There is no way to talk around the issue. There is a dearth of hip-hop support in the North Bay.
Nevermind that one of the greatest to ever spit truth through a mic came up in Marin City. Tupac Shakur’s firework streak of fame failed to ignite a scene in the only predominantly Black city in Marin. If it had, we might not even know it, because where would it be showcased?
Santa Rosa’s own b-boy, Vocab Slick, tours nationally but is all but unknown in his hometown. It is time for that to change.
“I’m probably the only national touring [hip-hop] artist from here; why can’t I get booked at home? It started to occur to me. Oh, they don’t even know. I’m from here. They think I’m from Oakland. They think I’m from San Francisco,” said Slick over a sketchy phone line from a tour bus somewhere in the North West.
Long the home of reggae, psychedelic blues rock and anti-fascist white boy punk, I am here to tell you that the North Bay has more music to offer.
“So that’s given me the idea to tap back into the community,” said Slick. “Guys like me, we’ve been here, we’ve been doing this, and people are starting to understand what we’ve been trying to do all along.”
Hop-hop shows tend to draw local attention for the wrong reasons. Assumptions of violence and drugs dog bookings, even though these issues can be found easily throughout the county with no connection to rap or hip-hop.
“Let’s just say it; it’s very racist. Black eye on the community here, because they don’t, I don’t, how can I say this and be politically correct…” he trailed off.
“That’s okay, this is the Bohemian,” I offered. “You say it your way.”
“Okay, so I’m basically pretty much the only white guy anywhere I go in the scene, right?” he said. “And I’m fine with that.”
“[Different] cultures offer something for everyone, but you have to be able to be comfortable in your own skin enough to be the only person of your ethnicity in that room sometimes,” he said. “When you’re able to do that, it’s a beautiful place to be in because then what you get to do is learn and listen.”
“What Sonoma County needs to do is open their eyes to inclusivity and understand that culture and music is way beyond white/Black. You know what I mean? It’s beyond that,” he said. I do know. Let’s spread that gospel, Slick.
“People look at a hip-hop show, and instead of saying, Oh, somebody’s gonna get shot there. Oh, let’s go there and dance,” he added.
Speaking of the importance of venues like the Whiskey Tip showing up for the hip-hop scene, Slick said, “If it wasn’t enough for Whiskey Tip to be a part of the Roseland community, the [staff and management] has gone above and beyond to give a space to local creatives to share their art.”
Vocab Slick’s album, ‘Language,’ is out now on iTunes and Spotify.