Team Playas 

An Oakland rap trio's debut album combines a solid sound with liquid marketing.

It only takes about fifteen seconds for the Team to let you know where they're coming from on their debut release, World Premiere.

Yay Areaaaaa! booms over an epic, anthemic intro on "Let's Go Team!" and sets the stage for the deceptively simple, tongue-twisting cadences and cleverly repetitive rap styles of Oakland rappers Clyde Carson, Kaz Kyzah, and Mayne Mannish. Guess who's back, back on the grind/Team niggas back slappin' yo mind/'Notha knocka for the trunk rattlin'/Crack crack back back to the spine/Clyde, Clyde Carson is my name/Never seen no 'notha nigga fly as him/We don't play no more so it's over for the game/Reppin' for the O, hold down the Yay/You could hear a nigga from a mile away.

Two years in the making, these long-awaited sixteen songs (plus one bonus track) come off as well-crafted, slick tunes with an aggressively smooth flavor, much like the Team's jointly marketed Hyphy Juice energy drink (but more on that later).

Rather than beat listeners over the head with their verbal delivery, the Team slip and slide their way into your eardrums. They whisper more than they yell, which makes their lewd come-ons and playa-istic double entendres that much more effective. The album regales in a turfy, clubby vibe — making smoking blunts, sipping cognac, downing thizz pills, and popping at hotties seem like the greatest thing in the world. Several potential new Yay Area anthems add to the group's hits "Just Go" and "It's Gettin' Hot."

The self-explanatory "Summertime in the Town" seems tailor-made for backyard BBQs or just cruisin' down Foothill Boulevard. "Bottles Up" will likely endear them to bartenders and earn the wrath of AA groups.

All three Team rappers sound similar, which is no surprise, given their common background. Carson and Mannish have known each other since seventh grade, and Kyzer is related to Mannish. Together, the three emphasize catchy choruses and hooks as "the most important thing. That's what people feel," Carson says. He downplays notions of a hyphy sound ("Hyphy is a culture"), and notes that the Team's "smooth, melodic" style reflects influences like Too $hort, Jay-Z, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Tony Toni Tone.

The Team flies below the mainstream media's radar, but doesn't have an underground Oakland sound. Indeed, were it not for the frequent references to "Town business," they could be from anywhere, and their sound is so accessible, it could easily go mainstream. If and when it does, the Team's song "Hyphy Juice" will double as both a sideshow soundtrack and product placement for a lightly carbonated energy drink (a power-packed fusion of grape and apple) available now at a corner store near you.

Hyphy Juice is the brainchild of Carson and his partner K.O.A.B. The two own the Moe Doe record label, which put out World Premiere, and created a new company, the Oakland-based It's Good Bev Co., after being inspired by Nelly's Pimp Juice and Lil' Jon's Crunk Juice. "We wanted something to represent our culture on a national level," Carson said. They also "wanted something that tastes like candy."

After two and a half years of product testing, Hyphy Juice hit the shelves earlier this year — just in time for the Team's album release. The national explosion of hyphy into mainstream consciousness was a fortunate coincidence, and so far, the response has been encouraging: Carson claims the drink has earned $600,000 in revenue in its first two months. "The hyphy movement can sell the juice, but the juice is so delicious, it sells itself," he boasts. "We got the West Coast on lock," he adds, with national distribution in the works. According to Carson, business building is in the soil. "All the acts that come out the Bay Area, they always had ownership," he notes, naming Too $hort and Hammer in particular. "We from Oakland, we represent the blue-collar hustle of the Bay; it's just taking it to another level."

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