TD Camp Biography


TD Camp came into Hip-Hop in a different era. Long before bling, commercialism, myspace/youtube views, ProTools or ringtones became part of the equation, TD was tracking down the hottest battle emcees in The Bay Area, digging for rare grooves at the Groove Merchant’s Haight Street vinyl emporium, trading tapes with Hieroglyphics (when the now-legendary crew were in their infancy) and hosting recording sessions in his parents’ basement while his father, a university professor, conducted vocal lessons upstairs with classical singers.

As a child, TD played saxophone, so he always had a grasp of music theory. At age 16, inspired by Jam Master Jay and Red Alert, he bought his first set of turntables. “Hip-Hop, that was the music of our generation,” he says. “People really loved it back then. It wasn’t about what they could get out of it.”

Back in the day, before the culture went mainstream, he notes, “there were more rappers in the streets. The battle aspect of it, that was big.” Armed with two Technic 1200s, a cassette deck (for “pause” mixes), and later, a four-track, TD started recording with the rappers and groups he met during freestyle ciphers at Washington High School, producing some of the earliest representations of what would later be immortalized as the Bay Area independent Hip-Hop scene. “I was always making beats. The studio was my classroom,” he recalls.

Eventually, a few of the groups and artists he was recording with came together to form Bored Stiff. TD produced seminal demos for Bored Stiff, as well as other early Bay Area indie groups like Elements of Change and 3 Shades of Rhythm. The groups were offered major record deals which could have altered the landscape of history, but, wary of industry rule #4080—record company people are shady—turned them down. As TD admits today, “we were just hardheaded.” 

While some of his local contemporaries in indie Hip-Hop’s golden age attained wider recognition, TD’s talent for beatmaking has always 

been evident. At the tender age of 18, his 4-track mixes were played on Sway & Tech’s “The Wake-Up Show,” when it was still headquartered at SF’s KMEL. In 1993, he produced Bored Stiff’s “Therapy,” which was included on the classic, long-out-of-print Bomb Hip-Hop Compilation, alongside then-unknown artists like Blackalicious, Mystik Journeymen, Peanut Butter Wolf and DJ Qbert. As serious collectors are no doubt aware, Bored Stiff’s, Explainin’ EP on vinyl now commands upwards of $150 on eBay.

Over the past fifteen years, TD Camp has become one of the most consistent behind-the scenes movers and shakers of the Bay Area Hip-Hop scene. He’s deejayed thousands of parties and is a regular fixture in SF’s Hip-Hop club rotation. His popular mix-tape series of rare groove gems, “Vintage Sessions” and “Smooth Originals,” have attracted worldwide interest. He’s been written up in publications like Vibe, Urb, the Source, the Bay Guardian, and SF Weekly, and has opened up for Nas, Too $hort, The Pharcyde, Goodie Mob, Mos Def & Talib Kweli, and many others.

The owner of his own label, Hella Records, since 1993, he’s engineered hundreds of sessions and produced dozens of artists. In fact, his studio resume reads like a Who’s Who of Bay Area Hip-Hop: Bored Stiff, Andre Nickatina, Co-Deez, Casual, San Quinn, J-Stalin, Pep Love, Zion-I, Mac Dre, Bailey, Big Rich, Goapele, Mike Marshall, Equipto, Spank Pops, Otayo Dubb, and JT tha Bigga Figga (just to name a few).

Many of those artists—along with West Coast legend Snoop Dogg—are featured on Face To Face, TD’s first official release. More than just a compilation, Face To Face is a concept album which ties together all the various aspects of Bay Area indie Hip-Hop

Beyond his prolific work as a producer, engineer, and club DJ, TD has taught classes and produced several compilations and group albums, working with urban youth at the San Francisco Central YMCA’s Y-Projects Music Program and the Bayview Essential Sch

ool of Music, Art, and Social Justice. This experience has allowed him to understand the younger generation’s struggle in a way which has eluded many older folks. The nihilistic, violent image of street rap has become so pervasive, he says, “Kids have no idea they can be themselves.”

According to the veteran producer, the art of making beats is similar to the craft of carpentry: “it’s all about a certain rhythm and knowing what tool to use.” With his studio work, his goal is simple: to put out classic material which stands the test of time: “If you build a strong foundation, it’ll be there forever.”

TD feels the reason he’s spanned so many eras of Bay Area Hip-Hop is due to the fact that “I never got pigeonholed.” Though his work has encompassed a wide range of musical styles and subgenres within hip-hop, “At the core, I’m really a crate-digger,” he emphasizes with a knowing grin.

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