Monday, April 16, 2012

An Interview with HD of Bearfaced Gang

Joe from the excellent Perfection is Perfected recently had the opportunity to interview HD and was kind enough to share it here on 100 Grand on My Wrist:
I met up with HD on Easter Sunday at his aunt’s house in West Oakland. Soul and R&B music blasted from the living room while we sat on the porch and talked. HD rotated between drags off a blunt and bites of his auntie’s lemon meringue pie. And in customary HD fashion, he sipped from a bottle of promethezine, which—fittingly—he stored inside a jacket pocket close to his heart. As various aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews moved in and out of the house while discussing his career thus far and moving forward, I realized how essential family is to HD the artist. Although stints of incarceration certainly have interrupted his output, more than anything else it has been his desire to do things his own way by keeping it in the family that has governed his work.

And for those of you hoping to read about HD’s beef with Lil Rue, Livewire, or DB tha General, spoiler alert: HD didn’t have anything negative to say about any of those rappers and in fact,  he wished them all the best.

When did you first start rapping?

I’ve been rapping forever. Basically, since I was like six or seven years old. My uncle— Che-D-Ness—he had a studio and I just used to get it in. I’d always go in on his beats. He gave me my first mic. I’ve always been rapping in the hood, like in my circle, but I really just got serious about it like three years ago and started pressing up my own CDs.

What made you decide to get serious about rapping?

When the hyphy movement started getting a lot of exposure, I felt like I could take it to another level. Not just rapping in the hood.

The funny thing is that I don’t hear any hyphy influence in your music. You never seem to compromise your vision or sound. There’s an HD sound and there’s a Bearfaced sound. In fact, you stay within the Bearfaced camp. That seems like a conscious decision. Do you ever want to work with artists outside the Bearfaced camp? 

Yeah. I’ve got something coming with Ampichino, the Jacka, Dem Hoodstarz. What it is about me though, is that I’m self-contained. It ain’t really got nothing to do with everyone else. I give credit where credit is due, but I feel like I’m working on something a little different. I’m trying to get a story across right now. A story that’s really explaining me. So I want my fans to know me on a personal level, while still being a rapper. I’m trying to project an image of who I am, so as far as me getting a lot of features, it don’t really fit with what I’m trying to do.

But you do get a lot of Bearfaced features.

That’s family, so I’m still telling my same story. When we do our thing, we all got a story to tell, but it’s basically the same story. We’re with each other twenty-four seven, we been through all the shit together, the same struggles. And I'd rather just vibe with my people when I express myself. When I go to the studio, they’re all with me.
And I do look forward to doing that with other artists, but it’s a conscious decision to stay with Bearfaced all day. I’m a loyal dude like that because we’ve got talent in our camp. 

Are you mentoring them? Hen Sippa, 600BJ, and Lil Rod all have some good tracks and raw talent, but none of them are really on your level as far as writing hooks or comfort with their flow. No shots.

I hear you. I understand. Everybody is progressing. Everybody is trying to grow in their own way. I’ve just been a little more dedicated to it a little longer than they have. And now that they see me really consistent with it, I think they’re catching the hang of it.

I want to return to something you said earlier about showing who you really are. Some of your videos, a lot of your songs, and even an album cover features your daughter.

That’s my motivation. I owe it to her, you feel me? She’s three years old, and it was three years ago that I decided I could take this to another level. That’s why I tell her on every song, “Laylay—daddy’s got you.” It’s really about her. I just want to make sure I have something for her when she gets to my age, because I already know this world is hard.

Do you worry about having your daughter around all this stuff?

I do. I never bring my daughter around the shit that I’m involved in. But still, at the end of the day, I try to come home to her. And eventually, when everything gets greener and to where it’s supposed to be, we’ll be up out of here. But as of now, this is all I know and that’s what you hear in my music. I’m basically repping for this right here and I hope everyone acknowledges that.

So are you saying that if your lifestyle changes, your raps are gonna change?

It should change, but HD is embedded in me. That’s my style. If I do change, I’ma find my way to say it. It’ll still be HD. I’ll only add on to what I already know, and make things better. But I’m never gonna switch up my style. I might do a couple of commercial or radio but I’ll still stay true to HD.

You said you’ve been rapping since you were a little kid. What rap did you grow up listening to?

Pac. I’m a big fan of Pac. He was a Black Panther at heart. That’s Oakland shit.

Did you grow up in a political household?

Not directly, but I grew up with aunties and grandparents who were involved with the Black Panthers back in the day.

Also, you never smile in your videos. Do you smile in real life?

[laughs] Yeah, I smile all the time in real life! If I see a female, I might smile once or twice. But most of the time, when I’m in the booth, or doing my videos, I’m nasty. I’m just trying to get my point across and tell you from my heart.

You just always look very serious. Not even necessarily sinister, but just unaffected.

Nah. I’m emotional about this shit. It’s serious to me. It’s music, but it’s more than that.

But are you having fun?

Yeah, I’m having fun because I’m doing what I do best.   

Outside the Bearfaced Gang, who are you listening to nowadays?

Jadakiss. I just heard of this dude Don Tripp. He got a mixtape called Guerrilla that I been listening to. I’ve only been outta jail a month, but I hear he be going haywire. 2Chainz. And Lil Boosie—I feel like we part of the same struggle.

You go in on a lot of recycled beats, but most of those beats aren’t from Bay Area rap songs.  Or even West Coast.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t grow up on a lot of local rappers. I did listen to Dogg Dound, Pac, and the rest of Death Row. I grew up listening Bone Thuggs, Dip Set, Cam’Ron, Jim Jones, Juelz, Hell Rell, were my favorite for a while. I grew up on the Philly niggas: Memphis Bleek, Beenie Siegel, Emilio Sparks, the whole State Property. TI from time to time. I fuck with Rick Ross and Meek Mills. That Dreamchasers mixtape. I’m listening to 2Chainz.

Can you talk a little bit about your Extortion Muzik series?

Extortion 1 was basically us trying to extort our way into this shit—get our foot in the door. I made something out of nothing. Extortion 2 was home invasion—I had gotten my foot in the door. I had some exposure and had a chance to get in folks’ homes. Extortion 3 was “have money, have heart.” I done came up, I done hit. I got what I was looking for. I been in the house and am ready to have money, take this money, and make this shit rock. A lot of niggas got money, but not a lot of niggas got heart. And I’m trying to have both.

What’s this Black August CD you’ve got coming out?

It’s what I call a “caution tape.” It’s basically an album, but I might throw a couple mixtape beats just to get on it. It’s set to drop around August. 

Is that the next album coming out from you?

No. Coldest Winter Ever is already available online, but the actual CD is dropping in stores in a couple weeks. I’ve also got a CD coming out with G-Dirty called Black and Rebellious: The Makings of a Felon. It’s a deep CD.

What about Breaking and Entering?

That’s my actual album. That’s coming out early summer. On that I’ve got beats from Hood Noise, Blitz Beats, Che-D-Ness beats, squirt diesel beats, Sam Gamble, AK47, and DJ Fresh.

What was it like doing the Tonite Show?

It was real cool. I hit up Fresh and let him know what kind of style I wanted on it. If you listen, you’ll hear I don’t have the typical Fresh beats on my album. I hit him up, let him know what style I wanted on it, and I just stayed in the lab twenty-four seven. Actually, I recorded that CD while I had an ankle monitor. I was on house arrest at the time.

Do you have any pending cases at this time?

No. I’m good. I’m on paperwork, but I’m good. I’m ready to travel and tour in other cities: Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, Seattle.

You’ve become well known for your ad-lib “smack smack.” A lot of people think it refers to the sound of gunshots and in your videos, you’re often seen doing a slapping motion along with it. How’d you come up with that ad-lib?

I’m from the six. Six-one. It just sounds good together.

Are you okay with other rappers starting to use that?

It’s an industry. Everybody gonna bite off of stuff. From time to time, I’ll take stuff from other great artists that I feel. “Smack smack” originated with me from the six. It mean we out here smackin’. It can also mean you get your issue, but it generally mean we out here smackin’.

How’d you and Blast Holiday hook up?

He’s from the neighborhood. My uncle—Che-D-Ness—he had a studio. They had a group called the Affiliates, and Blast used to come through there and gas. I was just a little nigga, I was like 13. Not even in high school. I been knowing him in the hood.  He’s got an album coming called This is Not a Movie.

Where’d you go to high school?

Oakland Tech, Berkeley High, and a couple high schools in a Vallejo.

Anything else?

Shout out to the whole Bearfaced Camp: Lil Rod, 600BJ, Hen Sippa, free G-Dirty.  Expect great things.

Thanks to Joe and HD for this interview and don't forget to go out and support good music from HD and the whole Bearfaced Gang.


  1. Should it not bother me that he grew up listening to basically non bay area artists (minus Tupac) and throws out Dipset gang, Juelz Santana, Hell Rell, etc as what he grew up listening to?

    Because it bothers me. Almost no East coast artists rep our west coast artists, either on their records or on the radio stations, so I just don't like it when sicc Bay/West coast artists give them any love. Ok, Hell Rell isn't bad, but Juelz Santana? Damn...

    1. I hear what you're saying, but I would argue that it was much easier to get into East Coast rappers than those from the Bay up until a few years ago. Like you really had to go out of your way to discover any Bay Area rap, apart from maybe E-40 before the internet became such a big factor. The Northeast will probably always get more radio airplay than the Bay Area.

      What's interesting to me, is that despite HD not mentioning any clear influences from the area, his music still shares a lot in common with other rappers from the region.

    2. Very true....Even though artist from the east and south have been influenced by the WestCoast they never admit it....All the while WestCoast artist break their neck to give artists from other regions props...Pac for example, was from NY but was influenced by the West so he repped The Bay (at first) then L.A. Other rappers from the east and south not only bit the West sound but also claim W.C. Gangs but practically diss artist from the west anytime they get a chance....

    3. Really Thomas, easier to get into east coast rappers that bay until a few years ago? I don't agree with that at all, Dre broke some boundaries for sure, and I knew a lot of cats not from the bay that listened to Mac Mall/YBB stuff a looong time ago, not to mention Master P Ghettos tryin to kill me, he was big in the bay before anywhere else, at least in my car.

      There's a lot more east coast shit on the radio for sure, so I guess I know what you mean, theres always beena bias there, especially on KMEL and local stations in Cali, even back when they played Big and Puff shit all the time when there was the east vs west thing goin on, in NY they didn't play Dre/Pac/Snoop at all compared to their shit on the radio here.

    4. Yeah I think it sort of depends on when you were growing up. I know there were a lot of rappers from the Bay blowing up in the 90's, but by the 2000's a lot of that was gone. Assuming me and HD are similar in age, I rarely heard any Bay raps on the radio growing up, apart from some classics, and had to really go out of my way to find out about the scene beyond E-40 as a kid.

    5. Yeah I guess so, I'm older and was listening to Mall's Illegal Business and Dre's Young Black Brotha my senior year of high school.

    6. i honestly don't care just because i love HD so much
      he's honestly really surprised me, if you can understand where im cominf rom, cuz i see him as really talented in an environment of 'fast food' rappers
      the rest of bearfaced is fsho fun to listen to but i wouldn't go arund recommending 600bj to people, ( i know he covered this in the interview) but i think it goes past just bearfaced camp, i recently got more into the oakland rap scene (i beena fan of mac dre n some hyphy fools but there was no more relevant artists) and HD has probably gotten up onto my top 5 and i like to think i'm a person with pretty good taste in rappers
      and its just a nice bonus that HD is real and you can hear it in his flow
      keep it real and keep up the good work.
      also i know i really should be supporting this guy cause i got mad love for his shit and hes tryna make it but lets face it music is too damn expensive, hella mad cuz i cant find a .zip of emotional bout my guap or ABC tape...
      aight i dunno how this got so long but HD fuck yeah

    7. oh and ima throw it out there lil rue is terrible (except on 100s n 50s)

  2. I'd also like to add HD is SICCC, I'm not hatin on his flow at all, just reppin the area...

  3. This was great, he seems a lot more pleasant than I imagined hed be.

    mtp, I like Ruger Rell but youre not a fan of Juelz at all? The man rocked over the Roots score!

  4. been slappin the Goer HD since the beginning and i swear the first time i heard EM1 i said, this dude the next Pac right here you can hear and feel it in his music. like he says, "this poetry not a rap you know shit" straight like Pac. Keep it comin H shits too raw

    1. *'this is poetry not a rap,you dont know shit'

  5. yea this was a really cool interview. A few posts back, you talked about his ad-lib "smack smack" and I'm still confused on what it means even after reading this interview. "Get your issue" means karma sorta? but originally, (at least in the bay) it means thizzin off an E pill, so idk if thats a usage.

    and i totally agree with yall about how west coast rappers always shout out east coast rappers while the extent that east coast rappers will praise west coast rappers is by praising tupac, maybe e-40 or too short, but nobody else. It just sucks because i feel the only way to listen to, appreciate, and know about the bay's artists is if you've lived in the bay .....or decided to do nose-dive into research on bay area rap

    1. Yeah man, if anything this interview only further confused me about the true meaning of "smack smack."

    2. maybe its not supposed to be known like Fez's nationality....

    3. HD is on felony probation for gun-related charges. My impression was that he didn't want to describe "smack smack" any more than he did...

  6. I was only surprised by Rick Ross and 2Chainz. You can hear his East Coast influence in his songs and the beats he chooses. A lot of the beats he used are from those artists he mentioned

    1. yeah i was surprised to see a mobb deep instrumental on the bearfaced tape

  7. Yupp I believe HD gotta be around my age, 25 this year, because I listen to a lot of those artists to before really listening to bay area rap. I didn't really get into bay music until high school and even during high school it was all East Coast/Down South rap that was on MTV, BET, and the radio. Bay Area music you had to know what to look for on the internet and it wasn't as easily accessible as it is today. Then eventually I found blogs during the beginning of the Hyphy era in 05 and after that is history haha.

  8. nigga is wak, sorry

  9. he's too real. my favorite rapper right now.

  10. HD spits real shit. Fake niggas don't understand. How is he wack? Your wack if anything

  11. Can you guys put me on to some essential bay area tapes from the last couple years? I've just recently started listening to Stalin & Rue, got no idea where to start with others such as Shady Nate and HD among others.

  12. whats the instrumental on cant let go?

  13. Do For Love - Bobby Caldwell

    H is the realest in this Bay Rap shit...mark my words...he's going to blow up...and that's coming from a LONG time Bay rap head. Had my first Too Short tape in '87 (I was 7).

    -Hood Rat Matt

    PS I'm diggin' your website, Thomas

  14. just stumbled across the site. great interview. Good work....*bookmarked

  15. Anybody say HD dont blast you just cant understand mark ass niggas dont listen to him it dont fit you or the world you live HD is a Real one Thank You Bro East Smackramento

  16. I been slappn hd since he was talkin bout fuckn.bitches in the back of a church, (insider)when his favorite word" OKAY" instead of "SMACK SMACK" i knew his struggle without him knowing a thing about me till we met a couple of months ago on a personal level. I know he gonna make it i have alot of respect for him and alot of. Faith in him keep doin you boo!!