Bay Area artists to watch in 2018

Matthew Stranzl, Reporter

Kamaiyah – Oakland

Photo courtesy of Baeble Music

In hip-hop history, female rappers have fallen into two disparate categories; the lyricism-oriented, socially conscious values of people like Rap-

sody, Lauryn Hill and MC Lyte and the more raucous and raunchy space inherited by artists like Lil Kim, Da Brat and Cardi B.

Kamaiyah’s output is a combination of both categories, with her momentous debut project A Good Night in the Ghetto containing drinker’s anthems that complemented odes to a fallen friend lost to cancer and ruminations on harsher yet simpler times.

Kamaiyah, a former security guard, erupted into the spotlight with her feature alongside Drake on YG’s “Why You Always Hatin.”

It’s only right her entrance into the public eye had her sharing mic time with superstars, as it’s only a matter of time before Kamaiyah graces the top of the Billboard charts.

I wasn’t very enthusiastic about her 2017 EP Before I Wake, but the aforementioned A Good Night has remained in my rotation since I discovered it around five months ago. The replay value is infinite, appropriate to listen to at your brightest moments, deepest sorrows and everywhere else in between, both uplifting and relaxing at the same time.

Rexx Life Raj – Berkeley

Photo Courtesy of Rexx Life Raj

While the other artists on the list (excluding Kamaiyah and Bassy) dabble in the arena of hardcore street rap, Rexx Life Raj is reminiscent of more reserved Yay Area forefathers like Boots Riley, Saafir and the Hieroglyphics crew.

He’s the furthest thing from a backpack, “conscious” rapper, but his music preserves the same lackadaisical spirit theirs does.

I hate to indulge in cliches, but Raj’s music inhab-

its a more “vibey” realm sonically, perfect for fans of carefree rhythms.

Raj’s music has an indubitably hyphy influence and contains incredible whip appeal, but is also in tune with the lo-fi, boom bap resurgence style (think 1999-era Joey Bada$$) that once dominated the digital avenues of SoundCloud.

I’ve heard wonderous things about his 2017 album Father Figure 2:

Flourish, but the only entry in his discography I’ve heard is the original

Father Figure, released in 2016. The beats are ethereal, moody with warm textures that perfectly encapsulate the emotions of late nights and early mornings.

Raj alternates between crooning and rapping throughout the project, not completely excelling at either but finding a contentment-filled middle ground that commands your attention but doesn’t leave you moved through shock value, falsetto notes or lyrical acrobatics.

Father Figure puts a layer of

Photoshop magic on the mundane reality of life; it finds fulfillment not in guts and glory but in the layman friendly land of disappointing restaurants, hazy weed smoke filled nights and cordial hookups.

Fun fact for all the NCAA heads out there: Raj attended Boise State where he played D1 football for the Broncos.


Marc E. Bassy – Mill Valley

Photo Courtesy of AT40 Wiki

The suburban location of Mill Valley is an anomaly on this list, but unlike the others featured Bassy is a pop upstart turned R&B heartthrob with a Platinum certification.

I discovered him through my highkey fandom for Kehlani’s music, scrolling through YouTube scouring for rare features where I found her 2014 collaboration with Bassy entitled ‘Lock It Up.”

Much like Erykah Badu’s timeless “Bag Lady,” they took the sample from Dr. Dre’s headnodic “XXplosive” and transmuted it from a gangsta rap staple to a sultry slow jam.

“Lock It Up” harkens back to simpler times in her music, before the high-profile relationships, major label deals and suicide attempt that, while nearly tragic, brought mental health into the spotlight of pop music and opened the doors for other stars to showcase their vulnerabilities.

“Lock It Up,” also introduced me to Bassy, a full-fledged artist in his own right. A Tam High graduate and UC Santa Cruz alumni, Bassy has a creative integrity rarely witnessed in contemporary music.

From the electric anti-establishment attitude of Only the Poets to the candy coated polish of Gossip Columns, Bassy has etched out a sense of consistency that has also spurred artistic growth.

Uzzy Marcus – Sacramento

Despite not having the most original subject matter, Uzzy Marcus has one of the most unique voices I’ve heard in recent memory.

Affiliated with the Mozzy/Bounce Out Records camp, Marcus shined on the Mozzy Records presents Baggage Claim compilation and on his Mafia Reputation EP.

Mafia Reputation has all the characteristics of a true MC; varied flows, a charismatic voice and sentimental subject matter discussing his love for his daughter, past financial struggles and aspirations towards a positive path in life. His body of work is limited but enough to impress any fan of street lyricism and slapping beats.

OMB Peezy – Sacramento

Photo Courtesy of bazilmuzik

In an incredibly oversaturated market, OMB Peezy stands out with his rapidly-paced verses, helium balloon high pitched voice, Southern twang and almost tangible pain found in his vocal inflections.

His early childhood in Alabama and adolescence in Sacramento allowed him to synthesize disparate regional influences and formulate his own unique presence, one first noticed in his 2016 single “Lay Down.”

“Lay Down” attracted the attention of Vallejo pioneer E-40 and his Sick Wid It Records imprint. His only release since then has been the Humble Beginnings EP, an addictive project that will leave you feverishly clamoring for more.

Prezi – San Francisco

When you hear the word Prezi, you’re most likely reminded of the presentation software or the colloquial slang term for the president.

However, San Francisco rapper Prezi is about to enter into that mental picture, rapidly ascending to household name status with his smash singles “Family” and “Do Better,” made even more popular though its Mozzy, Philthy Rich and OMB Peezy assisted remix.

His debut album Do Better dropped last week, and from what I’ve heard so far, it’s more than worth your time.

BabyFace Gunna – Sacramento

Another artist out of Sacramento signed to Mozzy Records, BabyFace Gunna has a similar modus operandi to Uzzy Marcus.

As his name implies, the content of his songs revolves around sex, money and murder, an antagonist towards anyone who dislikes modern hip-hop music.

While his imagery is bleak, Gunna’s talent and technical ability are undeniable, miles ahead of his adolescent peers.

His two 2017 projects Child of da Trenches and Ham ‘n’ Cheese are both thoroughly enjoyable listens, lacking the polish of major label endeavors but appealing to fans of Mozzy and other California rappers/

The Real Lil Kayla – San Francisco

For people who prefer their music polite and family friendly, please stop reading this article now and flip to the next page. Highly vulgar and hedonistic, The Real Lil Kayla’s music might not appeal to everybody but her lane is clearly defined.

Despite not having a full length project to her name, Kayla has harnessed the historical definition of a rap mixtape; instead of putting out free album-quality material, her SoundCloud page is occupied by loose singles and remixes of classic songs by Big Pun, Juvenile and Pharoahe Monch that she put her signature twist on.

She’s appeared on tracks with fellow SF phenomenons Yatta and Lil Yase as well as Vallejo stalwart Nef the Pharaoh.

Lil Yee – San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of iTunes
While Bay Area hip-hop’s most recognizable stars come from Vallejo and Oaklan
d, San Francisco has played an integral part in the scene. Recently a new wave has risen from the ashes.

Like roses blooming from concrete, San Francisco’s more underprivileged neighborhoods have birthed a generation of talented new rappers, one of whom is Lil Yee.

We judge books by their covers and people by their namesake, something I did with Lil Yee. My brother recommended him to me incessantly, but due to his pseudonym I dismissed him as just another flavor of the month.

However, his debut Cita Son and its slapping single “War” elaborate on the fast life without glorification, has melodies mellifluous enough to soothe a wailing infant and lyrics sentimental enough to pluck at the heartstrings of nearly anybody.