By JR Valrey, the Minister of Information
When people say that Hip Hop is a way of life, I have defined that to mean, it’s not how much jewelry or designer clothes a person has, or how much weed they smoke; it is about how much a person sees the world through the dominant cultural lens of one of the Hip Hop generations. I am a Black man born during the time when the landscape of the Black Revolution was transitioning into the Cointelpro-Project Mockingbird Counter-Revolution right before the crack era, and as the lower classes of Black and Brown people were facing government induced addictions, government induced fractricide, assassination after assassination, court case after court case, a new culture was born from the Funk, Jazz, Blues, Soul, and Rock of that generation, which forged a new beginning and called itself Rap and later Hip Hop.
Mass Quan is a rapper that I met on the Oakland Hip Hop scene in 2005, when we were both operating out of a building on San Leandro Blvd. He had a music studio and I had a writer’s office. We became quick friends, and beyond that I had acquired an appreciation for his creativity. Back when I used to see Mass Quan more, he lived music. We weren’t making a lot of money off of our businesses back then, but creativity, passion, and music was oozing from his pores. I respect someone who understands that you have to put in some work before you could profit. And even back then, he was never intimidated to come lace a recording booth.
If you fast forward to today, Mass Quan is still a very clever wordsmith on and off the mic, whose unique presence is felt when he steps in the room. He is an underground legend in the Bay, and if you haven’t heard of him, you need to keep your ear lower to the ground.
JR Valrey: When did you become a rapper? Who influenced you? When?
Mass Quan: I first started rapping in High School. Senior Year. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien influenced me. He is a childhood friend. 1992
JR Valrey: What is it about rap that made you fall in love with the art form?
Mass Quan: Instant Gratification. That’s what made me fall in love with the art of rap. I could write something to a beat, perform it for myself first, then others, and entertain both myself and them. It was cheap entertainment like a person that knows how to dance hella good, or going to the hoop court and just shooting by yourself.
JR Valrey: Why have you always included comedy in your raps, similar to the Digital Underground and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?
Mass Quan: No disrespect to Digital Underground or Will Smith, but I don’t see my style as “comedy” like that. Like, I am funny sometimes, but it is serious. The Fresh Prince was a talented lyricist no doubt, but his style was kind of a gimmick. When I did the song “Eviction”, which is kinda “funny” in a way, I was really getting evicted. I had a pregnant wife and two children. My catalog might be a little bigger than you think. It is definitely more extensive, with a wide range of emotions.
JR Valrey: Can you tell us about this new project that you just released? What makes it unique? What does it sound like?
Mass Quan: The new project that I just released is a single called “Life Sentences”. What makes it unique is that it has been called an instant Town classic, but it’s underground Hip Hop at its finest; no niggas dying, no material glorification, no exploitation of women. It’s just dope lyrics over a dope beat. I produced the beat. It sounds like some Mass Quan shit, according to my niggas.
JR Valrey: What kind of production do you like to rap over?
Mass Quan: I make my own beats. it’s all part of the instant gratification process, I previously mentioned. I write, produce, mix, and master my shit.
JR Valrey: From your perspective, what is the state of Bay Area Hip Hop today?
Mass Quan: Honestly I have no idea what the state of Bay Area Hip Hop is. I haven’t listened to the radio in years. Between me writing and producing, and my beautiful wife writing and singing, I’m kinda good over here. When niggas in the East (Oakland) hear me slapping a beat at the store, they already know who made it.
JR Valrey: What do you want for people to get from your music?
Mass Quan: What do I want people to get from my music? Freedom my nigga. The same thing I want. To think for yourself, and to act on those thoughts. Knowledge of Self.
JR Valrey: How can people stay online with you?
Mass Quan: Subscribe to my YouTube page. I think that’s the best way to stay abreast of what I’m doing.