Monday, March 1, 2010


Oakland is to San Francisco as Brooklyn is to least that’s what it’s been feeling like the more I spend time there. There’s this feeling of promise over in the East Bay these days; an energy and a warmth that’s special to the people that call it home and to visitors not just from San Francisco, but from New York too (just ask Dave Chappelle and Mos Def). Oakland boasts a rich cultural history, especially with respect to music...and in particular soul, jazz and funk. Sly’s Family Stone and Herbie’s Headhunters gathered round the Tower of Power back in the day as Black Panthers and Hell’s Angels surveyed the land.

I can’t lie though...I wasn’t hip that way. As many lads growing up on the east coast, I learned about Oakland through its Athletic’s...but not through the legendary Reggie Jackson, who helped the A’s win three consecutive World Series titles in the early 70s, but through who Reggie called the “eyes and ears” of then A’s owner Charles Finley; a 13 year old kid named Stanley Burrell...or as Reggie nicknamed him “Hammer” because he looked like Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. MC Hammer got it started for me growing up...I remember learning about George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic through “Turn This Mutha Out” and wanted to board the Mothership to 3, 5 and 7 O'clock...just like Sun Ra did in Space is the Place recruiting Oakland youth to go to outer space.

This episode of propsRadio takes you to inner space this last week of Black History Month through selections from the seminal jazz label Black Jazz. Founded in Oakland by jazz pianist Gene Russell in the early 70s, Black Jazz targeted Afrocentric awareness by providing a fresh alternative to the traditional jazz of the day, with music embodying the spiritual and the political...the soundtrack to the ubiquitous Black awakening throughout the civil rights period. Raise a fist then get kissed by the sun.


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