Northern Xpozure​

  First time i heard about Woodie I was in a car with my cousin and he had Woodie’s first solo Yoc Influenced on cassette tape. He asked me if i had heard of him and then showed me his tape cover once we got to his pad in Modesto. I didn’t get to hear it, but he told me the guy had some flows and then stressed that he was white as it was the days when the stereotypical white rapper was just shedding its skin and setting a new pace for more lyrical and theme based rappers. About a year or so later I would get to hear Woodie for the first time and I was blown away.   The album was Northern Expozure 1. It was his first compilation on his label and would birth that East CoCo sound he was known for. I was at a homie’s house getting some weed when I heard my boy bumping “The Way You Feel”. That track instantly grabs you and is a summertime must for your track list. I asked where he had got the tape and he said he got it at Scott’s Music up the street. 
  Scott’s was a local rap store we got all underground rap music, posters, and magazines from. Scott always had signings for the most popular bay artist and was known the have rappers just chilling there smoking weed. Only problem was that Scott’s was only open about two days a week and it was hit or miss seeing him there. I figured I try my luck and head over there to se if he had any more copies. Thankfully he did. I got my first Woodie CD and was hooked from there. I took it home and recored it on to a black recordable cassette tape and wrote “Northern Xpozure” in Cholo Style lettering. I made a tape because i had a portable tape player I carried around the hood as I walked to the homeboy’s houses. Shit, when you rolled up to the park with the new beat for everyone to listen to, you were practically like the hood’s DJ and you always wanted to have the latest album to blow everyone away with. After I got that album, I was hooked. I became an instant fan and started supporting whatever he was releasing. 
  Around the same time that Woodie was releasing albums my homeboy Big Oso Loc was spitting his first rap for me to hear. He started writing his raps and and finding beats he wanted to rap to. Around 1999 I got my first keyboard and started making beats too. I would go over Oso’s apartments in Fremont and we’d sample music or make beats on keyboard that he could write raps too. We never released anything together at that time but started our paths in entertainment and found out what we liked doing in life. A little later we released his first two mixtapes and I produced a track on his album Just Another Day. He would go on to releasing cds after that and I would move on to clothing. It was at that point he told me he was on Woodie’s new compilation called Northern Expozure 4 and that he was invited to a photoshoot for the album in West Sacramento at Bay Side Records warehouse. We rolled out there in his Cadillac. It was myself, Him, and his baby momma. I packed his trunk with clothes and we rolled out there. I didnt know what to expect. It was at some warehouse district and all of East Coco was there for that shoot. I didnt know any of them dudes personally so i just kind of chilled off in the cuts by Oso’s ride. Halfway into they were getting ready to take some photos and woodie asked me to hold some lighting for them as they took a picture. The gangster part of me was like “naw, I’m coo” but the fan and business side of me was like “ok coo, no problem”. I went with the latter of the two and held that shit for a few minutes and that was it. Woodie was cool and respectful but we didnt really get to talk too much because he was busy doing his thang. He ended up letting me get in one of the photos and I ended up being on the back of the Northern Expozure V.4 cd. I was pretty juiced later when I saw that. After the shoot woodie walked up with a box of cds and handed everybody a copy of one of his albums. He was pretty cool for that. 
  While he was shooting photos there was some white guy there who must have ran the record distribution spot and he opened the door up for us when it started to get too cold out. I remember walking in and seeing a warehouse full of cds and just feeling like I was in heaven since I was such a big collector. Man, as soon as he opened that door and walked out we started grabbing hella shit. I remember finding a few Black & Brown records cds and was happy as hell. My night was complete on the way home. I had met a rapper I really admired and I came up on a few cds. It was a win-win situation for me. I didnt get to give woodie any shirts but I still got some cds. I still have a little bit of footage from that night rolling up to that spot. That would be the first and last time i ever really saw woodie. 
  About the time i was releasing clothing I had started to get into computers. I was total anti-computer before that. I thought that www was like some 666 shit so I never bought a computer. When I did get one I pretty much hung out on the East Coco forum Woodie had on the website . It was the online spot for all your underground rap gossip and beef. These forums were hella popular before social media because it was pretty much the only place you could get into contact with your favorite rapper. Wasn’t like today where you just hit the DM. Some of these fucking rappers (yea i did that shit too) had to go to their homeboys house who had a computer and make an account just to talk shit back to someone. If you were a regular on there you talked shit with at least 4 different users. Woodie rarely ever replied because he was always busy with some shit but when he did you saw that big ass “WOODIE” in all caps and knew it was going to be something good. Unfortunately Woodie and I always fucking butted-heads on there. We rarely ever got along and when we did it was damn near by contract. I was just coming into the rap CD sales scene and Woodie was a vet in the industry. I’ve had multiple people vouch for him by saying they’ve seen him with thousands of dollars in checks just for rap sales. He was one of the few people I’ve ever known that actually was able to live off of rap money. I was just young and dumb at the time and didn’t really understand his vision yet. 
  I had so many stupid ass little incidents with Woodie through the years on his site that we actually talked on multiple occasions , usually only after i posted something going at him. As soon as I did, there goes my phone ringing a half an hour later and us arguing and then eventually agreeing with each other by the end of the night. Traditionally the conversations started out with us talking shit too each other on some “what the fuck was up with that post, homie!? I ain’t no fucking punk, whats good?” and then a whole lot of street shit. Eventually a few street guys end of seeing eye to eye and then we start talking business. Woodie was one smart mafuka. I had some really deep conversations with the dude and he ended up being one of the smartest street businessmen I’ve never met. He would tell me how he would call the keyboard or equipment manufacturer when he didn’t know how to do something and learn like that. He would tell me shit like “you know how many years it takes to even consider your business successful? About 10-15. You wont even make a profit for the first 3-5 years”. I had never thought in those terms before I talked to him. 
  As time went on and our bickering would continue we ended up getting into an argument over cd sales. I would sell CDs to stores all over Nor Cal and to some out of state accounts. Woodie had most of these spots already on his accounts since he had been doing this for years. Some days I would show up at stores and have a trunk full of CDs that the stores did not have. They did however have Woodie CDs and I had no problem moving his albums since He was one of the top 3 HomeBoyRap artist as far as sales went back then. Since most of the CDs I would get from other up and coming artist only cost me about $3-$5 per cd I could trade them to stores for Woodie CDs which wholesaled for $9 a piece through Woodie or more expensive from distribution. Lets just say I ended up getting a lot of Woodie CDs and ended up being able to sell them for cheaper than he was. He was pissed! 
  I would drive city to city every day selling CDs and hitting stores. Sometimes the stores would be sold out of his albums so I would restock.It was nothing personal, it was just me trying to get CDs to fans and make a few bucks. This became a huge problems as he would call the stores to restock and get his annual checks and then they hit him with “We got em from No Love”. I got a call from him and we got into all kinds of shit. He pretty much did not want me selling his CDs since i didn’t want to pay the high price. He told me he only had so many CDs to sell of his Solo albums because he was signed to Koch Records and his Compilations were on his label but he usually sold out any units he pressed to his accounts.
  He ended up going down to $7 but that was still too much for me. I didn’t really cop too many CDs after that. I had just felt like all these other homeboys were selling me CDs for $5 each which allowed me to sell for $10.99 on my site and have the best prices out there and it wasn’t a problem. So why should it be now?. I didn’t really see it from his angle. He wanted max dollar for his product since he had been around since the golden era of rap selling CDs and tapes but times were changing and cd sales weren’t like they used to be with the rise in digital downloads. People only really wanted to pay $10 for a cd and thats it. 
  Like I said, on a daily basis I would travel from city to city selling CDs and whatever else I had. I would meet rappers and cop CDs all the time but i never ever got to meet up with Woodie. I knew a few rappers who were good homies of mine that were actually good friends with him. They told me he was kind of a recluse and from my few verbal interactions it really seemed that way. He just kind of stood to himself and the few people he trusted. He changed phone numbers practically every month so it was extremely hard to get ahold of him at times to buy cds. I remember one day being at Big Tone’s house in Antioch. He lived there with Davina and I would get CDs from him at his pad. We were talking about Woodie when he tells me that Woodie moved to Oregon. Tone jokingly said at the time “ Mafuka probably moved out there to kill himself. Crazy ass fool”. Since Woodie wrote a lot of suicidal and killer style lyrics it was just some of those things that he was associated with plus he was a loc in the streets from what I had heard. I could never get a hold of him once he left but he would just randomly hit me at times I didn’t know what he was going through at the time. 
  Must have been about April or so of 2007 and I get a call from Woodie and we start discussing CDs and other random shit that I can’t remember. We start negotiating prices and I remember he was just being really cool with me. He wasn’t really trying to argue or anything like that. We were getting CDs down to around $6 a unit and then i remember he tells me “Fuck It! You know what bro, I’m going to sell them to you for $5.50 a unit. I can’t go any lower than that. Ive never sold them that low before”. I had to do it and respected him for doing that. We were at an agreement so I had planned to cop some units from him on his next press. We finally came to an agreement and were on good terms. We get off the phone and had plans to do business in a month or two. 
  One of my trips that I became very fond of taking was the driver from Woodland to Chico. Man, I fuckin love taking that drive. I would stop in Sacramento first at Dimples Records to sell cds and make at least a few hundred dollars, then drive to Barneys in woodland and jump on the 113 for the most scenic driver ever. I would go through winding roads and and small towns like Knights Landing. It felt good to get out of the city and see these places in Cali I had never been to. I was almost to Yuba City to stop and Underground Records when when I got a call from Crooked of DarkRoom Familia. I would talk with him on occasion as I was one of the few people he sold CDs to directly. I had to earn that by selling about 100-200 cds of his in a day or two and then came back for more. He was a really cool and knowledgable dude who would give you game if you gained his trust. It was the middle of the day and I kind of tripped that he was calling me that early but I figured it was to bullshit. We start talking and he tells me that Woodie died and he just heard it from Rapbay. Rapbay had the best relationship business wise and friendship wise so i figured that its a pretty reliable source. I was at a loss for words since I was such a big fan of his. Crooked sounded like he felt bad for him as well. I made some calls and ended up confirming it. We had lost another good rapper in the HomeBoyRap genre. A pioneer in our scene. We didn’t know how he died then but we were told later that he shot himself in Oregon. I remember coming home back then and telling my grandmother about it. I’ll never forget her reply. She told me  “Mijo, sometimes the devil whispers in your ear”. 
   It was a few year later that I started to get known a little but more for more journalism as I had released a DVD and was working on a second one. I received a n email from one of my customers who was also a member i knew from the site. This guy occasionally bought CDs off of me that were rare but i always tripped that his address was directly in downtown san francisco some shit like 5 Montgomery St. or one of those style addresses. I asked him about his address one day and he tells me he works in lawyer firm or some shit like that. I was always kind of skeptical about customers and pretty much thought everyone was a cop. This guy did not help out my trust issues when he sent me links to websites and other forms i would never have found otherwise He told me since he worked at a firm he gets access to documents the general public can’t find. He started sending me shit for a guy with Woodies name who caught a case in Nevada for buying guns at stores and then selling them. Now I can’t remember exact specs but the guy got caught up and was facing a good amount of time. He had also caught the case with a woman friend. The dates on the case were about a year before Woodie died. My immediate thoughts were to go to Woodies profile on Siccness and see if he posted between those times. Oddly enough, i couldn’t find one post in between that time showing he had posted. The court records even showed that the guy with the same name was in jail for that case after the date woodie had died. Was he alive? We didnt know if he was alive or faked his own death. To this day I’ve never scene any physical evidence (i.e. Obituary, grave, etc) that he died. Is he alive? Is he dead? I have no Idea. Im not one to feed into conspiracy theories but you probably kind of feel how I did when I was sent all this shit, just fuckin puzzled. I will say this. Whether he is alive or dead, the person we knew as Woodie has moved on, possibly into the next life or even on to the next phase of his life, If he decided to fake his own death he did one hell of a job but i think we would have seen him by now with social media. Over the years I just kind of disregarded the emails i received since i had lost them and just accept that notion that he has passed on. One can only hope for peace for a man who lived every bit of his rap lyrics.
  Having the interactions i had with Woodie showed me a few things about being a fan of anything. I was one of his biggest fans like anyone else but that grew sour at times because of the business end of things. I was angry at times that a guy I looked up to could act the way he did but apart of it was error on my end having expectations. This guy was here running a successful business charging what he wanted to and i came along expecting him to change his program in order to please my quotas. I realize that now. Personally I’ve always been a bit at ease that we kind of patched things up before he passed. Myself and many of you out there didn’t know he really had these Demons in his sleep. Most of us think these lyrics are just words but a lot of artist are really living this pain. It was a damn shame we had to lose someone with such talent and business savy. I honestly think he would have been apart of something big had he still been alive. Its good to see guys like Big Tone and Kev Knocks carrying on that East Coco sound that Wood became known for, It kind of gives us a life line to his music still. 
 I’d like to thank Woodie for the convos we had because to this day I’ve still walked away from those conversations with pieces of advice i use in my life. I pass it on to any eager person out there I see in hopes of helping someone who really wants it. I hope you’re out there chilling on the beach, homie. RIP

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Where You From?

By No Love

  Those 3 little words. Depending on numerous factors like financial, ethnicity, and age, this question can provoke an array of feelings, memories, and pride. Descriptions of that “little conrer store” to that person behind the question or even finding out that you both have mutual friends and family members can ensure laughs and trips down memory lane to any good old American suburbanites.
  Now, throw this question around in a black or latino neighborhood and see what the reaction is.
"Where you from?" The guy behind this question just left his homie’s pad after just having found out one of their friends was killed the day before.
  The guy on the business end of this question just left his girl’s house a few blocks over and his car died out at this corner store.
  The guy behind the counter already knows what’s up. He says in a shaky voice and broken accent “please, I don’t want any trouble in here”. The lady who is shopping with her kids hears the question and starts to look through the isle for her children as if to look for another store to shop at.
  An answer is given that just doesn’t match up with the geographical region that the poor bastard with the broke down car is standing in. This is where those feelings, memories, and pride come into play.
​ And to think, this all started with someone asking a question with 3 simple words. Where are you from? This happens every hour in America. Blacks and Latinos deal with this question on a daily basis with dire consequences. So the next time you’re out and about and happen to meet an interesting enough person to spark a conversation with and you ask them those 3 little words, just be happy you do not live in the barrio or the hood where many have bled and lost their lives after hearing those 3 little words. 

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To Have a Pair....

   My earliest memory of em was probably when I was about 5 or so. We drove to San leandro. And there it was. The work clothing store that had the huge Ben Davis Sign with the gorilla on it. There was nothing like it. The yellow and red colors clashing with the solid black lines that formed the barrier for the yellow face of the all mighty Ben Davis Gorilla were the greatest site i could see, and brought a grin to my face just as big as the one the gorilla had. They sure didn’t have them in my size, but that still didn’t stop me from loving them. The older homies who came over to the house always had a pair on. Black was the most popular of my uncles friends. These homies were as real as it gets. It was an array of charactes out of a Homies Gum Ball machine. You had the Winos, the pinto, the viejos, and all of them had on Bens on. When you’re about 3 ft tall, you don’t see much but tags and toes.
   As i got older I wanted a pair even more. Jr high came around and it was just about that time i could start fitting into em. Nuttin But a G thang by Dr Dre was the hottest shit on the radio, so people wanted Black Bens and a Black Bens shirt with a matching 64 Impala even more than ever now. But the real knew what time it was. It wasn’t just a fad for us. It was bred in for generations. your fathers and uncles wore them, your grandparents even wore them. A new pair of bens under a hot iron for about 45 minutes made you look like you were about to crack in half. A little starch definitely helped get you to the point of break.My good homeboy Anthony once told me his brothers pants cracked when he added 7-up to the iron and steamed them. 7-up? I couldn’t believe it! But I was still to chicken shit to try to break my grandmothers iron and be stuck wrinkled for a month.
   My grandmother swore that only cholos wore Khaki Bens. She refused to let me get a pair until the 8th grade, thats when i talked her into it. I would tell her, “that was in your time old lady (That was my nickname for her), in the 50’s. This is a different era”. “Aww ni que era ni que nada” was her reply. We eventually took the bus to get some.
 I got about 4 pairs for school shopping every year.. Black, brown, green, and smoke grey or silver if you could find them. Sear and Montgomery Wards in the Bay were a favorite to get you pants for a good price. Plus my grandmother had the layaway plans if all else failed. Bens Davis shirts were optional if you could find them.
 Now my homeboy Grumpy, he had every single pair ever made! I dont say this in exaggeration either. If you ever had a homeboy who was creased up 24/7 then you know who Grumpy is. He had Black, brown, white, maroon, grey, green, carmel. Carmel? The most sought after pair of the times?!?! Yeah, he had em. My grandmother would always compliment at how clean and creased he always was. “I’ve never seen him dirty” she would say. But we all knew he ended up getting beer or blood spilled on his clothes by the end of the night. To this day i still remember the time he wanted to see how many pairs of pants he could shoot his 9mm threw. He shot right threw them in the closet of his moms house while she was at work. I think it was about 7 pairs. Pretty sturdy if you ask me.
    I still remember a story a homie told me, about another homie, who knew a homie, that seen a homie that got shot in the leg when he got his brand new Frisco Bens. The doctors had to cut his pants up but he pleaded that he would take them off and wash them out after.Sorry to say, but the pants were ripped to shreds by doctors… or so the story goes. Yeah! It was that serious.
   Ben Davis weren’t just a pair of pants that people wore and tossed out. You took absolute care of your Bens Davis.Some were worn for months without notice, if you took proper care of them. A single perfect cuff could be achieved on any pair of Bens without alteration of any sort. The feel of Bens as I pop the stapled tag off the back pocket and then rip the size tag off the belt loop area still rings fresh in mind to this day. I collected Bens tags for years. Watched my favorite movies and shows as i creased my slightly worn Bens to mush for hours and hours. After months of walking the barrio. Solid black creases soon became faded white lines one an almost grey canvas. Old Bens get a wavy look to them. Floppy and sloppy. Not something that average homie wanted to be associated with. My homie Lurch would often use food coloring in the washing machine to bring his old Bens back from the dead and save a few bucks, but all he did was fuck up his moms washing machine. But hey, a homie has to do what a homie has to do to keep his Gorillas looking crispy.
   These days, you dont see Bens around too much. Dickies took over as the affodable and hip brand now that they merchandised their company to attract everyone from young kids to nurses. A great business move it was. I still remember the first year i seen the transition at the Magic Show in Las Vegas. it blew my mind to see the change to a cell phone pocket. Ben Davis were simply to expensive for some at around $35-$40 a pop.But  Ben Davis has been a Bay area Icon just as long as the golden gate bridge, but has seemed to fade the from the minds of many as the pants their uncles wore back in the days. So the next time you pass by a Work World store, or the Army surplus store in your town, check out the orange and yellow gorilla in the corner. He’s been there for years. Take a trip down memory lane for your homies one time.

  Last night was an amazing night in San Franciscos Mission District. The seen was one that has been spoken of in the stories of past. Lowriders, cholos, cholas, students, activist, and community leaders all came together in honor of a man who was killed by trigger happy police. 
As Alex sat on Bernal Hill eating his burrito just before his shift started, a call came in to 911 dispatch complaining of a man with a gun. The alleged gun was a taser Alex used for his night job as a security  guard and was licensed to carry. Within a minute of the confrontation, Alex would be dead, shot over 10 times on the hill he ate his last meal at and enjoyed the view of his city. 
March 21st 2015 is a year later that the community would rise up in his name and unite to bring back the special culture the mission had. As one social media member states “the mission is back, if only for a night”. 
  The scene was a loving one. No funk, no hard looks, just love and unity. A speaker on the panel stated that tonight “each one of you is an honorary cholo and chola”, this meant we were back in the struggle as one. No brown looking down on brown. Only brown, uplifting brown. 
We got to see the parents of Alex Nieto and hear their stories of a loving son who didn’t hesitate to show his love for his family and others. We saw videos of Alex driving in lowriders and participating in community events. A far cry from the person the media and police tried to portray. 
  This #AmorForAlex event was one of the strongest community events I’ve seen in Nor Cal in a while for the brown community, it just sad that we had to come together when a good man was killed, and not before. RIP Alex Nieto Jr.

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"Need a Ride"?

"Ey homie , you need a ride?"Probably the most loving words i ever heard in my lifetime. 
​ Walking around the neighborhood as a teenager, not many people wanted to give a ride. Whether it be fear of getting pulled over by a cop, lack of attention, or just plain selfishness, getting a ride is a hard thing to come by sometimes in a bad area. I remember walking home one day from school in the 7th grade. Drenched from the mile plus walk home i did to, and from. No ride from home because grandma didn’t drive and my uncle didn’t care.
​  A car pulls on the side of me. Primered up, it had a car full of the older homeboys bumpin oldies. “Ey lil homie, you need a ride”.I hear it come from the shotgun side of the ride. Its my older homie. “thats OG Ben’s Lil Nephew” someone says from the back seat. “Get in”.Im in the car before they can open the latch to let me in. “Hows your uncle?” he asked. “He’s cool, locked up but should be out soon”, i say. I dont even know if they remembered my name but i was just glad they picked me up from that storm. 
​ To this day i remember the exact location i was picked up at.To some it was just a ride. To me it was Carnalismo. A brotherhood , only recognized by those raised with respect and care for their loved 1’s.To this day i still feel a huge debt  to another person who may have just givin me a ride up the street. In Fremont , I knew every bus stop in the city. Knew just about every driver too. Going to a dance? lets hit the bus. Going to the mall? Lets hit the bus. GOing to ride on some enemies? Lets hit the bus. 
​ You might not even overlook the fact that you gave a human being a ride up the street or to the other side of town. But in the mind of the recipient of the ride, you might have gained a whole new respect.

The Recruiter 

​  I know this homeboy. He's a down-ass homeboy, a real soldado in the eyes of my neighborhood. I knew this homie since I was just a kid. He's been putting in work since I can remember. You should have seen when he was suited and booted. Creases sharp enough to cut through a cake, a real stand-up G. 

 Guess what? I heard he's got some stripes under his belt now. Layin the enemy down or whoever opposes our way of life. I had to chuckle at some of the stories I heard about him. Shit, I put in work too, so I know the feeling. The rush you get from letting a clip off or putting your blade in someone. I got a lot of respect for the work this homeboy has put in but you know what? There's one thing I don't respect about this homie. 

   It was a while back when I seen it happen. He just got home off the bus, so I guess he's back in the area. He's all tense in the shoulders. I can see it in his walk and the way he eats fast. We're chopping it up at the store talking about the shit thats been going down in the area. I'm telling him my stories and he's telling me his. We used to put in work together back in the days so the respect is there. But then the lil homie walks up, he's about 16. I'm talking to him about his family when my old school homeboy starts to get at him trying to recruit him in. I can't believe he's trying to waste the homie's life like his was. He starts spittin the same ol game on how they need him and how he's got "corazon". I know the talk because that's how I got in. It's a damn shame. 

 That was the first time I seen it. After a while it was all he did. Recruiting lil homies left and right. I'd see him at the parks by high schools and any other place that young fragile minds hang out at. I lost respect for him at that point. Its like he had a quota to fill with these these lil youngsters. Trading souls to war became his game.

  I think he wants to go back. You know how these guys are. They're so damn institutionalized that "3 hots and a cot" sounds way more appealing that a white picket fence. I guess I shouldn't be mad, we all signed up for this life but we signed our own ticket in this vida, don't bring someone down with you. I think of how people love him as a real soldado even after recruiting so many young lives to the system, essentially altering their views on the world forever. It's a fuckin shame!

​  I just can't believe my homeboy became a U.S. Marine.