VALLEJO – Vallejo has been the birthplace of numerous famous musicians and hip-hop artists, from Mac Dre to E-40 to H.E.R. And for a decade, Ozcat radio’s “Underground Slapz” show has been the epicenter of Vallejo’s hip-hop scene.
The show’s host, Marcel “DJ Flashback” Jones, grew up playing hip-hop music, rapping and making beats and knows firsthand how difficult it is for independent artists to get airtime. “I really wanted an underground hip-hop show,” Jones said. He launched the “Underground Slapz'' show on Ozcat radio in 2012.
Despite Vallejo’s rich music scene, there weren’t many local outlets for upcoming artists in Vallejo prior to Ozcat radio and Underground Slapz.
“I didn't really realize how big it was getting until I'd done it for so many years,” Jones said. “Then I realized that I had these larger artists hitting me up so they can be on the show.” He now receives music from artists as far away as Australia, England and Brazil who hope for airtime on Ozcat.
Over the years, Jones has interviewed thousands of artists on Underground Slapz. “There's so much talent in Vallejo it's just ridiculous,” Jones said.
Vallejo favorites who have been on his show include Mac Mall, Turf Talk, Celly Cel, the Mossie, D-Shot and Suga-T of the Click, Yhung T.O. of SOB x RBE, L.O.T.S., Salsalino, Sir V Wood, Silent200, Mac Mace, GetitIndi, and Melly Mel.
The long list of the show’s well-known guests from the greater Bay Area include Mistah F.A.B. and Symba.
Jones occasionally receives offers from artists to pay him to play their music, but he said airtime is not for sale. The show is based strictly on talent. “Here it is nonstop, all different, all really good, all stuff that should be on major radio but just hasn't made it there yet,” Jones said.
Underground Slapz also features live performances from guests in the studio. One Saturday night in early March featured two live sets, the first from Berkeley rapper Tru Money. Tru Money’s rapid-fire lyrics have a compressed energy that far exceeds the size of his small, wiry frame:
I won’t never turn my back on my family, and that’s that;
I’m the one that’s gonna turn a dime into a hundred racks
Tru Money said that Jones reached out to him in early 2021 after seeing his Instagram page. “He wanted to catch me before I blew up,” Tru Money said.
His latest YouTube post, “The Life I Live,” reached 29,000 views in two days
Tru Money says he was born into poverty. “We didn't have much growing up and I just want to be able to change that for my entire family.”
But he acknowledges that music is a hard industry to compete in. “It's all about staying relevant and in people's faces,” he said. “It's also about having really good music. You have to hone your craft and perfect it.”
To that end he has invested heavily in both promotion and high quality music production.
“I speak from my heart. I tell stories inside of my music,” Tru Money said. He said that if people listen they will hear a person talking about their struggles, and how they keep their head high and push through no matter what.
“No matter what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter if you’re making music or even just build yourself in a career at a nine-to-five job, just trust the process,” Tru Money said. “ Don’t give up on yourself.”
Mof DayDay from Vallejo was up next:
I seen a nigga die just as fast as I could blink;
Close that back door and watch the company you keep.
Mof DayDay has been active in the Vallejo hip-hop scene since 2017 and recently released his first album, “Orphan of the Village."
In an interview after Mof DayDay’s set, Jones asked, “You being a little more seasoned now, what kind of advice would you give these young kids coming up, maybe, might be making the wrong choices?”
“Be around the right type of people who gonna keep you out of trouble,” Mof DayDay replied.
Mof DayDay was sent to juvenile hall at age 13. His grandmother intervened to have him sent to foster care instead. It was a mixed blessing for Mof DayDay, who describes the group home environment as “crabs in a bucket.”
“A lot of people I grew around committed suicide, they couldn’t deal with it,” Mof DayDay said. “Others made jail home. I got some brothers who call jail home. That’s all they know is the system.”
“Before I had my kids I was one of those. So I can talk about it,” Mof DayDay said. “I used to crash out all the time, do stupid stuff for the love of the people around me even though they was using me.”
His message to young people in the same situation is: “Don’t crash out. It’s not going to last forever. I made it out, you can make it out.”
Jones added, “This is what it’s really about. Not only to showcase the music, but to give the youth a little bit of hope and to lead them in the right direction.”
Mof DayDay is working on a second album that will focus more in depth about his experiences growing up in group homes. “That’s what made me start doing music, to reach out to a crowd that I came from,” he said. “There's a way you can be strong minded, you could break a generational curse.”
Last Saturday, Jones interviewed Fairfield artist 2 EZ in between playing his latest music.
2 EZ has appeared on “Underground Slapz” since the show’s beginning. He said that he’s been through a lot of ups and down over his 12 years in music. He’s been rapping his whole life but started taking it seriously in about 2011. His 2018 song “Fucked Up,” got a lot of play.
“I felt like I was so dope, that somebody was gonna come in and put some money in and help me out,” 2 EZ said. “I met with a few labels, we really couldn't put anything together. I got to see behind the scenes that that's not the way it works.”
2 EZ says he came close to giving up music after that disappointment. But he came to realize that music is something he has to do whether or not he makes it big “because that fire burns so deep.”
“I'm doing well, so it doesn't bother me,” 2 EZ said. “I make the music for me.”
He says he now understands that it’s necessary to build a music brand just like you would any other business. He credits the group Brothers From Another with lifting him up and getting him back in the game.
“People don't realize how rough it is,” Jones said. “I've watched hundreds of them come in and maybe rap for three or four years and get frustrated with it. You just can't be a dope rapper nowadays. No, it takes much more.”
2 EZ introduced his new track “Keep Watching” as one of the most personal recordings he’s ever made, about a time 20 years ago when he was sleeping in his car.
No registration when the rollers get to rolling;
How’d I keep my focus, I was out here homeless;
I ain’t know the path but I knew where I was going;
I told ‘em keep watching”
“Oh, that's real music. That's a real story,” Jones said. “You can feel the pain in it. That's what underground hip-hop is all about.”
Underground Slapz has expanded beyond the radio show. Jones released a compilation album, “Underground Slapz: The Compilation Volume 1” in 2019 and launched the “Underground Slapz - Step to the Mic” live on-air concert series in 2017. The event was put on hold during the COVID-19 shutdown, but Jones says he plans to bring it back by early 2024.
“Underground Slapz” airs on Ozcat radio on Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Send music for airtime consideration to Jones at email@example.com, or follow DJ Flashback on Instagram at @djflashback707.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Marcel Jones
- Ozcat Radio
- Underground Slapz
- Tru Money
- SOB x RBE
- Mof DayDay
- 2 EZ
- Mac Dre
- Mac Mall
- Turf Talk
- Celly Cel
- the Mossie
- the Click
- Yhung T.O.
- Sir V Wood
- Melly Mell
- Mistah F.A.B.
Gretchen Zimmermann started volunteering with Vallejo Open Studios in 2010, launched the Vallejo Arts and Entertainment website in 2014 and creates mixed media sculpture at Mare Island Art Studios.
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