Years after breaking into the music industry as teenage emcee “Sayknowledge”, the Bay Area artist changed his moniker and vibe to Rich Iyala (a tweaked play on his birth name Rich Ayala, the “i” a symbol of the media-tech issues being grappled with in his work). On his new sound, he blends hip-hop with the Bay’s rich history of funk and soul. Ahead of his forthcoming album, “Camp Mendocino”, Iyala’s dropped Damnwell. Smooth and vibrant, Damnwell bounces with a feel-good vibe while Iyala’s vocals slip and slide between pops of colour and crisp percussive notes that speak to his fixation on what defines “classic”.

An early mover in the Bay’s hyphy movement, Rich Iyala released his first album “Vibe Called Quest” as Sayknowledge at the age of 18. The LP won him mentions for his lyrical agility and irreverent video concepts in publications like Vibe Magazine. He received early co-signs from artists who are now longstanding collaborators, like producer Mars Today and Mikos Da Gawd of Soulection, and has performed at venues across the Bay Area and joined fellow SF native Mr. Carmack on his Immersion tour. Black and Puerto Rican, Iyala is passionate about his Bay Area community and has been involved in numerous social justice campaigns. He also recently organized an all-star benefit event in San Francisco for Hurricane Maria headlined by Joe Kay.

His upcoming album, “Camp Mendocino”, is heavy on the soul horns, and taps into his hometown’s identity as the launching pad for funk groups like Sly & The Family Stone, with lyrics drenched in escapism and humankind’s complex, evolving relationship with technology. Through his work, Iyala looks to define a distinctly California sound of social resistance, or in his own words, “future soul hyphy funk.”

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