By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information JR
“Dope Only” has been a trusted brand in the Bay Area for over the last 20 years, having been associated with a wide range of products and events; from the “OaklandUSA Hoodies” to the “Cool Water” Day Parties, as well as a wide range of artists from the Delinquents and Richie Rich to EPMD. Rod Campbell, the CEO of “Dope Only” is now spearheading a campaign where where he is planning to fundraise and give back to the Oakland Athletic League of the Oakland Public Schools, because of his love for the accepting nature that it had for him and others at a very pivotal time in his life. For many students growing up in Oakland, their high school is a big part of their identity in the Town.
The most interesting part of this fundraising campaign, for me, is that “Dope Only” plans to eventually sell crew neck sweatshirts representing every high school in Oakland with their mascots and colors, and then teach the high schoolers, through an applied- business program, how to sustain the fundraising effort. Youth athletic programs in Oakland need all the funding that they can get, so I salute “Dope Only” for their effort. Check out Rod Campbell, as he talks about the OAL Sweatshirt Campaign and more.
JR Valrey: What inspired your company “Dope Only” to come up with the two unique hoodies: “Public School Kid”and “OAL since 1920”? What exactly are the hoodies commemorating?
Rod Campbell: Skyline High, Class of ’91. John Beam was my coach. Maybe one of the best three year spans of my life, if memory serves correct. Skyline was freedom, meaning you could be who you wanted to be without judgment. If you saw blue hair and blue hair wasn’t your thing, it wasn’t something you worried about or made the person with the blue hair feel ostracized in any way, you just kept it moving and paid attention to the things that worked for you. It’s exactly how life should be, and for a three year span, it was. If you went to public school, you have a perspective, “kid”.
As for the OAL, do you know how many people who have impacted the world came from the Oakland Athletic League, man!? It’s amazing to me that it doesn’t get more attention. I’m not gonna bore you with the names, just give you a second to do your own tally. Done yet? Come on, man. The competitive spirit that Oakland has is tenacious, steadfast attitude, us against the world soul, finds itself in that league. The only difference is its against each other, a mirroring of all previously listed. Play ball. I lived that first hand, there was no funner time. We wanted to highlight that.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about the second half of your campaign where you will create a series of hoodies for every high school in Oakland with their mascots and colors?
Rod Campbell: Sure, it’s an attempt to get folks to feel the same way they feel about their college alma mater. What’s interesting is they do, they just have to be reminded. Hopefully this will assist in activating alumni on a more consistent basis. In this case, the point of sale is through a signature item that represents a feeling.
JR Valrey: I know that your company already makes different signature hoodies, what made y’all want to put a youth program behind this particular campaign?
Rod Campbell: I see marketing as life and I’d like to talk about it with those who are interested in it, and have a similar view. I would love to give and receive. Doing so with a younger generation that is still vastly connected to hip hop, and largely the cultural sub-set that groomed me, can be amazing, I think. The give and receive can be easier, because it all comes from the same place; hip hop. It’s dope having a teacher who is hip hop teaching you, he or she can deliver in a way that’s familiar. The same thing can happen when hip hoppers of a different generation meet on a playing field where hip hop leads. And pieces of life aka actual life game, can slip in because that’s just what old heads do.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about how the youth program will work?
Rod Campbell: Our first step will be to tap into a school that’s already engaged in this type of media to establish a portal between old heads (meant in the most appreciative way ever), and younger hip hop heads to speak marketing. With Covid restrictions, we are currently setting up means through zoom. Open discussions on marketing and its impact on the world. Hip Hop is the theme, so it will play a lead role as well.
JR Valrey: Can you talk a little bit about your partnership with the Oakland Athletic League? What does the partnership consist of?
Rod Campbell: This particular campaign is a fundraiser for Oakland youth sports, but also to show the City’s willingness to partner with a local small business. Salute to OAL commissioner Frankie Navarro. I reached out to him with the idea, he liked it, and we set go. I like action people, he’s an action person. DopeOnly Marketing is an ideas hub, it’s always dope to be able to craft one that fits in a specific place, with a specific partner. OAL means something, I promise you.
JR Valrey: What do you hope to ultimately accomplish with this campaign?
Rod Campbell: Announcement, fundraise to the best of its capability, establish 9 signature sweatshirts that can be bought at the school or any of their commerce outlets, and establish a cool space for conversation between hip hoppers of a different time, but hip hoppers nonetheless, all through the beautiful, artful world of marketing. And, somehow get the city to recognize it as social work that they should implement into their system. We’re crawling though, I’ll let you know about the walk soon, and so on.
JR Valrey: Why is teaching inner-city youth about business, while employing them, important?
Rod Campbell: Kids work while in high school all the time, and find good jobs. No one says anything. Why? Because it’s the norm. From the very beginning of our introduction to the workforce, it’s from a step behind, they’re actually teaching us that working for someone else is the way. Come on. No one gets mad at the 18 year old who chooses to simply get a job after high school, because he’ll just become another worker bee in place to line the pockets of someone else; but let him be 18 looking at millions, a position attached to the idea of “boss”, and everyone has a problem with it. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with an honest day’s work, ever, if that’s what you choose, but it should BE a choice. If I’m young and I want to learn how to be the boss, I should have that option as well.
The getting paid part is just how we feel about people doing work; which is that anyone who does work, should be paid for their efforts, period.
JR Valrey: What else does Dope Only Marketing do? When was it founded?
Rod Campbell: We became an official business in January of 2015, but the OaklandUSA hoodie has been an Oakland staple, long before that. We throw parties and shows as well; with “Cool Water” being our signature gathering. The City of Oakland decreed Sept. 6th as “Cool Water Day”. Honor and a half, word to Chuck Johnson from Soul Beat, the younger one, we connect culture to those who would best receive its specific welcome. www.DopeOnly.com, feel free to check us out when time allows.
JR Valrey: How could people purchase hoodies? How could people otherwise support the campaign?
Rod Campbell: Folk can purchase at our website, www,DopeOnly.com, which also gives a full detailing of the campaign itself. Donations of any kind are welcome and simply passing it along to folks you know would be of interest would be extremely healthy.
Create dope, validate dope, cultivate dope. Blackness. Culture. Connect the Dots.