By JR Valrey
Known mostly for being a celebrity barber, the East Oakland raised Brownie Blendz has began to make noise in the streets, during Corona, with his music-making hobby, in particular with his political songs “Times Up” and the “Times Up remix” featuring Oakland rap legends, V-White, Mr Ill, and Ant Didley Dogg.
West Oakland, since the 40’s, has been the home of jazz, home ownership, and Black Power. East Oakland is remembered mostly for the dope dealers in the dope era, the Eastbay Dragons Motorcycle Club, and the artistic contributions to the creation of independent Hip-Hop in the country, as well as street and conscious rap in the Bay.
East Oakland has a long discography of making political rap music for the streets, at least dating back to the ‘88 classic “Life is Too Short”. That was then followed up with conscious music like the 1990 Too Short hit “The Ghetto”, ‘91’s “So You Wanna Be a Gangsta”, and ‘92’s “I Want to Be Free (That’s the Truth)”. Most Hip Hop historians would not credit Too Short with spreading Black consciousness, be it that he is known more for going hard on women, although he used to also drop at least one conscious song an album, for the crack-ridden ghetto streets.
In 1991, 2Pac’s debut album, “2Pacalypse Now” dropped, which was recorded in Richmond while Pac was living in Oakland, and it was laced with Panther ideology all throughout. Then in ‘92, Askari X’s “Ward of the State” debuted, and it is still one of the most revolutionary gangsta Hip Hop records ever released, later influencing the creation of the east coast born rap group, dead prez. ‘93 saw the classic debut album “Kill My Landlord” by the revolutionary rap group, The Coup, with their hit “Dig It”, which got famous and was watched in normal rotation on the jukebox television service known as the Box. Boots, the frontman for the group soon after helped to establish an East Oakland based revolutionary organization called The Young Comrades. Digital Underground also dropped “Wassup With the Love?” featuring Tupac, in the same year, criticizing the recklessness nature of streetlife.
Then in ‘94, Seagram dropped the “Reality Check” album, which had songs like “Birth” and “Where Do We Go From Here”, where he examined how to overcome issues with his parents, children, and their mothers. The Coup also dropped “Genocide and Juice”, in the same year, with cult classics like “Takin These” which had a political video that was banned from TV, “Santa Rita Weekend” featuring Spice 1 and E40, and the smash hit “Fat Cats and Bigga Fish”.
In ‘95, Pac dropped “Me Against the World”, which was one of Pac’s most political and spiritual albums, and the Delinquents dropped the legendary album “Outta Control”, which featured Askari X, on a song called “Gotta Go”, which sampled the anti-pig Black Panther song “Oink, Oink, Bang, Bang, Dead Pig”.
‘96 saw Askari X reappear with “Message to the Blackman”, which is a Mike D-produced revolutionary masterpiece, as well as the legendary “Cellblock Compilation” came out, which featured the cop killing anthem by 3X Krazy and Askari X, called “Fucked in the Game”. After the 2000 release of Askari X’s album “The Return of Ricky Murdock”, the street conscious element of the East Oakland Hip Hop mind frame went quiet. Leading up to the Hyphy Movement in the early 2000’s, East Oakland lost its flare for doing music that politically needed to be digested. The music was filled more with political “candy”, which sounded fun and surface deep, but did not include the messages that went to the depths of our souls that we needed to promote growth. With this brotha, we seem to be returning to the real, and returning to the source.
Brownie Blendz is taking East Oakland back to its poetic roots, in a very crucial time, when people are searching for the truth in an ocean of media and government lies and corruption. I sat down with the brotha to pick his brain.
JR Valrey: What inspired you to make the very timely anthem “Times Up”?
Brownie Blendz: What inspired me to do the song is everything going on in the world. It’s probably as bad as it’s ever been, at least in my lifetime. I just felt like enough is enough. I’m not a big protester as far as marching and stuff like that, so I had to figure out a way to make a contribution, and music is how I like to express myself.
JR Valrey: What inspired you to include East Oakland rap legends V. White, Mr. Ill, and Ant Didley Dogg on the remix?
Brownie Blendz: I wanted to add them dudes to the remix, because those are the guys I have a lot of respect for, and have always admired, and looked up to. They’ve shared a lot of game with me over the years. Diddley has always been a big brother to me. He’s where I get a lot of sound advice, and V is probably one of the sharpest tools in the shed. His business sense and nack for making good choices is through the roof, I also felt like the last time E world (East Oakland) heard these three dudes on the same track was Askari X’s “3 Strikes”. Askari was talking about this stuff years ago, that song was ahead of its time.
JR Valrey: How have people been responding to the political nature of the song “Times Up?”
Brownie Blendz: People have responded well to the song, the feedback has been crazy. Most people felt like this type of content is what the game is missing, and their starving for music with a message. I really didn’t put it together to try to go platinum or nothing like that, just really wanted to do my part.
JR Valrey: How long have you been a rapper? Have you dropped any projects?
Brownie Blendz: I’ve been rhyming for over 20 years I just kind of left it alone. I released a project in like ‘98 called Tymatale. The group I was in was called Tymatale. It was two of us, me and my dawg P-nut a lot of people know me for being a celebrity barber, but Rhyming was always my first love
JR Valrey: Who are some of the political artists that inspired you?
Brownie Blendz: Not too many artists have inspired me politically, but if I had to pick one I would say Mistah Fab. He hasn’t shied away from shedding light on the issues that are plaguing our people, and his continuous work in the community is something that should be applauded. So my hats off to that brother for real. The world is a better place with dudes like that in it fasho.
JR Valrey: What kind of effect do you want this record to have on the streets?
Brownie Blendz: I really just want the streets to really start to think, use logic, and understand this battle is with us. Voting is great and all that, but we gotta start to love each other, make better decisions with our bread, and start building things for ourselves. I feel like that’s the only way to flip the page
JR Valrey: Where can people find your music?
Brownie Blendz: Music is available on all outlets , or use click the Link in my Instagram Bio @brownie_blendz