By JR Valrey
The Continental Club located at 1658 12th Street, in West Oakland, is one of the first places where Blues and Jazz bands, and later Soul bands got a chance to hone their craft, in front of an audience, in the Town. Musicians like John Lee Hooker, Fats Domino, Bobby Blue Bland, Patti Labelle, and comedian Paul Mooney are just a few of the stars, that graced the stage. The original owners Ross Christy and his younger brother Curtis, created a restaurant called Christy’s Grill, in 1947, that specialized in gumbo.
In the early 50’s, the restaurant was expanded to create a nightclub by the name of the Rumboogie. In ‘61, the venue doubled in size, and with a capacity of 600, it was renamed The Continental Club. Since the 70’s the club has been dormant only open for private meetings, birthdays, weddings, receptions, parties, and benefits. Last year, after a chance meeting with the owner, Oakland rapper DB the General bought the legendary nightclub, and is ready to renovate it, so that it can be the world class cultural jewel that it used to be.
Although Black businesses are suffering from the Covid shelter-in-place en masse all around the Bay, this is one play that could put Black people back in control of the Bay Area’s cultural scene and Hip Hop scene like we were when Sweet Jimmies and Sweet’s Ballroom were in existence. Cheers to a new day. And salute to DB the General and his team for this monumental move, for the culture.
JR Valrey: What made you start to invest in real estate?
DB the General: Because I feel that it’s very important in a Black community to have ownership, passed down for generations of wealth.
JR Valrey: Why is the Continental Club significant to West Oakland history?
DB the General: Because the club has a lot of history. A lot of blues and soul singers used to come perform: James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Gladys Knight, Otis Redding, Ike and Tina Turner, B.B. King. It’s a landmark, that’s big and legendary in Oakland history.
JR Valrey: Why is the Continental Club significant to your family?
DB the General: It’s close to my family, because it’s the first place my mother lived as a child. There used to be an apartment complex, on top of the building, that you can still see today. My entire family is originally from Willow st. (in West Oakland). Today this place is called the Lower Bottoms. Before my family migrated to the East, and other parts of Oakland, my grandmother came to West Oakland, first. My grandmother was a welder, so that’s how long my family goes back in Oakland.
JR Valrey: What do you plan to do with the Continental Club?
DB the General: It’s not only me pushing this. So my partner’s idea was to keep it with the same vibe- jazzy. I was trying to do more stuff for the community, like what the area was originally known for. The Black Panthers National headquarters was right around the corner. Everyone from Oakland knows the Black Panthers originated in North and West Oakland, but mostly from West Oakland, because that’s where the police brutality was very bad. I love when my mother talks about that part of Oakland. She told us that Huey P. Newton was a good man.
JR Valrey: What do you have going on musically? How many albums did you put out last year? How many do you plan to release this year?
DB the General: Last year I put out 6 albums. This year I’m already 2 in. I’m working. I’m dropping a project every month.
JR Valrey: How do you find the time to make that much music in a year?
DB the General: All I do is make music honestly, or listen to it, or create some artwork, or write something down for a hook.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about your artist that you are putting out? What’s her name? Tell us about her sound?
DB the General: Ziadda, she’s from West Oakland too. She has a street gutter sound, mixed with a lil’ classy, but she can sing too, so please be on the lookout for her. She is really dope. She is the total package; the look, the bars, the performance. She is a triple threat, that’s the name of her next tape, coming soon. She already has an album, out called “Real Oakland”.
JR Valrey: What are your thoughts on the state of Bay Area Hip Hop?
DB the General: Bay Area Hip Hop needs more leadership, more outlets, and more platforms, and we would be good. That’s it, really. Honestly, I want the bay language culture swag to be respected on a world wide level. The disrespect has been going on for way too long, and nobody says anything, so I just do me.
JR Valrey: Why is there such tension in the northern Cali Hip Hop scene? It seems like there’s always a civil war going on, what are your thoughts?
DB the General: It’s because the Bay Area is thirsty for the attention and respect, we haven’t gotten since Tupac. Everywhere else already has their respect when it comes to Hip Hop, we get our respect through sports, mostly, but the rappers get no love from the outside world. And I’m not, never, okay with that. Don’t get me wrong, people know E40, Too Short, G-Eazy, ect, but I’m talking about a street militant. And that doesn’t have to be me, but the Bay Area needs that. Everyone else has that . Atlanta has T.I.. Texas has Trae the Truth. New York has Diddy and Jay Z. Philly has Meek and Wallo. And L.A has Y.G. and Blue Face. No disrespect to anyone, but who do we have that’s even close? We lost Pac, and we need that again. I don’t care who doesn’t like it, it’s a fact. I’m probably the closest we have to that, but honestly it doesn’t have to be me. I’m going to follow. I cannot be a great leader, if I don’t know when to follow. But that’s hard for me, because my mother raised me to never follow nobody, so I battle with that everyday. Nobody has put me on. I put myself on, so my story is very different. I’ve been rapping before a lot of people. I started rapping at like 7 or 8 years old. No lie. So I’m very advanced. God bless.
Ron Frydberg is the sole owner of the Continental Club. DB, has since the publication of this article, dissolved any relationship that he had with the owner.