The 415 is home to many of the Bay Area’s most versatile and creative wordsmiths. Though they don’t always get the same love as their Oakland or LA counterparts, Frisco’s emcees are among my personal favorites—often speaking on relatable topics in subversive, funky, and down-to-earth ways that stretch the definitions of the genre.
So when young SF rapper Son of Paper told me about his mentor Rymeezee’s newest project, Turbulence, I tuned in with excitement. The project didn’t disappoint. In the way a painter can develop a landscape of imagination with carefully placed brushstrokes, so Rymeezee creates a world that ultimately reflects the root of it all for him: San Francisco and his family.
I caught up with the OG spitter to hear about his inspirations, collaborations, thoughts on being a father, and memories of his city.
48 HILLS Can you briefly introduce yourself? How long have you been making music here in San Francisco?
RYMEEZEE My artist name is Rymeezee. I’m born and raised in San Francisco (TL, Excelsior) and I’ve embraced hip hop and live performance since a young age. I started off battle rapping and then started taking music more seriously around 1995. In 1998, I dropped my first music release. Aside from being a father and artist over the years, I currently work as the Creative Lead for Sunset Youth Services where I collaborate closely with in-risk and systems-involved youth and young adults through audio design, artist development, and digital arts.
48H San Francisco is a major character in your music, specially on this album: from the album cover, which features a burning plane flying over the San Francisco skyline, to interludes about foggy beaches. What does SF mean to you?
RYMEEZEE FRISCO is home, where the hate can be realer than the love. Where the beauty and charm can fool you if you don’t know how to navigate through these streets. A lot has changed since the ’90s. But I’m grateful for this city that has given me a sense of pride and identity. There’s a level of consciousness in this particular region so different from the rest of the world. I’m connected to various communities and I got family here that I’m bound to with by deep relations, not always by blood. We’re definitely unique in our style, fashion, and culture. Often imitated, never duplicated.
48H I’m interested in the concept of riding a plane while experiencing Turbulence, the album title. What inspired it, and what else might the metaphor represent for you?
RYMEEZEE It means and symbolizes many things for me. Everyone wanna get fly, right? But they don’t always realize the level of high maintenance and struggle you got to go through to get there. Also, this album is from my perspective as a family man which is a turbulent situation, naturally.
In addition, I have a clothing brand, HeirBourne Collection, which also has a correlation. It’s a sort of rebranding on that idea, if you will. At the end of the day, when you’re up, it gets rough. Life is never a smooth flight and it’ll humble you quickly. There’s always something trying to bring you down like unexpected expenses, fall outs, setbacks, negative energy, etc. But you got to stay poised and keep pushing through it—especially if you are responsible for people other than yourself.
48H You have some great features from local artists, all the way from Frisco to Sac. What was it like working with so many folks, including Dregs One, and what is the value of collaboration for you?
RYMEEZEE Everyone featured on this project I’ve known closely for quite some time. Timothy Rhyme (Sac), 60 East (LA), and I were on the same label, First Dirt. We did a lot of big shows together between 2012 to 2015. We’ve shared stages with Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle (RIP), Ghostface Killah, Joey Bada$$, and Souls Of Mischief. Another artist, Harvey H, is my GodBrother in Austin, TX, but he’s originally from Stockton, CA. We collab frequently because of how tight our families are.
Lesso met me when he was younger as a participant of Sunset Youth Services and he’s now doing well for himself as a young adult with a music career. He connected me with people like Paragon who sang a hook for us. Beronica is someone I consider to be a little sister; she’s my co-worker and has an incredibly sultry voice. Eli is my oldest son who appears on my project a few times, too.
And I met Dregs through mutual friends in the SF Underground Hip Hop Scene in 2013. Aside from him being a dope emcee, he’s just doing great work educating the masses with his hip hop history segments on social media. For the most part, I like to work with folks that I have built a relationship with. Much respect to all my folks on this project.
48H The track “Bip Hop” is a clever play on hip-hop history by remixing the iconic “broken glass everywhere” line from the 1982 Grandmaster Flash song, “The Message.” You’ve taken that and put it into a relevant modern context for Bay Area listeners who have to deal with bipping (smashing car windows). Say more about this and have you been bipped before?
Grandmaster Flash and Melly Mel’s message is still relevant today, fasho. Poverty and property crime is at an all-time high in The City and beyond. It’s an act based on desperation and economic need. We’re all affected by this. It’s already not safe to begin with in The City. Most of the youngins I’ve met have already caught cases around bippin’.
We are not promoting the smash and grab thing. Instead, we’re spreading awareness, especially to people who aren’t from here. You think The City is all landmarks and tech until you get your rental car bipped because you left your luggage and valuables open in plain sight. And yes, I have had my rental bipped in Orange County. It was a sprinter van. Go figure. [Laughs.]
48H Even though Frisco is heavy in the game, the 415 doesn’t always get the same love for their rap contributions as other California cities like Oakland, Vallejo, and LA. Why do you think that is?
RYMEEZEE I truly believe FRISCO has had some big moments in hip hop and in music. Quite a few folks have broken through. But for the most part, The City is divided. There is no unity amongst the people. Everyone is sectioned off. Most of the funk is rooted deep in turf politics and outside of music. Nobody trusts no one and there’s a lack of support. It’s a numbers game out here. Everyone is trying to one up the next individual. It doesn’t matter how dope of an artist you are, if you don’t got tons of followers or aren’t getting hella views, you’ll get overlooked. If you’re not poppin’, they’re not rockin’.
48H At the end of “Poopers” there’s an interlude discussion about imposter syndrome. The speaker says “I guess everybody’s an accumulation of their inspiration.” Who or what are your accumulated inspirations (people, places, media, etc.) and how does that all converge for you on this album?
RYMEEZEE That song and interlude features my eldest son, Eli. He’s also an artist and it’s dope to see his perspective on the world. We often bump heads, but we often have deep convos about life and music. He didn’t even know I recorded our convo (laughs).
We have quite a few songs and videos out together. But I get inspiration from many people and places like working with young adults.I really love zoning out to ’70s soul and ’90s hip-hop and R&B, too. Some of my favorite places to visit for inspiration are Hawaii and SoCal. Also, I’m OG, so I love to watch documentaries and nature shows as well (laughs).
48H Besides enjoying this album release, what’s next for Rymeezee?
RYMEEZEE Paying bills, youth work, regulating my intake, husband and daddy duties (laughs). Honestly, I’m just going with the flow of life while trying to level up. I’m always a student of the game. I got another album and EP in the tucks right now. I don’t know if those projects are releasing, but time will tell. You can’t force anything. It’s all about the feeling. But first and foremost, before I do anything, I got to make sure my household is good.
TURBULENCE is out now on streaming services and Bandcamp.