By JR Valrey, the Minister of Information
StunnamanO2 is one of the most explosive performers, and articulate rhyme-slangers on the underground Hip Hop scene of the San Francisco Bay Area, who has recently been making a name for himself. I had become aware of him two summers ago, when he had a small speaking part in the indie cult classic film, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”. While working in the Fillmore a couple of years ago, I came in touch with the soft drink that he created, and over the pandemic I crossed paths with StunnamanO2 quite a few times hanging out, at spots that he was set to perform at. StunnamanO2 is definitely not your run-of-the mill “blockboy” rapper who is satisfied with just showing videos in the hood, his mind has that kingpin entrepreneurial spirit where he is destined to make a mark in music as well as business. I sat down with this local wordsmith and businessman, to expose y’all to the renaissance that is happening now in Bay Area Hip Hop, and introduce you to one of its movers and shakers.
JR Valrey: When did you start taking Hip Hop seriously? What songs or what rappers made you want to be a part of the culture?
StunnamanO2: I made my first song in 2009. I started to take it seriously in about 2016-2017. I remember when I was in college, and one evening I got home from class and said I was going to play video games for an hour, do homework for an hour, and write music for an hour. I ended up playing video games for 3 hours. The next week I sold my Xbox, a year later I dropped my first song and video, a year after that I had 3 songs on 106 KMEL, and that same year I graduated college. I never got an Xbox again though lol.
I think Hip Hop in general made me want to be a part of the culture. Expression is big to me. I went to Catholic schools from 6th grade until college, and Catholic schools are cool but they encourage somewhat of a cookie cutter mentality. It didn’t hold me back, but it made me realize that I couldn’t live a life working a corporate job, so I had to find another way.
JR Valrey: How does being from Fillmore and the City influence your music?
StunnamanO2: Being from The Moe just gave me ism, I learn a lot from just being around. I learned a lot of what not to do, and how to do what I do well. Fillmoe taught me how to use my words and articulate myself. At around 11, I moved to The Point and I feel like that taught me my confidence. I always knew how to speak well, but for a period of my time I was reserved, I feel like moving to Hunters Point brought that out of me. Being from Fillmoe taught me how to formulate. Living in the Point taught me how to be aggressive, and go get what I want. Just being from the City, in general, taught me a sense of urgency most people ignore, but that same sense of urgency is the difference between a successful individual, and somebody who never secured their opportunities.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about getting the role in the cult classic, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”? How did you get it? How has being in that movie affected your rap career?
StunnamanO2: I got that role from being in the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude, and when the opportunity appeared, I pressed the issues harder than anything I’ve ever pressed in my life. I happened to be hanging out with Nat Talbot, who is the brother of Joe (the director) and best friend of Jimmie (main character). They said they needed the room because they were working on a film. I interjected and said I needed to read with them, they liked how I read, and invited me to the first read. I auditioned for several parts, and they eventually wrote me into the film. I appreciate them for the opportunity. Being in the movie was probably the best thing for my rap career, because it goes hand and hand. I was already making waves before rapping, but it’s like the rapping and acting feed off each other. Movies are like the visuals to my life, and then the music is the soundtrack to it, literally. I plan on continuing both, simultaneously, on a high level.
JR Valrey: Do you see yourself doing more acting?
StunnamanO2: I see myself acting, directing, executive producing, everything I can do with film. There are a few things in development right now that I’m looking forward to coming out.
JR Valrey: What made you create your own drink? Can you talk a little bit about how you developed it? What made you do it?
StunnamanO2: The initial inspiration came from wanting a great, tasty beverage that doesn’t make my skin break out. I have chronic eczema, and conventional soft drinks make me break out fairly easily. I made my drink in a way that I can drink it comfortably and still be good. I just used the same method that I used all my life making Kool-Aid, but I changed the ingredients. So instead of powder and sugar, I used ingredients that don’t break my skin out. The motivation initially came to just make a drink that won’t make me itch, I ended up quitting my job, and that’s when I was given the idea, by an associate, to sell it.
JR Valrey: What is the difference between selling a drink and selling an album? What are the similarities?
StunnamanO2: They are both consumable, but an album is a one time sell for most people, so once they download it, it’s theirs. The difference is that with an album you only have to get people to buy it once, and once they do, it’s up to them as to what they want to do with it. With a drink you constantly have to remind people as to why it’s good, or they’ll forget about your product. That’s also similar to music. You have to constantly remind people that you’re good or they’ll forget that also.
JR Valrey: Recently I have seen you all over the Bay at Hip Hop functions, what is your philosophy surrounding promoting your music?
StunnamanO2: My philosophy is push it everywhere, anywhere. I’m a more in person type of pusher. My movement is tangible. I have nothing against social media, and I do my best to utilize it, but to me, my goal isn’t really to make you a huge fan from social media; it’s more so to keep you engaged. My goal is to get you, to see or meet me, or try one of my products and when you do, you’ll see how great it is. I prefer in person push, because it feels more authentic. I am going to start utilizing my social media platforms more often though.
JR Valrey: The San Francisco Hip Hop scene is on fire right now, what is fueling it? What do you think it needs to do to keep that crown shining?
StunnamanO2: I think it’s always been a lot of talent, just not a lot of focus. We don’t get a lot of credit in the City for how good we are at not just making music, but actually having people who can rap from San Francisco. I feel like that gets overlooked nowadays, but now our music is equal to or better than our skills, and that’s what catches people’s eyes, when it comes to a broad appeal. Also a lot of things happen to be moving. Empire being in San Francisco is huge, because now our artists don’t have to leave to get good deals; it’s like if you want to get it you have to come here, and that never really was the case, at any point in time. Also more artists are taking it seriously, dropping a lot of music with great quality also. I think what will take it to the next level is unity. We saw that with the FO15 project. Even though every hot SF artist wasn’t on it, it was still dope to have that represent the city. That’s a huge first step, and it was a good project. Also we need more mainstream artists. I think we are at the top of the game with talent, but C shouldn’t be the only SF artist at the top of the mainstream. We need to have at least 10 on that level. Our sound should set the wave, and that’s what we should aim for. The only way that happens is by making great music and working together. People always say the bay is stuck in the hyphy movement, rather than applauding our culture. Detroit music has had the same sound for the last 10 years, but instead of saying they were “stuck in a sound” their city embraced it and inspired more artists to not only take it serious but to get paid! That’s what we need to do. Once we embrace our own region more we’ll be unstoppable.
JR Valrey: What are you working on now? When are you expecting to drop something new?
StunnamanO2: I got a project with GunnaGoesGlobal that is finished, that we plan on dropping this month. I got a project with DrewBanga that is on its way to get mixed and mastered, and I got my solo project “Still Winnin Vol. 2”, that needs to get mixed and mastered. Then as soon as everything is done, I’m dropping relentlessly. My name is good, but I’m at the point where I’m still elevating and establishing myself. This is the year that I push the ceiling, and let everybody know I should be in constant rotation.
JR Valrey: How could people keep up with your music and drink online?
StunnamanO2: Instagram and social media and Stunnaman02.com is the best way to do both honestly. The website is growing everyday, and people will be able to grab whatever they want from the website.