contribution into Bay Area rap formation. Gangsta rap made more definite characteristics of West Coast style its sound was firm and minimalistic, while its themes touched problems of social politics and hedonism.

Several years ago West coast hip-hop was the leader of rap-industry. Now its fame seems to be not so visible. Most people get information about hip-hop communities by means of mass media. It’s no doubt that dominant stereotypes make them consider West Coast music as something monotonous. But it’s not right in reality. Bay Area (Northern California) is one of those regions which seriously influence West Coast hip-hop on the whole. It has been a powerful source of talented rappers for at least 15 years. One of rap-pioneers of this territory, E40 said that when the world turned to West Coast, it mainly didn’t distinguish Los-Angeles and Bay Area. All of them are players, but they play in a different way. E40, Too $hort, C-Bo, JT the Bigga Figga, Mac Dre and some others gained a status of local superstars without support of labels and mass media. Moreover different rap genres in Northern California successfully coexisted, not interfering with each other’s work. West Coast rap didn’t remain indifferent to social moments. Strict economic reforms of President Reagan, police violence, freedom of corporations and imperfection of justice system all of these aspects were reflected in rap music to some extent. Appearance of gangsters with distinctive social position also contributed into the development of West Coast music. Such legendary figures as Too $hort formed a foundation for Bay Area hip-hop and attracted general attention to this region.

With the help of video full of violence and sexual aggression, West rappers quickly became more popular than those in other regions, although their fame lessened from time to time. Numerous teenagers all over the world accepted their ideology with spirit of rebellion and protest. A gangster with a microphone became the main hero of that time, and corporative America understood how to use it for profit. Crimes and drug trade overwhelmed problems of racial discrimination. Fights in poor districts of California became main events of national news. When speaking about West Coast, the majority of fans pay attention to Los-Angeles. As a result other west rappers artists from Bay Area had to strive hard in order to form their own unique trend. Nowadays it is known as Hyphy Movement.

MacDre (Andre Hicks) was originally known as a prominent representative of gangsta rap. It is a specific type of rap music with words about drugs, violence and life in poor areas of the city. Nowadays government tries to stop drug propaganda, which makes young generation get used to harmful and illegal lifestyle under the influence of those songs. MacDre himself was arrested for an attempt to rob a bank in 1991 and was imprisoned for five years. Although MacDre was actually innocent he could do nothing with it. They were determined to accuse him and succeeded in it.

It sometimes happens not only in hip-hop world but in other trends as well. His lyrics were supposed to contain provocative material a set of ideas that one believes in strongly and tries to persuade others to follow those ideas.

But even during that period he still worked and recorded music, which resulted in his famous releases. He even managed to record a successful album by means of jail telephone, which is especially amazing. Though the quality wasn’t good, fans were absolutely pleased with it. In recent years he started his label, called Thizz Entertainment. It also became another reason for persecution. The word Thizz means Ecstasy in Black American slang.

Nevertheless this word was included into rap lexicon for a long time to come. Hip-hoppers are often accused in spreading songs which emphasize drug use or contain too much aggression. Since 2001 MacDre was gradually promoting as a rapper. His early works were influenced by Too $hort’s misogynous motives. On the contrary his later creations became more delicate, influenced by E40’s respect to language and strange voice variations and inflections.

Despite his significance, MacDre was shot just like many other rappers, while returning to his hotel room. Such a danger of unexpected death awaited many representatives of hip-hop culture. The details of MacDre’s murder still remain unsolved. Despite his significant contribution into the movement of gansta rap, MacDre died senselessly and rather typically to young street life. MacDre’s creative work is characterized as a powerful expression of unique personality. He is appreciated by millions of fans all over the world who feel they have much in common with MacDre’s ideas and thoughts, expressed in his songs.

a passionate, fun-loving, good-natured kid who never fully got the chance to grow up (Gabe Meline, 2005).

People’s creativity in work depends on personal qualities in the first place. In order to understand the song themes of Bay Area Rappers, it is important to find out what influenced their way in life and what stimulated them to choose one or another type of activity. Andre Hicks always was open to people. He was interested in differences between various types of people. His future was defined when he moved to Crestside and got captivated with hip-hop culture.

It was later marked in his creative work. The strongest influence on the Bay Area hip-hop development was made by early representatives such as Michael Mac Robinson, who became an authority for MacDre. The nick MacDre by the way was also taken in honor of his mentor spiritual advisor and helper.

An album which was recorded after imprisonment aroused contradictory opinions. Its cover is rather vulgar but quite typical for hip-hoppers. It shows him among girls with large breasts wearing bikini. He sits on a toilet, pants down. This very album characterizes his further career. MacDre was always unpredictable and out of ordinary. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it (MacDre). This was his favorite saying, which not only came through his hip-hop creations, but also reflected ideas of Bay Area Music on the whole. It was important to express ideas in a unique and unpredictable way to grape attention of listeners and make them feel the truth. Another sort of innovation which distinguishes Bay Area hip-hoppers from others is also obvious in MacDre’s works. His later works are known for specific voice inflections, such as animal sounds, British accents or whispers. MacDre used to experiment with mushrooms and ecstasy which showed an example of how a typical rapper is supposed to live. MacDre was inspired by people, which encouraged him to write prominent lyrics and create exceptional songs. On the whole I’d like to say that in the course of time he became an outstanding Bay Area hip-hopper. His rap community will probably never put up with his unfair death. And his impact on Bay Area rap would be felt for a long time to pass.

In order to analyze Bay Area rap culture I’d like to emphasize the influence of Too $hort (Todd Shaw) a widely-known Bay Area hip-hopper, who is now at the height of his popularity and continues to achieve success. Whoever invented the expression you can’t keep a good man down you’d probably associate it with a significant figure of Bay Area hip hop Too $hort. His music also gradually changed and improved in the course of time. It developed and enriched with new themes and ideas. He was influenced by legendary Funkadelic and Dr. Funkenshtein. Although music itself didn’t change much, his voice and manner of singing is now different. Music is probably a bit faster, which doesn’t however lessen his impact on Bay Area rap. On the way to success, Too $hort managed to get through numerous obstacles. What is the secret of his increasing popularity? In fact, Too $hort always stayed loyal to the game and remained himself without imitating others. Instead of following other famous rappers, Too $hort chose to create his own unique and incomparable style of rapping.

In my case the dope’ is the music and the fiend’ is the one that listens to it. I first conceived it as this kind of infectious music that you didn’t hear on the radio or TV. Basically, I wanted to create music that the real players bump (Todd Shaw).

I dare say his music would remain appealing for several generations of young people, not only in the Bay Area but outside it as well. Hyphy Movement is a variety of energetic parties, a period when many outstanding artists such as MacDre and E40 reached the height of their career. Most of them came from Northern California’s Bay Area, contributed into its development and became popular all over the world. Every now and then you got to reinvent yourself by getting with these young cats, that way I stay fresh in the game. That’s the secret to my longevity – said E40. Nowadays Hyphy music became a new long-lasting element of Bay Area youth culture. Bay Area stretches on hundreds of kilometers. E40 (Earl Stevens) with his group called the Click (V-Town or Vallejo a ka Valley Jo) is popular with rap-fans all over the world. E4o gained a status of the best MS on the whole West Coast. The culmination of his career was the release of his third album Game Related. His new sound was based on various styles such as old school-soul, rhythm & blues and gangsta rap.

E40 enriched rap slang with new apt terms which are now widely used by young hip-hop generation. In this way he created a new trend of street and party-music. Some of today’s rappers use many slang words introduced by E40 as their own, with no respect to the initiator. Once he was one of the first underground rappers who organized their own label and accomplished success. Now his ideas prove to be progressive and easy for understanding. That’s why E40 is a phenomenon of Bay Area rap culture. Hyphy movement consists of several components such as dance competitions, car culture and fashion. Typical representative of Hyphy movement is likely to wear jeans, dreads and huge sunglasses, called stunna shades. The word Hyphy originated from a mixture of hype and fly. This movement still musters its strength and obviously differs from what we usually associated with Bay Area. It has always been famous for talented hip-hoppers. Many of them became legendary personalities in narrow circles.

In conclusion I’d like to say that the situation with rap in America is now rather contradictory. Nevertheless rap culture spread almost everywhere, remaining on a high level of its development. Nowadays great number of people are engaged in different types of rap and don’t what to accept any others. That’s why Bay Area rappers are not so popular outside the West Coast. It doesn’t mean that Bay Area groups are less talented; just other regions have their own superstars and put them in the first place. However such prominent figures as E40, Too $hort, MacDre and several others managed to raise Bay Area rap to a high level and contributed into its popularity in different corners of America as well as in the rest of the world.

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