A young Johaz with his mother
As I type this, I'm about ready to leave the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where I spent my extended Thanksgiving holiday. It turns out the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis are either a hipster haven or a hippie haven, or maybe it's just that hipsters turned out to be the hippies of the new millenium. Bike lanes are extra wide. I just came back from the first certified organic bakery in the nation. Minnesota Public Radio exists and just played local hip-hop heroes Atmosphere, classic Sly Stone funk, the pleasantly melodic Mumford & Sons and the manly country of Johnny Cash -- all in a row.
And then there are some great record stores. While I won't get to listing every piece of hip-hop vinyl I picked up, I did happen to stumble upon one new single from a San Diego artist, which is always a good feeling. It lets you imagine that people outside of SD might be listening to someone from your hometown after all.
At any rate, what I picked up was the limited 7-inch single "Cali Dreamin," from Dag Savage, who also recently dropped a video for the song (check that out here). Dag Savage is a duo with SD rapper Johaz, backed by acclaimed L.A. beatsmith Exile. Johaz is probably better known locally for his work in hip-hop group Deep Rooted with rapper/producer Mr. Brady, singer Just Brea and DJ Artistic. For the past couple years or so, Dag Savage has been working in L.A. with Exile, who is best known for dropping the underground classic Below the Heavens with rapper Blu. They've been teasing their Dag Savage collaboration for some time now.
"Cali Dreamin" also features two other rappers, Fashawn and Co$$. The three MCs each contribute a verse dedicated to their respective hometowns (Fashawn and Co$$ are from Fresno and L.A., respectively). As you might expect, "Cali Dreamin" sounds dreamy, covering the lyrics in a coat of reverent, nostalgic haze with gentle piano playing. Johaz's verse turns out to be less a tribute to S.D. than it is a tribute to his mother, as the verse reveals the personal demons she overcame to raise her son right in the harsh ghetto environment.
The B-side to "Cali Dreamin" is "Mic Jackson (Fly S---)," which you can actually listen to via the Dirty Science Soundcloud page. This is more straightforward MC braggadocio. Exile is a monster on the beats, and this one's a banger. Johaz, prior to even joining Deep Rooted, had a reputation for terrorizing dudes in battles across the city, and this is a reminder of that. This should satisfy your urge for boom bap, original rap. If you're interested in picking up the 7-inch single, check out the Dirty Science store.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog sdRAPS.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.