The Rise of G-Eazy and the Death of the Traditional Oakland MC

G-Eazy

I’m a town dude. There is no doubt about it. What I mean by that is the lens through which I view the world is totally Oaklandcentric. So, if you ask me Jason Kidd is the best point guard of all time with Gary Payton being a close second, Oakland completely shaped Tupac Shakur, and the Bay Area sound deeply influenced the present-day Atlanta hip-hop scene via local producers like Ant Banks and Zaytoven. In general, Oakland has always been the most popping place on the planet—that’s just my totally biased opinion. Oaklanders are very prideful but we demand that our representatives remain humble. And dare I say that if a celebrity claims to have the town on their back then we believe that they should actually be deep in the trenches putting in work. The self-styled rapper turned pop star G-Eazy does not do that. His relationship with Oakland is largely touch and go. And one gets the overwhelming sense that Oakland has never really been enough for him but rather it’s just extremely marketable for him to continue to claim it.

 

There is a line that triggered me from his most recent single 1942. In his laid-back braggadocios flow he spits “Flooded all my diamonds, Poland Spring/ Back in Oakland I’m a king” and when he said it I cringed. My reaction was so visceral because G-Eazy moved from the Bay as soon as his career took off. One cannot be a king and reside 400 miles outside of one’s kingdom. Also Oakland has never been a place that has had a king. There is an ongoing debate about who is the reigning King of New York. Snoop Dogg once declared that he was the king of the Westcoast but no artist from Oakland or the surrounding Bay Area has ever claimed this title for himself. We historically have never played that game. We have always preferred a person’s character to be thorough rather than their appearance to be flashy, but alas the Oakland of old is gone.

Gentrification has nearly chopped the cities African-American population in half since the days when Too Short was a fixture on the Foothill strip and in Eastmont Mall. We no longer demand that our MC’s be down to earth players that don’t like drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. This code was so strictly enforced in the early 1990’s that many in the town renounced MC Hammer and deemed him a sellout because of his shiny hammer pants and multimillion dollar Pepsi deal, even though he went broke trying to uplift the city and built a mansion in nearby Fremont in order to stay close to his family. But now Oakland has become a trendy town with countless brunch spots and beer gardens, and G-Eazy is Oakland’s trendy MC.

 

G-Eazy stated on his breakfast club interview earlier this year that he’s always wanted to be a superstar outside of the Bay. He also alluded to wanting to be as big as Kanye West. And as I watched I wondered when did my hometown full of contradictions, replete with the most positive vibes yet satiated with crime that used to sit a world apart from the high society bohemian snobbery of San Francisco, become a place where our most popular rapper can get away with speaking this way in a studio in New York before flying back first class to his mansion in Los Angeles? Why is there no accountability? I mean surely there would have been a backlash if Keak Da Sneak would have taken the same approach after he dropped “Super Hyphy” in 2007 following his massively successful feature on E-40’s “Tell me when to go” the previous year. Can you imagine Keak saying that he wants to be the biggest name in entertainment and although he loves Oakland he always wanted more for himself? The hate would have been so real. But we let G-Eazy claim our struggle all the way to the bank, give us crumbs, and go back to LA.

And this is why I don’t view him the same way as I view all of the other rap legends to come out of the town. From the Mobb Music era through the Hyphy Music era to say that you were from Oakland meant that you spoke for the people in the hood in a way that no one else could. The Oakland that I love will never be a place that accepts pop star rappers who never come to the ghetto. I could never stand behind a hometown MC who flies into the town, gets the bag, and leaves. G-Eazy represents the coopting of the town swag and as I look at the world through my Oakland lens I look right past him and back into the past. For if he represents the future of Oakland hip-hop then I will not be able to watch this mockery for much longer.

-YB

 

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Episode 8: Ooh Child (Things are going to get Easier)

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http://www.kgpc969.org/the-ghetto-sun-times/2018/6/19/ep-8-ooh-child-things-are-going-to-get-easier

On this episode my good friend Prentiss Mayo shares his testimony of being homeless and addicted on the streets of Oakland. We also talk about internet trolling, charging juveniles as adults and other hot button topics. All you have to do is hit the link below and press play.

http://www.kgpc969.org/the-ghetto-sun-times/2018/6/19/ep-8-ooh-child-things-are-going-to-get-easier

 

 

To be black and homeless in Oakland

“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.”

-WEB Dubois

I find it fascinating that a tent city has popped up in a city where just last year Uber paid over $24 Billion to purchase a building that will serve as a major corporate headquarter for them. In 2013 Oakland was voted the most exciting city to move to (http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/10-most-exciting-cities/). There are new restaurants opening up all over the place, billion dollar housing developments are being constructed (China Basin), there seems to be money coming in from every direction, and in the midst of this enormous economic boom there are whole families living on the streets.

This particular homeless encampment really struck me because it exists directly across the street from the very church where I was baptized. In Oakland I have seen groups of homeless people live under bridges and alongside freeways but never on International Boulevard, which is a major thoroughfare in both Oakland and San Leandro. This leads me to believe that the homeless situation is getting worse. It also leads me to believe that as long as techies are moving here from around the country and billion dollar startups are investing large sums of money in the Uptown area that no one cares about homeless black people living out of tents in Deep East Oakland. I’m not sure what exactly needs to be done but I’m not going to act like this isn’t happening in the city that shaped the man that I’ve become. So I guess the question is; what are we going to do?

Notes on the Gentrification of Oakland

 

It’s strange to me that it’s now considered cool to live in my hometown of Oakland, CA. When I was growing up it was just dangerous. There were very few young “hip” people who were brave enough to move into an area that was known as one of the most notorious ghettos in the state of California. Even the people who lived there didn’t want to live there. A small two-bedroom house on the Eastside of town was the last place my mother wanted to raise her three children but what else could she do? Housing discrimination was a lot more blatant in the late 1980’s. Meaning no realtor was going to show her a property in Napa or Piedmont.

So we ended up moving to a street that was relatively quiet however trouble was never far away. On every major thoroughfare around our home there was drug dealing and wanton violence. I was only allowed to ride my bike down half of our block. My sister and I often times watched TV on the floor because we heard gunshots outside and didn’t want to get hit by a stray bullet. I witnessed so many crimes against humanity just trying to get from the bus stop to my house that I’m still unable to completely process it. Somewhere along the way Oakland has both traumatized me and desensitized me but now all of a sudden it’s the place to be for young people who want to be involved in some kind of cultural adventure.

I guess my main issue with those hoards of upper-middle class bred white folks who have come to gentrify certain sections of my city is that everything I experienced in Oakland has been real—real death, real poverty, real loss—while what they want to experience seems very superficial. To live in a brand new town home that was erected in a space that used to be a housing project while telling your friends that you stay in the ghetto is tantamount to a person going on a Safari and saying that they braved the harsh jungles of Africa. I feel like some of these people are trying to capitalize off of my pain and it makes me nauseous. There is way too much dried blood on the streets of this town for people to act like it’s charming. I don’t think they’ll ever understand.

-YB