Art & Soul Downsizes, Ignores Local Rappers

kev choice at lakefest.jpg
Missing in Action: the Kev Choice Ensemble

The big news with Oakland's annual Art & Soul festival this year is that it's now two days, instead of three, and the date has been moved up to August 15 and 16, instead of the traditional Labor Day. A&S has a bunch of ads giving the Top Ten reasons the festival was moved, i.e. "bay bridge closing," which doesn't make a lot of sense in my opinion, given that the festival is accessible by BART anyway. But whatever.

A&S is always a fun, family-oriented event, but it's missing some urban edge. Specifically, live hip-hop. Despite the genre's major contribution to "the Oakland sound" over the past 25 years, A&S has always been more than a little gun-shy when it comes to rap music. Technically, there is some hip-hop on this year's bill--which includes Latin, gospel, jazz, R&B and blues showcases--but only in the form of dance crews. What's up with that?

I could understand festival producers being concerned about including a hyphy local artist like J Stalin, Beeda Weeda, or Keak Da Sneak, which could result in rowdy crowds, yadidahmean? However, Oakland is also home to plenty of hip-hop artists who don't make music celebrating sideshows, gun violence, and drugs, such as Hieroglyphics and the Kev Choice Ensemble--both of whom performed at last weekend's Lakefest (Full disclosure: I was the official Lakefest photographer, and also wrote press releases for the event, which was super-cool).

This may go without saying, but there were no ugly incidents during either Hiero's or the KCE's performances, and both groups--who specialize in conscious, cultural lyrics--were well-received by the diverse crowd, which included people of all races, ethnicities, and ages. It's hard to believe that the omission of live hip-hop at A&S was an unintentional oversight, so, again, what's up with that?

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