I am Oaklandish // 11 -21 // For the Haters.

Posted on September 18, 2011

I am in Brooklyn, NY and this dude is a hater.

Perhaps you’d like some back story. The first thing you need to know is that that dude is a hater. The second thing you oughta know is that he’s not alone. That’s really all of the pertinent info, but since I am selector, I don’t mind rewinding just a little further.

Last night, I found myself in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY, in a room full of tastemakers. World famous DJs, acclaimed tour managers, cultural icons, and even an IT specialist or two. When the conversation turned to me, and my Oakland origins, as always, I was not-so-subtly asked about what we listen to out in The Bay. I’m not sure if you’ve had the conversation I’m about to synopsize, but if you’ve ever followed this path of questioning, you’ll feel me.

The first step is a gentle prodding — “Do you know about that uhh hyphy uhh… ” — which really means to ask “I know you know about that hyphy stuff – but I’m sort of unsure as to how to ask you about this music, sound, dance, etc; I don’t understand and I don’t really know you well enough to hate on something you like, outright, just yet.”

To which I always respond: “Yes, I know about the hyphy movement, and have been known to go dumb on occasion, though I am slightly older than the core group of folks for whom that was a significant cultural marker.”

I also like to note: “Every part of the country has something that only they understand: Jooking, Screw, GoGo, etc… and understanding from the outside doesn’t validate or invalidate its meaning. In-group participants don’t need us to head nod for it to be of import. Shadidi?”

And then, invariably, my interlocutor will ask me about E-40 (love him, idolize him, but he’s not from Oakland), MC Hammer (amidst all the bankruptcy jokes I assert that he employed the majority of Black Oakland while he was on – and even sponsored my cousin’s T-Ball league), and most recently Kreayshawn (another story for another day — trust me).

The last question, often asked in most earnest, after I’ve earned respect and gotten warm in the face. “So, what are y’all listening to out in Oakland?”

Now, that is my favorite question. ‘Cause then I get to talk about all of my favorite folks. The, ahem, unsung, overlooked, and under-appreciated Town dwellers that soundtrack my life. For the perusal of the aforementioned hater, and those of his kind — a list of 10 musicians that move me, that hail from Oakland, CA, that never cross your mind as you’re prepping to talk isht to me. There’s more. We come in numbers.

Some of these folks have touched the digital pages of Thickwit before, but I just couldn’t leave them off of the list. Others should be here, but I feel as if I’ve covered them too much on this here blog already. (I see you shining DoDAT, Diggs, Kwudi, et al). I intentionally sidestepped artists/musicians with a readily available Hyphy influence, just as a means of providing the haters with an alternate palate.

Since its Sunday, and I know you don’t wanna read much more, we’re gonna do this like Donny Simpson and Video Soul. Like this was your cousin’s house and you have 2 hours before mom comes home to watch whatever you want on The Box. In no particular order:

1. London/Erk Tha Jerk
First up is London with the undeniable banger, #Action!!! The joint is directed by media savant and cultural initiator, Erk Tha Jerk. I might have to come back to Erk, cause these three lines won’t do his work justice. London is a regular feature at Monday Soul at Oakland’s New Parish, and is a clear ambassador of town business.


2. Kev Choice
Watch Kev rework Edvard Griev’s classical piece to iconic images of Oakland, CA.

3. SandMan feat. Klassiq
A fun little ditty from East Oakland representative SandMan — feat. Klassiq (by my count that’s a hat trick at three plugs on Thickwit in 1 week). SandMan’s vocal stylings range from brassy melody to beastmode lyrical antics. There’s never enough available from this veteran of rap trio, The Attik. Like Luther, never too much…

4. Ledisi
Grammy nominated for nearly everything she puts out. The video doesn’t do her voice justice. Might just be my favorite live vocalist out of The Bay Area, ever.

5. Ambrose Akinmusire live at the Jazz Standard
My muse and partner in crime since Jazz and Arts summer camp, Trumpeter Ambrose’s Album “When the Heart Emerges Glistening” is currently available on Blue Note. Cop that, son. He’s a real life genius, and celebrated throughout Europe, Asia and The States. If you’re reading from Denmark, he’s there through the week.

6. Jennah Bell
Country, Folk, Hip Hop, Bluegrass and Funk. Roll it all together and what do you get? West Oakland’s own Jennah Bell. Filmed at North Berkeley BART by The Bay Area Freshman himself, Rafael Casal.

7. Sheila E.
A member of the legendary Escovedo family, you may have forgotten that Sheila E. was raised in The Town. Between touring with Prince, George Duke, Ringo Starr and more, she had time to fit in Letterman. Like the fictionalized Will Smith said once upon a time “a girly who can drum can write her own ticket…”


8. Raphael Saadiq
In case you forgot — we get banger after banger from this Laney graduate. His live show is also not to be missed.

9. Rafael Casal
Rafael Casal’s video cameos a number of the town’s best known emcees, but I’m really putting it up here cause Netta Brielle appears to be killing it on the traps, too.

10. Goapele/John Mazyck
You already know Goapele from Closer fame. Her next album is dropping soon, and this video by Cali-based director John Mazyck is one of my favorite new eye candies.

If any of y’all wish to grace the Oaklandish store with your presence on October 7th, we’d gladly give you your limited edition “I am Oaklandish” Tee. Thank you for your musical contributions to this city we love. Thanks for making my international arguments that much easier.

This blog is brought to you, in part, by local textile and cultural purveyors, Oaklandish. Oaklandish will be throwing a party on the 1st Friday in October at their new Downtown Oakland store. Everyone I profile is invited to attend as an honored guest and will receive a limited edition “I AM OAKLANDISH” t-shirt. In a city of roughly 500,000 residents, there’s no way I can cover everyone or everything, but I’ll do my best to rep a cross section of folks that reflect our city’s varied perspectives and populations. Also, it is important to note that none of the honorees know that they’re being highlighted until the blog post is up, because surprises are sometimes fun, cuzzo. This means that some folks profiled might not closely align themselves with Oaklandish — and that’s fine by me — I mean no ill intent, nor make any assumptions — just want to shout out some folks who make a real impact on the world, from this pearl of a city on the East Side of the Bay.

3 Replies to "I am Oaklandish // 11 -21 // For the Haters."

  • suga
    September 20, 2011 (8:30 am)

    I absolutely love this!

  • Naseema
    September 20, 2011 (10:46 am)

    Right on the mark. Just got this question yesterday in Chicago. I will def use this post to validate my response.

  • Chinaka Hodge | Thickwitness
    February 23, 2012 (3:20 am)

    […] A few months back, I wrote about a Pennsylvania raised naysayer living in BK who couldn’t catch light spilling into his eyes, thus was his blinding hatred for all things and music Bay Area. This dude, remember? […]

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