California’s (San Francisco) Bay Area has always felt separated from the wider world of rap music. Despite having icons such as E-40, Mac Dre and Lil B residing there, the Bay has never been acknowledged for the trend-setting place that it is.
When Oakland’s Keak Da Sneak coined the term ‘hyphy’ in 1994, it soon developed into a movement rebelling against the ignorance. While many hyphy acts continue to be big stars on a local and cult scale, it is rare to see a Bay Area artist enjoying global success.
Over the past few years though, the focus has moved back to the Bay. On Drake’s 2011 hit ‘The Motto’ (the track which popularised ‘YOLO’), producer T-Minus replicates the signature slapping basslines of the Bay, and Mac Dre’s mother even makes an appearance in the video.
More recently, DJ Mustard, a Los Angeles producer who takes influences from the hyphy sound, has risen to popularity with club hits like Tyga’s ‘Rack City’, 2 Chainz’s ‘I’m Different’ and YG’s ‘My N*gga’, even crossing over into the pop mainstream with Will.i.am, French Montana, Miley Cyrus and Wiz Khalifa’s ‘Feelin’ Myself’ and Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Girls’.
Enter The HBK Gang, AKA The Heartbreak Gang, a crew of young Bay Area rappers, producers and creatives. Dressing in a combination of hip-hop and skate fashion, the group is visually comparable to on-trend collectives like Odd Future, and their two biggest acts have both recently released major label debuts.
Twenty-four-year-old Richmond native and HBK Gang co-founder IamSu!’s ‘Sincerely Yours’ follows a consistent run of critically acclaimed mixtapes as well as production for Bay veteran E-40’s ‘Function’ and Loverance’s 50 Cent-featured ‘UP!’. Fairfield’s Sage The Gemini is the gang’s newest addition, and his ‘Remember Me’ follows the 21-year-old rapper’s club hits ‘Red Nose’ and ‘Gas Pedal’, which have achieved viral status due to their connection to the ‘yiking’ dance craze and have been spreading through YouTube and Vine like wildfire.