The San Francisco Bay Area is responsible for a large chunk of hip-hop history and culture. You can still spend some quality time there today, from Silicon Valley up to Vallejo, Richmond to the City (seriously, don’t ever call it “Frisco”), getting hyphy at the Playaz Club or go on a Fonky Expedition, ghost riding your whip, blowing the whistle, and just generally roaming around the Yay with some real Freaks of the Industry if you’ve Got 5 On It while you’re Too Legit to Quit and really feelin’ yourself.
If you’re counting, that’s two E-40 references and one nod to Too $hort, Digital Underground, M.C. Hammer, the Conscious Daughters, Rappin 4 Tay, Mac Dre, and Luniz packed into one sentence. And that’s barely scratching the surface of Bay Area hip-hop lore. In fact, The Inertia Founder Zach Weisberg is angry with me for not finding a way to include Hieroglyphics but I felt like it was already an obnoxiously long sentence to begin with. And that just proves my point, which is why it might be pretty tough for Buell Wetsuits – yes, Buell Wetsuits – to crack that Hall of Fame. I’m not going to knock them for trying, though.
It turns out Ryan Buell, the Santa Cruz company’s founder, is also a lifelong fan of hip-hop who moonlights as a rapper. “It’s MC Buell,” he says of his stage name. “It is simple. But I’ve been rapping before I was a brand icon. This girl down at the bowling alley said what’s your rap name again? Is it the White Dragon? I said ‘Yes. It is.’ That one never stuck. People didn’t get that. So it’s just MC Buell.” Now, Buell teamed up with fellow Santa Cruz artists, Cruzmatic to make ‘Born in the Water,’ a four-minute ode to…wetsuits. The video is filled with everything rap videos are supposed to be filled with: people dancing their faces off and living the high life in boats, accompanied by the occasional babe or two; except they’re doing it all in wetsuits.
You have your cameos from some of the company’s athletes, like Nic Lamb and a reference to Barney. And all this while only dropping one “hella” in the lyrics.
You’ve never seen a hip-hop music video like this. You’ve also never seen a wetsuit company promote their brand like this.
“I guess I’m the only one that’s not scared to put myself out there and be judged,” Buell says. “People want to put themselves out there more but they don’t because they’re scared of how people will react. But I don’t have that filter.”