Explosive Just Cause Report Shows Health Impact of Gentrification

Robbie Clark of Just Cause

Robbie Clark of Just Cause

Hard Knock Radio 04-09-14 We sat down and spoke with Robbie Clark of Just Cause/ Causa Justa about the new 110 page report called Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area that shares important finding on the impacts of gentrification on Bay Area communities and some principles and policies for stabilizing our cities so that long-term residents and communities of color and stay and thrive.

The report was done with the Alameda County Department of Health and although it focuses on Bay Area cities Oakland and San Francisco its findings apply to regions all over the country. Whats most telling is how this gentrification process  of mass displacement along racial and class lines and its long-term health impact…

As Robbie Clark noted in our conversation everything from long commutes to no longer being around familiar settings and family and friends to not having access to adequate health facilities and resources in new places where folks are being displaced have had devastating impact. The stress of not being able to hold onto a home or having rents significantly increase has been unsettling for many resulting in long-term health issues.

Gentrification mapDuring our conversation we spoke about the root causes of gentrification in the Bay Area and the key role ruthless corporations have played in driving up home prices by pressuring politicians to put forth specific policies to prevent rent control and make evictions easy…

We also talk about the various waves of gentrification. Often we focus on the impact of Black and Brown folks in particular areas, but in cities like San Francisco, gentrified from 10 years ago are now showing those gentrifiers are being displaced. People who were forced to move away from the cities into far off suburbs are finding they are not safe from the predatory process as investment corporations are set on driving up home prices and rents in those areas as well. In short there is no escaping the practice by moving away. Its about pushing for policy changes and redefining how communities should  be.

Robbie was great in laying out several of the many solutions this report puts forth. Most important is organizing. It seems simple on the surface,but it’s not done as effectively as it can and should be. In addition what’s often not realized is that new comers into a community often feel empowered and quickly organize and petition locals municipalities to craft a vision for the community as they see fit. This vision often includes adding new police, putting forth new ordinances and developing policies to make it easier to remove families who they deem problematic.

The Eviction of Sabrina Carter-SF’s Privatization and Negro Removal Plan


Sabrina Carter

Sabrina Carter

Hard Knock Radio (04-02-14) Co-Host Anita Johnson speaks with Tiny Lisa Garcia of Poor News Network and long time resident Sabrina Carter about the ongoing privatization and gentrification that is unfolding in urban areas, in particular San Francisco…They talk about the large numbers of Black families being forcibly moved out of San Francisco

In the case of Sabrina Carter she is the latest person to come under the scourge of San Francisco’s Negro Removal Program where large numbers of Black people all over the city are being evicted for a variety of nefarious reasons. In this case , she is being evicted because she is unable to control the actions and behavior of her adult son. This eviction would leave Carter homeless…

Sabrina carterBelow is an excerpt from a recent SF Baview newspaper article penned by Lisa Garcia explaining the plight of Sabrina Carter and a recent protest that took place at City Hall..http://sfbayview.com/2014/the-new-freedom-ride-black-families-youth-elders-and-ancestors-sing-spirit-into-sf-city-hall/

“You can’t sing in here; you are constituting an unlawful assembly!” As we walked 30 deep – youth, adults, elders, singing the spirit of our African ancestors, our indigenous ancestors in resistance into City Hall – we were stopped by three sheriffs who said we were, in fact, an unlawful assembly because we were singing.

“I thought this was our constitutional right to free speech, to free song,” I said.

“No, you are protesting; therefore you are an unlawful assembly.”

“We aren’t protesting; we are singing,” I continued to say.

Then more sheriffs came. They talked among themselves. They had guns and batons. We had our voices. We were walking spirit of our ancestor freedom fighters inside the politrickster-infested walls of soul-ed out peoples of color, trying to get mines, capitalist pawns and apologists of the ruling class.

“Where are you going?”

“To see the mayor.”

“Well, you can’t see the mayor if you are singing. You can’t protest in this building.” As the men with the badges and the guns spoke, the walls shook. The floors trembled. The statues of politricksters past shook slightly on their marble podiums. Mama Sabrina’s face shook with tears. Her strong young 10-year-old and 19-year-old sons looked down as they stood valiantly by her.


When White Happens: Gentrification, Drug Dealing, and the American Dream

Was film maker Spike Lee right or wrong when he addressed the issue of gentrification? Below is another insightful article from authors, educators and racial justice activists J-Love Calderon and David Leonard that tackle this question and shows how gentrification manifests itself with those entrusted to protect and serve and their long standing policies… -Davey D-

Spike_Lee_(2012)Intended to be a celebration of Black History Month, Spike Lee reminded an audience at Pratt Institute that February was not simply about speeches and celebration but demanding justice and accountability, spotlighting white privilege and persistent forms of violence.  Asked about the “other side of gentrification,” Lee scoffed at the premise, making clear that racism sits on all sides:

 I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something …. I mean, they just move in the neighborhood. You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!


John Mcwhorter

John Mcwhorter

While many dismissed his “rant” as “self-serving,” “hypocritical, or “Spike being Spike,” John McWhorter took the opportunity to celebrate gentrification (“a once sketchy neighborhood is now quiet and pleasant”) and to castigate Lee as a racist.  To McWhorter, Lee’s analysis and criticism of gentrification has nothing to do with the displacement of Black and Brown families, the eradication of communities of color, or white privilege, but Lee’s own bigotry toward whites.

“What’s really bothering Lee is that he doesn’t like seeing his old neighborhood full of white people,” noted the associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University.  “Or whitey, perhaps. Just as ‘thug’ is a new way of saying the N-word in polite society, Lee’s ‘m—–f—– hipster’ epithet for the new whites of Fort Greene is a sneaky way of saying ‘honkey.’

Lee is less a social analyst than a reincarnation of George Jefferson with his open hostility to whites.” So much wrong here; so little time.  But let us say that whereas the commonplace stereotype of Black youth as “thugs,” as “criminals,” as “dangerous,” as “destructive” and “toxic” leads to racial profiling, mass incarceration, and #every28hours, being “m—–f—– hipster” leads to a new brownstone, a new yoga shop, and a triple shot latte.  It leads to more of the same: privilege and opportunity.

El Puente muralBut is the fight against gentrification a lost cause? Some say yes, some say no, and  others are not pausing to engage in that conversation because they are busy being in action.  El Puente is  a 30-year old human rights organization sitting in the heart of Williamsburg Brooklyn, founded by Luis Garden Acosta, with Gino Maldonado and Frances Lucerna.  Their latest initiative is their response. “The Green Light District seeks to flip the disempowerment of gentrification by putting long-time invested residents at the forefront of change in their communities,” explains Anusha Venkataraman, Director of the Green Light District.

“The Southside of Williamsburg has changed radically but is still 46% Latino, but the narrative of ‘gentrification’ leaves out the stories and lived experiences of folks that have been here, invested in this community, and are still here. Through arts and cultural programming in public spaces, such as our annual ¡WEPA! Festival for Performing Arts, our organizing work with artists, and even through community gardening, we collectively amplify the visibility of the Latino community and culture. We also create safe spaces for newer residents to build bridges, relationships, and common ground with those there before them.” This organization with indigenous leadership continues to help sustain and empower the local community residents against the tide threatening to uproot their culture, contribution, and home.

Whiteness not only allows “hipsters” to claim space, transforming communities, but to be immune from the very same forces that have enacting violence for decades: the police.  We need to look no further than a recent piece on The Huffington Post to understand the privileges resulting from gentrification and whiteness.

I spent a day deliverying weedIn “I Spent A Day Delivering Weed In New York City,” Hunter Stuart celebrates the gentrification of Williamsburg and its drug market.  Chronicling the story of “Abe” and “Brian,” Stuart reminds readers over and over again that these are not your “normal” drug dealers: they drink “French-pressed coffee,” they wear suits, deliver drugs on bikes, and are “exceedingly well-mannered.”  Whereas others enter the drug trade because of  – a) single mothers; b) poverty; c) pathological values; d) all of the above – Abe and Brian took up drug dealing (the article actually calls them “couriers”) because they are “risk takers.”

As with their non-drug dealing counterparts that have gentrified neighborhoods throughout New York and communities across the nation, Abe and Brian are imagined as “good” since they are different type of drug dealers.  They are changing the way marijuana is delivered and the stigmas associated drug use/dealing.  According to Abe, they want to show, “That you can be a successful, active, social person, that you can affect people positively and that you can still smoke weed.” They are different.  “Even though what we do is illegal, we’re both morally sound people.  We try to do right by people. That’s what I always tell my mom, anyway.”

Not surprisingly, Abe and Brian (and all their employees) have built up their business without any consequences.  Noting how “things have gone smoothly” and that “no one’s been robbed, and no one’s been arrested,” Stuart makes clear that they can deal drugs without any of the associated the problems that seem to follow others.

“Working for our former boss, I saw around a dozen people get arrested,” Abe says, referring to the three years he and Brian spent as couriers for another New York City cannabis delivery service. “I don’t think we’re going to have that problem. We screen our riders and our clients really well.”

NYPD Weed ArrestsYes, the reason why nobody been arrested or charged with crimes that could lead to up to 15 years is about “screening.”  Not whiteness; not white privilege; not institutional racism, not the ways that racial profiling, and stop and frisk contribute to a racially stratified war on drugs.

As Jessie Daniels notes, New York is the “marijuana arrest capital of the world.” Notwithstanding an almost 40-year old decriminalization law, NY police arrested 50,000 people in 2011 for “possessing or burning marijuana in public view.”  Neither Abe or Brian could be counted amongst those arrested, a fact not unexpected given that 84% of those arrested were people of color.

From 2002-2012, the NYPD arrested about 440,000 people; 85 percent were Black and Latino. Whiteness has its privileges. The Huffington Post profile, not surprisingly, never acknowledges this context or Abe and Brian’s whiteness; the message is that their intelligence and cultural differences rather than racism and white privilege that has made their “business” successful.

Their ability to carry and sell with relative impunity reflects the privileges of whiteness; their ability to be reimagined as “moral” drug dealers, as “righteous” and ultimately beneficial to this gentrified community, tells us all we need to know about whiteness in America.  Their ability to move into neighborhoods like Williamsburg, displacing families and communities of color, generating wealth that they will pass onto the next generation, highlights the value of whiteness; their ability to “get rich with limited possibility of dying” is the personification of whiteness.

Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander

Speaking about the shifting economic landscape of drugs in America, Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, notes, “After 40 years of impoverished black men getting prison time for selling weed, white men are planning to get rich doing the same things,” she added. “So that’s why I think we have to start talking about reparations for the war on drugs. How do we repair the harms caused?”

White privilege, gentrification, the media choosing who to admire and who to criminalize are all part of the ways that white supremacy plays out in our day to day.  It’s time to speak up and act, to demand justice and opportunities for all people. We must keep the fight up until Black and Brown life is truly respected and treated as valuable and important as white peoples lives. In the end, this will be the ultimate victory.

Stand up for what’s right

JLove and David

See, Judge, ACT for Racial Justice:

Speak Up

Speak Up to Media: the Huff Post article we referenced is a perfect opportunity for you to point out the obvious mis-step not naming white privilege. Talk about it, blog about it, help people see why white privilege and racism must be named for us to create more justice.

Spike Lee: whether you like him or not, the media circus had a great time calling him out because he spoke the truth about race and gentrification with no sugar coatin’! People of color are often demonized when speaking out about racism. Step up your game and support the truth of the argument! Don’t let Black and Brown people become scapegoats to the larger system of racism.


Check out El Puente’s groundbreaking Green Light District initiative in response to rampant gentrification in Brooklyn.  Donate to them! Spread the word of how this powerful community is proactively working toward sustainability of the residents of color in Williamsburg. http://elpuente.us/content/green-light-district-overview

Action Ideas from El Puente’s GLD Team

  • Get involved in community institutions, and recognize and get to know the culture and community that was there before you arrived
  • Get comfortable with discomfort! Building community with those from different backgrounds and life experiences isn’t easy, but it is important. Tasks the risk of stepping outside your comfort zone, talk to your neighbors, and LISTEN!
  • Invest in public spaces, like community gardens, where community building can happen
  • Invest time and energy in your neighborhood! It builds collective ownership

Join—Calling white folks who want to stand up for racial justice!

Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Become a member and get involved directly: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/

About the Authors

David Leonard is a professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race at Washington State University. http://drdavidjleonard.com/

JLove Calderon is a conscious media maker, social entrepreneur, and author of five books, including her latest: Occupying Privilege; Conversations on Love, Race, and Liberation. www.jlovecalderon.com

The Gentrification of Black Power-Making Sure History is Not Distorted & Erased

black-power-pinA few weeks ago an online discussion about the concept of Black Power and whether or not it was being diluted and gentrified popped up on the facebook page of Jared Ball, long time radio host, journalist and professor at Morgan State and author of several books including I Mix What I Like and A Lie of Reivention Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X . A lot of interesting points were raised about the systemic erasing and distorting of history in academic settings which was resulting in a younger generation of scholars  building theory and ideas off of faulty information. This online conversation sparked off a round table that was recently hosted on the syndicated Hard Knock Radio.

A couple of other scholars Dr Quito Swan of Howard University (Black Power in Bermuda) and Professor Rickey Vincent of UC Berkeley and SF State (History of Funk, Party Music) were contacted for a robust round table discussion that covered a variety of topics ranging from the history and origins of the term and what inspired Kwame Toure then known as Stokely Carmichael along with Willie Ricks to kick things off during a rally in 1966 in Mississippi.



We talked about the deeper meanings behind the term and how it jived with the political and social dynamics at that time.  We also talked about the harsh reaction to the term from the US government and how almost immediately there were efforts to both eradicate and redefine it.

Dr Jared Ball

Dr Jared Ball

Initially Black Power was a call for folks to stand up against imperialism and over the years its been reduced to economic prowess and later Black people’s to get in position of power and mimic imperialistic actions long taken by the US. As Jared Ball noted Black Power has now become an ‘American story‘ of success where the status quo is maintained vs one that steadfastly opposed wrong headed policies put forth by this country.

Ricky Vincent built upon many of the points he put forth in his new book Party Music which chronicles the way music was influenced by the Black Power movements.. He noted that Carmichael tapped into an energy of resistence that was bubbling amongst Black folks all over the world. He just gave it a name. The state via the FBI recognized that energy and spent alot of time trying to dismantle and stifle that energy controlling and using culture.


We also talked about how the concept of Black Power played out on the international stage. This is Quito Swan‘s area of expertise and he put forth a number of salient points and reminded us that one of the challenges we have today is that as some try to soften and redefine Black power, they leave out how the freedom struggles in the US linked up with freedom struggles elsewhere, from the Carribean , throughout Latin America and Africa. He focused in on the first Black Power Convention that took place in 1969 in Bermuda.

Below is our Hard Knock Radio show roundtable -Enjoy


Mistah Fab Speaks About His Annual Food Drive & Gentrification in North Oakland

mistah-fabWe caught up with long time Oakland rapper Mistah Fab to talk to him about his 6th annual holiday giveaway. He will be giving away turkeys and plates of food for needy families in North Oakland off 45th and Market today (Tues Nov 27th ) where he grew up.

During our interview we talked at length about what Fab describes as the unwritten obligation artists have to give back to the community. He noted that many get paid handsomely from talking about the struggles, tribulations and overall lifestyle experienced by many in the hood. The least one can do is give back and not make this a one way street where you only take, take, take..

We talked about some of the Oakland artists and sports figures who have already done food drives like Seattle Seahawk running back Marshall Lynch and Cincinnati Bengal quarterback Josh Johnson. Fab noted how troubling it was to see over 500 families lining up at Oakland Tech where Lynch and Johnson attended school to get food. He noted that it was a clear indication about how dire it is for many and that at all costs all of us who can do better by extending a helping hand.

We also talked about the massive gentrification that is taking place in North Oakland and what sort of challenges its presented for his community. Fab noted that not too long ago during one of his charity events, new residents called the police in attempt to shut things down.. Fab found out who called and went and had a conversation and noted that dialogue is crucial.

Mistah Fab He said new comers to Oakland need to respect the people and culture that is already here and get familiar with things.. At the same time he noted that many who he grew up with need to be better educated about the process that’s unfolding.

He said many younger folks inherited houses from parents and grandparents and have been offered 300-400k  to sell their homes. Fab noted while that’s nice chunk of change, its important to hold on to your property because in the long run it will be worth twice as much..We also talked about his song writing prowess..

Lastly we concluded our convo about Fab and his song writing prowess. He laid out the artists he’s been working with, like Snoop Dogg and Too Short and some of the new projects he has on the horizon like the one with Keyisha Coles

SFPD Cant do Stop and Frisk, So They Now Turned to ‘Hunting’ & ‘Wolf Packing’

San Francisco Police Officers***Update**** The folks from Poor News Network have been following this case and released the following information about the young man shown in the video…His name is Kevin Clark and he’s an 18 year old Honors college student ..He was brutalized by the SFPD for simply walking down the street? He was not charged or arrested but cited for resisting and delaying. …..

The city of San Francisco, once a home to counter-culture and folks who were free-spirited has changed for the worse over the past 5-10 years.. Borrowing a page from New York’s Michael Bloomberg, the city by the Bay has modeled itself after New York by trying to become a playground for the über rich.. Poor folks mostly Black and Brown have been gentrified out of the city as the average rent has skyrocketed to 3500 for a one bedroom..

Over the past 10 years there’s been an explosion of ugly lime green (luxury green) high rises where starting price is a million dollars.. According to Tim Redmond of the Bay Guardian in a recent radio interview on KPFA, the target audiences for these new buildings are world travelers who seek to have homes in a variety of cities.. San Francisco being one of them.. His remarks underscored the landmark issue the BG called Soul of The City that focused on all htose being forced to move out of SF.. You can peep it HERE

As the SF has attempted to luxurize itself, one of the other tactics they attempted to borrow was Stop and Frisk from New York City. Mayor Ed Lee said he thought it would be a good idea, even SF is not known for being a violent city with an out of control crime problem.. many suspected that Lee would be concentrating Stop and Frisk efforts on folks living in the Tenderloin, which has a large homeless population and is an area where the mayor would like to see more high-tech companies relocate.. Twitter is already located in the tenderloin, not paying any taxes.

The other areas where many suspected Stop and Frisk would be used was in Bayview Hunters Point, the City’s last Black neighborhood.. Over the past 10 years Blacks have been moved out of SF with the population which was once a healthy 15% now less than 5%..

The other place where police repression was likely to be applied is ion the historic Mission district which is home to a very large Brown/ latino population. For folks who never been, the Mission has a similar vibe to LES/ The Village in New York, with alot of foot traffic, international flare, victorian houses which remind folks of brownstones and tons of eateries. . Many rich folks from out of town have been moving there, causing rents to rise and displacing long time residents.

San Francisco Police The Board of supervisors voted to over rule the mayor and turned down Stop and Frisk as level headed San Francisco residents made a huge stink. However, the Mayor undaunted along with his police have turned to another tactic.. Hunting or wolf packing. This how a a former San Francisco resident forced to relocate to Oakland described the tactic when she sent me this video of what she noted is this growing trend..

In the video below, you will see an example of this as  young Black man is nearly run over by a cop on the sidewalk..According to witnesses, he got into an argument with another cat his own age when police arrived upon the scene and immediately used their bikes to run him off the sidewalk…

He’s then slammed to the ground and his face mushed in the gutter for several minutes.. The suspect who is small is not resisting as more then 15 officers show up to arrest him.. The show of force is deliberate and a way of trying to intimidate residents.. It’s a damn shame to see this sort of abuse of power especially when you consider mayor Lee who was largely applauded for being the City’s first Asian-American Mayor was supposed to be a long-time Civil Rights attorney. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised as many traditional civil rights orgs and leaders has been turned the concept upside down.

This is a city who’s police department in the past year had to toss over 50 cases of trumped of felonies thanks to corruption. This is also a police department that shot a man (Kenneth Harding) and let him lay dying in the street for all to see when he couldn’t produce proof of a two dollar fare..


This video below from SF Hip Hop artist Dregs One breaks down the gentrification drama in the city by the Bay


The Drama Around Street Vendors, Oakland’s Art Murmur & Gentrification

The city of Oakland, has long been a place where people ‘steady grind‘..By that I mean, folks have long hustled goods and services on the city streets to ilk out a living. Rather than sell drugs or turn to prostitution, many have hustled their own music, homemade DVDs, offered up hair breading services, car washes and car repair and most recently food. For most, the extra income has allowed folks to just barely get by.

Every so often someone would blow up and makes it big, resulting in Oakland garnering a ‘rags to riches‘ reputation. The most famous of these tales is rap star Too Short selling home-made tapes out the trunk of his car and getting a big time record deal. Later on other artists like Hobo Junction and Living Legends would follow suit selling tapes in front of local record stores leading to international reputations.

In recent years the city of Oakland has undergone a lot of changes, among them a significant amount of gentrification. Newer more affluent residents have come to Oakland and have made moves to push out long time street vendors and hawkers. They been doing this by going to city council demanding that folks get expensive permits and for those selling food, purchase expensive equipment.

They’ve also pushed to limit the amount of space available for setting up shop and if that’s not enough they have positioned themselves to be the ones to decide who gets to use public space and who doesn’t. These gentrifiers have also lobbied city hall to dispense undercover cops and have them patrol the streets seeking street vendors who would now be deemed illegal operators. All this has led to protests around this new permitting process.

Long time Street Vendor Needa Bee

In our Hard Knock Radio interview long time Oakland resident Needa Bee speaks out about these new regulations coming at the behest of newly formed community associations who are paying big money to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars to establish themselves. Needa details how  out-of-town merchants who have come to Oakland and set up shop and have taken over popular homegrown activities like First Friday Art Murmur which was an 8 year ‘epic street party‘ that allowed local folks to sell their homemade fare. Now we see mostly people of color being pushed to the fringes resulting in what she describes as the poor being criminalized.. Peep and reflect on what Needa B lays out in our interview by clicking the link below

-Davey D-

Is Oakland the New Vacation Spot?



The SF Weekly takes a shot at cool hipsters and the city of Oakland by highlighting this video which tell s you why ‘The Town’ is the new vacation spot.. Take alook, laugh, cringe, and lemme know  what you think..


Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner


High Rents Killing Bay Area Hip Hop

daveyd-raider2Last week the Bay Area Hip Hop community was saddened to see the unintended departure of long time producer DJ Paul Nice. He had become the latest casualty in an increasingly long line of talented musicians and artists who have been forced out of the Bay Area due to astronomical housing costs. With the average price of a medium size two bedroom house going for $435 thousand dollars, rents in Bay Area cities like San Francisco, San Jose and now Oakland have skyrocketed to the point that it is now cheaper to move out and rent an apartment in Manhattan. Bay Area Hip Hop hot spots like Oakland, Vallejo and East Palo Alto are changing by the minute as longtime residents are getting evicted left and right. Paul Nice was a victim of a landlord saying he wanted to move into his pot .. so he could kick Paul out and then go on raise the rents..

In San Francisco the housing situation is all but a lost cause. Hip Hop strong holds like the Filmore have literally changed face over night thanks to the dot com invasion. You will now show up to a gig in the Filmore and be made to feel totally unwelcome and out of place in what was once your neighborhood prior to the new economy suddenly exploding. The historic colorful Mission District is currently dealing with this onslaught and next on the list is Bayview Hunters Point. The South of Market club district is now dotted with ‘live work lofts and newly arrived cranky residents who have used their economic and political clout to shut down night clubs which they say are making too much noise.. It was just a few years ago that many of these now occupied buildings once played host to raves and after hours Hip Hop parties..

Adding fuel to the fire in the nation’s dot com capital is a 1% vacancy rate and ruthless landlords who are now starting to put rental units on auction sites like EBAY. It is now a situation where the highest bidder wins. This is complicated by big businesses that are now buying up and renting apartments for key executives and employees which has driven up rental prices even more. Can you imagine competing for an apartment with a big company that has deep pockets and is determined to fly in workers from overseas or across country? They simply outbid you by offering crazy rent prices. Its not unusual to see 1 bedroom apartments for $2500 and up. Its totally ridiculous and we haven’t even begun to address the drama surrounding commercial properties. About a month and half ago there was a highly publicized situation where a dot com came into the Mission District and displaced a popular rehearsal and studio spot that was home to more than 500 musicians. The Bay Area’s Hip Hop community has definitely been feeling the strain.

bootsriley-pamLast year Boots of the Coup along with the San Francisco Bay Guardian which has been chronicling this entire mess did a series controversial radio ads on Bay Area radio stations about the Bay Area housing crunch. In the commercial Boots talks about how he was forced to move out of his house in Oakland because of high rents and gentrification. He placed the blame on Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and warned long time Oakland residents that the new economy and the new face of Oakland would most likely not include them if they didn’t step up their efforts. Boot’s concerns were realized not too long ago when Oakland City Council members voted down an ordinance that would’ve protected residents from unfair evictions.

Another longtime Bay Area Hip Hop fixture was producer DJ Fear of the group No Concept. Earlier this year he was forced to move out of Oakland due to high housing costs. Well established Hip Hop outfits like the Bay Area Hip Hop Coalition and the Hieroglyphics Crew were forced out of their downtown office space which they had for years due to rent increases. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the past year and a half I’ve counted more than 30 Bay Area Hip Hop artists, promoters DJs etc have moved out of the San Francisco/Oakland area to the far outskirts of the Bay or down to LA because of the high housing costs. Its now gotten to the point that when out of town cats say they’d like to get a taste of the local Hip Hop scene, you have to send them to neighboring cities like Sacramento, Antioch, Stockton or Los Angeles which is 400 miles away so they can get a feel. It’s in these places that you will now find Bay Area artists like; Mac Mall, The Luniz, Mac Dre, Mystic Journeyman, Money B, and Rappin’ 4Tay to name a few. More and more Bay Area folks have also been relocating to New York, Atlanta or Texas where housing costs are cheaper when compared to the Bay..Even sadder is the fact that some Bay Area Hip Hoppers went away to school and found they can’t afford to move back..

Billy Jam

Billy Jam

In an attempt to bring attention to this housing problem, long time Bay Area DJ Billy Jam and Amoeba Music has put together a compilation album featuring 19 independent artists called ‘Just Paying The Rent’. The album is a who’s who of Bay Area underground artists like Clever Jeff, Crack Emcee, Superstar Qu’am Allah, BLACK, DJ Fear Slumlordz and DJ Zeph. to name a few cover the entire music spectrum from Hip Hop to folk music.

“Just payin’ the rent” is pretty much the battle cry for each of the nineteen indie artists on this compilation who, despite their radical range in musical styles, all share the struggle to just pay the rent and be able to create their art. The San Francisco Bay Area, where most of them reside, has felt the seemingly-overnight effects of the new dot-com economy which has escalated housing costs, changed demographics, and had a drastic effect on the local arts community.

Crack emcee

The Crack Emcee

“Living in San Francisco is like living in a computer: everything is about the Internet,” said the pre-teens’ Laura Davis. “People are been forced out because of the skyrocketing rents. Clubs are closing down and practice spaces are rare.” Indeed a major blow was dealt when on October 1st, San Francisco’s Downtown Rehearsal building, where 500 bands of all types of music had rented rehearsal spaces, were all evicted after the building was sold for a huge profit. “I call them the Dotzies,” laughed the Crack Emcee. “They’re blowing the smoke of the new economy up your ass… and all they want to do is sell you sh&*…..everyone’s selling banner space.”

There’s no telling where all this will end and what the final lay of the land will be..I guess I’ll have to move down to LA or back to New York with DJ Paul Nice to get a taste of the Bay Area’s Hip Hop scene. For more info on ‘Just Paying The Rent Project’ drop an email to Billy Jam at mailto:hiphopslam@aol.com