Hip-hop is, at its heart, a site-specific genre.
Rappers like to let you know where they're from.
Which makes Jay Shells’ Rap Quotes project such nerdy fun. For the past three years, the New York artist has mined rap songs for specific locations and put up street signs with those lyrics at those sites. He's posted signs in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles, where Fresno rapper Fashawn is featured on a sign at Fairfax and Melrose avenues.
Most of the signs have been stolen and/or removed.
As a fan of pop-culture place making, Shell's project brings a couple things to mind.
One: Dude should look into getting the project to Fresno. There is no shortage of appropriate rap references. See: Frank H. Park (Planet Asia's "Fresno State of Mind") or the Fresno Country Jail (Mac Dre's "Back in the Hood").
Two: Fresno has been referenced in songs more than a few times. Probably more than people realize.
We're not going to aggregate every instance of such (though that would be a cool project for someone to tackle), but we did put together this quick list.
"Out the Trunk," Fashawn
Keeping with Shells' hip-hop theme, it makes sense to include the Fresno rapper's 2015 track "Out of the Trunk," which features Busta Rhymes.
- "Yes, I’m internationally known / But Fresno’s the city that I call home / I’m about to turn it up now."
"Live Those Songs," Kenny Chesney
Originally released on the country singer's 2003 album, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," the song mentions Fresno in the first verse.
- "Saw him sittin' on a sidewalk in Fresno / Braided hair and a tie-dyed T-shirt on / Talkin' to himself about Vietnam."
"Sinaloa Cowboys," Bruce Springsteen
In this song, from 1995's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," Springsteen paints Fresno (well, Fresno County) as a rural wasteland full or orchards and meth labs. And yet it doesn't feel like he's hating on us.
That's a great storyteller.
- "Word was out some men in from Sinaloa were looking for some hands / Well, deep in Fresno County there was a deserted chicken ranch / And there in a small tin shack / on the edge of a ravine / Miguel and Luis stood cooking methamphetamine."
"Get on the Mic," Beastie Boys
"Paul's Boutique" was The Beastie Boys' artistically mature second album, which you might not guess from lyrics like these.
- "Got busy in 'Frisco, fooled around in Fresno / Got over on your girlie cause you know she never says no."
"Fresno," Brian Kenny Fresno
A list like this must include a musician who has built an entire brand around being from (and singing about) Fresno. This ode to the city is from his 2013 album "We'll Always Have Fresno," which is the follow-up to 2007's "The Sound of Fresno" and 2000's "F is for Fresno."
You get the idea.
- "Land of the chupacabra / Homeland of Bobby Salazar / Birthplace of Alvin And The Chipmunks / Reluctant hotbed of crankheads stealing cars / Sometimes it just doesn't get any better, folks / Other times it couldn’t get any worse / Living your life in Fresno can be both a blessing and a terrible thing."