Artist Spotlight: HBK CJ Talks 'Crash Course 2' and the rise of HBK Gang / by Lainney Dizon

In the music industry, it's not about who you meet at the top, but rather, who you grow and build with on the way to the top. San-Francisco based collective, HBK Gang, also known as The Heartbreak Gang,  is a prime example of this philiosophy. The American hip-hop and music production collective based in Richmond, California was founded by Iamsu!, Chief and P-Lo in 2008, with key members including Sage the Gemini, Skipper, CJ, Rossi, Dave Steezy, Jay Ant, Kool John and Kehlani.

With loyalty embedded in the DNA of  HBK Gang, they prove that there's no greater power than that of a collective committed to the same vision.  'Family comes first' has always always been the mentality, and with their fresh perspective of representing the Bay's melting pot of culture and talent, they comprise one of today's best music collectives putting on for their hometown city. Dizon Dreams recently spoke to HBK's own CJ about his upcoming album 'Crash Course 2' (due early 2016), the rise of the HBK Gang, and his streetwear brand PeacexPiece:

Dizon Dreams: HBK Gang is such a powerful gang of artists. From Iamsu! to Kehlani and yourself, each of you have your own signature style. How did your relationship with the crew form?

HBK CJ: I attended Pinole Valley high school in Pinole , Ca in 05' and 08'; meeting a lot of school mates, basketball teammates , and lifelong friends, a lot who is now HBK Gang. In 2008, I went to Chief (@HBKchi), who opened the first HBK studio, who also helped sit down and think of the name “HBK”, and asked him if I could record my mixtape at his house/studio. Recording there is where Iamsu ,P-Lo, Kool John, LoveRance, Skipper, my cousin and I and a few others not to mention,would always drop in and have music ready. That pretty much continued and never stopped. I had met P-Lo playing on the same high school Basketball team. I met Iamsu! from just being in all the same areas as far as same studios, same friends, same party places. Over the years Iamsu and I gained a great relationship as friends as well in the music industry. There are a lot of relationships that built inside the culture of HBK that doesn't even involve music, the outcome so far is really unbelievable.

DD: People are saying amazing things about 'Crash Course 2' your upcoming album, what can the listeners expect to hear? What's your favorite track you created?

My favorite song off of 'CC2' has to be "Hustle", a song produced by my good friend JayRun. It's one of those songs that's sang from the soul and you could feel the pain from simply hearing the vocals shoot out of the stereo straight into your gut. The 'CC2' album process was different from my past projects because I had a lot more of a handle on the song selection and did a bunch of footwork to make bits and pieces come together. I worked on Crash Course 2 since the release of my last released album Peace and Love, which was released in February, including songs that were made even prior to that. The engineering process is always the process that makes it a traffic jam. I, as an artist, had to take out as much time as I possibly could to make sure all the pieces were out. 

DD: I believe when you're an artist, you're an artist in every sense. Your art is multi-faceted. I hear you're working on a streetwear brand with PeacexPiece. Tell us more about your vision for the brand. 

HBKCJ: PeacexPiece is a complex streetwear brand based out of the Bay Area, that represents unity and bringing each other together individually one by one. Change starts with you. PeacexPiece is a brand that stands for overcoming the bigger obstacles one step at a time. Artsy and Crafty, PxP's style is set to give the individual a glow of creativity and confidence. The brand name shows the power of union by combining the words “Peace” and “Piece”, reminding one that it starts with a piece and that one piece is you! Preventing adversity, promoting positivity, PeacexPiece makes you feel in control of the positive energy within you.

DD: That's amazing! Positive energy is within you, truly. What's your next hustle you're working towards?

 HBKCJ: I work with United Playaz (UP), a violence prevention and youth protection program, who has really had an influence on a lot of my views on setting goals as well as my views in life. Eventually I plan to continue gaining experience with UP and one day start a violence prevention program. I’m really interested in holding charitable events such as Toy & Jacket Drives, Sports events for all aged kids, fundraisers etc. Helping local child groups and underprivileged children would be a rewarding feeling. I can see myself fighting to make a difference in that category for a community.  

Get a sneak peek of the HBK CJ's upcoming album with the leading single 'MSGD' featuring Iamsu! below and stay tuned for the upcoming 'Crash Course 2' album coming soon!