Friday, May 27, 2016

This Weekend's Top Six Events

May 27, 28 & 29

by Sarah Burke
Fri, May 27, 2016 at 1:45 AM

You're likely booked for the rest of the season, now that our annual summer guide is out. But if you do find some time this weekend, here's how to spend it:

  • Bert Johnson/File Photo
  • Maya Songbird.
Voltage Drop V. 4
Voltage Drop is a recurring industrial music dance party: Think dark synths, pulsing beats, and an eerie ambiance that creeps in like a veil of smoke. You can expect this sort of vibe at the latest edition of the event at The Legionnaire, with live electronic sets by Maya Songbird, an Oakland experimental pop singer and producer; San Francisco industrial DJ and producer NINE; and Chatty Mandril, the alter ego of Zachary James Watkins of the Oakland noise outfit Black Spirituals. Voltage Drop resident DJs Bonus Beast, Malo, and Kozi will be spinning, as well. Songbird’s set is definitely one to look forward to. While her music has industrial and electroclash undertones, it will be interesting to get to know the goth side of the sunshine-y disco pop songstress.— Nastia Voynovskaya
Fri., May 27, 9 p.m. $5, $7.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

First Listen: Rexx Life Raj Drops New Single, "Young Wardell"

The Berkeley rapper talks about the importance of taking chances and following your dreams on the latest single from his upcoming album, Father Figure.

by Delency Parham
Wed, May 25, 2016 at 1:05 PM

One week after the release of his music video for his single, “Moxie Java” featuring Nef The Pharaoh, Rexx Life Raj is back with “Young Wardell,” a slow-paced track with a soulful beat that sounds as if it were made for Jill Scott. The artist uses a blend of metaphors and deep harmonies to tell the many stories of times when he took a leap of faith — using Steph Curry as an example.

Rexx Life told the Express over email about the idea behind “Young Wardell.” “Steph Curry was never the biggest nor most athletic player on the court. He became great by continually perfecting his craft and taking shots, literally.” He went on to add: “I took this same approach with music. ... Although it was a risk with hella ups and downs, the pay-off has been priceless.”

Look out for Rexx Life Raj's album, Father Figure, coming out on June 24.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

This Weekend's Top Six Events

May 19, 20 & 21

by Sarah Burke
Fri, May 20, 2016 at 6:00 AM

It's finally starting to feel like summer. Let's celebrate. See below:

  • Bert Johnson/File Photo
  • Lexi Adsit.
Brouhaha: QTPOC Comedy Extravaganza
Last year, Oakland’s Brouhaha became the first all-trans woman of color comedy show in the country, and it was a huge hit. It started with comedians and activists Lexi Adsit and Luna Merbruja, who gathered together a group of women who had mostly never performed on stage before and coached them through a comedy boot camp that translated their experiences into hilarious stand-up routines. When it premiered last summer, all the shows completely sold out. On May 20, Brouhaha is back as the opening night event for the National Queer Arts Festival. And this time, they have a headliner: Celebrated trans activist CeCe McDonald will be taking the stage to lay down some social justice comedy. Plus, Brouhaha’s TWOC storytelling crew will be joining its comics for a “comedy mega-show” that will also feature spoken word. The show will be held at the Oakland Metro Opera House (522 2nd St., Oakland) at both 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. As expected, the early show is already sold out, but as of publishing there were still tickets available to the late show. That one will likely be more fun, anyway. — Sarah Burke
Fri., May 20, 7 p.m. $12–$25.

  • Legendvry.
N.E.W. Oakland
While a lot of people have been using the term “New Oakland” to talk about the influx of wealthier residents in recent years, N.E.W. Oakland stands for something else entirely. I got the north, got the east, got the west with me, rhymed Mistah F.A.B. on his hyphy-era hit of the same name, with a hook that promoted neighborhood unity and Town pride. In a similar spirit of camaraderie, several rappers who are also Oakland natives have come together for FreeSpirit Presents: N.E.W. Oakland. FreeSpirit is the music collective and lifestyle brand of West Oakland rappers Beejus and Oops, the latter of whom is performing at the show. Legendvry, a thoughtful lyricist with a commanding voice, just released his uptempo new single, “Easy,” and has hinted on Twitter that he’ll be performing unheard material from his forthcoming full-length project, Præy for the Weæk, at the show. Conscious freestyle wiz R.I.C.O. G. and Harris the KnowItAll are also performing — and the show promises two special guests, too. Fellow rapper J. Lately will host and Fabes will be behind the decks.— N.V.
Fri., May 20, 9 p.m. $6, $10.

  • B.o.B.
If the Drake and Meek Mill beef of 2015 taught us anything, it’s that tweeting outlandish and unbacked statements is a great way to get attention and — if played smartly — boost sales figures. Whether you’re onboard with that philosophy or think it signals the decline of our civilization, you gotta admit that it does work. While B.o.B. faded from the spotlight in recent years despite having having won several Grammys and BET Awards, he reinvigorated his popularity by tweeting the preposterous theory that the Earth is flat, and further elaborating in his single, “Flatline.” While this theory was debunked hundreds of years ago, physicist Niel Degrasse Tyson indulged B.o.B. and recruited his nephew, Philadelphia rapper TYSON, to refute his claims with a “Back to Back”-inspired diss track. “Flat to Fact” is about how the Earth is indeed round and that this has been proven for ages. B.o.B., who previously marketed himself as a clean-cut pop star, has now become the favorite R&B singer of conspiracy theorists everywhere. Does his new music live up to the Twitter hype, though? See for yourself at his show at The New Parish on May 20.— N.V.
Fri., May 20, 8 p.m. $22.

  • Bert Johnson/File Photo
  • Babii Cris.
‘Fearless’ Album Release Party
San Francisco rapper Babii Cris is a certified Triple Threat — as the name of her first album asserts. In addition to her skills on the mic, the young artist is also a prolific producer and audio engineer. On Triple Threat, she handled all aspects of the project solo. But for her new release, Fearless, she teamed up with Japanese producer Junknuts, who created jazzy, effervescent beats with a Nineties boom-bap flavor for the project. Cris and Junknuts found each other on SoundCloud and executed a cohesive vision despite the cultural and geographic barriers. Fearless also showcases Cris’ multifaceted vocal abilities and lyrical breadth. Throughout, she rhymes about everything from relationships to social justice, showcasing her arsenal of versatile flows. Celebrate the release of Fearless with Babii Cris at Layer Studios on May 21, where she will be performing with a live band.— N.V.
Sat., May 21, 7 p.m. $10, $15.

  • Bert Johnson/File Photo
  • Anyka Barber
Alternate Histories
You’re likely aware that the Bay Area is experiencing an extreme affordability crisis. Within the arts community, that has meant that many crucial alternative-art spaces that once thrived in Oakland are now at risk. On Saturday, May 21, Pro Arts Gallery (150 Frank H Ogawa Plaza, Oakland) will be hosting a panel called Alternative Histories, in which longtime participants of the alternative Bay Area art scene will discuss both the past and future of these important spaces. The panel will feature Anyka Barber, Oakland native, director of Betti Ono gallery, and founder of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition; Nicholas Wylie, artist, organizer and Development Director at Southern Exposure gallery in San Francisco; Renny Pritkin, chief curator at The Contemporary Jewish Museum; and Sarah Lockhart, who founded the arts nonprofit 21 Grand (2000–2010), which was one of the first members of Oakland Art Murmur.— S.B.
Sat., May 21, 3-5 p.m. Free.

  • Andy Mogg
Island City Waterways
History can be boring, but the folks at Rhythmix Cultural Works in Alameda are determined to make it anything but. This weekend, they will premier Island City Waterways, a multi-disciplinary, multi-part free public art performance that will explore the rich history of Alameda’s various waterways. The performance takes the form of a half-mile walking tour that has four stops. It starts at the Fruitvale Bridge where artist Ginny Parsons will lead art-making workshops while an East Bay Parks specialist teaches the crowd about falcons. At the next spot, muralist Mark Lewis Wagner will create large scale drawings of Alameda immigrants that will turn into a backdrop for a dance performance. Then its off to the Rhythmix Cultural Works theater for an interactive installation and historical storytelling session, followed by a massive music and dance finale at the last destination. It’s totally free, but advanced tickets have all been reserved for the total six performances planned for Saturday May 21 and Sunday May 22. Remaining slots will be given to walk-ups on the day of the event at a first come first serve basis.— S.B.
Fri., May 20, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat., May 21, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sun., May 22, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Free.

If your pockets are feelin' light and you're still yearning for more suggestions, we've got a ton, and these ones are all FREE! We're Hungry: Got any East Bay news, events, video, or miscellany we should know about? Feed us at

Friday, May 13, 2016

This Weekend's Top Five Events

May 13, 14 & 15

by Sarah Burke
Fri, May 13, 2016 at 10:34 AM

This weekend is Bay to Breakers, which means masses of drunk people in costumes will be jogging across San Francisco. That's cool. But if you'd rather avoid that mess, here's five other events worth attending this weekend:

Altered State: Ask an Expert
As part of its new groundbreaking marijuana exhibit, Altered State, the Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St.) is hosting a Q-and-A session with Dr. Robert Martin of the Association of Commercial Cannabis Laboratories. Altered State highlights the history of weed in California and its various cultural strains (har har). It’s a pressing topic, considering that recreational-marijuana legalization will be on the state ballot this November. To further inform the debate, OMCA is holding monthly “Ask an Expert” sessions during its Friday Nights @ OMCA block parties. (Pro tip: During that time, admission is half price for adults and free for kids.) These will feature experts on cannabis law, health, economics, and politics. The next one, featuring Martin, will take place on May 13 from 6–8 p.m. and will be a prime opportunity to ask policy-related questions. — Sarah Burke
Fri., May 13, 6-8 p.m. $0–$7.50.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

BAOBOB: The East Bay's New Black Business Directory

An online network helps patrons support Black entrepreneurs.

by Susan Cohen
Mon, May 9, 2016 at 10:22 AM

In the battle for Black livelihood, YaVette Holts is leading the economic front. The massage therapist — and founder of Cowrie Village, a non-profit with programs that encourage alternatives to traditional monetary exchanges — wants to create the financial infrastructure that the movement can turn to if and when the system comes crumbling down.

“The temperature has been turned up and things are really hot right now,” she said. “And the concept of equity is at risk.”

BAOBOB's logo reflects cultural pride.
  • BAOBOB's logo reflects cultural pride.
So she recently established the Bay Area Organization of Black-Owned Businesses, or BAOBOB. The online directory offers memberships to qualifying enterprises, who connect and share the benefits offered by the organization. 

BAOBOB carries on a tradition established by the Green Book, a mid-century guide for Black motorists to safely travel through the South, and even Oakland’s own “Black book,” a print guide that, according to Holts, was discontinued a number of years ago after its founder passed away. It’s also part of a wider movement toward Black economic power, echoing similar projects around the country, like Power Box in Memphis and the Cowry Collective in St. Louis, which collaborates with BAOBOB.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

San Francisco Rapper Equipto Leads Hunger Strike Against Police Brutality

The Frisco 5’s movement is resonating with communities dealing with police brutality, high costs of living, and cultural erasure across the Bay Area.

by Nastia Voynovskaya
Wed, May 4, 2016 at 4:08 PM

On Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators arrived at San Francisco City Hall to protest police brutality. - NASTIA VOYNOVSKAYA
  • Nastia Voynovskaya
  • On Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators arrived at San Francisco City Hall to protest police brutality.

After delivering an impassioned speech on the steps of San Francisco City Hall yesterday following a day of protest, San Francisco rapper Equipto left the scene in a wheelchair looking hopeful despite his visibly famished appearance. The musician and educator was on the thirteenth day of his ongoing hunger strike against police brutality, mass incarceration, and gentrification — issues disproportionately affecting people of color, who are being displaced from the Bay Area’s urban centers at alarming rates. 
According to a 2013 report issued by the San Francisco Controller’s Office, 56 percent of inmates in San Francisco jails are Black although only six percent of the city’s population is Black. In light of such alarming statistics, Equipto decided to take action.

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