Interview: Roach Gigz Talks About Rap
Roach Gigz is a talented young rapper from San Francisco. His two installment underground series Roachy Balboa is out now. I recently talked to him about rap music for the latest installment of CB’s TALKS ABOUT RAP series.
When did you start listening to rap?
Real early, I would say I was like eight years old. It was mostly stuff that was on the radio but what really sticks out in my mind, the first artist that I really remember was Coolio. I had his tape, I had the single with “Gangsta’s Paradise” and I played that like every single day. And then my first album was The Dove Shack and that’s because they had that song “Summertime In The LBC” and that used to be my mom’s favorite. She would drop me off at school and when that came on we would love it. So she had gotten me the tape and then we listened to it together and when she heard the intro they were talking all this shit and she turned it right off. I never got to see my tape again. She didn’t know. So then I had to start sneaking in the little parental advisory CDs. I had Doggystyle hidden in my room and stuff like that. Tupac also was big for me in the beginning, I had Tupac posters all up on my wall.
What do you think drew you to Pac?
It’s crazy because last night I just read a whole book on him, from front to back. It’s this book called Tupac: Remembered and I got it in front of me right now. I haven’t read a book front to back in hella long. It’s one of the tightest things I’ve ever seen [on Pac] and I’ve seen a bunch of documentaries, I’ve read all different things, but this was basically hella people that knew him [who] just wrote their remembrances of him. And all the things they were saying was what drew me to him – his passion for everything he did, his charisma as a person, his complexities. It’s amazing to see someone like that. So on top of the music I think I was just drawn to who he was and how he acted. And on top of that, he was from the Bay Area so like…man!
When did the other local Bay rappers come to your attention?
I probably got a little taste of it earlier, but when I really got into Bay shit and I was like “fuck everything else” that was in like seventh grade. I started listening to Andre Nickatina and Mac Dre and Mess[y Marv] and [San] Quinn and Fully Loaded and RBL and 11/5. I listened to everybody out here. I mean Cellski and Killah Keise used to make mixtapes together and that was the first time I heard people rapping over other people’s beats. I had like every volume. And that just lasted until I got more into Wayne when I got into high school. I always knew who Wayne was and we always did listen to the Hot Boys and all that stuff, they were also hella popular out here, but I really got into him when I started high school.
That was about the same time hyphy hit too.
The hyphy thing didn’t come until like ’04 or something. I would say everybody did kinda have some hyphy in their music. Mac Dre started before then with Thizzelle Washington, that’s the line he was pushing. It didn’t get popular until like ’04 though. The hyphy movement just exploded. I went headfirst into that shit too.
Well it was shocking to me because I’d go out there and hear nothing but underground dudes on the radio.
Yeah, that’s when the radio was popping. It was crazy! It was just so fun to be out here because it seemed like everybody was on the same page, everybody was on the same wavelength. The radio was playing Keak, the radio was playing The Federation, The Team, they was playing everybody. Everybody was just enjoying the Bay feeling like we were on. We thought that it was our time to just explode on the world. And that’s really when I started rapping, but it didn’t end up happening like that.
What do you think slowed that down?
Um.. it’s a combination of things. I feel like everybody started copying each other and they just felt there was a formula to follow. Once that happened everything started sounding the same and everybody was using the same words and everybody was making the same type of songs. So that got boring. And on top of that it started being taken as a joke by everybody outside the Bay because there wasn’t too many young artists or it wasn’t like the full range of artists being presented to everybody. They just saw a little bit of it. They just thought it was ghostriding the whip and all this crazy stuff. And it partially was, like there were really were sideshows here, I really was at them every weekend. But I don’t know, they just took it the wrong way, they thought it was a gimmick. And then it turned into a gimmick.
I always thought it was weird that it was being marketed as like a West Coast counterpart to some of the Southern dance stuff, like it was the Bay Area answer to snap music. There’s that party element, but there was also a lot of serious rapping involved.
It was definitely real rap happening but that shit just wasn’t at the forefront. That shit just wasn’t being pushed how it was supposed to be pushed. At that time I wasn’t really thinking about making music so I didn’t really understand the politics and everything or how everything worked. I knew all these other artists and I just thought how it was portrayed outside wasn’t how it really was. After that people just kinda abandoned it because they didn’t want to be associated with this joke basically. And that’s kinda where we messed up a little bit. We could’ve kept it hyphy but just switched it up a little bit. I mean, a lot of people are still hyphy. They gonna say “Fuck hyphy, I’m not hyphy,” but the music out here is still hyphy, the way people act is still hyphy, so… whatever.
It seems like your music especially calls back to that era.
Yeah cause that’s just natural to me. That’s what I grew up with. Because, like I said, even before it was the Hyphy Movement, everything was hyphy, you kinda just felt it. Like everytime I hear a Mac Dre song I can’t help but feel a certain way, dance a certain way. It’s just in us. So it comes out in me, in my music. I was just so heavily influenced by it.
Yeah my boy is from out that way and to this day whenever he hears Dre his face scrunches up and he makes that ughh sound.
[Laughs] It’s crazy! It’s the Furly Ghost! That shit takes over your body. When I’m on stage with [Mistah] F.A.B. – cause he really did a lot for me, he let me open for him, let me hype for him – he would put on a Dre song and send me out in the middle [of his show] jut to dance. But me doing music period, it has to do with Dre just having fun with that shit before he died.
It’s a shame that he wasn’t around to be the ambassador for the hyphy crossover.
Oh man. Everything would’ve been different. I feel that we would’ve been on, he was going to be the one to do it. He was going to lead us in the right direction. But everything happens for a reason.
Why do you think the San Francisco rappers still seem to fall under the radar when other cities like Oakland and even Vallejo have produced such visible rappers?
There’s plenty of rappers here. San Francisco’s just… it’s like the biggest but it’s the smallest at the same time. I don’t know. It seems like everybody’s just on a different page. I really can’t even explain it. There’s rappers out here that work hard, there’s rappers in San Francisco that have been doing it for a long time. I mean, some of the biggest rappers from the Bay are from The City – San Quinn, Messy Marv, RBL, 4-Tay – but I feel that the city doesn’t support each other that well. People are out for themselves. Well everybody in the world is out for themselves, but in The City, as far as music people are just worried about themselves. There’s a little camaraderie, I fuck with everybody, but it’s not like in Oakland where they have the whole Livewire thing and everybody fucks with Livewire and everybody gets along. I live in Oakland [now] and can see anybody – D-Lo, Beeda Weeda, J-Stalin – at the Hiero studio. It’s just a different feeling.
How’d your relationship with 4-Tay’s daughter Lil’ 4-Tay come to be?
We were just hanging around, being mischievous and we became real good friends and I always knew that was 4-Tay’s daughter. She had already rapped, she’s on “Gangsta Gumbo” by 4-Tay and a couple [other] songs that he did. And I started rapping on these little mixtapes and the first song I ever did was called “I Get It.” I came up with the hook in class at school and then I went to go meet her after school. I told her [the hook] and we was like “man we gotta make this a real song. We ended up making the beat together at Youth Radio and then we found a place to record it and we just made this song and, shit, people loved it. We went to the radio stations and saw Mistah Fab and his manager, who is now my manager also, and we gave them this CD and he ended up playing it on his Yellow Bus radio show. And ever since then we were like “okay, we’re a group now.” “Bitch I go, bitch I go” because man, bitch, we go. But it wasn’t like we really had a plan or anything like that, we were just making music for the moment. Even though we were like seventeen and eighteen we were acting like kids.
Did you ever get any feedback from her dad?
Yeah when 4-Tay got out of jail, we used to pick him up at the halfway house every morning, right there on Turk and Taylor and drive around with him the whole day. He supported it and everything. We did a song with him. 4-Tay was cool, man. He called himself my godpops, 4-Tay is a good dude.
Who are you checking for as far as the next generation of Bay rappers?
The main people I fuck with is DB [Tha General] and Lil B. They’re the ones pushing hardest right now. They’re really gettin in and making names for themselves right now. There’s plenty other people from different little parts of the Bay area that’s doing their thing too. My group, the Mango Mob, I fuck with. There’s plenty of people out here – Jay Ant, there’s plenty of young dudes out here doing their thing. But as far as artists that are really about to blow? It’s really DB and Lil B. DB goes hard. He’s another one of those people that makes music and you just hear it and you start moving. And they’re both hella cool dudes, so I rock with them.
It seems like the Bay always sustains itself on a business level too. Like even if nobody ever blows up there’ll always be a strong audience locally.
Yeah and that’s a gift and a curse in a way because people can get comfortable just being Bay Area celebrities, being famous out here and making a living, but making a small living out here. I feel like since it’s like that and since we were raised by the people like E-40 who made it possible to make money on our own that we should envision shooting for something bigger. But we just get cool being big out here.
What do you think about all the attention that Lil B’s been getting?
I mean he deserves it. I knew The Pack when they started, I knew the “Vans” song and all that stuff. I came out a little bit after them. Then they got into their situation and a couple years ago when I first started hearing Lil B again, I heard a song called “Lake Merritt” and it was the funniest shit I ever heard. But you had to listen to it. I was like “man this dude is really crazy.” And then I just started paying a little more attention and saw how he was evolving and getting his sound together. [He was] just testing the waters really. He got a plan, he’s seeing what works and making people notice him. And he’s a cool dude, I talk to him every once in a while. Sometimes he’ll text me out of the blue like “I’m in the middle of nowhere… I asked this girl who’s her favorite rapper… she said Roach Gigz.” He doesn’t have to do all that, man. I just know that it’s his time. I was just with him last weekend at this show at Cal State and you could tell he was on. I saw his little people come with their spatulas and shit. That shit’s tight man! The way he’s doing it is dope to me. At first if you just listen to those songs and you think he’s whatever, just crazy, saying anything but then you listen to his other songs and you realize [there's] real shit that he has to say. But people don’t want to hear that, they want to hear that bullshit. And then once he realized that he made his bullshit as bullshit it could be. And people loved it. But all that other real rap that he got that shit’s just impressive. I think he has his game damn near setup.
As a rapper is it frustrating that the rap audience seems to gravitate to the more so-called ignorant stuff? Because you’ve got a serious side too.
It can be frustrating because a lot of times you don’t really feel like doing that. But that’s just how it is. If you want to be successful, if you want to make a living out of this, you have to do that. And it’s still part of you when you makes songs that are more like that… You just have to be well rounded really. It’s cool to have both sides. It’d be a great world if people really loved the shit that you felt passionate about or the message that you really wanted them to hear. But eventually they will hear it. Even if they listen to all the other shit first eventually they will hear.
Five favorite rappers of all time?
Pac, Dre, Wayne, Em and… I don’t have a fifth yet. He’s still coming. Matter of fact, I started recently listening to Biggie. I never listened to him until damn near last year. Or Jay-Z either. I just didn’t check for that shit, I was on some “I don’t want to hear that, I’m from the Bay Area” type shit. But I’ve been listening to them a lot recently too and I’ve been really feeling their shit. I can’t say that Biggie is one of my favorites, but I’ve been listening. [He] was dope as hell! I didn’t appreciate how good he was. Of course you hear the songs that’s on the radio “Juicy” and that stuff, but I didn’t ever listen to his whole album, all the things he said and how he said them. Biggie was raw and you could tell at the same time that he was just exaggerating too. He did that shit so cool and so smooth that I liked it. Oh! And I hadn’t listened to the Slim Shady LP in hella long and I just went to Amoeba and bought it. I heard that and whew… Eminem was the coolest motherfucker ever back then. That [song] he did about mushrooms, where he was almost singing the hook. I’ve been playing the fuck out of that.
What else have you been listening to lately?
I haven’t been really listening to too much new shit. I’m not really up on it. As far as the internet… it sucks because the internet is what keeps me alive and eating but I hate being on the internet. So I’m not up on all the new songs and this and that. But I’ll tell you the CDs I have in my car right now – I have the Slim Shady LP like I said, I have Biggie Life After Death, the second disc because I lost the first one. I have Al Boo Boo by Mac Dre, I have this mixtape that has hella Bay artists that they put me on the cover of. A lot of them songs slap. And I have this mix CD I made when I was in Hawaii. It has that Nicki Minaj song the uh… “Moment” thing. The song slap. It got BG on there. It got Lil B on there, it got old Jay-Z. It’s crazy, it goes from “Ellen Degeneres” to “Can I Live” and it’s just cool the way that shit works. It’s all just good music. But I’m not really focused on any particular artists. A lot of the time I’m just slapping and critiquing my own shit, trying to make it better.