San Francisco has given us some rap legends. JT The Bigga Figga, Andre Nickatina, San Quinn, RBL Posse, Cougnut, Messy Marv, Cellski, Rappin’ 4-Tay, Berner, and the list goes on and on. It’s a legendary hip-hop city and quite frankly is the first city that comes to mind when out of towners think of the Bay Area. Despite the many changes of The City the past decade and longer due to displacement from the forces of gentrification, big tech, and development, it’s managed to remain a hotbed for some of the most interesting rap music coming out of the region.
The City’s home to a ton of rising and established acts that are seasoning Northern California rap with flavor. Whether we’re talking about SemiAutoCec, G-Val, Bby Laana, Yase, Lil Yee, Prezi or a ton of others that we could name, San Francisco’s proven it raises and fosters a ridiculous amount of talent. On the latest installment of Rep Your City, we take a look at not five, but ten San Franciscans that are putting on for The City. There are just too many!
There’s a lot to say about Yatta, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Crashing onto the scene in 2015 with a career-making verse on “Get It In” with Yase, Yatta established early that he’s a force to be reckoned with. Shortly after, he was locked up. However, in 2016 he was home and it looked like he’d be able to capitalize on the success of his show-stealing verse. That changed shortly after when he was booked, charged with attempted murder, and sentenced to 12 years. For most artists, a sentence that long would spell the end of a career, but not Yatta. The influential Sunnydale rapper’s legend only seems to grow despite his incarceration.
Imitations of Yatta’s style can be heard on a number of records released on the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. Because so many have repurposed his delivery, and have even repurposed iterations of it, it can become lost on listeners, exactly who originated the style. But not one to get too caught up on the credit, Yatta impressively continues to release new music.
Guest verses like on CashClick Boog’s “Gang In Here” or Mozzy’s “Free Yatta” and “Free Yatta 2”, have become fan favorites. The unmistakable reverb of recordings captured over the phone, give them an extra layer of character that we have to appreciate because the alternative would be not receiving any new music at all. The same is true for the Instagram freestyles Yatta has managed to upload from his prison cell. His pen’s only gotten sharper during the time he’s been down. We’ll be more than gladly take any new music he has for us. Luckily he’s plotting the release of a new tape he’s calling From The Cellblock 2 Yo Block, which is set to land the first week of October. He’s also got projects with Dex and on KE on the way. The guy’s been working. That’s how he’s managed to stay hot.
– Tyrese Johnson
The city is winning right now and one rapper who is really in his mode is stand out rapper Drew Beez. Straight from Hunters Point in San Francisco, Drew first gained notoriety running with fellow SF rapper Ice. Since Ice’s incarceration, Drew’s been holding it down with strong solo releases as well as collabs. His single with KE “In My Mode”, currently sits at 820,000 views and does not look to be slowing down.
Last year, he was one of the highlights in the Best of Thizzler 2018 Cypher showcasing his non-flashy, methodical style of rapping. Teaming with fellow San Francisco rapper KE, he dropped the collab EP Project Livin last July. On the project, they keep it ratchet and explain that even though they have the money to get out they love their hood and can’t picture life elsewhere. Project Livin embodies their lifestyle. In the end, it isn’t just about music for Drew Beez, but using it to help create opportunities for those close to him to make money together.
Lil Pete is one of The City’s most successful artists. Coming straight out of the Filmore, the talented sing-rapper has garnered millions of views on his records since breaking out in 2016. Growing up in a rough Fillmore neighborhood, Lil Pete’s witnessed homelessness, poverty, and even his own parents being taken away in cuffs as a result of a raid on his home. Most importantly he witnessed the drive to hustle. All these experiences find a way place in his music.
His records succeed in not only being catchy, (and they are really catchy) but in providing a sense of relatability. His most recent album Hardaway, gets real about his personal experiences. Reluctant to conduct interviews, Pete allows his fans to get to know his life and struggle through his music. He’s even created his own label, Public Housin’, which aims to give artists from neighborhoods like his opportunities to excel. He hopes to continue to give back no matter how big or mainstream he becomes.
- Ruby Ann Cook
Lil Kayla is considered one of San Francisco’s most popular rappers. Hailing from Sunnydale, she grew up rapping with the likes of Yatta and KE; early records are tagged Spunkzgang and CorkolandCrazy. Unapologetic female P anthems like “Come Get Cho Nigga,” and “Make Them Pockets Hurt ” have made her popular with women audiences and put her on the map. Like Saweetie, she’s found success repurposing classic records and infusing them with her personal brand of shit talk. We even saw “Make His Pockets Hurt,” become a viral challenge!
Her music differs from other artists in this generation considering she drops when she wants to and feels it’s right, not when she has to. Unfortunately for fans, this means she may go months before releasing new material. For her, music is therapy and where the typically calm and introverted rapper “finds her hype”. She often helps us find ours.
– Ruby Ann Cook
MallyBo is a young artist on the up and up, coming straight out of Hunters Point. He first broke onto the scene in 2017 with collab tracks “Hot Shit”, “YKWTFGO” and “Gettin Money”. He started in the game young, releasing tracks while still in high school. He capitalized on that momentum and continues to release strong records like “Real Shit”, “Playoffs”, and “FastLife”. He’s doing all the right things and rubbing shoulders with the right people. He recently released a remix of his standout record “Real Shit”, with Mike Sherm. With drops like this, we can see why people are anticipating his next release.
What makes MallyBo one of the most intriguing artists coming up is his humble nature. He’s not shy about showing love and supporting others just coming into the game. When discussing the direction of his career, in our interview with him, he centers his fans as his motivation to continue. He really puts on for the turn-up, and still remembers the bigger picture. That’s what makes MallyBo one of the hottest artists coming out of The City right now.
Lil Bean is easily one of San Francisco’s top artists. He occupies a lane with other San Francisco acts like Lil Yee and Lil Pete. His music takes a melodic approach, blending a sung rap delivery with emotive production choices. For Bean tragedy struck early. He lost his father, whose name he carries on. The loss of his father inspired Bean to grow up and provide for his family as well as motivates him to put his all into his music.
Bean’s most hard-hitting music talks about the struggle and pain of growing up in neighborhoods like his. He doesn’t stop there though. His music is aspirational. He looks at how far he’s come and charts how he’ll get where he wants to go. Though “Balenciaga Sneaks” sounds like a flex, Bean’s really just appreciating the distance he’s traveled and all he’s accomplished. “Down 2 Ride”, “No Calabasas”, and “Necessary Evil” are essential listenings. If you haven’t yet, check out his most recent EP Hood Chronicles. It won’t disappoint.
He might be one of the younger rappers out of this group, but Dex has put in the work to be named one of the hottest in San Francisco. Hailing from the famed Fillmore neighborhood, Dex makes it known that he only reps Eddy Street and rides for his brothers Da Tape. He’s new to the game but he’s got a hit under his belt. Produced by Chrisonthebeat, “Keep It” has topped 975k views and is sure to hit a million before we know it.
While Dex sat in Juvenile Hall for a year, he wrote the song in his head and kept running it back in his mind so as not to forget it until he got out. The record boasts a catchy hook reminiscent of something a young Juvenile might’ve delivered in the ’90s. Though he’s only 17, his manner of speaking point to a youth wise beyond his years. Lately, he’s been teasing a collab album with Yatta. Tracks like “Lethal Weapon” and “Hit Dat Road Jack” seem to promise a well-received offering. We’ll await his solo debut
Coming straight from The Towers, rising artist Zay Bang is definitely one to keep an eye on. Initially known for his stand out guest performances on Lil Bean tracks like “Time Zone” and “Side Of Me”, 2019 has found Zay Bang striking out to make a name for himself. In the past few months, he’s garnered considerable attention for his releases “No Relations”, “Sleep Talkin”, and “Let Me know Sum” which have all hit over 200,000 views easily.
He works like a man trying to make up for the lost time, which makes sense because he lost a lot of years to incarceration. He went in as a teen and lost loved ones while he was down. You can hear the urgency of purpose, lack of trust, and deadly caution in his releases. Though he’s pretty green to the industry he’s an undeniable talent that continues to move forward and drop hits. He’s not one to sleep on. We’re excited to see what’s next for him.
Sunnydale’s KE has been putting in work for a while now. Not only has he released a solid amount of content but that content has been quality. Coming up with the likes of Yatta, Lil Kayla, and Lil Yase, KE was forged in fire, so to speak. He has made a name for himself through witty bars, and biting humor and a very stylized mumble mouthed delivery, all the while creating tracks that have the atmosphere and feel of the gritty environment that he grew up. KE’s one of those artists that put numbers up on the board, but is still somehow slept on. He’s got multiple music videos with over a million views, yet we haven’t seen him make the same moves as artists with similar metrics.
Either way, he’s continued his strong run of releases this year, connecting with fellow SF native Drew Beez for the highly anticipated Project Livin EP, which came out earlier this year. KE has a distinct voice and one that is not to be overlooked when discussing the San Francisco scene. His laid back delivery glides over the bass heavy production, that he usually favors, in much the same way that a figure skater does on ice. KE’s music touches on the struggles of growing up in the hood, dealing with opps, as well as the not-so-occasional flex. He is versatile but has managed to stay true to what helped him pop initially.
Larry June is the veteran on this lineup. The Hunter’s Point native with a penchant for healthy eating and sticky catchphrases’ first undeniable single was 2015’s “Glock 40”. Since then he’s been signed to Warner Bros. and unsigned again. After leaving the major label, the Sock It To Me rapper had to do a bit of work to rebuild his grassroots following and he did not take the task lightly. He’s released 8 projects in that time, and his inclusion on this list is proof of the effectiveness of his campaign.
Undeniably one of the most stylistically interesting acts to come out of the Bay Area in recent years, Larry’s been able to cement himself as one of the region’s most important artists. I’m willing to bet that in a decade or two, or three even, we’ll still be discussing the rapper’s impact. During that time of rebuilding, Larry hit a stride and seemed to find a formula that works for him. Where “Glock 40” fit neatly within the confines of 2015 rap and trap trends, “Smoothies in 91” feels like a timeless classic, and it’s been out less than a month. His ear for smooth production, with samples of records that many of us were made to really hit the mark. I’d dare to assert that Player Larry > Trap Larry.
While he may not be the rapper with the most coverage or even the biggest hits, he’s arguably one of the most consistent and prolific artists we have. The wisdom of Larry-isms like, “don’t check me, bitch check the air quality” and “niggas don’t know small numbers add up,” add to the Bay’s celebrated tradition of hustle, macking, and unmatched “mouthpiece”. He embodies all of it. When you listen to Larry you want to get money, save money, make smart investments, buy yourself nice things, and find a couple of beauties to enjoy it with
– Tyrese Johnson