I am Oaklandish // 4 // Big Dan, Emcee and Educator
Posted on September 14, 2011
There are a few emcees in Oakland. One or two. Or seventeen thousand, or so. I mean, really, ever since the homies cracked ProTools 3 back in the day, you’re hard pressed to find a man of color living in the town that hasn’t spent a little time in the studio. We hustle hard in The Bay, in the truest sense of the word. We make art by night, teach by day, and promote by commute. Spitters who’d head nod to that routine include Do D.A.T., Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, Elefant, Dom Jones, Klassiq, and a slew of supremely talented rhyme-sayers. A guaranteed must-add to that Roll call is BRWN BFLO’s own Daniel “Big Dan(gerous)” Mora. Nobody works harder than Big Dan.
If you have a blog, twitter, facebook, carrier pigeon or noise making small child, he’s probably hit you up to help promote his latest effort “All or None”. The album officially dropped on Saturday, September 10th at the release party at Oakland’s own Uptown venue. I was more than a little bit sad that I couldn’t attend.
I am delighted, however, to plug his album (which you should cop now — available on iTunes and perhaps at a record store, too, if those still exist). “All or None” features long time collaborators, Los Rakas, Bambu, Deuce Eclipse and Ise Lyfe. If you’re from Oakland, you know that’s a royal line up. If you’re not from here, trust me. The $9.99 is well spent. You’d spend that in gas trying to make it over The Bay Bridge. Stay in the town; listen to the hardest working Ghetto Cuauhtémoc you’ll ever meet. Here he is talking about his last mixtape “Bang for Change”.
What you missed at the beginning of this doc was Dan mentioning his agenda for the day. Which included a rally, a grocery store run, a performance and a couple surprise guess on stage. Best I can tell, that’s Dan’s entire M.O. — Check his resume and you’ll see he’s got not one, but two A.A.’s from Oakland’s Merritt College, and after completing those degrees he earned his B.A. at UC Berkeley’s ground breaking Ethnic Studies program. He is also an accomplished lecturer, doing the college circuit thing with a collection of speakers called “Homeboy Goes to Harvard”. He worked as a youth advocate at Oakland’s Youth Uprising Center. Add to all of that the fact that Dan is a founding and anchor member of a well known squad BRWN BFLO, and spends nights and weekends rocking stages with them from Oakland to Fresno and back. He gets it in.
More than anything, Big Dan epitomizes the Oakland experience. As an advocate of the Xicano Latino community, Big Dan calls to light what many of us — Brown, Black, API(A), and of mixed ancestry — struggle with on the daily. Big Dan’s work speaks to what DuBois might call a “two-ness” — being both native and immigrant, home and far from home, telling the truth in a time when lies are rewarded.
Beyond that — and not to stratify levels of oppression, neither, but we’re all well aware that even as Black folk and Asian Americans experience more middle class freedoms than historically allowed, more laws than ever attempt to relegate our Brown comp@s to second class citizenry. Doesn’t take a whole lotta looking ’round to see that much of this country is powered by the ingenuity and long hours of a Latino work force. Which calls me, black as I am, to call my own privilege into question. I ask myself “In which ways do I benefit from or enforce a system which works, necessarily, on the backs of brown folk?” But I digress.
Big Dan spits bars. All this while he reps hard for The Town y la tierra en general. Peep his latest video aptly titled “La Tierra” featuring Los Novillos del Norte.
Dan, if you got that Ws hoodie in a ladies medium, don’t sleep cuz-cuz. I’ma need me one of those. And one of them tacos.
Thickwit is honored to salute Big Dan as an innovator and purveyor of the culture that makes Oakland home. He can come and cop his “I am Oaklandish” shirt on October 7th at the Oaklandish store. YOU can check for him at www.officialbigdan.com
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.