Dr. Becky Sagers PhD – Tastes Like Chicken

 A Retrospective With The Becky Sagers

 

It all started at Chico High School in the turbulent mid-nineties. Two unlikely lifelong rap fans: One tall with long hair and a beard, the other shorter and stouter. Little did they know, but in 1993 they would begin a twenty year journey together as partners in rhyme. This is the mostly true, semi embellished history of The Becky Sagers: Chico’s first rap group. 

Jeremiah: My first exposure to rap was a birthday party in the fifth grade and we were listening to the Beastie Boys and Run DMC. I was into it.

Aye Jay: At my birthday party in 1986 I heard Kurtis Blow’s “AJ Scratch” and it blew my mind, starting a lifelong love of rap and my own ego that continues to this day.

Jeremiah: We met through our mutual friend Jason, who we all called Hardcore. AJ had got Paris’ new CD and we met up to listen to it together.

Aye Jay: The guy I knew as “Jesus on a skateboard” liked rap music! We hit it off that day and he came over to my mobile home park to hang out soon after. It was a pretty janky living situation, but we bonded over listening to rap on tapes together. Rap was not mainstream popular like it is now, so it was a treat to meet someone who knew about groups like Gangstarr or the Afros.

Jeremiah: I told my mom when she picked me up I never wanted to go there again.

Aye Jay: We kept hanging out and eventually started hanging with Becky Sager, who was a six foot four party animal we went to school with. She could outdrink all of us. Going to her house on Monday nights to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with her and her friend Heather became a daily ritual. We would watch Blossom also, after The Prince.

Jeremiah: At some point we started joking that we would form a rap group and call it the Becky Sagers; that went on for months. It was decided I would be MC Heatha and AJ would be MC Shecky, which was Becky’s nickname.

Becky Sager: The first time you guys told me about the Becky Sagers. I was working at Accentricities and you stopped by to tell me about the band. I think you said something like “So we decided we are going to form a hip hop group” and I was like “That sounds great!” and then you were like “And we’re calling it the Becky Sagers” and I think I said something like “Wow that’s really weird, but cool.” Which is still how I feel, weird but cool.

Aye Jay: A friend’s New Year’s party was coming up, so we went to Tower, and our old friend David Steele gave us a bunch of promo cassingles. We used the karaoke feature on Jeremiah’s stereo to record our first album Sheck Your Head, named after the Beasties album, with handmade cover parody tape cover, to boot.

Becky Sager: The first time I heard the Sagers I went to Jeremiah’s house where you rapped over a mixed tape on his ghetto blaster. I will be honest, I didn’t think it was going to go far.

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Aye Jay: Marty James (who went on to form Scapegoat Wax and One Block Radius) was another rap friend of mine, and he had started making music, so I guess we thought, “Why not us too?”

Jeremiah: While I don’t think either of us realized it at the time, Marty’s making music was an influence on us. He was the first person I knew who I saw rap, though he was way more professional. I think part of my brain saw Marty doing it and said “Hey, it’s alright, we can rap.”

Aye Jay: It really made rapping all that more do-able, having seen Marty. N2deep’s “Back to the Hotel” was huge, and he was working with the guy who produced it, making song’s like “My Hair Is Playin’ Tricks On Me,” a parody of a Geto Boys song.

Marty James: They said they were named the Becky Sagers, and I was like, “You mean the really tall girl from school I call Manute (after professional basketball player Manute Bol)?”

Aye Jay: I started volunteering at the Blue Room right out of high school, and that evolved into working music shows. In 1995 there was a benefit show coming up and a band had cancelled, so we volunteered to do that show too.

Jeremiah: Adam Wakeling from Trench was the unsung hero. When we first started playing shows, we rapped over cassette instrumentals, and he would lend us his boombox to plug into the sound system even when he wasn’t there.

Aye Jay: We started playing shows at The Blue Room and ended up part of an indie rock scene. At our first show the guy who filmed it cared so little for us he set the camera down wrong and filmed from the waist down. So we have all crotch footage of our first set. Deathstar joined us at the end for a jam. That was their second show.

Erik Morton (The Imps): The first time I saw them they were in suits rapping along to a boom box. I said, “what the fuck is this shit?” Then I wondered what it would be like to comment on it 20 years later.

Aye Jay: We eventually started asking local musicians to back us up for shows and phased the tape deck out. Thank god. There were a lot of weird configurations of folks that had never played together and never would again. The Imps rhythm section, the Force 7 guys, and Jim and Ken from Deathstar were all usual suspects.

Jim Rizzutto (Deathstar): We couldn’t get funky, so why would they ask the noise rock band to back them up? It was confusing, but we were there. The lack of funk was really striking. Sagers included.

Marty James: I remember when they started rapping and playing shows. It was weird, but once they were out there I figured I should be playing out, too. We figured out pretty quick that our crowds didn’t mix well.

Aye Jay: Some of Marty’s friends heckled us pretty good.

DNA (local promoter): I loved the Sagers from day one. The community that formed around them was tight knit and slightly (more) inebriated and manically creative. Many bands were lighthouses for the young thriving scene of the 90s, but the Sagers were the only band playing anything remotely in tune with the times; a signpost of one of the biggest trends to emerge from that era. They were pioneers of a sound that hadn’t been heard in Northern California.

Aye Jay: All these bands played a local festival together called “Superwinners” so that became the name of the band scene. This included Deathstar, the Imps, Land of the Wee Beasties, Uncle Roscoe, and Mid Fi. Later it became seen as an elitist thing, but in the beginning it was super inclusive. There were highlights and lowlights.

Erik Imp: A highlight to me was [that] The Imps were the supposed Bad Boys. We played with bands like Hucksalt Headspeed, so we were daaangerous. Everyone was nice to us, but it could get cliquey.

Becky Sager: I don’t think I heard them again until I came back from living in San Francisco. I went to a party and there was this huge crowd and I remember thinking “Well I guess I was wrong! The Sagers rule!”

Jeremiah: Once AJ fell off the stage at LaSalle’s at the Deathstar CD release party. He had drank too much and got all wrapped up in the mic cords. Next thing I knew he disappeared.

Aye Jay: It was like a five foot drop!

One day we were walking around downtown and on a whim went into the Synthesis office and asked Bill Fishkin if we could write an advice column. He said OK. We wrote one almost every week for almost two years.

Jeremiah: It was weird and full of inside jokes. We wrote most of the advice letters ourselves.

From the Becky Sagers advice column: The Sagers have finally rid ourselves of loser status, as of this week we are Superwinners. We did our part by providing starving indie rockers with Kung Fu ramen and our greatest contribution to the festival: a kissing booth where kisses from both of us could be had for 25 cents. The booth made 50 cents, providing us with one can of Safeway select soda, and one game of Pinbot at Juanitas. 

Aye Jay: Jeremiah is an amazing, hilarious writer. I was always amazed by his stuff.

From the column: Heatha got the idea to enter the dragon and head downtown for Halloween. It only took moments to realize no matter how funktafied one is, there is no stopping a whole town intent on being wack. The whole sigma wick-wack forces had united in a cross dressing mass of keystone light-drinking, taco bell grande-eating mass of gnarlyheads attempting to redefine disgusting. Their female counterparts were dressed like hoes of all types: vampire hoes, victorian hoes, Cinderella hoes, and just plain old hoe-y hoes. More hoes than the Kmart garden shop. 

Aye Jay: There was one article he wrote that was an interview a fictitious group called P4deep who had a song about rolling around Vallejo with Zsa Zsa Gabor, in Kit from the TV show Knight Rider, eating chicken and hitting switches. It was great stuff.

Article: Pedro glued a bunch of condoms on the turntables, so we were trying to put a positive message out there, cause all djs should practice safe scratching. They should wear a condom on each finger so they don’t leave prints on the vinyl, cause you know cutting and scratching ain’t as safe as it used to be. 

Jeremiah: The one thing about those years is we only played two rap shows, and both were terrible. There was literally no market for rap shows here. We had no idea we were Chico’s first rap group playing shows. Rollo’s Kitchen and…

Aye Jay: We played a show with the Marginal Prophets from SF. And there was no one there. It was us, the door man and the bartender. They were not happy.

After a few years of playing, a few deejay’s moved to town and we got to meet Bad Rok, DJ Oh, and a dreadlocked Weavervillian who went by DJ Mantis but also drew posters under the name Matt Loomis. We struck up a friendship, but his forays into jungle music and his raver girlfriend made him the butt of the occasional joke. Little did we know he was the horse to bet on.

Jeremiah: We played some “big” shows around that time, opening up for Digital Underground, Hieroglyphics, etc. We never went over well. Frat boys were yelling, “you suck!” while we were playing. But we just turned that into a song’s chorus.

Aye Jay: We realized pretty quick that we were not going to make fans of traditional rap people. We were too weird, and not good enough that the music trumped our Lenny-and-Squiggy type personal appearances. We always were more confrontational with the crowd than we should have been. Around this time between-song banter became an important part of our live show. Stand up-hop.

Jeremiah: Come for the raps, stay for the banter.

Erik Imp: I liked the banter ‘cause it gave me time to figure out what to play next. They told me to be occasionally funky.

Matt Loomis: I knew AyeJay’s art from his posters and we all met up and had a few beers and listened to music. That’s where we first heard the Sacred Hoop tape, a group that we ended up bringing to town quite a bit. Bad Rok kind of took Oh and I under his wing and we all started hanging out. He was already a professional DJ who competed and knew all the turntabilist guys.

Jeremiah: Eventually some of our friends started rapping, and they formed Six Feet Deep. That was actually the name of a DJ crew first, and the rappers took the name over. That was Fay, G Pek and Thug E Fresh.

Aye Jay: Faydog was my best friend growing up. Our dads had moved to Chico together and formed Spark and Cinder. In 1999 we started rapping and became the best right away. but man was he dirty. I was allowed all the gangsta rap I wanted growing up but his tapes got taken away. And through that repression, he became the filthy rapper.

We started putting on a few rap shows. Sacred Hoop, Z Man, Live Human—all the local scratch DJs would play—and we would get someone to back us up using instros from 12” records. Bad Rok was first but he was way more professional (by that I mean better) than we were. He linked up with local funk band Force 7, and kinda stopped playing with us. Loomis kind of got added to the mix without anyone telling him so.

Jeremiah: Faydog, who I knew as AyeJay’s best friend, came back from Alaska with a bunch of raps and asked me to record him. The recordings turned out OK, but he eventually re-recorded it all with Thug E. I had no idea what I was doing, I just had a janky mic and a four track I had bought at the pawn shop.

Aye Jay: There was a few years of playing as kind of a loose collective called Gurp City, but the Bay Area guys came more and more and the scene kinda became their thing. We kinda got phased out, but that also had a lot to do with friendships dissolving too, there was some falling outs over nothing. People started to take it more serious and we were not that way at all, so it didn’t really fit anymore to play shows together.

Faydog: The Sagers started it all, and then Gurp City kind of came in and took it over.

Jeremiah: Somewhere along that time Matt became a full member of the group, but we still didn’t pay him.

Aye Jay: In the group you get paid in street cred for the first three years.

Matt: It was kind of osmosis I guess. I played shows on and off for a couple of years, then Jeremiah kind of mentioned it as an aside: “Well, you’re a Becky Sager now.” I honestly didn’t feel like I was in the group until Dylan Hillerman (local poster artist) drew me into a flyer, and that was 2005! That’s when DNA got the mayor to proclaim “Becky Sagers Day” in the city of Chico.

DNA: I wasn’t being ironic when I asked the mayor to commemorate the Sagers with their own day. They deserved it then and still do.

mayor sagers

Jeremiah: That was a total surprise. Handsome Gorgeous came up and made a kingly proclamation in a kingly accent.

Aye Jay: I thought it was a joke until I saw the actual embossed certificate from the Mayor’s office. So weird.

Matt: And then there was the name change…

Jeremiah: Becky Sager became a scholar! She ended up getting her doctorate, so we did what was most natural: changed the name of the group to reflect her new title.

Aye Jay: There’s no point in her working so hard to become a Dr. for us not to use the name for ourselves! She’s just lucky we never went through with the legal proceedings over the rights to her name.

Matt: We were going to take her to Small Claims court and force her to change her name. Max G Arnold wouldn’t take our case, though.

Aye Jay: At this point we were at about our ten year anniversary, so I asked Doug at Duffy’s if we could put on a show the day after Xmas and set out to start reuniting old Chico bands. Deathstar and The Imps played the first one. It went over really well and they started letting us do it every year. Faydog has played every one also.

Doug Roberts (Duffy’s): Twenty years? That’s crazy, amazing, and a little bit scary.

Jeremiah: We called it “Chico Legends” as a joke, but it stuck. It was good enough a name for some other local promoters to use without asking, so it couldn’t have been too bad.

Aye Jay: We have had a who’s who of local legends play the show over the years. This year I had the chance to ask one of my favorite rappers, Kool A.D. (formerly of Das Racist) to play, and he said yes. It’s going to be insane.

Matt: I think we should play forever, the older we get the funnier it gets. We’ll hit our peak at age 60. And play one show a year.

Jeremiah: Three shows a year, maximum. We’ll be the Fallon of Chico rap.

Aye Jay: Even though the group has never been a priority or something taken super seriously, it’s amazing to look back at how much fun we have had, the amazing people we have played music and shows with, and to even be in the conversation about a pretty great time in Chico music. It’s a total good un’.

Becky Sager: I still feel the same way I did twenty years ago, “That’s pretty weird, but totally awesome.”

kool ad poster

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