Monday, October 16, 2017

There's a Border Patrol Costume at the Spirit Store in Emeryville

by Azucena Rasilla
Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 5:13 PM

Display at the Spirit store in Emeryville at Bay Street
  • Display at the Spirit store in Emeryville at Bay Street

Halloween is just around the corner, and with the annual festivities comes an influx of costumes, from the funny ones, like the popular "emojis," to the ones based on Hollywood blockbusters like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and popular TV shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things, to the downright racially offensive costumes, such as the "beef taco."

And the controversial costumes don't stop there.

During a recent trip to the Spirit Halloween store at Bay Street in Emeryville, a particular display stood out.

It included a "Border Patrol" costume placed next to "Make America Great Again" hats, cutouts of Donald Trump’s face, and blonde comb-over wigs.

Political costumes are nothing new. In 2012, many men chose to dress as Mitt Romney and his “binders full of women,” a phrase used by the presidential candidate during the second debate when addressing a question about pay equality.

This year, however, political costumes are no longer as funny as they once were. In fact, costumes like the Border Patrol are a painful reminder of the current political climate we are living in under the Trump administration. For many, the Border Patrol symbolizes the vigilant eyes targeting immigrants, including the more than 800,000 DACA recipients awaiting action from Congress to pass the Dream Act. The xenophobic rhetoric set forth by the current administration is affecting communities across the country.

Adding fuel to the fire, Spirit also offers the "Okay Foam Hand," which some believed to be a hand gesture used by white nationalists. But the Anti-Defamation League said: "The 'OK' hoax was actually just the most recent in a recent series of hoaxes in which 4channers (and members of other, similar places on the Internet such as 8chan and Reddit) have tried to take innocuous items, symbols or gestures and falsely attribute white supremacist meanings to them in order to fool liberals and get them to spread such false messages."

The Express reached out to Spirit, which released the following statement: 
Halloween, by its nature, takes on many issues and is often expressed in paradox. Costumes are inspired by a variety of sources, specifically trending topics. The costume available at Spirit Halloween pokes at the topical issue, and reflects the on-going headlines and hashtags surrounding the president. In context, this costume sits next to a piggybacking on Mr. President, a host of masks showcasing Trumps many personas and a cut out of presidential BFF Putin, all of which were created with the intent of being ironic to the current political climate.

But is it ironic or just insensitive?

Consider Party City's “Wall” costume. For many immigrants, the border wall represents deportations and the separation of families. The chants of “build the wall” at Donald Trump’s rallies have translated to actual wall prototypes currently being built at the San Diego border.

This Halloween, it's important to be mindful of what others are experiencing and exercise good judgment when choosing what costume to wear.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

This Weekend's Life Is Living Festival Has Been Postponed Due to the Fires

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 3:50 PM

As air quality from the fires up north is expected to worsen in the Bay Area in the next two days, organizers of the Life Is Living festival, which was scheduled for Saturday at DeFremery Park in West Oakland, have decided to postpone the event. Here's the word from the organizers:

The 10th Annual Life Is Living Festival slated for this Saturday, October 14th at DeFremery Park in West Oakland is POSTPONED due to fires and our growing concern for the health and wellness of our people. We are calling on our community to support immediate relief efforts for our friends and family impacted up North.

Stay tuned for breaking updates at

Friday, October 6, 2017

REVIEW: Snow Tha Product's Berkeley Show Was a Full-Blown Party

by Azucena Rasilla
Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 2:53 PM

On stage: Snow Tha Product, Castro Escobar, and DJ Pumba
  • On stage: Snow Tha Product, Castro Escobar, and DJ Pumba

There are several things you need to know about Snow Tha Product: The first is that her live shows are no ordinary performances; they're full-blown parties.

If you’re not familiar with the San Jose native, you need to catch up.

Claudia Alexandra Madriz Meza was born to an undocumented father and, as is the case with many immigrants, she hustled and persevered to catapult her career. The Mexican-American emcee was featured on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)" from the Hamilton Mixtape. She also had a cameo in USA Network’s Queen of the South as gang leader Lil' Traviesa.

Snow Tha Product is currently on an extensive tour called "Vibe Higher," promoting her Halfway There Pt. 1 mixtape. Last night, the tour brought her to Cornerstone in Berkeley, a new music venue that opened in April.

The Berkeley show proved to be one giant house party, and it was a family affair. Her brother acts as her tour manager and one of her cousins is in charge of the merch booth. She also brings young talent on tour with her. During the show, Snow talked about Castro Escobar, who was onstage with her for most of the concert. “I found him in Houston and flew him to Cali,” she told the audience. “He is what I was when I was his age.”

Snow’s chopper-style rhymes flow effortlessly between English and Spanish. (Being fully bilingual has given her that advantage.) While some male rappers may have felt intimidated by her rapid-fire flow, Castro Escobar, LA rapper Lex The Great, and DJ Pumba, who also shared the stage with her, didn't seem phased. “As a Mexican woman I should represent,” Snow told the screaming crowd. “If I was a Mexican man I'd already be famous.”

Snow’s lyrics don’t shy away from politics or social issues; she talked about Trump, immigration, her Puerto Rican baby daddy who is a Trump supporter, and love and heartbreak. Snow is also an activist; a few months ago she sponsored Dreamers who didn’t have the financial resources to pay their DACA renewal fee, which cost $495, after the Trump administration rescinded the program.

She invited girls onstage to crowd-surf, freestyled, and even sang in Spanish. The duality of being Mexican-American plays heavily during her shows.

The Vibe Higher tour continues in Petaluma, Santa Cruz, Salt Lake City, Denver, El Paso, and will conclude in San Diego on Nov. 25 .

Cornerstone's next Latinx show will take place next Wednesday, Oct. 11, with Mexican alternative band KINKY. You can find all the info here.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Story Behind Marshawn Lynch's "Everybody vs. Trump" T-shirt

Mistah F.A.B. designed the shirt, which has since inspired knockoffs.

by Azucena Rasilla
Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 4:05 PM

Mistah F.A.B at his Dope Era Clothing store in North Oakland.
  • Mistah F.A.B at his Dope Era Clothing store in North Oakland.

This past Sunday, the Oakland Raiders were all over the headlines: In their loss against the Denver Broncos, quarterback Derek Carr injured his back and will be out for 2 weeks — possibly longer — according to ESPN.

And before the game even started, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch was seen wearing a T-shirt that read "Everybody vs TRUMP." After Jeff Eisenband of The Post Game tweeted a screen grab, the image quickly went viral on social media.

The "Everybody vs." slogan is nothing new; the creators are from Detroit, and their company is appropriately called Detroit Vs Everybody. However, the shirt worn by Lynch is by the Oakland-based business Dope Era Clothing Company. The owner, none other than Stanley Petey Cox, better known as Mistah F.A.B, is a North Oakland rapper, activist, and community organizer, and he also happens to be Lynch’s cousin.

The Express caught up with Mistah F.A.B to talk about the shirt and the message behind Lynch wearing such a powerful statement.

“We didn’t want to infringe or disrespect anyone with the 'Everybody vs.,' we just wanted to give it our twist to it,” Mistah F.A.B. told the Express during an interview at his Dope Era Clothing Company store in North Oakland. “Who’s our biggest adversary today in America, Trump, for allowing to uphold the policies that pose suppression. Silence sides with the suppressor."

Mistah F.A.B said he gave the shirt to Lynch two days before the game and asked him to wear it. “You never know with him, when you don’t think he is gonna do something he does it,” Mistah F.A.B said. “He shares the same sentiment we do. He’s a rebel. He’s a great individual. He wasn’t trying to do it for an uproar.”
(Lynch also sat during the game's national anthem. Although he was out of view during the telecast, SB Nation later posted an aerial view showing him shielded by Raiders staffers — perhaps an intentional maneuver to prevent further controversy.)

By the end of the day on Sunday, Mistah F.A.B.'s "Everybody vs TRUMP" T-shirt was completely sold out. “You could definitely feel the impact of his influence,” he said. “We got a lot of people supporting this movement.”

But other companies were quick to create their own version of Dope Era's design. While Dope Era’s T-shirt retails for $45, other companies began selling it for as low as $15 on Amazon. “Things go viral," said Mistah F.A.B. "To say 'ripping off,' or things like that, I mean, they were influenced by it. Unfortunately, we live in a capitalist society. I can’t say anything about it. That’s the way it works in business.”

Mistah F.A.B. said he's not looking to get rich off his T-shirt. His clothing store Dope Era has been opened for more than four years, and locals know it and love it. (Back in April, the store was damaged by fire; Mistah F.A.B. suspected it was due to arson.)

“Our message is not to promote fashion,” he said. “We want to continue to galvanize and organize the community and let people know that together we are far more powerful than separated.”

Recently, Mistah F.A.B shot a video with a group of men all wearing the “Everybody vs Trump” T-shirt. The video is for the song “Dear Mr. President,” which was released in April.

“Let’s not let the shirt confuse us, we’re pushing a movement,” said Mistah F.A.B.

The lyrics of the song share a powerful message aimed at Trump: Mr. President, I don't wanna cause no trouble/But then again the ghetto is the reason why we hustle/Tell us now, be for real, what's your beef with Mexico?/You think buildin' up a wall really send a message though?

Does Mistah F.A.B think there’s hope for Trump to turn things around? “Not at all, he said. “Trump’s purpose is not about turning things around. It’s about utilizing a negative narrative for the agenda that he is doing, continuing the spread of wealth among his friends and colleagues.”

Mistah F.A.B has a message not just for Oakland but for the nation — to unite against the bigotry perpetuated by the Trump administration and the suppression of immigrants and people of color: “You gonna build shit, or you’re gonna bullshit. If you’re gonna build shit, you’re part of the solution. If you’re gonna bullshit, you’re perpetuating the problem.”

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Night Light Appears to Be Closed (at Least for Now)

The doors are locked, and the bar's phone number is disconnected.

by Azucena Rasilla
Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 4:17 PM


For the past five years, the Fresh Jamz party has been housed at The Night Light, located on Broadway in Oakland's Jack London district, but as of this morning, the party is no more.

A post on the Fresh Jamz’ Facebook page stated in part, “For the past five years, The Night Light has been home to Fresh Jamz and we are forever grateful. The bar is closing its doors, which means a new chapter for Fresh Jamz.”

The Express reached out to Odiaka Gonzalez, one of the founders of the monthly party. During a call this morning, Gonzalez told the Express, “Doug [Kinsey, owner and general manager of the bar] told us that he was going to shut down in November. He was doing everything he could to stay afloat, but he never really found a good manager to help him manage the downstairs bar.” Gonzalez said that both he and his wife had stopped by the bar during business hours earlier in the week only to find that both the gate and the main door had a chain and a lock securing the building.

Although the Night Light's calendar shows events scheduled through the end of October, as of this morning, the bar's main phone number is disconnected. Emails to Kinsey were unanswered, and his voicemail is full.
View of the bar as of Friday afternoon.
  • View of the bar as of Friday afternoon.

The Express also reached out to two of the acts scheduled to perform in the next two weeks, but messages were not answered in time for publication.

Opened in 2012, The Night Light has been known for live shows with rock, goth, and punk bands upstairs, as well as a variety of DJ nights downstairs. Fresh Jamz was one of the bar's longest-running monthly parties. DC is Chillin from KMEL, Aaron Axelsen from LIVE 105, and Bobby Peru & Crew were among the other DJs who hosted parties at the bar.

The Express will update this story as soon as we get more information.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

REVIEW: Kali Uchis Almost Did Not Make Her Show at The New Parish

Once she was on stage, the delayed start of the show was all but forgotten

by Azucena Rasilla
Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 4:35 PM


The beginning of a tour for any artist is a time of excitement. If you’re an international superstar like Beyoncé, traveling from one stop to the next is a breeze, thanks to private jets. However, for up-and-coming artists like Colombian-American Karly Loaiza, better known as Kali Uchis, getting to Oakland's New Parish from Las Vegas yesterday proved to be anything but exciting.

Word of a delay began circulating earlier in the day: The New Parish tweeted out there would be a time change due to a traveling delay. Was Kali Uchis going to make it? Fans had lined up outside the venue since the early morning. After multiple time changes, doors finally opened at 8 p.m., an hour and a half after the original time.

Kali Uchis’ fans do not play. As soon as the doors opened, fans rushed to the front of the stage and to the upstairs mezzanine; the closer they could be to their idol, the better. Kali Uchis played a successful set at Outside Lands in August, and appeared onstage with Gorillaz to perform “She’s My Collar,” a track she’s featured on.

For the Oakland show, Phony Ppl, a band from Brooklyn that is also acting as her backing band for the tour, opened the show. The combination of funk, soulful R&B, and hip-hop set the tone perfectly. The delayed start was all but forgotten.

When Kali Uchis finally got on stage around 9:40 p.m., the crowd erupted in screams. The tall, slender singer was ready to woo her fans. She's as soft-spoken when she addresses her fans as she is when she sings. She explained how her bus driver got sick halfway through the trip and had to be rushed to the hospital. They couldn’t get any merchandise out of the bus to bring to the show.

Kali Uchis' set list was short — not surprisingly, considering she only has one mixtape, 2012’s Drunken Babble, and one EP, 2015’s Por Vida. This year she released two singles off her forthcoming album: “Tyrant,” and “Nuestro Planeta,” both of which she performed. “Loner” and “Ridin Round” were two of the favorites of the night.

At times, the band — specifically the bass and drums — overpowered her, drowning out her vocals. The intimacy of the venue proved difficult with the live musicians.

For her encore, Kali Uchis performed two Latinx classics: the first, a cover of the1959 bolero “Sabor A Mi,” popularized by Mexican trio Los Panchos; the second (which she also performed during her set at Outside Lands), “Suavemente,” the 1998 merengue classic by Puerto Rican artist Elvis Crespo.

If Kali Uchis' career continues the way it has, she soon won’t have to worry about traveling issues. Lana Del Rey announced that Uchis will be one of the openers for her LA to the Moon tour, which is set to begin in January. Uchis can also add "Grammy-nominated artist" to her name. Colombian artist Juanes’ song “El Ratico,” which Uchis is featured on, was nominated for Record of the Year for this year’s Latin Grammys, which will take place on Nov. 16.

Kali Uchis’ tour in the United States continues in Arizona, Florida, New York, and will conclude in Seattle on Oct. 31. The international tour will take her through London, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and Argentina.

Monday, September 25, 2017

New Documentary Focuses on West Oakland’s Blues Legacy

by Ryan Lindsay
Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 12:18 PM

  • Biko Bradford
Before hyphy, there was disco. Before disco, there was funk. And before funk, there was the blues. The Southern music style, rooted in trials and tribulations, sung out through wails and wonders played on the guitar, once gripped the music scene of Oakland.

Evolutionary Blues…West Oakland’s Music Legacy tells the story of how blues came to Oakland through a series of interviews, archival footage, photos, and commentary from authors and historians. On Wednesday, the Town will get an opportunity to learn the history of a musically dominant era at a screening at Grand Lake Theater.

The full-length documentary, which is a project of KTOP and is co-produced by the Sarah Webster Fabio Center for Social Justice, features interviews with more than 30 artists who regularly played in clubs and music venues that lined the blocks of 7th Street before a charge for “urban renewal” decimated the thriving, self-sustaining Black community. It’s a story about the Great Migration, told through the lens and culture of blues musicians, many of whom never made it to national fame but were respected and acclaimed within the true blues scene. Their carried the soul of their Southern roots — Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas — to Oakland.

“The music is the vehicle that allows us to tell this story,” said Michael Munson, operations manager at KTOP.

“African Americans are feeling pushed out of Oakland, and we’re a very rich part of Oakland,” said Cheryl Fabio, who directed the film. “To sit this history back into the center, where it’s being articulated … is to place Oakland back into our cultural concept of that period and tie it together.”

Fabio, who grew up in East Oakland, said reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns helped her better understand how the Great Migration spread Black people throughout the certain parts of the country and served as a catalyst for new cultural developments, including blues. She reached out to Wilkerson’s publicist in hopes that Wilkerson would agree to lend her knowledge to the film. She did.

Fabio also reached out to Ronnie Stewart, executive director of the West Coast Blues Society, to learn more about the blues scene in West Oakland. In their conversations, Stewart mentioned musicians such as Sugar Pie DeSanto, Marvin Holmes, Faye Carol, and the Hartfield Brothers, and with Holmes' help, Fabio was able to track them down. But before the interviews began, Fabio had to earn their trust.

“That’s not a community that’s real open to outsiders,” Fabio said. She spoke about a skepticism and wariness that Black musicians have with regard to the music industry, stemming from poorly crafted record deals and contracts that often left them without compensation for their artistry. “Especially this group of musicians, but maybe Black musicians generally, have really gone through an abusive past 150 years,” she said.

The interviews are candid and zealous — some musicians are moved to tears when recalling their passion for singing and playing a music form that often excluded the talent and creativity of Black artists.

“This is a white man’s instrument and niggers don’t play them,” Sonny Rhodes recalled being told.

Though the film primarily focuses on the musicians, it also incorporates the social movements and socioeconomic developments that dramatically shaped and affected West Oakland, including the end of World War II, the rise of restrictive covenants and redlining, and the Black Panthers.

“None of us live in a vacuum, so when you start hearing shifts in the theme, you have to look to see what was going on that created that shift,” Fabio said. Fabio tapped Robert O. Self, author of American Babylon: The Struggle for Postwar Oakland, to provide context for the crumbling of one of the country’s most vibrant epicenters of Black culture and economic prosperity.

Many of the musicians featured in the film will be at the screening on Wednesday night. Munson said the film will then make its way through the festival circuit and, in about a year, will air on KTOP.

“I think anytime people know that their history is, it makes them feel better about, not only where they’re from—their civic pride—but also they learn something about what was there before them,” Munson said.

Monday, September 18, 2017

La Misa Negra Interview: The band talks about their upcoming new album

See them live at The New Parish on Friday September 22.

by Azucena Rasilla
Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 12:17 PM

  • Photo by Andrew Zhou

Oakland band La Misa Negra is a fixture in the Bay Area's Latinx music scene. Founded by composer, guitarist, and accordion player Marco Polo Santiago, the band also consists of Colombian-born Diana Trujillo (lead vocals), Justin Chin (tenor and baritone sax), Morgan Nilsen (tenor sax and clarinet), Craig Bravo (drums and percussion), Elena de Troya (percussion), and Paul Martin Sounder (upright bass and percussion). Since forming in 2011, La Misa Negra has performed all over the United States, spreading their diverse cultural backgrounds in the form of their infectious cumbia sounds.

The band's music is heavily influenced by Afro-Latin sounds, accordion riffs typical of music from Mexico and Latin America, and hip-hop, jazz, rock, and heavy metal. This eclectic mix of rhythms makes La Misa Negra one of the most entertaining live bands, sure to have you singing and dancing all night.

The Express recently caught up with Marco Polo Santiago to talk about the band’s sophomore self-titled album, which will be released on September 29, as well as its upcoming album release party at The New Parish on Friday, Sept. 22.

Express: What was the thought process behind getting in the studio to get this album ready?
Santiago: I wanted to build upon that old-school sound that we have and take it further into the future. We’re incorporating various Afro-Colombian rhythms that we hadn’t before and also tapping more into outside influences, like rock and salsa, but still keeping everything within that trademark LMN sound that we have.

What were some of the challenges you guys encountered?
The music itself is more challenging to perform. We have horn lines that are harder to play. We also have rhythms that are faster and more complex, so it took us time to be able to get everything right. Some of the arrangements are really elaborate, and I wanted to try a lot of things we hadn’t done before. I also wanted a bigger sound, with more horns and more singers, so we enlisted a lot of guest musicians from the Bay – most of them friends of ours, like Deuce Eclipse (Bang Data/Zion I), Kata Miletich (Locura), Mario (trumpet player from Rupa & the April Fishes), Adam Theis (Jazz Mafia), and Jesse Sheehan (who used to play sax in Candelaria). Caipo from Bang Data produced the album along with me and we spent almost nine months crafting this thing together.

What can fans of LMN expect from this album?
Fire! It still sounds like us but it’s bigger and harder. It sounds more like our live shows than the first album.

The cover of La Misa Negra's new album.
  • The cover of La Misa Negra's new album.

Any favorite tracks?

We all have our own favorites but for me, I love "Dueña de Mi," "Sancocho," "Acosadora," and "Pistola." We have a remake of an old Cuban song, called "Yayabo," that I also enjoy a lot. And it starts with a Wu-Tang inspired sample. I had to throw in some Wu-Tang on this album. I also threw in some Black Sabbath and Alice in Chains for the rock/metal heads.

What is your favorite part about playing shows?
I started this band specifically to put on a crazy, rowdy show. We’re a live band first and foremost, so performing in front of people is the only reason this band exists. I think most artists prioritize making albums. We’re the opposite.

For someone who has never been to a LMN show, what can they look forward to?
They can look forward to having to shower afterwards because they’re walking out of that place drenched in sweat.

La Misa Negra's new album will be available for sale at the New Parish show on Friday, Sept. 22, and is available for pre-order on iTunes and Bandcamp. It will be widely released on Sept. 29.

Show details: Friday, Sept. 22, 9 p.m., $15, 18+, The New Parish, 1743 San Pablo Ave., Oakland.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Café Tacvba's NiuGüeis Tour Delighted Oakland Fans

by Azucena Rasilla
Sat, Sep 16, 2017 at 7:04 PM

Frontman Rubén Albarrán - PHOTOS BY ADRIAN JUSUE
  • Photos by Adrian Jusue
  • Frontman Rubén Albarrán

Here’s what you should know about a Café Tacvba concert: No matter how many times you have seen them live, every single show is like seeing them for the first time. The legendary Mexican rock band is always reinventing itself. This versatility has allowed them to maintain their popularity and longevity, even when several years go by in between releasing albums.

Their eighth studio album, Jei Beibi (pronounced “Hey baby”), was released in early May, and the Mexican quartet –- composed of Rubén Albarrán, Joselo Rangel, Quique Rangel, and Emmanuel del Real –- is currently on tour promoting the album.

The NiuGüeis Tour made its way to Oakland’s Fox Theater last night, and it was a sight to be seen. Concert-goers began congregating outside of the venue early in the afternoon, although the show didn't start until 9 p.m. By that time, the lines to get into the Fox Theater wrapped around the building and spilled over onto side streets.

Once inside the venue, a group of friends chatted excitedly: “What if this is their last tour? What if this is the last album?” one friend told another. The Mexican rock band has been going strong since 1989, and in the ‘90s, during the golden era of rock en español, Café Tacvba reigned supreme. Their 1994 album, Re, was labeled one of the ten greatest Latin rock albums of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.


It has been five years since Café Tacvba has released an album, and three since they last came to the Bay Area. (The band played a sold-out show at the Masonic in San Francisco in 2014.)

The band rammed through an extensive setlist, opening the show with the second single off the album, the track called "Futuro," written by Joselo Rangel and sung by frontman Rubén Albarrán and Rangel. Classics like "El Aparato" and "Como Te Extraño Mi Amor" were also part of the repertoire.

There were two particularly magical moments of the night. The first was when Emmanuel del Real performed fan favorite "Eres," as every single person inside the Fox sang along.

The other was when Café Tacvba performed "Chilanga Banda," a song whose lyrics represent the vernacular of Mexico City’s working-class.

Before leaving the stage, Rubén Albarrán addressed the crowd, emphasizing that no one should be afraid to speak their mind, that women should be respected and not risk getting attacked. He also spoke of the need to take care of the planet, to respect all living organisms, and to stop the violence that plagues the world.

They closed the show with "El baile y el salón," another classic off the Re album.

The NiuGüeis Tour will continue throughout the United States until October, and will culminate on December 1 in Monterrey, Mexico.

Enrique Rangel
  • Enrique Rangel
Emmanuel del Real
  • Emmanuel del Real
Joselo Rangel
  • Joselo Rangel

Correction: Our review stated that the band had not toured the Bay Area since 2014. The band played the Fox Theater and the Independent in 2015, and the Greek Theatre with Thievery Corporation in 2016.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Bay Area Rapper Show Banga ‘Glows Up’

by Amyra Soriano
Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 6:46 PM

Show Banga in Oakland. - AMYRA SORIANO
  • Amyra Soriano
  • Show Banga in Oakland.
Twenty-seven-year-old William Lassiter, otherwise known as Show Banga, or Showy for short, says he wants to share a positive message through his music.

Born and raised in San Francisco’s Fillmore district, the artist began writing songs early in his life. “I wrote poetry as a kid and in high school. I was always influenced by it,” he said. His father, ShowTime, was a well-known rapper and owner of numerous record stores, and his mother also listened to hip-hop. They motivated him to follow his dreams.

But his childhood wasn’t easy. “I was raised in the streets. Know people that’s doin’ maximum time in jail. Know people that got shot. My best friend got killed when I was 15,” he said.

Lassiter had a fallout with his mother when she found a gun in their home. So he went to live with his father in Vallejo, where he ended up meeting Iamsu! and P-Lo, two of the original founders of a group called the Heartbreak Gang.

During Lassiter’s junior year at Pinole High School, the trio established a creative collective called Go Gettaz, which launched his music career. Undeterred by the violence around him, Lassiter decided to use hip-hop to promote a more optimistic outlook. “I wanna change the youth killing each other. I wanna be the person that could stop that and really bring the Bay Area and music together,” he said.

His music is heavily influenced by Bay Area culture. “We represent the Bay,” he said. “I don’t wanna have to move to L.A. to put the Bay on. I wanna put the Bay on from the Bay.”

“How We Rock,” a track off his last album, Show Time 2, gained more than 1.5 million listens on SoundCloud. Show Banga has been featured in hits such as “Panoramic” by D-Mac, “I Can Tell” by Sage the Gemini, and “Tbt” by Kool John.

To show his love for the community, Lassiter coined the phrase “$quad $quad.” According to the rapper, $quad $quad is something everyone can be a part of. “[It’s] the people that keep me goin,’ the people that stay in tune with what I represent,” he said. The first “$quad” symbolizes his inner circle of close friends and family and the second “$quad” are his fans.

Between every high hat and clap is an ode to being young and reckless — within reason. “HBK, Shmoplife, $quad $quad — what we represent is having fun, turnin’ up, on some positive [stuff],” he said. “Being able to go to a concert and nobody gets murdered. Being able to throw events and nobody gets shot. That’s what we tryna represent. That’s what we tryna bring to the table. Plus being able to still talk about what we want.”

Show Banga will unveil a new sound in his forthcoming album, Da Glo Up. “It’s a new wave,” he said with a grin. “It’s the energy. It’s growth in the industry. That’s what it is. Growth and just growin’ up.”

Aspiring to become the best version of himself, the rapper said he wants to venture into more entrepreneurial aspects of his brand, including clothes, accessories, and maybe even an app. “Starting from nothing... it’s all a dream,” he said. “It’s what we all want. It’s part of this glowin’. Wanting to keep growin’. Keep expandin’. You know what I mean? Comin’ up.”

Show Banga will perform at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds tomorrow as part of Baystock SJ, a fashion, art, and music event. He plans to release his album, Da Glo Up, in October.

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