Oakland Rap Legend Mistah F.A.B. Moves Past His Hyphy Legacy and Makes a Different, Lasting Impact on His Hometown 

'There's so much more to me than music. The maturation of me as a man and how that continues to evolve — it should be a sight to see.'

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Alameda native Jason Valerio, otherwise known as prolific producer Trackademicks, made beats for six of the tracks on the original Son of a Pimp album. He echoed L-Deez' sentiments. "He's always been a good dude, always been down to help everybody. Everybody [in the neighborhood] gets to see him all the time," he said, referring to F.A.B.'s frequent appearances at 45th and Market. "It's good for all the youngsters coming up."

Valerio insisted that money and fame haven't changed F.A.B., either. "What I've seen come more to the forefront is his philanthropy: Him being like the mayor of Oakland a little bit.

"I feel like that persona as a mentor, and a figure in Oakland, has become more important than F.A.B. as a rapper."


Rap and real-world families

Son of a Pimp, Pt. 2 comes at a time when F.A.B. is not only embracing his role as a leader in the community, but also as a sort of guru to younger rappers. Though he's much younger than other Bay Area OGs, such as E-40 and Too $hort (who are in their late forties and early fifties, respectively), F.A.B. is accomplished enough to be considered an industry vet.

IAMSU, who has several production credits and features throughout Son of a Pimp, Pt. 2, said he first met F.A.B. when he spoke to his class at the Oakland nonprofit Youth Radio in 2006, when Su was fifteen years old.

"I look at him like a big brother," IAMSU said. "He gave me a lot of support from the jump. He always put his neck on the line for me and said 'I believe in Su.' I appreciate all the stuff he does for the community and inspires me to do the same."

The ways that F.A.B. bridges new- and old-school hip-hop sensibilities throughout Son of a Pimp, Pt. 2 exemplifies the artist's role as a go-between for the youngsters and OGs. Just consider the record's savvy collaborators and features.

The P-Lo-produced "On All Mommaz" is a high-energy club banger with a contemporary feel, with features from E-40 and Keak Tha Sneak, who references hyphy-era slang throughout.

In contrast, the somber, gospel-tinged "All Around the World" has a more vintage feel, with church-worthy delivery from Keyshia Cole, another Oakland legend, on the hook.

The latter is also one of the album's most politically outspoken tracks: They say pray for Paris/While Nigeria burn, F.A.B. begins. And the subsequent verse continues to explore the global struggle of healing communities of color in a post-colonial era. Bigger than rap, let's focus on facts/Fifty percent of minorities in jail, and most of 'em Black.

click to enlarge Murals commemorating Mac Dre and Nguyen Ngo, a close friend Mistah F.A.B. lost to gun violence, decorate the inside of the Dope Era store. - BERT JOHNSON
  • Bert Johnson
  • Murals commemorating Mac Dre and Nguyen Ngo, a close friend Mistah F.A.B. lost to gun violence, decorate the inside of the Dope Era store.

"Survive" features Crooked I, Kobe Honeycutt, and superstar Kendrick Lamar — who F.A.B. said is a longtime friend — and boasts a gorgeous beat with soaring synths punctuated by a somber piano loop. Lamar and F.A.B. offer candid reflections about the realities of growing up surrounded by poverty, crime, and drug addiction:

I'm from the city of broken homes/Often I was home alone/Mama started smoking/'Cause daddy was scared to smoke alone, F.A.B. rhymes.

Son of a Pimp, Pt. 2's album art features a photo of F.A.B.'s mother, Desrie Jeffery, in the Eighties, smiling, gripping a wad of money, and leaning against her pearlescent Rolls Royce. Rewind to 2005, and the cover of the original Son of a Pimp featured F.A.B.'s father, Stanley Cox Sr., posing confidently in a wide-brim hat and trench coat. They're two familial bookends that also explore Oakland history and salient social issues.

"My father was heavy in the streets," F.A.B. shared. And that life also led to his father's demise. "He contracted AIDS from sharing needles, so he died when I was young, twelve years old."

F.A.B.'s mother was making good money hustling alongside his father in the Eighties, but her life went on a downward spiral when she became addicted to crack cocaine. She sent F.A.B. to live with his grandmother for several years while she got clean. F.A.B. remembered that, after giving up drugs, his mother turned her life around in a major way, making many sacrifices to provide for him and to serve as a mentor to other youth from the neighborhood.

"She dedicated her life to me [so that], at whatever cost and whatever sacrifice that she had to make, I wouldn't know what struggle was," he said. "Growing up, I didn't know I was poor, because I watched my mom work three or four jobs just so I could have the life of a quote-unquote 'inner-city privileged kid.' I had all the shoes, the bikes, the clothes. It would be considered spoiled."

As he spoke, tears gently streamed down his cheeks. An airbrushed family portrait of F.A.B., his mother, and Libby hung on the wall behind, all three figures rendered with an angelic glow.

"My mom was just barely surviving, you know. She had spent so much of her life in the streets, and she put the streets before me at my early age, so she dedicated the rest of her life to me so I wouldn't have to realize I was poor.

"It's a testament to the kind of woman she was."

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