A new Oakland music festival aims to bring art downtown. Plus: If you still believe in college radio, KUSF still needs you
LEFT OF THE DIAL Dayvid Michael, a West Oakland native and member of the CaliMade hip-hop crew, clearly has some mixed feelings about his debut record, Frienemy.
"I mean, I wrote those songs when I was 18," says the rapper, drinking boba milk tea during an interview in downtown Oakland. "I'm still proud of them, but I've learned so much since then."
That album dropped the last week of December 2012 — which means Michael's reminiscing at the ripe old age of 21. But, to be fair, the past couple years have been big ones for someone who calls himself a "reluctant rapper" (until about age 17, he mostly wanted to sing and play guitar).
With CaliMade, a loose collective of Oakland-born guys who've been friends from elementary school, as well as other young DJs and producers, he performed at Hiero Day, steps away from Bay Area hip-hop legends. He's guested on a few songs by Iamsu, a rapper whom, Michael rightly notes, you will hear if you put on 106.1 KMEL for more than 15 minutes right now; CaliMade is now working closely with the (slightly) elder rapper's own crew, the HBK Gang. And 2014's shaping up to be a big one: He just got done recording a new project with Azure, an Oakland rapper poised for big things in his own right as well as being Iamsu's DJ, and Clyde Shankle, another member of CaliMade. Michael's also working on his sophomore solo album, which will be out by the end of the year.
In other words, he's an Oakland kid to keep your eye on — which makes him a perfect selection for Oakland Drops Beats, a new free, all-ages, quarterly music festival that features some 30-plus East Bay artists, spread out over 10 different stages and venues in downtown Oakland; the kickoff festival is April 19.
Its lineup is, in and of itself, a testament to the range of music coming out of Oakland right now: From the jazz-hip-hop blend of the Kev Choice Ensemble to the underrated indie rock of Oakland mainstays B. Hamilton to the funk-soul dance party music of Sal's Greenhouse — not to mention a distinctly family-friendly vibe courtesy of Bay Area Girls Rock Camp and the presence of Youth Radio — the music "crawl," as organizers are billing it, aims to serve as both a celebration of the city's established artists and a new platform through which up-and-coming musicians can get some stage time.
Inspired by the Venice Music Crawl in LA, musician-organizer-founder Angelica Tavella first began reaching out to Oakland event producers over the summer, with the idea in mind that there are lots of community organizers and promoters "already doing cool stuff in other parts of Oakland, but really doing their own thing," she says.
"This was, here's a space where we could all do that together, for a couple hours, on this one day. And I really had in mind that it should be downtown Oakland — specifically not in Uptown, which already has the Art Murmur...there are a lot of great small shop owners, a lot of great energy, and cool new things going on downtown. But there aren't a lot of venues for something like a public music performance to happen."