Most members of the twelve-man old-school San Francisco backpacker crew Bored Stiff have been M.I.A. since 2000 (the exception is Equipto, who consolidated his career rapping with underground kingpin Andre Nickatina). Their audio cassette demos now go for $200 on Amazon, and their bio describes 1995 EP Explainin’ as a “high-priced collectors’ item.” Yet, after roughly a decade of popping in and out of Bay Area studios and rubbing elbows with higher-end local rappers (including Sunspot Jonz, Mike Marshall, and Del the Funky Homosapien), Bored Stiff finally completed From the Ground Up, a nostalgia-based, feel-good album.
From the Ground Up has the charming, albeit naive feel of a demo that’s been mastered by bedroom producers and gussied up for radio play. “Media,” a standard-issue “fuck the media” rap featuring archival clips from Hard Knock Radio producer Davey D, has a great buildup — a jumble of AABB rhymes that don’t have shit to do with anything: Getting’ on the game and we not even worried/Gotta give a shout to my goddaughter Zuri. Then there’s the drowsy Del feature “C Thru BS,” that sounds like what it is: a Del track wedged in the middle of a Bored Stiff album. Best is “Spirit of Lee,” a peppy recollection of the rappers’ teenage years in San Francisco, complete with a drop cribbed from Curtis Blow’s “These Are the Breaks.”
From the Ground Up has its own charm, both historical (the liner notes contain shout-outs to Mike Dream and fallen member JoJo) and aesthetic — TD Camp’s smooth beat production. While the members of Bored Stiff have not diversified their portfolio in the last ten years, they obviously still got the love.