You know how they say don’t yell “fire” in a movie theater? Well don’t yell Keak Da Sneak’s name in the Bay. Just mentioning him has been known to instantly make legions of Northern Californians ghost ride their whips, start side shows and go dumb. But outside of the Bay, there’s less of an effect, even though the Oakland MC has been in the game for over 15 years. Formerly a member of the gold-selling group 3X Krazy in the 90s, many outside of Cali were first turned on to him from his scene-stealing verse on E-40’s 2006 smash hit “Tell Me When To Go.” Although he boasts a hardcore following that swears by the gravel-voiced rapper’s every word, the energetic left coast rhymer still has a chip on his shoulder and is channeling it through his music. XXLmag.com caught up with Keak to discuss his latest projects, why Hyphy won’t die and what’s holding the Bay back.
XXLMag: It seems like hyphy disappeared from the national spotlight but you still rep it. Do you feel like the rest of the country treated it like a fad?
Keak Da Sneak: Well first of all [hyphy] is more than a movement, it’s a ritual. It’s a way of life. It’s really how we get down out here. I’ve been creating good music way before the word hyphy. I came up with that word in like ’95-’96. I feel like it was misrepresented. I just feel like a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon and tried to capitalize off of it and they didn’t treat it like how they were supposed to. They treated it like it was a lick. Like, I don’t know if they thought it just meant rapping over uptempo beats or what, but it’s more than that. But hyphy isn’t going nowhere, it’s how we have fun out here, similar to crunk in the South. This is what we do. It’s here to stay. Even if we gotta force feed ‘em that shit.
XXL: I know you recently had a promotion where you were giving your iced out “Keak Da Sneak” chain away to one of your fans. Who’s walking around with that now?
Keak: Yea, I was just going to give it to one of my fans kind of as a treat for being down with me for so long. It was made for me and given to me by a jewelry shop. I just wanted one of my fans to show me all of my albums like ‘man, I been down with you, I been following you, I deserve that chain.’ I had broads doing crazy shit like [sending pictures] with my albums between they booty cheeks…it was crazy. I got a lot of feedback from that. But nobody even ended up winning the chain, and I was really going to give it away too.
XXL: OK, your last record, Deified, was released this past summer and now you’ve just released two new projects, Word Pimpin’ 2 with QZ and Baby S and Welcome To Skokland with San Quinn. Why put out more material so soon?
Keak: Basically, I’m just trying to stay in they face like Noxzema, nah mean ? Just doing new shit. I still feel like I have something to prove. Prove that I’m still relevant and I still do good music. I still feel like I’m being slept on, not where I’m from, but in other regions. I still feel like I’m one of the best kept secrets. The Word Pimpin, I’m really just featured on it. It’s more like a Keak presents, but that was for LA. They love me in LA and I just took it to the streets with that album. I’m just able to do that cause I’m still independent, but in a major way.
XXL: Speaking of independent, the whole Bay is known for its indie grind. With the industry changing, has your independent hustle changed too?
Keak: Well, right now with the bootlegging and the internet, it’s kind of hard to sell [those same amount of] records if you’re not already that dude. If you don’t already have that fan base. But me, I can sell 30 or 40K and if I’m getting $5 or $6 off a record, I’m eating. Plus I’m still doing shows. So you just gotta still be grinding. I’m still out here. Still shaking hands and taking pictures with my fans. You just gotta keep something fresh, something new.
XXL: The Bay has its share of stars from Mac Dre (R.I.P.) to E-40, Too Short to yourself. What’s stopping the Bay from being the next powerhouse region?
Keak: I think we need a lot more unity. Basically, the Bay’s story hasn’t been told. There’s something new happening everyday. It’s hard to really explain the Bay but we’re trying to preserve what we have for the next generation. We’re leaders, we’re trendsetters. Our slang, the way we talk, our dress. But it’s like being on the cover of Madden, we’re cursed. All these other regions, they be platinum before we even hear the shit. Niggas take from what we do, put it out there and make millions off it. But to actually do music where I’m from, it’s hella hard. You gotta put in extra work. I gotta do it like I’m doing it. I’m not a quitter and I’ve already started something. People are counting on me. I’m not going to be hot forever, but while it’s there I got to capitalize. I’m not going to be putting out albums when I’m 40.
XXL: So come 40 what will you be doing? What’s next after the albums stop?
Keak: I’m just trying to pave the way for the next, you feel me. Like Too $hort opened it up to show there’s talent out in Oakland. There’s more $horts, more Keak Da Sneaks, more En Vougues, more Tony! Toni! Tones, more MC Hammers. But I’m making smart investments to come money coming in other than rap. I got a shoe coming, Keak Sneakers. I’ve written a couple movies, just getting it while it’s there. Because when it’s all said and done I just wanna make sure I’m on top. -Anthony Roberts