Rap Atlas: Oakland

Berkeley High School

2223 Martin Luther King Junior Way (Berkeley)

This is the alma mater of DJ Fuze of Digital Underground, Timex Social Club and Mike Marshall, the Pack, and Lyrics Born. I went to school there, too. BHS had a real strong music and arts programs, so it’s not surprising that some hip-hop history was made there.

It all started with Timex Social Club, who formed at BHS in 1982 and were still in school when “Rumors” debuted. That was a monster record at the time—No. 1 R&B, No. 1 dance. It bridged the radio apartheid that separated hip-hop and black radio at that time, and remains one of the most covered songs to this day. In 1982, Timex Social Club were kind of the first New Jack Swing group, they were that ahead of their time. But Jay King, a record producer with pull at the major labels, ended up screwing them out of a deal that led to the formation of Club Nouveau. Ironically, Club Nouveau’s biggest hit, “Why You Treat Me So Bad,” was a remake of Timex’s “Thinking Bout Ya.” In 1995, the Luniz took the melody from “Why You Treat Me So Bad” for “I Got 5 On It.” Mike Marshall, who was the lead singer of Timex Social Club, sang the hook uncredited. So he probably got jerked over again. Mike Marshall became Mike Meezy, the king of hooks for the Bay Area rap scene. He’s worked with 3xKrazy, Andre Nickatina, San Quinn, E-40, Saafir, and hella other people. Dude has an amazingly soulful voice.

My man Fuze used to be a heavy metal head till he visited his dad in New York in 1984 and came back with two Technics 1200s and all these rap records. He used to call himself Davey-D before the radio guy Davey-D came on the scene. Then he was DJ Goldfingers, then Fuze. He did the DU thing—he was like the token white guy—then worked with the Luniz on the production side. He still DJs around town in the clubs.

The Pack is another story. They were still in school when their song “Vans” came out, right during the peak of the hyphy movement. The song was different from all the other stuff the Bay was doing at the time. Young L told me once he made that beat in 10 minutes. The Pack were part of this urban skater clique at Berkeley High; they called their movement “punk rock,” and would wear loud colors with skinny jeans, skate shoes with gold grills. Too $hort saw them, signed them to his label; then Jive picked them up and put out their first album. They just put out a new album on SMC. I interviewed them one time for Vibe, and they spent the entire interview looking at porn on their phones and talking about “boppers.”

The Pack - "Vans"

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