We sat down and talk with San Jose rapper, activist, teacher & Zulu King Apakalips. He’s one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Listen to the Breakdown FM Interview w/ Apakalips HERE:
When we talk about Bay Area Hip Hop we often focus on what is happening in Oakland which is considered Ground Zero. It is in ‘Tha Town’, that we find the likes of Too Short, Digital Underground, Keak da Sneak,Hiero, Blackalicious, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Saafir, Zion I, Mistah FAB and so many more.After Oakland, the spotlight usually turns to neighboring San Francisco which is home to Bay Area legends like San Quinn,Rappin’ 4tay, Paris, Michael Franti,DJ Q-Bert, DJ Apollo and in recent days artists like Big Rich.
Sadly many overlook San Jose which is actually the largest city in the Bay Area and the epic center to high tech Silicon Valley.Perhaps its because San Jose is 45 minutes away from Frisco and Oakland which are just minutes apart or perhaps its because companies like Apple, Google, Oracle and other high tech giants dominate the news and overshadow SJ hip Hop. Whatever the case, make no mistake San Jose and the South Bay region has had major impact.
San Jose and the South Bay is or has been home to some notable folks who we all know and love.DJ King Tech of the Wake Up Show, producer Fredwreck, producer Kutmasta Kurt, DJ Peanut Butter Wolf and his Stones Throw record label started out of San Jose.DJ Kevvy Kev who is headed to his 25th year on the air, pioneering graph writer Scape One, female dance pioneer Aiko, Grand Diva Kim Collete, prolific writer AdisaBanjoko, Hip Hop Congress president Shamako Noble are some other names that also come to mind when we talk about folks who put the SJ and the South Bay on the map.Anyone from this part of town recalls the legendary b-boy battles that were routinely held at the Hank Lopez Center with the full support and cooperation of the city which was step up from San Francisco and Oakland.
This is the conversation we had with Apakalips a long time fixture in the San Jose rap scene who just released his masterpiece of a solo album called ‘The Otherside‘ Originally from Southern Cali, this community activist/ school teacher started out around 2002 with a group called Tributairies .They were best known for blowing up the Iguanas Cafe in downtown San Jose where they sparked off Lyrical Discipline.This was a weekly Friday night gathering which attracted emcees from all over the South Bay who would come through and test their skills.It was done in the same vein as the Lyricist Lounge in NY, the Good Life in LA or the now legendary underground parties and freestyles sessions at 4001 Jackson street in Oakland put together by Mystik Journeymen and the Living Legends crew.
Apakalips later went on to join the Universal Zulu Nation and eventually became the president of the Gateway chapter and quickly made it one of the more active chapters in the country. Apakalips would routinely hold unity meetings as he’d gather the heads of key Hip Hop and community organizations and tastemakers in the San Jose community to find common ground and to collectively work on projects impacting us all. He was tapping into the fact that San Jose had some of the pro-active heads who have some well heeled Hip Hop organizations around that have done incredible work. Shout outs to Hip Hop Congress, D-Bug, MACLA, Funk lab and Miese to name a few.
During our interview we talked about the release of his new album ‘The Other Side‘. It has been critically acclaimed and for many its a throwback to a date and time where people allowed their creativity to roam completely free without fear of violating some sort of record company politics or copyright laws. The Otherside has unexpected samples that give this an album your traditional boom bap sound on one track and a Latin tinged sound on another. Still on other songs you will hear the influences of drum and bass. No two songsare alike, yet the album has a consistent theme in terms of being gritty and lyrically sound.
The ‘Otherside‘ covers many topics including, California’s unique contributions to Hip Hop and its b-boy, b-girl tradition and its cultural influences. During our interview we talked about how Hip Hop is a form of communication and within it cultural expressions and activities like dance and rap go way beyond Hip Hop, and in fact are deeply rooted in traditional Mayan, Aztec and African traditions. Apakalips felt that it was important that we view Hip Hop with a larger historical and cultural lens.
We talked about the social and political movements that proceeded Hip Hop and how they impacted Hip Hop culture in the past and today.We particularly built upon the legacy of the Black Panthers and Brown Berets.Aakpalips reminded us that during the hey days of those organizations in the late 60s and early 70s we had Hip Hop expressions in the west coast with pioneering groups like the often overlooked Black Resurgents dance crew who were strutting and roboting long before Michael Jackson, dancers on Soul Train or the word Hip Hop was coined.
We talked at length about the important role Latinos played in Hip Hop, specifically the role Chicanos here on the West Coast. Apakalips lays out the long history and reminds us that just like their Puerto Rican counterparts on the East coast, Chicanos were down with Hip Hop from the very beginning especially in the areas of graf. He noted that here in the west Chicano writers, taggers and muralist had a big impact on Hip Hop.We talked aboutthe early emcees and deejays and the influence that icons like Julio G and Tony G who were part of the legendary KDAY Mixmasters in LA had on West Coast Hip Hop culture.
We also talked at length about the long social and cultural connection that NY had with LA. Long before there was some media driven East-West coast war, early Hip Hoppers were routinely going back and forth and building with one another. It was all love throughout the 80s. Apakalips talked about how pioneering Hip Hop and Latino figures like Hen G, and Prince Whipper Whip and Zulu King Afrika Islam hooked up with Ice T and helped set a tone for things to come.They set off famous Hip Hop club nights like Radiotron Water the Bush and Club United Nations and formed groups like Rhyme Syndicate and the Zulu Kings.
We ended by talking about some of the challenges facing San Jose’s Hip Hop community.One thing that is being addressed is the homeless problem. Apakalips and many others feel like the city hasn’t been doing enough. They are also addressing issues facing San Jose’s growing migrant worker population. In recent days they have also been dealing with an oppressive promoters law which requires anyone promoting an entertainment event to pay a 500 dollar fee and get a license which will allow one to put their name on flyers and pass them out.
written by Davey D
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