R&B has always been a part of Oakland’s soul. It’s ingrained in the fabric of the city, as much a part of its history as Jack London, Samuel Merritt, or Huey Newton. Oakland’s R&B tradition has produced a continuous stream of talent emanating from within its East Bay bubble, from old-school ’60s funksters like Rodger Collins and Johnny Talbot to the jazzy, horn-laden ’70s accents of Tower of Power, to ‘80s revivalists like Tony! Toni! Tone!, to more recent exports like LaToya London, Ledisi, Goapele, Bobby Brackins, and Keyshia Cole.

Meet the latest addition to that list: Adrian Marcel. The 23-year old East Oakland singer has emerged as a potential superstar with his Raphael Saddiq-approved mixtape/EP Seven Days of Weak, which was officially released last week. Marcel celebrated the release with an extended hang at Liege last Saturday, which resulted in a chill afternoon party vibe in Old Oakland.

Adrian Marcel hangs with fans at Liege

Adrian Marcel hangs with fans at Liege

 

In an exclusive interview, Marcel described his sound as “a lot of hardcore hip-hop beats, with soul lyrics and melodies over it.” He added that “I got that from Oakland. All the fundamental basics that I learned, I just put it into the music.”

He said that today’s R&B  “has kinda lost itself,” being careful not to single out any particular artist. “The sound that I’ve always loved, that I grew up on…you look back at the Maxwells, the Sam Cookes, the Stevie Wonders, even going back to Jackie Wilson. It’s a lot of soul that’s incorporated in it… I’m trying to bring it back to rhythm and blues.” At the same time, he adds, “being young growing up in Oakland… you gotta be a little turned up with things.”

For the record, Oakulture is feeling Marcel’s radio-friendly, club-ready blend of slaps, knocks, and emotional vulnerability mixed with Town swag. We especially appreciate the minimalist way “Killa” reprises the “5 On It” melody, and how Marcel returns it to its R&B roots (it originated with Club Nouveau’s ”Why You Treat Me So Bad”). We also appreciated ESO OG Richie Rich’s hot verse (Rich Rich got that kill/ anything less I know not much about). “Caught Up,” however, is even better, as Marcel wavers on the jagged edge of infidelity, courting danger like so many R&B singers before him. And, “F@$% With Me” is a melodic dream, which balances its profane yet irresistible hook with candy-coated sweetness. “Let’s get ready for the next level babe,” Marcel confidently suggests. “I’ll chase for the clouds for you/ it’s whatever you want to do,” he promises, like an emo Al B. Sure.

Adrian Marcel, Neta Brielle, and Yancey Richardson at Liege

Adrian Marcel, Neta Brielle, and Yancey Richardson at Liege

 

It would be easy to dismiss Marcel as a baby-faced lightweight, based on the heart-throb status he’s cultivating at near-Bieberesque proportions. But not only did he seem like a chill dude, graciously accommodating female fans’ iPhoto requests at Liege, but his lyrics aren’t completely superficial.


The first video, “I’m Still,” offers honest reflections on his (growing) fame: “I gotta dolla and a dream and its kushed enough to start rolling up/ People asking how’s it feel, how’s it feel when you bout to start blowin up/ Everybody come around when its good and they see if I’m grown enough/ but they ain’t really real.”

Marcel earned Oakulture’s respect when he name-checked Jackie Wilson. That means he’s studied his R&B family tree.  “All the greats that I grew up on incorporated the greats that they grew up on,” he explains. “So I feel like, to be great, I have to look at the greats and take from them. So that’s all I do, I go back and do my history. That’s it.”

A stream of the mixtape is available here.

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The Estria Foundation—the crew responsible for the massive Water Writes mural on Broadway in downtown Oakland– recently hosted a meet ‘n’ greet at its Emeryville offices to announce a Kickstarter campaign to help fund its sixth annual graffiti battle during October’s Life is Living festival, which in the past has brought world-class aerosol artists to Oakland, along with hip-hop legends like Mos Def and Pharaoh Monch.

Mike “Bam” Tyau, the Battle’s Program Manager, explains that the organization took a break from hosting the event last year and “found out from our community that we were missed.” To help defray the costs of producing the battle, the Foundation is selling limited-edition prints of past competition entries and original artwork – a great opportunity to acquire some killer artwork, while supporting a community event.

“We love doing this in Oakland,” Tyau says. “This is where we live, and where we work, this is where we like to create art with all of our fellows and schools.”

For 2013, programming will include more activities designed for youth and young adult engagement with aerosol art, Tyau says, including collaborative efforts with other artists and art organizations, “so they aren’t just spectators.”

For more info, visit www.EstriaBattle.com.

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Though often painted as isolated incidents, a new documentary reveals that cases of police misconduct which result in the deaths of young black and Latino men are part of a pattern going back for decades in Oakland and numerous other cities.

Crimes of Police,” a film by first-time director Ansar El-Muhammad, addresses the highly-relevant topic of police murder, beginning with a recounting of the 1968 execution of 18 year-old Black Panther Minister of Defense Lil Bobby Hutton in North Oakland. From there, it traces LA’s Rampart scandal, the Oakland Riders case, and subsequent cases which drew national attention: Rodney King, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant.

The film connects recent Oakland victims of police homicide — Jody “Mack” Woodfox, Derrick Jones, Alan Blueford – with similar incidents in San Francisco (Kenneth Harding), Stockton (James Rivera, Luther Brown, James Cook) and Manteca (Ernest Duenez, Jr.). The video of the Duenez shooting, recorded by the in-car camera of the officer who shot him, is beyond graphic, and particularly egregious— the unarmed Duenez is gunned down after becoming tangled in a seatbelt—but no finding of misconduct was upheld.

The most powerful part of “C.O.P.”, however, is the interviews with surviving family members, many of whom recount in depth their quest to get answers, if not justice, from the system. Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson tells the story of how Johannes Mehsele drew his Taser several times on the BART platform before shooting Grant with his pistol; Blueford’s cousin gives an anguished interview questioning the official police account of his death; Rivera’s mother calmly analyzes an autopsy photo which shows her son was struck with 48 rounds; and Duenez’ brother remarks, “these streets aren’t safe when you have officers like that.”

“Crimes of Police” recently screened at Berkeley City College, as part of the Fist Up Film Festival. During a Q&A, El Muhammad, a music video director, related that the project came about after he was asked to record two funerals for victims of police shootings. That led to documenting meetings of support groups for the families, which in turn led him to make the film, which he says was important to do “from a victim’s standpoint.” Though not easy to watch, it’s a film which gets to the heart of the social justice debate, raising the question of who is being served, and who is being protected, by police. If you missed the screening, word has it the documentary will be shown at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.

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This week’s picks:

The Voice: Cuba Meets Oakland featuring Danay Suarez, 5/29, 9pm, $15-$18, 579 18th St.

Oakland Indie Awards, 5/30, 6:30pm-1030pm, $10, Kaiser Rooftop Gardens, 300 Lakeside Dr.

Bilal, 5/30, 8pm, $24, Yoshis, 510 Embarcadero.

Wailing Souls, 5/30, 9pm, $20-$25, New Parish, 579 18th St.

Fist Up Film Festival presents: “Coming Home”, 5/31, 7pm, East Side Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd.

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