DUB Magazine Feature : Keak Da Sneak

11 04 2008

keakdasneak

A young Charles Kunta Kinte Bowens Williams was an active kid. So active that his mother would often tell him he was hyperactive. Rather than describing himself has “hyper,” Charles would call it “hyphy.” Little did he know, his new word would later define a movement in hip-hop culture.

Now, the Bay Area native is known as rapper Keak Da Sneak, renowned for his unique rap style, recognizable voice and as a forefather of the “Hyphy movement,” a style of music and dance primarily associated with Bay Area hip-hop culture, where the music is distinguished by gritty, pounding rhythms (it is what crunk music is to the South). “To me, hyphy is energy,” Keak describes in his distinctive raspy voice. “It’s turning negative energy into a positive energy. It’s a way to express yourself without hurting someone. It just became popular, but we’ve been saying it in the Bay Area for years. It’s the way we live, and to us, it’s more of a ritual than a movement. The South gets crunk, and the Bay Area is hyphy.”

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Although he may have coined the word “hyphy,” Keak doesn’t let it get to his head. His bumpy road to success has made him modest. “I went through a lot of bad record deals,” he describes. “I put all my energy into staying focused to keep going, always telling myself never to give up and quit.”

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His first big break was in high school with his then group 3X Krazy, a mid- to late-’90s hardcore rap trio. Their first EP album, Sick-O, was released independently in 1995, but the group later disbanded and Keak embarked on a solo career in 1999 with his first independent solo album, Sneakacydal. “I sold 60,000 units independently,” Keak boasts. “I put a lot into it. When I saw how successful it was, I kept coming out with an independent album. I was selling records by word of mouth with no radio play or music videos. Fans started calling into the radio stations to play my stuff, and that’s when all the major labels came around looking for me again.”

At 29, Keak’s positive attitude and perseverance have paved the way for him to own his own record label, Allndadoe, LLC. With his latest album, Deified (Allndadoe/Koch Records, 2008), Keak feels this is his best work to date. “This album is me,” he explains. “The real Keak Da Sneak. This is my real official album, so I made sure every song was good. I’m doing everything with this album. It took me this long to finally come out with an album like this because I had to get out of bad contracts with other labels.”

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With his newfound success, Keak can have the finer things in life, but remains humble. “I’m a simple kind of guy,” he says. “I’m happy with my Hummer; it’s the ultimate SUV. This is my third one.” His black 2003 Hummer H2 rides on 28-inch MHT Big Homie 8 Lug black and chrome wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Zero 352/35R28 tires. When he wants to go old school, Keak rides around in a 1972 Pontiac LeMans with 22-inch Hyphy Velocity wheels and Hankook Ventus V4 ES tires. “It’s a classic,” he describes. “I can sell it if I’m ever doing bad.”

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We doubt “The Official King of Hyphy” will have to sell his LeMans anytime soon. After his hard work and struggle to put Bay Area hip-hop on the map, Keak Da Sneak hopes to help open doors for other struggling rappers. “I want to let people know there is hope and that they can do this if they really want to,” he says. “Right now, I’m working with my artists under my label and hoping to put out a compilation album with all my artists. I want to let people know that if you love music and want it really bad, you’ll get there with some hard work and sacrifice. Just look at me. I wanted this my whole life.” If Keak Da Sneak’s artists are as ambitious as he is, we just might have another movement on our hands. [via Dub Daily]

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