San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

Catching up with best new Bay Area music

- By Adrian Spinelli This week’s Chronicle’s guide covers new music by notable Bay Area artists. Adrian Spinelli is a Bay Area freelance writer. Twitter: @AGSpinelli

Zion I and Fantastic Negrito, “Try & Try” (Mind Over Matter): Two pillars of the Oakland music scene have teamed up for this latest release amid the pandemic. As he has done for decades, Zion I’s Baba Zumbi opens with a dizzying, socially conscious flow, spitting, “Not concerned with celebrity/ I’d rather have liberty and justice in the city/ it’s a pity, they don’t trust us.” Threetime Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito adds a funky blues hook that highlights their take on community when we need it most.

Along with “Try & Try,” Negrito is also doing his part with the Storefront Market series of COVIDsafe outdoor events on the last Saturday of each month through September. Hosted in the parking lot of his West Oakland Storefront Records label, the series features record swaps, food vendors, DJs and other communityb­ased functions.

Mt. Westmore, “Big Subwoofer”: When E40 and Too Short performed during their epic “Verzuz” battle in December, the pair were hyping everything from liquor brands to new albums and collaborat­ions, including an announceme­nt that they’ve formed a supergroup called Mt. Westmore. Now, months later, the pair, along with Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube, have begun to deliver with their new allstar rap group.

As Mt. Westmore, they performed their first song, “Big Subwoofer,” as part of the entertainm­ent for Triller’s boxing match between DList YouTuber Jake Paul and UFC fighter Ben Askren. Each sitting on a throne, the members of the California quartet took turns standing up to deliver their verses speaking to their accomplish­ed careers: “I’m the center of attention, Mr. Main Attraction/ When I enter the turf, when I pull up, people gather around me like an ice cream truck,” raps E40. They all dominate over a bass heavy beat and proved that Mt. Westmore is more than just a cash grab.

Album coming soon. Yee!

Darren Criss, “F*kn Around” (BMG): The St. Ignatius High School grad and former star of “Glee” — who also just got off a threeepiso­de stint as the battle advisor for Team Nick Jonas on “The Voice” — is channeling his inner Harry Styles on this poppy number, crooning along a sticky guitar hook. He calls it “a middle finger anthem to those triflin’ people in your life that, despite yourself, you keep finding yourself putting up with.”

It’s no secret that Criss is a multitalen­ted dude, earning a 2019 Golden Globe for best actor for his starring role in the miniseries “The Assassinat­ion of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” Now he promises a slew of upcoming singles and seems ready to go full steam ahead on his solo music career.

AllBlack, “Ego” featuring Drakeo the Ruler and Kenny Beats (Empire): The Oakland rapper packs in more sports references on a track than just about anybody in the business. On “Ego,” he links up with Los Angeles super=producer Kenny Beats and rapper Drakeo the Ruler to prove once and for all that he might just be the most leisurely minded man in hiphop. The sports shouts are there once again (“At the bank more than Harden at the free throw”), but he also drops nods to “Mortal Kombat,” super burritos, sandwiches and the movie “Friday.”

A street rapper at his core, AllBlack is poised for his proper breakout on his debut LP “TY4FWM,” out May 7, and the video for “Ego” is not to be missed.

Rayana Jay, “last call” featuring Braxton Cook (selfreleas­ed): The East Bay singer has been one of the Bay Area’s best R&B talents for years. Now on her latest single, she is joined by East Coast jazz fusion saxophonis­t and singer Braxton Cook, who has played with jazz titans like Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Jon Batiste. Jay’s sumptuous delivery is complement­ed by Cook’s vivacious hook before his sax builds a distinctly stylish vibe. The song celebrates the spirit of going out and looking for a fling. The pair fit incredibly well together and are full of life on the upbeat R&B track.

Cher Strauberry, “Swish and Spit” (Silver Arrow): Born and raised in Antioch, this transgende­r punk rocker

has one hell of a story. She spent her early days hanging around the funeral parlor where her mother worked as a cosmetolog­ist for the dead, then became a champion skateboard­er before ankle injuries derailed her career. It wasn’t until a 16yearold Strauberry found the Alternativ­e Music Foundation at Berkeley’s 924 Gilman that music proved to be her life’s purpose. In March 2018, Strauberry announced that she was transition­ing.

Strauberry is releasing her gritty and endearing music, which has already been cosigned by transgende­r punk icon Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! “Swish and Spit” is the latest offering from the budding artist’s debut solo album “Chering Is Caring,” out June 18.

Sunset Lines, “Season of the Witch” (selfreleas­ed): If it weren’t for the pandemic ravaging the live music industry for the past year, workhorses like San Francisco synth pop band Sunset Lines would be filling local indie concert halls with beautiful noise. From their upcoming “Home Anywhere” EP (out May 14), “Season of the Witch” is a glammy ’80sstyle number that evokes images of singer Liz Brooks with microphone in hand, dancing under a disco ball as Paul McCorkle’s synths breeze through her hair.

 ?? Pamela Gentile / SFFilm ?? Threetime Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito and his band before performing at Fort Mason.
Pamela Gentile / SFFilm Threetime Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito and his band before performing at Fort Mason.

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