3 months ago, Keak Da Sneak, born Charles Kente Williams, was shot multiple times in Richmond, CA. For days after the shooting, the Bay was flooded with reports that he remained in critical condition. While we anxiously waited for an update, fans showed their love and support for Keak Da Sneak on social media, and Mistah F.A.B. even released a tribute with “Can’t Kill Hyphy”. In August, we didn’t know if we’d ever get another Keak Da Sneak album. But in early-November, a month after his release from the hospital, we had our hands on his latest opus, the Mekanix produced Withdrawl.
When most of us think of our Bay Area home, we reflect on the region’s most recent major musical movement: hyphy. In doing so, we inevitably recall the faces and voices responsible for spreading the gospel that is hyphy – among others, Mac Dre, E-40, Mistah F.A.B., The Pack, and of course, Keak Da Sneak, the originator of the word and ground zero of the hyphy movement. Keak’s slaps “T-Shirt, Blue Jeans & Nikes”, “Super Hyphy”, & his feature on “Tell Me When To Go” were instant classics and soundtracked years of gigging, ghost riding & sideshow activities.
However, Keak Da Sneak’s comeback album. Withdrawl isn’t a testament to hyphy – it’s a dedication to mobb music, the Bay’s other signature sound, the grittier, gangsta rap music built over heavy bass lines and sticky, grimy synthesizers, that was popularized in the Bay Area in the early 90s. Although hyphy might be our most recent national sensation, the Bay has been the capital for mobb music for much longer, and its roots run deep throughout the entire Bay Area rap scene, from Spice 1 and B-Legit, to the Mob Figaz and The Jacka, on to newer artists like Joe Blow and Mozzy.
When I asked Keak why the album sounds so mobb influenced, he explained that despite coining the term hyphy, “I feel like everybody expects me to be on some hyphy shit all the time. Nah, I do mobb music, period. Hyphy was just to get some attention. When mobb music was too hard for the radio, hyphy was to get their attention.”
I got a chance to speak with Keak Da Sneak over the phone to talk about Withdrawl and how he’s been recovering since the shooting in August. See what he had to say below.
Tyrese: How are you healing up?
Keak: Man I’m getting better. I’m recovering. I’m getting better every day. Still in a lot of pain, but I’m getting better. I’m well.
T: How did it feel to see support from your fans and fellow artists following the shooting? Did you hear Mistah F.A.B.’s record?
K: I feel great. I feel real good about the people that’s behind me and rooting for me. You always want to know. I don’t want to have to leave here to get the support and the love that i should be getting while I’m here you know what I mean? [“Can’t Kill Hyphy”] was dope. It’s basically saying what it is. You can’t kill Hyphy feel me? I liked it a lot. It was dope.
T: Why did Withdrawl come so soon after the shooting?
K: The date already was set before the accident. I had some videos done. We were already working and wrapping it up. This was just a fluke accident that happened, you know? It was on me to call the shots, to say ‘Keep going. Keep pushing.’ I didn’t want to let this accident be the reason I didn’t drop this jewel.
T: How long were you working on the album? How did you and the Mekanix end up with Withdrawl?
K: Probably about March. Probably earlier than that. We had been working. Let’s just say me and the Mekanix been working. And the ending result was I had tracks over there. I was like man we got some songs over here and then it ended up with us making it an album. They produced every record. We’ve got big history.
It came about with us just going back mobb. If you trip, we didn’t just go hyphy on the album. Its more catered to mobb music again. You could call the one with Rayven Justice one of those uptempo hyphy tracks. But other than that, it was just going back, catering to mobb music and that is what the Mekanix are doing right now.
T: A lot of people forget hyphy came pretty deep into your career.
K: It’s just taking it back to the beginning, some of these kids right now, they weren’t even born or they was too young to even know what it was. So all they know is hyphy. But it didn’t just start off hyphy with me. I grew up off mobb music you know?
T: The lead single “Him Not Them” with Mozzy seems really appropriate considering everything that’s happened.
K: It fit. At the time of the accident, at the the time of the album, everything worked itself out. “Him Not Them”, I’m sure glad the Mac God chose me. To be here talking to you about it, doing this interview with you, it kind of speaks for itself. Man wow. Everything worked itself out.
T: Which record from Withdrawl was your favorite to make? My favorites are “Lovin Me” & “Zippin”
K: I loved them all. It’s tracks that didn’t make the album that I’m in love with. I have a lot of tracks. It was hard picking the album because a lot of songs didn’t make it. We had some dope music, which opens the door for another album. A Withdrawl 2 or something like that.[On “Loving Me”] I was just having fun with that song and it ended up being a dope record and a lot of people loved it so it made the album. [“Zippin”] was all just pertaining to what I was going through at the time. So this album was just on point. I was going through little shit and I was recording it, and everything was just falling into place. What I was saying and what I was talking about was really happening.
T: How did you name Withdrawl?
K: Basically I was saying my music is my dope, you know what I mean? And the world is sick without it. “I’m sick without that new Keak. You done got me high off this shit for so many years, and now you mean to tell me it’s discontinued? That I can’t get no more of that shit?” That was my definition. I’m sick without this shit. For sure. It’s needed man.
T: Who are you listening to right now?
K: I really can’t say I’m listening to no particular person on the day to day, especially right now. I’m going through what I’m going through. I just been healing. It’s been more or less me listening to me, or not listening to anything at all. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Maybe a few months from now, when I get back up on my hype, I’ll be able to tell you.
T: What have you been reading?
K: I been in my Bible real tough. I been reading some real spiritual [books]. The 4 Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. Deepak Chopra, that Quantum Healing. I been in my Bible real tough. Just been getting, you know, some food for thought. Just been reading some real spiritual books and just staying on top of my game.
T: Where are you finding inspiration and motivation to get through this trying time?
K: The man upstairs. Man I’m here. A lot of people didn’t get the second and third chance that I’m getting at life you know what I mean? I took some real life threatening blows and I was fighting the whole time to be here giving you this interview. Just my life. I been thanking God every morning, every day. That I’m here. That’s kinda been my motivation. I got a purpose. It’s bigger than me. I’m here for a reason.
T: What do you want fans to takeaway from Withdrawl?
K: I want them to get Keak is here and he’s here to stay. I just want to make sure I give them something. To you know, to open the door back up. Cuz you know I haven’t dropped an album in a few years. When people get to asking if you doing rap still, it’s a reality check for me. “Keak you still rap?” Like yeah I still rap. So I make sure I let that be known. Then I keep putting good music out. That wasn’t my last album [Cheddar Cheese I Say]. I got some more music for my fans. For the Bay. For the world. I’m looking forward to giving it to yall.
T: We’re looking forward to getting it. Are there any final thoughts you want to leave your fans with?
K: Stay progressing, no regressing. Work for what you want in life. Don’t let nobody tell you you can’t achieve what you want in life. Big shout out to my fans, every one who’s been praying for my recovery, everybody who been in my corner, who’s been rooting for me. Shout out to The Mekanix. Shout out to Empire. Shout out to Thizzler. Shout out to my boy C-Major. He’s been with me through it all.