Oakland, Oakland, Oakland, we love you.

A city of strong passions and strong personalities, Oakland is a place where people do not shy away from speaking the truth and stating their beliefs. So many amazing musicians, political activists, writers and community organizers call it home – it’s not surprising that our city has the eyes of the world on it, always.

With that global view in mind, what were some of the videos made in Oakland, made by Oakland folks and/or heavily referenced by Oaklanders that went viral in 2011? (And by viral we mean both that they got a lot more play on the interwebs that their producers might have expected and they took off with the people to a degree it would have been hard to predict).
Kreyshawn, Gucci Gucci – 28,753,010 views

“One big room full of bad b–ches … .” East Oakland’s Kreyshawn, a Russian-born, Oakland-raised young rapper got lots of media play, both for her runaway hit, and for sister VNasty’s use of theN-word. Her video turned into a big hit in Oakland and beyond – even though it was shot in L.A.


Ledesi, Pieces of Me – 1,880,282 views

Oakland local Ledesi has recorded five albums; this 2011 tune, “Pieces of Me,” has five potential Grammy nominations in the R&B category. She’s one of Oakland’s finest.


PopLyfe, June 7 Seatle America’s Got Talent auditions – 820,343 views

Who would have thought that PopLyfe, the teen band formed by Oakland School of the Arts students, would have made it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent?” Then again, why not? They are terrific! And from right here in O-town.



Ben Zolno/GreenSangha/Ashel Seasunz, Plastic State of Mnd (Parody) – 654,336

A Berkeley-based zen group, Green Sangha, used some money they’d raised to hire a young Los Angeles-based film maker to make a video in Oakland about banning single-use plastic bag. Locals Ashel Seasunz, Jenni Perez and others got into the act and the video became an instant classic.


Goapele, Play (Official Music Video) – 329,427

Oakland goddess Goapele is our Athena, blessing the community with her local roots, investments in downtown  and benefit appearances. This 2011 video hit big in Oakland and around the world.


Los Rakas, “Soy Raka”, YAK FILMS featuring TURF FEINZ Oakland Dancing – 135,021

Los Rakas, how could you not love them? Moving from Panama to Oakland, the Los Rakas duo combines hip hop with a Latin dance hall that The Washington Post singled out for approval. We approve as well.


Ali Winston, Marine Vet wounded, tear gas and flash-bang grenades thrown in downtown Oakland  (Occupy Oakland News footage) -126,530 views

Local reporter Ali Winston got some of the best footage during the Occupy Oakland demonstration that led to police hitting demonstrator and Vietnam Vet Scott Olsen in the head with a metal canister, sending him to the hospital. Winston’s video has been widely reposted; this is his original.


LaeCharles Lawrence Jr., Whole Foods Parking Lot (Berkeley Remix) Featuring Lae – 56,069 views

Okay, this is shot in Berkeley, not Oakland, but Lae’s Oakland-flavored response to his friend Dave’s Whole Foods Parking Lotsong is just too funny for words. This is the O-town real deal, just across the town line.


Boots Riley, West Coast port shutdown announcement video (from Occupy Oakland).mov – 55,848 views

Did you think we could do a viral videos of 2011 and not find a way to mention hometown hero Boots Riley? The Coup leader has become one of the foremost faces of Oakland’s Occupy Movement, and this video features his face and music in announcing the Dec. 12 port shutdown.


John Osborn, Occupy Oakland Camp Raided by Police – Rough Edit – 50,914 views

The Reporta’s footage of this Occupy camp raid on Oct. 25 gave witness to much of the confrontation and brutality.


Souls of Mischief – Won One – 36,814 views

Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai are the Souls of Mischief, part of hip hop collective Hieroglyphics. This video is so Oakland, and it is so good.

What were your favorite Oakland-based or Oakland-focused videos of 2011?  Share in the comments or emaileditor[at]oaklandlocal.com and we’ll publish your comments (and links to those vids).

What were the criteria?

  • Made in 2011
  • Featuring or made by an Oakland resident
  • Talked about in Oakland by Oaklanders
  • 35,000 views or more
  • Reflects the spirit of Oakland, or an aspect of Oakland, in some way

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

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