I've written a lot about hip-hop bands from the Bay Area of California. There's something about the interstitial nature of the Oakland/San Francisco binary aquatic formula up north, where so many contrasts are side-by-side, that creates musicians with talent as unique as the region they hail from. Groups like Zion I and solo artists like Jay Ant make great hip-hop music, but it's not East Coast and it's not just West Coast, it's Bay Area hip-hop, baby, and there's something very rare, and very cool, about it.
Spends Quality is another powerful act from that cynosure of sea, silicon and big city life. His music has hard edges, like many solid artists from L.A., but his songs also possess a seductive, dark allure that you can't find south of Sacramento or east of the Rockies. He's given plenty of thought to his lyrics, and the beats that weave and wind around the vowels and syllables he sings so well contain the same poised, philosophical quality.
One single that made me want to blog about the man was a song called "Midnight" from his Time Peace LP. A tenebrous, addictive tale (word down to www.blogger.com's spell checker for totally not understanding the word "tenebrous") about life in the bad city, I found myself playing it over and over again, thinking about all the times I packed my cash, my car keys and some sort of small, semi-legal, concealable weapon as I went out late at night on any given Friday or Saturday when I was growing up in L.A., trying to find that good time in the big metropolis, driving slow across Santa Monica with my windows rolled down, bumping something respectable with a whole lot of bass on my way to the club.
When I say interstitial, I mean a lot of things in describing that particular part of California. The Bay Area is where Oakland hits San Francisco, the ocean hits the sand, the fog hits the concrete, the Dead Kennedys hit the big time and where I wanted to hit every single fucking homeless person I came across the last time I was there, many months ago.
My wife's sister went to college up in Berkeley, so I spend a lot of great days partying up there. But, don't get me wrong, I feel bad about the plight of our nation's poor, and give as many dollars as I can every day, but at one point I realized that if another very rude, very smelly, mentally scrambled human being brayed at me for another dead president, I was going to go 187 all up and down Union Square faster than you could say "Zodiac Killer." I know, life is hard, I didn't give you a tip, now please don't scream at/drool on/punch me because I was too nice to the homeless two blocks back, and ran out of cash before I got to you.
So aside from the production quality Spends Quality infuses into each of his albums (he's not just an MC, he's also a producer and the founder of CFO Recordings), I was also impressed by the cool, controlled tones the tracks on his albums all possess. With songs like "Let Go," a tune about movin' on mentally as we travel on through the difficulties of life, or "Place to Be," a jaunty, almost playful paean about making it in the music business, I was surprised there was nothing violent in his albums about lighting bums on fire or spraying them indiscriminately with automatic weapons, which I was about to do about the 1,000,019th time a grown, human adult asked me for change, and when informed that I had none, proceeded to scream his intentions about beating my fragile body up for my temerity.
My wife finally told me that if my life was as hard as it was for the homeless in that area, I'd be pretty rude, too. I had to agree with her. I work freelance, acting, writing, and otherwise, and if my check ain't in the mail by the end of the month I'm usually not polite about it, either, so maybe Spends Quality has come to the same conclusion. That, and he looks pretty tough for a white guy with a goatee, so I'm sure he doesn't get as harassed as my 135 lb., 5'9" self. Anyhow, I'm almost homeless half the time, so I'd better be polite to those people because one day I might be begging them for change, you never know.
You can purchase some more of Spend Quality's mighty music at CFO Recordings.