On a recent Friday night, seventeen-year-old West Oakland emcee D-Nok -- né D'Angelo Lemmons -- stands outside Everett & Jones Barbecue in Jack London Square, slinging $5 burned copies of the United Roots EP he helped produce as part of the DJ Project, a hip-hop education program that teaches business and technical skills to urban youth. By the time he heads home, the fledgling emcee and born hustler usually tallies about $300 in paper returns. Clearly, D-Nok has mastered the art of self-promotion; his aggressive sales pitch might confirm suspicions that hip-hop is seducing underprivileged youth with bling-bling mythology while bringing forth a new generation of would-be Diddys. But the medium can also be harnessed for personal empowerment, as exemplified by programs like the DJ Project and its unrelated spiritual brethren, Youth Movement Records (YMR), and Weapons of Mass Expression (WOME). Having hooked up with YMR earlier this year, D-Nok applauds the label's program director Brutha Los, who "gave me exposure and helped me get tighter in my stage performance."
There's more to YMR's mission than showing teenage rappers how to floss onstage. The organization also provides a space for young women to rep themselves without having to participate in their own exploitation, as evidenced on the new all-female compilation, Taste Test. If you missed the recent Fillmore show in which YMR artists Imerald Bay and Panama performed alongside such royalty as Mistah Fab, the Team, and Zion-I --whose frontman is also a performance mentor at the label -- be sure to hit up this Friday's Weekend Wake-Up at Youth Uprising (8711 MacArthur Blvd.), brought to you by WOME and hosted by Sun Ru Skywaka. Kicking off at 4 p.m., this free event features live graffiti, breakdancing, and performances by such YMR artists as -- you guessed it -- the infectious D-Nok, who already has a rapperly penchant for speaking of himself in the third person: "They couldn't do a show without the Nok," he blusters. YouthMovementRecords.org -- Rachel Swan
His dad's a jerk, his big brother's in trouble for drawing a picture of the rabbi in a threesome with a lobster and a pig, and the teenage hero of Oakland novelist Joshua Braff's The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green has performance anxiety. At Rakestraw, ask Braff how autobiographical it is (Wed., 7 p.m.). ... Catch 'em before they hit the best-seller lists: Grad students Hanh Hoang, Allison Landa, Michael Sikkema, and Tony Watkins read their fiction at Soda Activity Center, Saint Mary's College (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Got a story that just begs for word balloons? Oliver Chin, founder of the new multimedia publishing house Immedium, hosts a comic-drawing workshop for teens at Antioch Library. Preregistration required; call 925-757-9224 (Thu., 3 p.m.). ... Got a great idea involving cupcake mix and paper clips? Meet Tamara Monosoff, author of The Mom Inventors: How to Turn Your Great Idea into the Next Big Thing, at Borders Pleasant Hill (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Think the guy who brought us The Turn of the Screw is dead and buried? Think again! Threepenny Review founder Wendy Lesser's new novel The Pagoda in the Garden revives Henry James. Soak up the homage at Black Oak (Thu., 6 p.m.). ... The horror, the horror -- brought to you by cult icon Neil Gaiman, presenting his grisly new supernatural romance Anansi Boys at Berkeley's First Congregational Church, courtesy of Cody's. Required tickets come free with purchase of the book at Cody's; for details, call 510-845-7852 (Fri., 7 p.m.). ... Her elementary-school alter ego is up to her ears in Amelia's Most Unforgettable Embarrassing Moments and Amelia's 6th Grade Notebook. Meet kids'-book author and Berkeleyite Marissa Moss at Orinda Books (Sat., 11 a.m.). ... Learn the true colors of your aura and what it can do for you with Aura Advantage author Cynthia Sue Larson, hosting a workshop at Changemakers (Sat., 2 p.m.). ... Bag bibliobargains at the Friends of the Kensington Library Fall Book Sale in the library's rear parking lot (Sun., noon-4 p.m.) ... The man who used to want us all to call him "Hey, Faggot" is back with a savage new book. Columnist Dan Savage celebrates The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family at Diesel (Sun., 2 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus
For Variety's Sake
Ghetto fabulousness takes on a different meaning when the ghetto in question is Berkeley's storied Gourmet Ghetto. Famed as the birthplace of Chez Panisse and California cuisine, the GG serves up its fabulousness with intricate dishes on small plates. This Sunday, cooking demonstrations (everything from roasted butternut squash to grilled sardines) by a world-renowned array of local chefs take center stage at the Third Annual Spice of Life Festival, a daylong event that also features all the cultural trimmings -- organic farmers' market, premium wines and microbrews, live music, kids' activities, bodywork, yoga and acupressure practitioners, local artisans, and more. The event happens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Shattuck Avenue between Virginia and Rose streets. Admission is free. For more information, call 800-310-6563 or visit SRESProductions.com -- Eric K. Arnold
The Reznor's Edge
Nice nails, Trent
Nine Inch Nails sound a lot like their name. Hard, driving, metallic, pain-inducing. Or is that pain-soothing? While the jarring, industrial, electro-goth-metal of Trent Reznor's outfit has inspired many a monochromatic outfit, its relentless focus on angst of the most personal variety has indeed struck a universal chord with a huge segment of teenagers and former teenagers still working out their identity issues. He's a big fat rock star, but Reznor isn't too jaded to care about his country -- NIN were recently banned from playing "The Hand That Feeds" at the 2005 MTV movie awards, due to what he says was "an unmolested straightforward image of George W. Bush as the backdrop" that the Viacom-owned network found "offensive." Trent also cares about his fans -- selected floor-level seats for Friday night's thrashathon at the Oakland Arena (also featuring Queens of the Stone Age and Autolux) are available in an online auction through Ticketmaster.com, which should limit the amount of gouging by scalpers dedicated NIN disciples will have to endure. -- Eric K. Arnold