Hyphy is dead. So says everyone from Bay Area based music journalist Eric K. Arnold in his insightful article published in the SF Weekly this past February entitled "The Demise of Hyphy," to even the king of the Yay, E-40, [click to read] who authored the pinnacle recording during the Hip Hop sub-genre's brief mainstream existence, 2006's "Tell Me When To Go." In recent interviews, 40 has conceded the window of time hyphy had to connect with the national audience has closed. And so although in his piece Mr. Arnold blames hyphy's death on the lack of support from local radio station KMEL, most Hip Hop fans outside of northern California know the real killer of hyphy was an insistent reliance on a strange sonic foundation. In hyphy oddity masqueraded as rebellion. Shrieking synths and aimless sound effects exemplified a seeming weirdness that extended beyond the sound of the music and came to embody the entire culture of hyphy, alienating anyone not residing in the Bay Area epicenter of it all, and who found no interest in ghost-riding their whip and sporting super-sized stunna shades (especially at night).
Enter San Francisco spitter San Quinn [click to read]. The 31-year-old local legend with a 15-year rhyme resume has just unleashed his solid seventh solo effort, From A Boy To A Man. And with his commanding voice and brash flow, Fillmore's finest presents (maybe unwittingly) the much-needed antithesis to hyphy, a return to the Tupac blueprint of a more balanced Bay Area sound.
Quinn, who as a pre-teen was once an opening act for 'Pac during his Digital Underground days, is clearly a disciple of the Hip Hop icon. And what can only be described as the epitome of west coast cruisin' music, the skirt-chasing ode "Upside Down" sounds like it was culled from the recording sessions for All Eyez On Me. Even more cool breeze sweeps through From A Boy on "Billionaire (What We Call Livin')." Atop a classic mid-'90s smooth soundbed of G-Funk, Quinn trades bars with his 11-year-old son about their vision for the ideal life, rich in family and finance. The surprisingly skilled Lil Quinn poignantly points out his daddy's stylistic semblance to his likely inspiration on the song's chorus when he shoots, "It's the 'Pac in you," to which big Quinn replies, "It's a traditional flow."
San Fran's standard-bearer of that Tupac tradition continues showing love for his fam, sharing the mic with baby bro' Bailey on the show of solidarity "My Brother." The song's sweeping strings and crooned chorus is another silky standout. But Quinn reminds that his tracks aren't all laidback love fests on the arguable album standout "Double Dose Of Gangsta." Over producer-on-the-rise Chops' potent organ and synth horn combo, S.Q. is slangin' that rhythmic dope and demanding that the "Music business, meet your brand new supplier."
While the self-explanatory "Rockin' Up Work" shows Quinn is still living as close to the streets as any artist claiming to be a trapper/rapper, his sharp critique of the current rap game on the menacing "3rd Eye" ["Rap's a little gang/They just lil Jays and lil Waynes/I'm a lil fluid, lil propane/High octane."] demonstrates he is truly as concerned about the music he makes as the turf he reps.
Unfortunately, Quinn's ability to spew those "High octane" rhymes and craft fuego tracks is occasionally overshadowed by his apparent attempts at eliciting the type of radio love he reportedly won't find on KMEL, or anywhere else for that matter. The cheesy club reach, "Wind It Up," with its whistling Lil Jon-style synths and Akon-alike chorus is an atrocious ass-to-the-floor tutorial for those true gems of femininity that actually appreciate abominable ass-droppin' instructionals. While slightly more female-friendly, "Ready To Go" is equally grating, sporting squealing keys and the traditional "go dumb" combo of an 808 and hand-clap unifying to produce some sort of bastard hybrid of hyphy and R&B.
Quinn again panders to thizz poppin' music morons everywhere on the terrible Traxamillion-helmed "Do Ya Thizzle." It might play in the Bay, but with hyphy's recent passing S.Q. would have been better served avoiding such triteness. From A Boy would have also been a more impressive offering if it wasn't at times weighed down by pedestrian production ("We All Gone Eat," "My Zone"), creating an imbalance of the insipid to the impressive selections on the album.
And while sometimes scattershot and rushing his thoughts, which leads to words collapsing into each other and becoming lost in translation, one listen to the intoxicating "They're All Waitin' On Me," which can aptly be described as the distant cousin of "Death Around The Corner," is definitive proof that San Quinn is on the right track when it comes to creating the type of thorough long player Bay Area artists once cranked out with ease. 'Pac would be proud.