Turf Talk. Photo by Black Dog Bone
June, 2002: We first met Turf Talk back when he was still Young, splayed out on the floor of Vallejo's 80 West Music like the eager kid that he was. In the main studio room was Jay Tee, lately of Latino Velvet but most notably of N2Deep (they of the lone hit "Back To The Hotel"), sitting in front of a computer, cueing up a track. Plopped down on a huge beanbag in the center of the room is the Yay Ambassador, E-40, the king of slang and a legend to connoisseurs.
An album doesn't come out of the Yay anymore without the 40 stamp of approval. (Even too-precious Lyrics Born got the don on a remix of last year's single "Callin' Out") Hood respect hood, and Vallejo's finest keeps his feet firmly on grind territory.
Earlier in the day, 40-Water had brought his son by the studio, which is located in the back of a record store Jay Tee owns. But by this time, well after nightfall, the kid is long gone. Young Turf Talk isn't much older than 40's son, but he fits the scene better, decked out in black tee, black jeans and black kicks ("That's what you wear when you rob muthafuckas"—Styles P.) Jay Tee drops the beat, 40 sips the Carlo Rossi and begins to write his verse, and Young Turf Talk is dispatched to the front room to craft the hook for this as-yet-untitled song.
40's a perfectionist—there are more crossed-out words on his yellow notepaper than there are clear ones. And so even though Turf is 40's cousin, he knows he has to come correct. After a half hour, he comes back into the room to audition for the old guard. His voice, nasal. His flow, alluringly erratic, just like his uncle's.
"Y'all don't wanna see me / So bitch hold up / We rock the shit out of this / With no soda / We keep it chef-ing now / Baking cookies now / In a Ziploc bag / It won't fit now / Nigga, we bust heat / We knock N2Deep / And that nigga 40 on the street / Nigga, we bust heat / Boss to preciseness / Dope whiter than K-Swiss." Everyone in the room's quiet for a minute, and than Jay Tee says, in a combination of enthusiasm and inebriation, "Well, now we got the motherfucking title. ‘Boss To Preciseness.'"
His eminence 40-Water says only, "Fa shiggadale."
Being related to rap royalty is nice, but Turf Talk is seeking his own scrilla. A couple of months ago, he dropped his debut album, The Street Novelist (Sick Wid It / 30/30). And while the rest of the Yay hyphy scene is getting attention—Keak Da Sneak, Federation, even Messy Marv, paper chasing all these years—Young Turf Talk has dropped a regional classic on the low.
It started in '03 with "It's Ah Slumper," a bit of familial nepotism featuring big Uncle 40 and Stress from The Federation. A huge local radio hit, it hardly registered a blip outside of the Yay (just like "Baby," "T-Shirt, Blue Jeans & Nike's" and tons of records before it), largely because like the best E-40 songs, it sounds like it's been run through a washing machine—it feels like time's expanding and contracting depending on what part of the song you're at, and how high-pitched and quick Turf's vocals are.
Not everything is so warped. On "Club House," Turf Talk quotes Juvenile over upbeat Dre-isms courtesy of the underrated Super Dave West, and "Do The Robot," produced by Droop-E, pretends that Kraftwerk has more to do with hip-hop than anyone besides Afrika Bambaataa actually thinks. "Celebrate" suggests that the Bay Area cares more about Nate Dogg than they've let on, and "Hubba Rock" sounds like the best 1991 West Coast singles, all high-pitched screwy synths implying trouble just around the corner (and features one of the last verses of the late Mac Dre, who'd been recording at a prodigious rate before he was shot in Kansas City last November). And the new rap language is here, too. Peep "Sav Out," one of last year's best beats (also courtesy of Droop-E), which should be the song to give hyphy the credibility of crunk (not a goal anyone thought we'd be aiming for a couple of years back, but a goal just the same). Dropping a hint of Indian rhythms behind a simple hand clap and a drum pattern pulled from the "Soul Makossa" sessions, it's a perfect template upon which Turf Talk can unwind: "This is for my niggas, my hustlers and criminals / Snort it through your nose or you pop a pill down your throat / Running up on niggas with pistols after the show." But the song's best verse is also its least complex, proving that not all next-gen disciples of the Yay take cues from 40's family: "I'm a savage, nigga, it's my duty / you mad ‘cause your pockets flat like white booty / … / Sorry, girls, I'm back to my old ways / You mess with me, you gettin' tossed four ways…We sav out, you body missing for four days." It's by a comer with the best rap name of '05: Ya Boy. Moving forward? Holler at him. JON CARAMANICA
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