On their first collaborative album, San Jose’s Joe Fresco and San Francisco’s Black C put together a sound designed for luxury cruising, hustlin’ and some serious mackin’.
Ruthless, the new full length, is full of beats that can rattle a trunk or turn up a neighborhood party and a vision for a more funky future. It’s a return of funk rap, and it’s riding on chrome, with the shared perspectives of the two emcees in the front seat.
Together, Fresco and Black C feature the upbeat tempo of ’70’s funk and the skillful delivery of early ’90’s rap. The point of this, Fresco says, is to give people a break from the constant flow of the rap industry’s current music.
“We just trying to make our vision a little different,” Fresco says. “Because right now rap is videos of a bunch of cats with a bunch of guns.”
Almost all of San Jose is Fresco’s home, having lived everywhere from Story and Senter, Alum Rock and Jackson, McKee, by the Round Table on 7th and Reed, and more. It’s a trait he says he gets from his mom. She never lived in one place too long.
“I literally lived all over San Jose, but the majority of my life was spent on the East Side,” Fresco says. “Coming up, you’re trying to find out which lane you’re in and who’s your audience. I know my audience now, more retro. Cats are looking for something more nostalgic.”
Growing up, Fresco was inspired by the Bay Area rap of the ’90s, Too $hort, E-40 and Mac Dre (particularly around when the rapper was in jail). But rappers such as Snoop Dogg, Nas, Wu Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and the various artists of Death Row Records ruled this era too, and inevitably ended up on the stereos of this age during cruise sessions and house parties.
To this day, Fresco says, the rap sound of the ’90’s remains his inspiration. To him, it is a “golden era.”
“That was the thing, you didn’t wanna sound like nobody. You wanted your own distinct sound,” he says. “That was really big for me when I started doing hip hop. I wanted to make sure I didn’t sound like nobody. I wanted to make sure Joe Fresco sounded like his own dude.”
Particularly inspiring for him was a crew just to the north, RBL Posse, from San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point. More than anyone, their emcee Black C impressed him with his style and lyricism. To this day, they remain a vital influence in the West Coast G-Funk style.
RBL’s biggest hit was “Don’t Give Me No Bammer Weed,” from their 1992 breakout album A Lesson To Be Learned. The album attested to the higher standards of life in the Bay, both its joys and struggles. Their music combined real, procedural bars with lowrider cruising beats for a regimen of street-influenced sophistication.
Their beats mostly hovered around and above 100 beats per minute, Black C says, elevating RBL Posse’s style and lyricism (Black C plus Mr. Cee and Hitman). RBL rapped faster than many of their contemporaries, providing them a serious, dedicated following all over the West Coast.
“It was really a mixture of Southern Style (LA) and Bay Area,” Black C says. “We was a little bit different, a little bit more funky.”
Separate from the Socal G-funk scene, they branded their own style of music C-Funk.
Black C attributes much of their popularity to their Latino fan base. This same fan base, he says, will appreciate what he and Fresco are bringing back out as the summer winds down.
The same will be true of anyone tired of hearing the same club music, like they’re supposed to be popping bottles and dancing with waitresses in the car on their way home from work. For anyone missing funkier sounds, Fresco and Black C’s have a new era of Bay hip hop, a combined spirit that can only be called Ruthless.
“We gon’ be ruthless, stay ruthless, keep bein’ ruthless,” Black C says. “We gon’ be 80 years old, we still gon’ be ruthless and toothless.”
Joe Fresco + Black C