We’re excited to welcome MondreM.A.N. and Squadda Bambino of Main Attrakionz to our first ever Dojo By the Bay series, a monthly interview feature focused on talented artists from the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2011, North Oakland’s Main Attrakionz first emerged on the national scene with their Blackberry Ku$h and 808s & Dark Grapes II mixtapes, helping pioneer a style of hip-hop that combines ethereal, lo-fi production with stream-of-conscious flows–a style that rose around the same time as experimentation by Lil B, who Squadda’s produced a number of tracks for, but had an accessibility, positivity and technique all its own.
Dubbed “cloud rap,” their approach on those projects resonated with up ’n coming talent from around the country resulting in collaborations and co-signs from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Clams Casino. Their ability to combine street lyricism and a distinct Bay Area flavor with atmospheric, hazy instrumentals culminated on their 2012 debut album, Bossalinis & Fooliyones, a polished collection of songs with an array of fitting, top-notch production to match. Over the last three years, Squadda and Mondre have continued to churn out projects under their Green Ova collective while working on their long-anticipated sophomore album, 808s & Dark Grapes III, which is fully produced by Friendzone and set to drop on June 30th on Neil Young’s Vapor Records.
That breakout year was far from the start for Squadda Bambino (pictured below left) and MondreM.A.N. (right), the emcees behind Main Attrakionz, though. Growing up, the two absorbed anything that was available to them through music videos and radio during a time when rap was flourishing in the mainstream. Their rap careers began at about 12 years old on karaoke machines and any instrumentals they could get their hands on. Squadda and Mondre joined forces in the seventh grade when they entered talent shows together and, their early and shared vision of success, made them quick best friends along with their Green Ova family which solidified not long after.
808s & Dark Grapes III
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G.O. Style featuring Dope G, Robby Rob and Lo C4
TMN: What’s one musical memory that stood out to you as kids?
MondreM.A.N.: I’m going to say me buying my first CD. I was like 9 years old. My first CDs I ever bought were B.G.‘s Checkmate and Big Tymers’ I Got That Work. Moms let me buy it, had a cd player. Just, damn, listening to all those lyrics man, that blew my mind away. From there, became a Cash Money fan. I just became a fan of their movement. I realized there was 6 of them, in-house producer, kind of like a family and shit. They were doing their thing back then.
Squadda B: Yeah, Cash Money, was definitely influential. Also, Onyx “Slam” back in the day. I’ve seen a video of me rapping Onyx back in the day.
TMN: You guys first started rapping together at Carter Middle School. Can you take us back to your mindset during those days?
Squadda: Just a thirst to make it happen–a thirst and a fantasy. Really wanting that shit but it not really seeming like reality yet.
TMN: In general, you seem to really rap about what you live but, as kids, what did you rap about?
Squadda: I used to rap about see-through PS2s and shit. Fantasy raps. You know, our visions.
Mondre: We had the imagination, man. [We rapped about] shit niggas ain’t have.
TMN: You started rapping on Karaoke machines and whatever instrumentals you could find. What were some of the ones that stood out to you back then?
Squadda: All the traditional shit—that’s what was presented to us. You get your 50 cent instrumentals, you could find that. You could get the down south ones real then but you couldn’t really get a lot of beats back then, and nobody was giving us them. So, we were on a lot of instrumentals, products of the music and what was going on. We rapped on David Banner & Lil Flip, “Like A Pimp.” We rapped on Lil Flip “Game Over” and “Blood Hound,” 50 Cent back in middle school.
TMN: Did you listen to anything outside of hip-hop growing up?
TMN: Can you talk a bit about the formation of Green Ova?
Squadda: We always had families. In middle school we were part of a squad but in high school there was just too many people. There’s only 6 of us now and if you listen to 808s & Dark Grapes III songs we got all of them on there–Robbie Rob, Dope G, Lo Da Kid and Shady Blaze. It just evolved and came to where it is now but we always kind of rapped with a lot of people and moved with big numbers.
TMN: Squadda, as a producer yourself, you always use some really interesting samples. Where do you usually look for those?
Squadda: It’s evolved. Always trying to recreate what influenced us. I would always hear about producers with vinyls and shit but I always grew up with hella CDs so I kind of wanted to make it a thing and create my own culture out of what really touched on me. It’s always different but that’s why I like working with Friendzone because they kind of have a culture of their own too of how they find samples.
TMN: With the Internet being such an integral role in your careers thus far, what are your thoughts on its role in the music industry in this era?
Squadda: Shit, if you got your head on straight, it can only be a good thing. I love it. I remember hearing about other artists really talking about us. It’s a good thing to have so many people have other ways to find your music other than going to a store. Yeah, the money changes and things change, but I think it’s great.
Mondre: I mean, shit, everything man. Watching him grow, you know what I’m saying? With the beats, the music and everything. Shit, I say everything man. We came in this together and we still here. Better than ever. Wiser and everything. Squadda: Just bringing the flavor, man. When he come with the effort, it’s real nice. The flows that he comes with every time, you can definitely count on it—it’s consistent. From when I first rapped with him, you know Mondre’s gonna come with it. Makes you think about your shit even more. It’s fun working with him because you know he’s going come with something. It’s kind of rare for me to feel like that too. I don’t really get that feeling rapping with other people—no disrespect. But it’s always been like that since we were kids with Mondre.
Mondre: I mean, shit, everything man. Watching him grow, you know what I’m saying? With the beats, the music and everything. Shit, I say everything man. We came in this together and we still here. Better than ever. Wiser and everything.
Squadda: Just bringing the flavor, man. When he come with the effort, it’s real nice. The flows that he comes with every time, you can definitely count on it—it’s consistent. From when I first rapped with him, you know Mondre’s gonna come with it. Makes you think about your shit even more. It’s fun working with him because you know he’s going come with something. It’s kind of rare for me to feel like that too. I don’t really get that feeling rapping with other people—no disrespect. But it’s always been like that since we were kids with Mondre.