LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This video contains language some may find offensive.
Anyone paying attention to rap in the Bay Area has encountered the acronym HBK, shorthand for Heartbreak Kids, the prolific hip-hop collective founded in Richmond that's slowly but surely sprawling out to the wider world. After bursting into national consciousness with “Gas Pedal” and “Red Nose,” two enormous radio hits from Sage the Gemini, the collective recently held its annual HBK Day in San Francisco to celebrate the newest release from Iamsu!, the Eyes on Me EP.
Movements and collectives in Bay Area hip-hop come and go, but HBK, founded in 2008, has shown the same staying power as other local collectives like Heiroglyphics or Quannum. (Last October, an HBK show at the 2,000-capacity Warfield Theater sold out so quickly that a second show was added.) Chalk it up to a strong work ethic and piles upon piles of talent in their roster, which includes P-Lo, Skipper, Kool John, CJ, Show Banga, Mani Draper, Rossi, and Jay Ant – as well as Kehlani, Oakland's fast-rising R&B star.
In the video above, hear Iamsu!, Show Banga and Mani Draper talk with KQED about HBK as a creative outlet, a force of talent and a positive movement for younger hip-hop fans who don't see themselves reflected in mainstream culture. As Mani Draper puts it: “That’s why HBK is so important: because as a black male growing up in Richmond, if you don’t subscribe to this particular stance, you kind of get lost in this weird space of trying to fit in.”
Clearly, with a fan base that's its own creative community online, HBK provides a place to fit in. “What I want to showcase for everyone coming out of the Bay Area,” says Iamsu!, “is that you can be your own person, and an artist, and stand on your own two feet and build something positive.”