"People in conscious hip-hop gotta understand the realness of being 'conscious,'" says MC Allseer of East Oakland's "neo-hip-hop" trio, Wasaname 'An 'Em. "If you're not willing to die for your cause, then you're really just lip-flappin'." Even if Allseer doesn't provide much latitude for the conscious community in underground hip-hop, his ideals resonate with the cadre of local artists whose new exhibit, Movemeant: Migrations and Matters , shows that integrity and clearness of understanding will carry the hip-hop generation a lot farther than mere grit or hustle. The exhibit's title has literal and figurative dimensions, standing for the African-American community's migration from Oakland as a result of gentrification as well as for black political and social movements from civil rights to contemporary underground hip-hop, i.e. what all those moves "meant."
Opening at Oaklandish Gallery(411 2nd St., Oakland) at 6 p.m. this Friday, Movemeant features a retrospective of hip-hop artists in Oakland by Yumanti Epperson, along with collage work by Peter Stampfer and a graphic design piece by Steve Jones, who maps out the West Oakland neighborhood where Bobby Hutton started organizing with the Black Panther Party before he was killed by the Oakland Police Department in 1968. Oaklandish's director, Refa 1, will showcase a hip-hop installation piece comprising found objects and wild-style lettering, attempting to stimulate dialogue about real social disparities and checking all the people who are "making mass-bullshit conversations." Refa contends that, "We spend more time talking about stupid-ass Michael Jackson than things that are actually relevant, like how our children are killing each other and getting locked up, and how we're not in a position where we can raise healthy families."
Allseer, whose group performs at 9 p.m. the following night at Hella, Oaklandish Gallery's Saturday night speakeasy, is flashing on some of the same shit -- but he applies the idea of mass-bullshit conversation to the industry of hip-hop. "The music's stuck in a time warp," he says, arguing that a lot of commercial artists are bumping their lips together about nothing in particular, while Bay Area underground cats take recourse to "conscious dictionary rap" -- which is either too florid or too arcane to give Oakland any shine. Wasaname 'An 'Em's antidote to bullshit music is a hooky, groove-turf hybrid that features the raspy-voiced flows of Simone Nia Rae, coupled with grimier raps by MC Imabeme and a "spiritual ghetto" vibe from Allseer. Fittingly, they describe themselves as "the nicest group that'll ever kick your ass." Tickets for Hella cost $6. Rachel Swan
The Plough is hazy tonight
Washington, DC, may quite possibly be the most dangerous place in the United States to start a psychedelic rock band, what with all those feds around to feed your paranoia. Perhaps that's why Dead Meadow has done so much outreach, recording its fuzz-funked boogie in borrowed Indiana farmhouses and barns as often as in DC basements. The band will surely fly its freak flag more freely Tuesday at the Starry Plough, with Jennifer Gentle (Sub Pop), Sic Alps, and the Out Crowd (featuring the Brian Jonestown Massacre's Matt Hollywood). 8:30 p.m., $8. StarryPloughPub.com or 510-841-2082. Stefanie Kalem
Gone are the days of the vacuum-cleaner man and the bell-ringing Avon lady. Nowadays, when a stranger comes calling, it's likely to be some chatty Jehovah's Witnesses. But conceptual artist Jon Brumit -- whose projects have included conducted improvisations of forced laughter and of audience members playing their pocket change -- took his art to the sidewalks of Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, and the greater Detroit area, cold-calling on residents to collaborate with him on creative projects. Artifacts and collaborations from these endeavors will be on display during Door to Door, opening Tuesday in the Richmond Art Center's South Gallery, with an artist reception May 6. TheRAC.org 510-620-6772. -- Stefanie Kalem
No Time to Be Koi
There's nothing watery about Lewis Suzuki's watercolors. The Berkeley artist, whose works -- including posters titled No More Hiroshimas, Freedom Now, and Peace on Earth -- are renowned for their vibrant use of color, has shown at SF's De Young Museum and has won awards from the American Watercolor Society. And now he is the subject of a one-man show at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. The show is free and open to the public and runs through April 30. www.lapena.org -- Kelly Vance
Culture Spy - February 19, 1:45 PM
What the Fork - February 15, 2:00 PM
Culture Spy - February 15, 10:30 AM
Culture Spy - February 12, 5:45 PM
What the Fork - February 8, 3:57 PM