Legendary Oakland Rapper Dangerous Dame Has Passed Away
If you were a fan of, or know somebody who was a fan of, early to mid 90’s Bay Area hip hop, then you have probably heard the news by now. Pioneering Oakland rapper Damon “Dangerous Dame” Edwards passed away suddenly on Wednesday January 25th. The cause of death is unknown and unlike many shit Youtubers on the internet fishing for clicks, I have too much respect to speculate. What I will do however is put you up on the legend that was one of my favorite Bay Area MC’s Dangerous Dame.
Damon Edwards was much more than just a rapper from a rough neighborhood. He was a great storyteller who wasn’t afraid of the tough topics that went beyond street life in East Oakland. He spoke on injustices of men and woman of his community, sprinkled in some love ballads here and there, mental health, and even touched on the AIDS epidemic of the early 90’s with another warning to the community. He was cut from that conscious Oakland cloth. He even wrote Too Short’s classic “Short But Funky.”
Dame was a major player in that late 80’s early 90’s big bass “Oakland Funk” sound which was made famous by his partner in rhyme Too Short. His breakthrough came in 1989 at the age of 16 while still in high school with the single “Oaktown” off of the EP cassette “Jumpin” with DJ Dopecut. It was a bonified East Oakland underground anthem with lines like “New York is the place where the rappers dwell/ but I don’t even care because I’m hard as hell/ Oakland’s coming up and it’s gonna be known/ as the itty bitty city of the microphone.”
Outside of Too Short (Jive) and MC Hammer (Capitol) no rappers from Oakland were getting major label deals at the time. That changed in 1990 when Dangerous Dame was signed to Atlantic Records and released “I Got What You Want.” It gave life to hits like “City of Macks” and the break up song “I Call Your Name.”
For sharing truth as a storyteller on the latter track, some called Dame soft, prompting the making of the video for “Far From a Regular,” another banger. Like many rappers of this era – who had their dreams shattered by white record executives trying to profit off of the inner city and the new phenomena called rap music – his album was released with no interest in marketing it and he was subsequently dropped from the label. I should also note that Digital Underground’s debut “Sex Packets” dropped on Tommy Boy that same year. Tommy Boy was all in on promoting rap and hip hop, launching the careers of not only Digital Underground but De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, and Queen Latifah, just to name a few. Only if they had signed Dame and not Atlantic.
Dangerous Dame followed up in 1992 with “Same Ole Dame” produced by Ant Banks, an instant Bay Area Classic. He teamed up with some of his Dangerous Crew comrades Ant Banks, Father Dom, MC Ant, Nic Nac, Spice 1 and even Richie Rich on “Oaktown Funk.” My head bobs anytime I even remotely think I hear “Gotta Be the Bomb.” You can listen to an interview with Dame here from 1992 by the god himself, Billy Jam of Hip Hop Slam KUSF Radio. Oddly enough Gangstarr can be heard at the beginning of the interview heading out to do a show at the corner of Fulton and Masonic.
Damon went on to release a few more solo projects including a feature on Master P’s “West Coast Bad Boyz” which is where I heard him for the first time as an 8th grader in 1994, and never turned back. Sadly though his career never caught on with the mainstream they way it should have. He will forever though be a pioneer of that 90’s Oakland sound, a gifted lyricist and story teller whose music will live on. But don’t take it from me, take it from Short.