The San Diego tourism industry might have you fooled thinking SD is all about the San Diego Zoo, the Gaslamp District, the Chargers and Sea World, but anyone actually from here knows what the real attraction is: the taco shops. Taco shops are the lifeblood of the city, ingrained in the everyday lives of its residents. Put it like this: Wherever you may go for fun -- whether to the previously mentioned zoo, Gaslamp District, Charger game, Sea World, or somewhere else -- you'll more than likely stop at a taco shop afterward to stuff your face with carne asada fries. It's a given.
But we're not here to talk about carne asada. We're here to talk about beef. Rapper Piff California Herrera just dropped Tacoshophilosophy, a collaboration album with Mr. Brady on the beats (available via their Bandcamp pages). The album serves as a tribute to San Diego. I recently spoke with Piff about local rap history and some of the rap battles he's been involved in.
Quan Vu: I've heard that your old crew, Ill Mannered, had some epic battle with Glass House [which would eventually become SDMA winners, The Icons].
Piff California Herrera: Glass House! Oh! [laughs] Yeah, Glass House-Ill Mannered. Ill Mannered against Ill Manor because there was a group from Oceanside or somewhere north, they had a group called Ill Manor with an "or." Ours was an acronym for "Intelligent Low-Lifes Making All N---as Nervous Everyday Representing Daygo." So they didn't like the name change, so they tried to step to us at a San Diego State function. They got mowed down; wasn't nobody f---ing with us.
First of all, we practiced too much. It'll be like: You could have a supertalented team of negro athletes that can jump or leap bounds and dunk. But if you got them white boys who practice 17 hours, do all these pass drills, they're running plays? You can't f---ing full-court press these fools. F--- outta here! You looking dumb. We used to practice our ass off.
But with Glass House, they used to have a problem, too. I don't think it was the freestyle issue. I think they disrespected one of my mans when he was onstage. After that, it was on. We wouldn't let none of them live. Frosty and ... what's that dude's name?
PCH: Sketch! Mowed him down. This is from talent shows. They used to get so mad. Gompers talent shows. Lincoln talent shows. Wherever y'all went, we was on y'all necks. Nobody was f---ing with us. And I think it just got under their skin.
So they really tried to show out at the Underground Improv because they had that freestyle support. I always have respect and love with Masters of the Universe because that birthed out of House Clan. Black Brady was like, "I used to dance with all these fools." You can't disrespect me on a rap level when people knew I would f--- you up on the dance floor.... So I had that respect across the board. But they tried to get funny at the Improv. We just had a set-ass battle, and they just got they life burnt up.
QV: So you think your crew definitely won that battle.
PCH: Yes! It was good because -- I think dude's name was Scientific or something with science -- he was OK. And Frosty had that stage presence. Sketch was always a spectacle, because his hair and he had the Lebron headband and he had the troll permed and blond, s--- popping out. He used to step across the stage -- because he used to dance, too. It was good entertainment, bro. It was always intense like that. But for me, it's always been intense like that from dance skills. S--- didn't pop until I stepped in. But I had them cats running for life. Even Dizzyorder, ah!
He couldn't go nowhere. I had to get carried out of Hot Monkey Mocha Cafe that Poke used to throw those events at. I had security carry me out with gloves, pick me up and carry me out. Because, like I said, I was on some Southeast s---, too, so I always had my riders in my back pocket. We can rap or fight or shoot, whatchu wanna do?
QV: Was Dizzy part of Glass House?
PCH: Dizzy, see: They didn't claim him after the second time I battled him -- or mowed him down. Won't call it a battle. He had a show. I hopped onstage and took his mic and told his DJ, "You better not turn off the sound." Yeah, I used to terrorize that cat. He still don't look me in the face.
QV: I feel bad for that guy. I just heard a story about Orko punching him in the face with a mic.
PCH: The second time I battled him, I was like [to Glass House], "Is he repping with y'all?" They was like, "We know him, but nah." They didn't want it. They didn't want it. That was when me and Mazin Feats was running around too. Especially it got to '97-'98? Not f---ing with Piff at that time. That's when I was being disrespectful. If you're doing a show, I'll be flipping you off in the audience, hopping onstage. You can ask anybody. Club Exam that was on 30th. Star Billiards. Hot Monkey Mocha. Anybody repping anywhere, if I didn't like you, I was terrorizing you. Terrorizing you.
I did that to Dizzy a couple times, snatched his mic at Star Billiards and Hot Monkey. His DJ stopped playing the beat. I ruined Sketch that day too battling over that "1, 2, 3!" with Mos Def and Talib. The instrumental ran out, I was rapping so long, Kevin Green -- used to go to SCPA, dope drummer, used to mess with Masters of the Universe too -- hopped on the drums and started drumming the same pattern. I mowed them and security had to take me out.
I mean, I got love for them. I'm not saying they're not cool people. Me and Sketch got cool. But I'm saying, we used to body them. F--- outta here.
QV: Who else were you battling back then?
PCH: Outside of those ... we didn't have problems. We were too organized. If you could fade me -- if you could get me -- you're definitely not getting Reality. If you get to Reality, you're definitely not f---ing with Mega. If you get through Mega, you're definitely not f---ing with Mazin. This n---a will mow you down. Back then, I don't know his rap verbatim but he said some s--- like:
I fly and scrape skies like the wings of phoenix, amazing
Labyrinth, I walk like ancient Egyptians
Swing over beats like Nicholas brothers hit the dance floor
I'm deep rooted
So do you want more of the all-American man of art and warrionism
I swing from a pendulum
I throw hymns until I crack a rotator's cuff
Mob on your deli like I'm Sho' Nuff
Take your goods, beat you till I give wood, what!
He had the most crazy s---, craziest bars in life.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog SD Raps.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.