Matt Chang (a.k.a. Bay Blue) has undergone an uncommon transition in the seventeen years he’s been chained to his sampler. In the mid-90’s, Chang rapped and produced for pioneering Bay Area indie rap group Nitrous Ox, whose cassette only release was probably overly indebted to Ras Kass and Organized Konfusion, but whose beats struck sparks—even San Quinn was an admirer. By the late 90’s, he’d become an inveterate crate-digger focused solely on production, collaborating with an array of Anticon artists including Sole, WHY?, and Themselves. This period of rare record-based prog-soaked funk found its aesthetic high point in his 2003 collaboration with Sixtoo, the sought-after 7” “Watched Us Slowly Die”/”We Began Hearing Things.”
It wasn’t until 2005, though, that he set forth on solo work, determined to make something that was distinctly him and entirely indifferent to the sounds prevailing in hip-hop or electronic music. Bay Blue is the sweet, unpretentious result of that years-long and mind-numbingly intricate process, a work assembled with the care of a craftsman in an East Oakland basement hermitage.
One of those Bay Area natives who finds the entire universe south of Sacramento and north of Santa Cruz, Bay Blue is both ode to and record of his work at a fish fry in West Oakland ([“Hey Hey] Fried Fish, Birds Blue”) and that neighborhood’s pitiless gentrification (“Nostalgia in Dogtown”), his family’s three successive generations of poor but persistent gamblers (“Only a Sin if You Lose”), and even his love for the city’s Occupy movement (“Take it Back Time”). Above all, Chang’s music is “derived from--and I hope a contribution to--working class culture,” he says. “I grew up on rap, it made me, but then I turned to prewar folk music and then came to the history of jazz. I just came to want my music to know a broad sense of time and art and value.” And it is perhaps this quality—this far-ranging affection and desire to contain multitudes that makes his songs feel so inclusive and lived-in; they are lit by the subtle details of the everyday.