Sunday, September 18, 2011
Radio: SFSM Special + interview
Me & Iwere (Harri) did a show about a group called San Francisco Street Music aka SFSM.
I also did an interview with the original founding member Charles Hubert aka Chaz.
SFSM is underground hiphop in its truest, realest and purest form. Lyrics are very personal and honest, beats often emotional and style & quality is raw 4track/cassette sound. In my opinion SFSM is how music oughta be made - to no other purpose than to enjoy making, doing it for fun but also to talk from the heart. The dirty homemade 4track sound brings a certain touch of authenticity, not cleaning up for anyone, just making the music for yourself.
SFSM started out as a duo of Chaz & Corey (aka Identity) and their first release – San Francisco Street Music "Word Of Mouth", 1994. The group gained new members after that (including Joe Dub, Alex75, JESFSM etc.) and SFSM was very active during the years 1995-1998. Then they came apart - untill 2011 when the founding members Corey & Chaz got together (after not seeing eachother in 13 years) and made a new album.
We played songs in chronological order, from their most known releases but also from some very rare tapes. We did this show in english, for the first time, so y'all can understand. We do sound a little silly but are on point... mainly. The interview with Chaz is beneath the playlist.
"Word Of Mouth" 
1. San Francisco Street Music - Paper Crane [Word Of Mouth, 1994]
2. San Francisco Street Music - Rough Drafts [Word Of Mouth, 1994]
3. San Francisco Street Music - Consequently [Word Of Mouth, 1994]
4. San Francisco Street Music - SF Giants (Part 2) [Word Of Mouth, 1994]
5. San Francisco Street Music - Roll Call [Word Of Mouth, 1994]
6. San Francisco Street Music - Defiant Ones [Still Defiant, 1995]
7. San Francisco Street Music - Last Day Saloon [Still Defiant, 1995]
8. San Francisco Street Music - Downtown I [Still Defiant, 1995]
9. San Francisco Street Music - Downtown II [Still Defiant, 1995]
10. San Francisco Street Music feat Big Shawn - Lonely Mountain [Still Defiant, 1995]
11. Culture Identity - Jojo
12. Culture Identity - Mix Of Elements
13. Chaz - Untitled [$Tree, 1996]
14. Chaz - Oasis [$Tree, 1996]
15. San Francisco Street Music - Decisions [The Pride, 1996]
16. San Francisco Street Music - Four Directions [The Pride, 1996]
17. San Francisco Street Music - Let Down [The Pride, 1996]
18. San Francisco Street Music - 50 50 [The Pride, 1996]
19. San Francisco Street Music - Dreamcatcher [The Pride, 1996]
20. San Francisco Street Music - Elevation [The Pride, 1996]
21. San Francisco Street Music - Here And Now [The Pride, 1996]
22. San Francisco Street Music - King Of The Jungle [The Pride, 1996]
23. San Francisco Street Music - Inhale / Exhale [The Pride, 1996]
24. Glen Park Hustlas - Untitled
25. Glen Park Hustlas - Some Bout You
26. San Francisco Street Music - 3rd Bass Shirt [From There To Here, 1998]
27. San Francisco Street Music - Charades [From There To Here, 1998]
28. San Francisco Street Music - Just Rappin' [From There To Here, 1998]
29. San Francisco Street Music - Dedicated To... [From There To Here, 1998]
30. Young Joseph - Seabreeze Raps [Noise Pollution, 1999]
31. Young Joseph feat Brandon B & Neila - What You Need [Noise Pollution, 1999]
32. Young Joseph feat Rich - Our Time To Shine [Noise Pollution, 1999]
33. Young Joseph - Lioness [Noise Pollution, 1999]
34. Young Joseph - Puttin Rap In It's Place [Noise Pollution, 1999]
35. San Francisco Street Music - Better Days [Untitled, 2011]
36. San Francisco Street Music - Place And Time [Untitled, 2011]
37. San Francisco Street Music - Float By [Untitled, 2011]
38. San Francisco Street Music - Kings Of The Underrated [The Rapture, 2012]
Download here (Mediafire)
Go to http://soundcloud.com/sfsm for free downloads of full albums, new & old.
Rare SFSM paper catalog with some totally unheard releases.
***INTERVIEW with Chaz***
Tell us who you are and what you do?
My name is Charles Hurbert aka Chaz. I am one of the original members of SFSM.
How did you get into making music? And how did you and Corey come together to form SFSM?
I started rapping in 1990, when I was 15. It wasn't until 1991 that we got a sampler (Ensoniq Mirage w/out sequencer) that I started making music. A group of guys – myself, Corey, and a few others – started recording music as The Brotherhood of the Left Nut. I still have those tapes and they suck. A lot of bad freestyles when we all wanted to sound like ATCQ.
Over the course of the next year or so, Corey and I started getting more serious about the music and started recording under the name Rough Draft, Young C & Chaz, and finally years later it became SFSM.
So you and Corey are really old friends?
Definitely, we weren't introduced until high-school through mutual friends.
What were your musical inspirations back then? I mean about the time you recorded "Word of mouth" tape?
Native Tongues, Freeestyle Fellowship, Souls of Mischief, KRS-One, the list goes on and on. I could name a dozen more from that time period. There was a lot to be inspired by! I would definitely site Bored Stiff as a huge influence as well. Aside from the fact they were local kids a year or two older than us, they were really exploring that raw, really honest rap sound. It really touched a nerve with me. Del and Hieroglyphics crew were a huge inspiration lyrically and stylistically. “Eye Examination,” the B-side from Dr. Bombay 12" was a seminal moment in regards to what you could say in a rap song. It starts, "I never had real friends 'till now. " That was so honest, direct and personal, it blew my mind.
As for beats, I would say my inspirations were groups like Black Sheep, DITC (Digging In The Crates), Large Professor, Pete Rock, Prince Paul, etc. who really sampled different stuff, not just funk/soul. There were also some producers in my extended circles locally that made tracks that pushed the boundaries of what I thought was acceptable with a beat. People like Verse Murphy from Sacred Hoop, TD Camp from Bored Stiff, and there was a guy named Luce (forget the group/crew name) that was doing really interesting stuff as well. He had this one beat where the main loop was a sample (probably from a children’s record) of a bunch of kids whistling. I heard it and was just floored.
As for my choices in samples, if you listen to the jazz-fusion band Oregon, you'll hear a LOT of Word Of Mouth samples ;). I loved those guys. Glen Moore is one of the great bassist of record.
How did you come together with Joe Dub, Jes, Alex75 and rest of the people affiliated of SFSM?
We were all sort of connected to each other via friends. I went to school with Jesse, and rapped with him in high-school. He knew Joe Dub and introduced us, who introduced me to Alex. Corey went to HS with Pete and Jon. We were all basically city kids of the same age growing up in SF.
"Still Defiant" tape originated from 8 people living in a one bed-room apartment
You were very productive during the years 1995-1998. You must've gathered up on a regular basis to record somewhere?
Always at our respective living quarters. We very seldom were at studios. I made most of the beats, primarily because I owned the equipment, so a lot of it was at my house. Then after WOM, Corey and I moved in to a place on a street called Duboce. It was 1995 and it was a dank little 1-bedroom apt. in a sketchy part of town. That house later became a major hub for a lot of young people who were making music and coming by to hang out. That's where a bulk of the material for the "Still Defiant" tape originated. It ended up being 8 people living in a one bed-room apartment! I left before that, but it was quite a scene.
Did you have a certain day of week to record or was it just whenever someone came to hang out?
Every day! Smoking blunts, making beats, and writing raps. That was what we did. Both Corey and I were working as teachers in the public day care system, so a lot of the time we would work early morning shifts and be off by 2pm. We'd fade on a sack (combine money on weed) and make music. ("Fade" is definitely classic SF lingo that goes back to the ‘90s.)
Did you do a lot of shows?
Not really a lot. We did handful of shows around the time of WOM (Word o' Mouth). After that I kind of pulled back a bit but Corey and the other guys did some really great shows.
The most remembered was a show at a spot called Bahia Cabana. Someone has these shows on video somewhere. I wish I could find them! Corey actually just told me his brother had recorded almost all the shows on VHS tape but it’s since been lost. That bummed me out.
Did anyone ever try to sign you to a record label?
Nope. Our tapes were bootlegged and sold in some magazines, but this was before the days of the internet. So, music only moved at the speed of cassettes hand to hand – word of mouth. And some white boys in SF talking about life experience wasn't very commercially viable back then.
It wasn't until I started seeing groups like Aesop Rock and Atmosphere that I saw other white kids about my age who were doing similar stuff and getting traction. That was around 1999-Y2K. And by that time, SFSM as a group wasn't active.
You guys didn't completely stop making music, did you?
I can only speak for myself, but after 1998, I became disillusioned with rap. It stopped speaking to me. I was partying with Alex75 7-days a week, making beats for fun and writing raps about our escapades. I needed time away to give me perspective on myself and my music. Around 2002 I released "Ironic City, " which was an instrumental album that I actually recorded in a bonafide studio. It had decent beats, but in my opinion lacked soul. Corey actually ended up rapping on some of those beats while he was living in Sacramento!
Everyone else has continued to make music on their own, Joe Dubs being the most prolific of the crew!
Tell us about coming back together for Untitled in 2011. How did that happen?
Well, I started getting the itch to make beats again. I borrowed the EPS16+ (my sampler of choice) from Pete and started making beats to see if I still could. Then I decided I'd try and reach out to Corey via Facebook as we hadn't really talked in years.
Prior to 2011, I hadn't seen Corey but a few times since 1998. Lol, we would sometimes correspond via phone or mail and he would send me tapes. But we didn't have much communication other than that. We both were doing our own things. He had kids, had moved to Sacramento and was back in the city again. I was working on playing music, learning instruments and writing songs rather focusing on making beats/rap.
Anyway, I started sending him beats and he started coming to my house and we recorded a bunch of new songs. It's been going like that since then. He spends a lot of time with his kids so we usually only hook up on Friday nights when he can get someone to watch them. Speaking of which, his 9-year old son Vashon is a really talented break-dancer/b-boy. Look him up on You Tube!
Can we expecting more SFSM?
I hope so! We are still working on songs. We did a session a couple of weeks ago banged out 4 new songs. I think there are like 5-6 new songs already recorded. I am continuing to make beats, and am also doing some production for White Mic of Bored Stiff.
What's your favorite SFSM song?
Ha! Well, quite honestly I LOVE the new stuff so much. Personally I would go with "Place and Time". But a lot of people I know really liked "Brothers" from the last album.
Why "Place and Time"?
Beat, lyrics, flow. Corey kills that one. And the beats one of my favorites!
(Chaz quoting "Place And Time"):
"The soul exists you inherit it, that’s why it's imperative you develop it nurture and relish it... take care of it! Feed it some good old soul food that food for thought, cause nothing's worse than an old fool. That's Skool of thought, yeah that's one of my old crews, one out the old school you suckers still owe dues."
And the bassline just rumbles! I love that track!
Another favorite of mine is "Float By". Those lyrics are really meaningful to me.
You earlier mentioned that you used an Ensoniq Mirage and EPS16 to make beats. I'm assuming you often used a fourtrack to record becouse the sound was always so raw. Would like to you talk more about the equipment you used back then and what you use now?
Absolutely! I have never really used anything other than Ensoniq samplers; my favorite being the EPS16+. Lots of producers, including RZA, Kanye West, and many other still use the Ensoniq. It has a great sound and is very intuitive. The Solo/Mute function also really adds a lot of personality to tracks during mix downs (EPS/ASR users will know what I am talking about).
As for recording, Tascam 4-tracks were always the primary method of recording. I've had a Porta-01 and a 424. They remind me of a moment in time. I love the 4-track sound and tape hiss for this reason alone! At one point I had a n Otari Mx5050 MK III 1/2" 8-track. That was beast of a machine! But it sounded amazing! I've also always wanted a Tascam 388 (1/4" 8-track), which is also fairly large. I almost bought one once but I couldn't find room in my living room to house it. That machine sounded like a dream as well.
That being said, I now record using Cubase SX3. It's solid, does what I need it to do. I rarely use it for anything other than a glorified 8-track with some great VST outboard emulations (EQ/Compression).
I recently finally spent a chunk of money on a good tube mic and pre-amp (Mojave MA-200 and Daking Mic One Pre). Prior to that I was using XML (cheap Chinese condenser mic and pre's on my Mackie board). Let me say it makes a huge difference in the tonal quality of the recorded voice! I am very pleased.
Would you consider putting new music out on a cd or a tape maybe? I mean on a physical format instead of internet releases?
Those days are probably long gone. Physical media seem fairly obsolete in my opinion. Other than vinyl and analog tape (reel-to-reel), which have inherent sound advantages, I can't imagine putting out a physical product. I am one of the many who listen to mp3s primarily on my smart-phone. It's convenience over quality. I can't imagine carrying around CDs anymore.
While I would absolutely agree that there seems to be something missing from a download only album, quite honestly I can't imagine selling enough copies of vinyl to justify the production cost. It would end up just being a vanity project. In the end, music is about the experience between artist and listener. If you connect with it, it doesn't matter how it was delivered.
Thanks a lot for the intereview, Chaz! Anything you'd like say for the end? Shoutouts... whatever...
Firstly, I'd like to say thanks to you guys for taking the time to put this radio show/interview together. It means a lot to know people appreciate what we did when we were kids and are still listening to what we do now. Much love to the entire SFSM crew and extended fam. Y'all know who you are. Respect to all those who came before us and paved the way. Without you, there would be no me.