Wednesday, October 31, 2018

J. Prince Talks New Book 'The Art and Science of Respect'

He's on the road with Drake.

by Sannidhi Shukla
Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 3:22 PM

  • Photo courtesy of J. Prince

From E-40 to Too $hort, Drake’s run at the Oracle Arena this past weekend was heavy on the surprise guests. The one guest you might not have caught on stage, though, is J. Prince, the Houston-based rap titan who’s mentored Drake through everything from his first meeting with Lil Wayne to his recent beef with Pusha T.

Now Prince is hitting the road with Drake to promote his new book, The Art and Science of Respect, which is part memoir, part self-help book, and, according to Prince himself, wholly different from anything that’s been written before. “It’s different because there’s only one of me and of my journey,” he said. “I want to lead by example when I write my story.”

Plus, there’s not a lot of memoirs out there that feature forewords written by Drake.

Prince started writing the memoir in 2014. The journey since then has been bittersweet, studded with both memories success and painful encounters with the past, all of which show up in the gorgeous full-color photographs that fill the book. “My photos are a confirmation of the fun I had and of the distress I had,” said Prince.

Above all, Prince hopes that his book will serve as an inspiration for big dreamers who see themselves in his journey. “When guys are from where I’m from and they see someone they may be inspired by, we don’t normally make it out of the ghetto without a scratch,” he said. “When they look at me, they see a system of respect.”

Friday, October 26, 2018

Vessel Gallery to Close After Eight Years in Oakland

There's one last exhibit and a moving sale.

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 11:30 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Vessel Gallery
Lonnie Lee sounds remarkably calm about the end of her popular art gallery.

"We are closing our doors," she said. "We have been displaced from this space. Vessel and I will continue serving our clients and working with our artists and taking pause a little bit about what direction we’re going to take next."

The beautiful two-story gallery on 25th Street — and arguably one of the central attractions of Oakland Art Murmur every first Friday of the month — will permanently close on Saturday, Nov. 17. Vessel's lease is up, and Lee was not given the option to renew.

"When we arrived [in 2010], I signed a five year lease. When that came up, they asked for a 60-percent increase in rent; we felt we had to agree, to keep the space. At that point we tried for a longer lease, but that was not agreed. I ended up paying 70 percent more of what I paid when I first obtained the space," she said. "I’m not sure the business model can withstand another similar increase like that, so perhaps in the back of my mind, I was preparing. But instead of working on a renewal for an eight-plus year tenant, the landlord is taking his buildings in a different direction, and my space is included; they would not be renewing my lease. I wasn’t given the option this time to sign up again.”

Vessel is currently holding a moving sale through November. There will also be a special art sale with 20 percent off selected works on back-to-back weekends, Nov. 9-11 and Nov. 16-18. (While Vessel will be selling items past the official closing date, Nov. 17 is the last day to see an exhibit.) "If people have their eye on some artwork, that's a great time to pick some up," Lee said.

Supporters also have one last First Friday to visit the space. (Even though the First Friday street festivities have been canceled for Friday, Nov. 2, the art galleries will be open as usual from 6 to 9 p.m.) Vessel is showing two concurrent solo exhibitions: Elsewhere by Cyrus Tilton and Together and Apart by Sanjay Vora. "It's a beautiful show. It's thoughtful," Lee said. "I'm so proud to go out on this incredible high note."

This is not the last Oakland is seeing of Lee, though. She will continue to work with artists, and she still has ongoing client projects. She's contemplating traveling and online shows while she figures out what comes next for Vessel. What's missing is the public-facing, brick-and-mortar space.

Vessel's closure is a worrisome development for Oakland's creative scene, as artists leave for more affordable cities and rents continue to skyrocket.

"There is still a wellspring of creatives here and I hope that with the changes going on that the fine qualities of creative arts enterprises and production will continue and continue to enrich longtime residents and people who work serving Oakland," Lee said. "And that it will be inclusive of the new people coming in, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Oakland Art Murmur Galleries Will Remain Open for First Friday Despite Cancelled Street Festival

There's still a lot of art to see.

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 2:34 PM

  • Stephen Loewinsohn/File Photo
By now, you've probably heard that Oakland First Fridays has cancelled November's street festivities, including the onslaught of food trucks, arts vendors, and lively performances that take over Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street. But Oakland Art Murmur wants to make it very clear that the art galleries (you know, the real reason people assemble on Friday evenings, right?) will remain open as usual.

You can check out the full list of galleries and venues that will be open (and free to the public) on Friday, Nov. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. here.

The First Fridays street fest was cancelled due to the violence that occurred three hours after last month's edition, leaving five people with gun shot wounds. From a statement on the First Fridays website: "During this hiatus, the Oakland First Fridays team will be conducting a top-to-bottom review of our policies and procedures. We’ll be looking at new ways to increase safety, and addressing other issues raised during conversations with participants, local businesses and city officials in recent weeks. We plan to increase our community partnerships and engagements, review our security procedures with Oakland police, city officials and businesses in the surrounding area, and step up enforcement of the open-containers ban at the event."

Monday, October 15, 2018

Futurescape Spells Project Brings Public Art Installation to Oakland Billboards

Alternate futures, spells, and magic.

by Sannidhi Shukla
Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 4:08 PM


If you’re walking around Oakland in the next few weeks, you’ll probably come across some billboards featuring pretty cryptic images. But these are not your garden variety cryptic images. They’re actually spells for alternate futures put together by the Futurescape Spells project.

The Futurescape Spells project started with Elicia Epstein, an artist and documentarian based in Oakland. Inspired by the work that Guerrilla Girls and others have done to shift billboards from strictly commercial platforms to public art installations, Epstein reached out to Oakland artists Leila Weefur, Dionne Lee, and Olivia Krause to put together their own public art installation. The result is a fantastically diverse group of artists both in terms of artistic style — Epstein’s billboard primarily features text while Weefur’s features a photograph, for example — and in terms of identity. “Each of us, we represent a cultural or ethnic corner of the Bay Area in some way,” Weefur said.

Working with magic isn’t new for Epstein. In fact, it was the potential to take spells that she’d already been working with to a grander scale — both physically larger and with the ability to reach a greater audience — that drew her to the project in the first place. For Epstein, spells are a way to offer people possibilities for futures that don’t exist and which they may not even have begun to consider. “It’s trying to envision alternate systems that cause less harm in general,” she said. Her billboard, which sits above a building that houses an organization that offers services to families of incarcerated people, envisions a future where police and prison systems are no longer part of society.


Weefur, meanwhile, approaches spells as recipes. Her billboard is a more abstract meditation on the relationship between Black beauty and Black decay. “With all my work I try to see the images I put out into the world as a series of questions being posed,” she said. “How is a metaphysical musing on beauty and horror projecting a spell for how people consider and think about Blackness?” The billboard sits next to MacArthur BART, where Weefur hopes that casual commuting passersby will stop to consider it, but she believes that it could be anywhere in Oakland and still carry the same meaning.

Of course, there’s no better way to learn about these spells for alternate futures than to hear about them from the artists who cast them. On Saturday, Oct. 27, Epstein, Weefur, Lee, and Krause will be hosting a roaming tour starting at West Oakland BART at 1 p.m. It’s the perfect chance to meet the artists and even dream up spells of your own for alternate futures. Otherwise, the billboards will remain up through Nov. 15.

Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted Weefur referring to "metaphysical music," when in fact she said "metaphysical musing."

Treasure Island Music Festival's First Year in Oakland Runs Smoothly

Headliners Tame Impala and A$AP Rocky led a full weekend of quality sets.

by Janelle Bitker, Kathleen Richards and Madeline Wells
Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 12:49 PM

The music festival's new location boasted a glittering view of the San Francisco skyline. - JOSH WITHERS
  • Josh Withers
  • The music festival's new location boasted a glittering view of the San Francisco skyline.

After a one-year hiatus, Treasure Island Music Festival returned to a new location this past weekend with its same winning formula: A day of energetic electronica and hip-hop followed by a day of indie rock. Not to mention no overlapping sets, in a setting that’s way more intimate and relaxed than Outside Lands. It landed in West Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park for the first time following a disastrous 10th edition on Treasure Island, marked by torrential downpour, canceled sets, and furious festival-goers. Thankfully for presenters Noise Pop and Another Planet Entertainment, this year’s festival was far less eventful with idyllic, sunny skies.

Generally, sets started right on time with excellent sound and joyful vibes. Small qualms: Middle Harbor Shoreline Park is all dust, dirt, sand, and concrete, making it significantly less comfortable than the fest’s former digs. (But the view of San Francisco’s skyline — especially around sunset — definitely lived up to the island days.) It also lacked a Ferris Wheel, which has become synonymous with the festival over the years. Assuming the fest returns to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park next year, pretend it's Burning Man and bring a dust mask.

Moses Sumney performed one of the earliest and best sets of the weekend. - JOSH WITHERS
  • Josh Withers
  • Moses Sumney performed one of the earliest and best sets of the weekend.

Entering the stage with a casual peace sign, yet looking mysterious in all black and tiny Matrix sunglasses,
Moses Sumney proceeded to play one of the first — and best — sets of the weekend. Throughout his set, he shifted from a low humming vibrato to piercing, operatic cries several octaves higher with stunning ease. With such a mesmerizing voice, it would have been easy for Sumney to rely solely on vocal acrobatics to keep the attention of the crowd, but the soundscapes he weaved with his three-piece backing band were complex and transfixing on their own. A clarinet and a violin made appearances, although the most interesting instrument of all was Sumney’s loop pedal experimentations with his voice. A haunting cover of Bjork’s “Come to Me” suited him perfectly. Despite the often melodramatic quality of his music, Sumney kept his banter playful. He introduced Sufjan Stevens cover “Make Out in My Car” by saying, “This next song is about making out. I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard it’s great.” He added, “Let’s call it making out on the BART — localize it.”

Santigold’s set looked like a colorful peek inside a Dr. Seuss book, underscored with a hint of social commentary. Wearing a red cape decorated with plastic water bottles and dollar bills and sporting green hair, she performed in front of a screen flashing playful cartoons, depicting everything from an overgrown ape covered in syringes to a woman so mesmerized by the mirror in her passenger’s seat that she forgets to look at where she’s driving. She played buoyant bops spanning her career, from 2009’s “L.E.S. Artistes” to 2012’s “Disparate Youth” to 2018’s “Run the Road.” Santigold almost constantly had a huge grin plastered across her face, but the most joyful moment of all was during M.I.A.-esque anthem “Creator,” when she invited a few dozen audience members on stage to dance with her.

Santigold invited dozens of fans to dance on stage. - JOSH WITHERS
  • Josh Withers
  • Santigold invited dozens of fans to dance on stage.

Pusha T doesn’t need anything but a DJ and his own self to deliver a show that’s straight-up legendary, and he knows it. He’s earned his place in the rap world and doesn’t need the frills that younger acts do — like headliner A$AP Rocky, who would later take the stage with a large helping of pyro. Opening with “If You Know You Know,” King Push blazed through hit after hit, and the crowd was there for it, often rapping along to every word. Throughout the night, he kept hyping his 2018 album Daytona, repeatedly referring to it as “album of the motherfucking year.” But he also shared the love, including Kanye West collabs “Runaway” and “Feel the Love” in his high-energy set.

A$AP Rocky kept fans waiting for about half an hour after his designated start time, causing anticipation to reach a fever pitch. But he made it worth the wait, opening hot with “A$AP Forever” and “Buck Shots” amongst blazing fire cannons and a giant test dummy head behind him — a visual motif from his latest album, TESTING. Later, he would climb to the top of that dummy head for added hype during songs like trippy, rainbow-hued “L$D.” But apparently not pleased with the level of energy in the crowd, A$AP repeatedly stopped songs to urge fans to “open up the pit.” Most notably, he shut down “Kids Turned Out Fine” partway through, declaring, “I don’t like the way my voice is sounding on that one. I didn’t come all the way to SF to short-change people.” A$AP’s set was a lot more style than substance — some comments about there being “a lot of good titties in the audience” were particularly off-putting — but closing out to A$AP Mob track “Yamborghini High” with actual fireworks undeniably had the wow-factor he seemed to be seeking.

A$AP Rocky's set included fireworks. - JOSH WITHERS
  • Josh Withers
  • A$AP Rocky's set included fireworks.

Courtney Barnett shreds. - JOSH WITHERS
  • Josh Withers
  • Courtney Barnett shreds.

Despite billing Sunday as a laid-back day for indie rock, the lineup offered an impressively diverse array of sounds, from Lord Huron’s country-leaning twang to U.S. Girls’ art pop to Cigarettes After Sex’s ambient soundscapes. Highlights included a relatively early set from Sharon Van Etten, who basically disappeared from music for three years after releasing her 2014 masterpiece Are We There. Treasure Island marked one of her first appearances with a full band since then, and her voice sounded as strong as ever. Her old and new moody, lush, and romantic songs swirled with reverb and maturity. She recently went back to college (“I got a B on my first exam, I can do better than that,” she told the crowd) and had a baby, but she’s also back in music now in a real way: Her new album Remind Me Tomorrow comes out in January.

Courtney Barnett delivered a set high in stage stalking, heavy shredding, deadpan singing, and distortion, plus a little screaming and loads of badassery. The Australian singer-songwriter has grown into a powerhouse performer since the release of her hit 2015 debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Her new record, Tell Me How You Really Feel, delivers more of the same wit, energy, driving guitar, and empathetic humanity, and it played on stage well with Barnett’s full-body trashing.

For many, Tame Impala was the highlight of the weekend. - JOSH WITHERS
  • Josh Withers
  • For many, Tame Impala was the highlight of the weekend.

Jungle spawned one of the biggest dance parties of the day thanks to the seven-piece band’s unique blend of funk, disco, soul, and electronica, led by smooth four-part harmonies. After a relatively relaxed day, tracks like “Busy Earnin’” and “Heavy, California” provided the perfect lead-up to Tame Impala. As Josh Lloyd-Watson asked the grooving crowd, “Who’s on mushrooms?”

Still, judging by the amount of people that had crushed toward the Town stage — skipping Jungle’s performance entirely — Tame Impala was the clear highlight of the day. And as the pulsating synths and chill beat of opener “Nangs” washed over the crowd, it was as if a giant spaceship touched down at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, emitting, over the course of an hour and a half, multi-colored lasers, lights, confetti, and copious amounts of fog. The Aussie band — the project of Kevin Parker — played songs from throughout its career, showing how its sound morphed from ’60s guitar-driven psychedelia — even playing the groove-driven instrumental “Jeremy’s Storm,” which, apparently, the band hasn’t played live since 2012 — to more electronic pop made for the dance floor (“The Moment,” “Eventually”). Never mind that Parker didn't appear to know where he was (he repeatedly shouted out "San Francisco!") or that his band was closing out the weekend (he encouraged everyone to enjoy the rest of the festival), the band’s crisp visual and sonic spectacle nonetheless kept heads and bodies moving, some with sunglasses still on. With a tinge of melancholy running throughout these songs — even the crowd-pleasing singalong “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a total downer — Tame Impala provided an appropriate comedown for the two-day music (and dust-huffing) fest.

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