Unbeknownst or not, the Bay Area has played an important role in the musical history of multiple genres. The Summer of Love in 1967 filled with hippies from around the world. The Grateful Dead have their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As does guitarist Carlos Santana. Then of course there is the hip-hop scene. Radio Station 106.1 KMEL was one of the first in the country to play hip hop regularly; the show that Sway and King Tech hosted, specifically, was instrumental to the culture’s rise. Rather than follow, musicians here have always gone after their own sound, doing it their way and today, you can hear remnants of influence in music around the country.  Choosing only five artists from this rich history was nearly impossible and in doing so, some notable artists like Tha Jacka, Dan the Automator, Zion I and so many others were left off the list. That being said, these are five bay area legends who left their monumental mark on the music scene.

Mac Dre

Mac Dre was a walking viral video clip before the Internet even took off in that direction. A human highlight compilation of popular app Vine-esque dances, sayings and general behavior.  He is one of the most influential and well-known names in the Bay Area, even though his life was tragically taken in 2004.  Through the legacy of his label Thizz Entertainment, the legend lives on. You can’t find a Bay hip hop fan or artist that isn’t familiar.  Mac Dre was exactly the type of cool that helped the Bay Area and Northern California distinguish itself from the Southern counterpart (around Los Angeles).   If you pay close attention you will still hear his slang, see his style or his attitude and life theories manifesting themselves throughout the hip hop scene.


A true living legend, E-40’s longevity and success in the industry can be attributed to his amazing artistry and his business acumen.  He released his group’s debut EP on his own record label – Sick Wid It Records – that is still signing the hottest talent the Bay Area has to offer.  In his 20+ years as a professional rapper, E-40 has become the most commercially successful rapper out here with peak popularity in the memorable mid-2000s Hyphy Movement. His 2006 album, My Ghetto Report Card, was the Number 1 rap album in the country for a lengthy period, propelled by the success of the song “Tell Me When to Go.” He is still making music today and has branched into the wine, beer and spirits industry too. Find all of his upcoming shows  here.

JT the Bigga Figga

Likely the least recognizable name in the article, the other four mentions would presumably list San Francisco’s JT the Bigga Figga among their own.  He also founded his own record label at a young age that released a number of memorable Bay Area albums from JT, San Quinn and Messy Marv among others.  You may not hear his music on the radio and you probably didn’t even know it when you did hear the higher profile production placements, but JT has carved out a place in the underground scene and set up camp for good. He is not currently on tour but stay tuned for information about any upcoming shows.

Souls of Mischief

The four-man group Souls of Mischief is made up of rappers A-Plus, Phesto, Opio and Tajai.  Over the years, others including Del the Funky Homosapien were included,  leading the group to become the Hieroglyphics. Most of the artists are still making music together under these names and new ones.  But in 1993, Souls of Mischief were a rap group signed to Jive Records – label mates and sometimes tour-mates with fellow hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest.  If nothing else, of which there is actually plenty, the title track of their debut album “93 Til Infinity” is absolutely considered a classic! For upcoming shows, click  here.

Too $hort

One of the truly great story tellers of our time, Too $hort is also one of the most vulgar. Using this abstract talent and more, he has managed to stay in the hip-hop game through four different decades; fans can make a note to celebrate his 30th Anniversary with a performance at The Fox Theatre in Oakland on Mar 26th. His street tales of sexual conquest, entrepreneurial endeavors and everyday life have surely influenced both your favorite rapper and their own favorite alike.