The Surround Sound series features DJs telling the story of a specific neighborhood in Oakland through an interview and a DJ set with an immersive visual component created by the YR Media participants.
Episode 4 features DJ Fuze talking about the neighborhoods he lived in when he first moved out to California.
This project is supported by the Oakland City Council and funded by the City of Oakland’s Cultural Funding Program.
Full Interview Transcript – DJ Fuze:
My name is D.J. Fuze from Digital Underground. My mix is based on a whole bunch of neighborhoods when I first moved out to California. I lived on well, I lived on College and Claremont for a minute, right by what used to be the blue and gold liquor store.
I lived there for like two months and then I moved to East Oakland to E. 28th and 12th ave… one block from Bellavista Elementary School. It was a whole bunch of songs from that period on the mixtape.
And also when I lived with Money B on 63rd and King in North Oakland right by where we shot the Piano Man video. Mr. Fab is a little kid. He lived right around the block on 62nd… And I lived on Alcatraz right between Shattuck and Telegraph. Right down the street from Bushrod Park. I lived there when Digital Underground had just popped.
Oh and then there’s The Lake too I lived at the lake right when Digital Underground blew up too. But those are the neighborhoods that I kind of brought back my memories from for the songs on the mixtape.
So I kind of did my mixtape where I took it up from when I first moved to California all the way up till when I was moving into Gaskill. And that’s why I put up the N.E.W. Oakland at the end, because they mentioned Gaskill in that song, Mr. Fab.
So the first neighborhood I really based the memories and the mixtape on was 12th Ave and E. 28th because that was like a serious time in my life. My mom was gone all the time. She’s a nurse. She worked at Highland Hospital only a few blocks away, but she worked swing shifts. So me and my sister were by ourselves at night from the afternoon to late night till it was late for us back then. And I was like, crazy stories from that time period. First of which is kind of like my first serious memory of music and Oakland. I used to have to take the bus to Claremont because when I first moved, I lived on College and Claremont, so I was at Claremont Junior High. And then three months later we moved to East Oakland, but I was still taking the 57 [bus line] and then I would take the 57 to the 51 and go to Claremont. So I mean so much crazy stuff happened on that bus. I didn’t really add that to the mix tape because it was kind of morbid. Like I said, a guy got run over on the bus that I come coming from school one day. The way I began the mix tape was with using The Sequence “Funk You Up” one of the original rap records. That’s the first I heard that before I heard Rapper’s Delight and that because it came out right after Rapper’s Delight in 1980 and this dude was playing it on the back of the bus with this big ass bass radio on the back of the bus. And I just remember “We’re going to funk, you, right on up, we’re gonna funk you right on up”. But the the real Oakland Oakland memory was during the Black Cowboy Parade. The Claremont Junior High Drum Corps was always in the Black Cowboy Parade. So they would take even the people who weren’t in the drum corps. But if you were in the band I was in the band. I played tuba at Claremont. They take all the band members to and sit on the side of the street to watch the Black Cowboy Parade because all the drummers from Claremont were in it. And I just remember standing on the the west side of the 12th Ave overpass of the freeway that that was freshly built at the time, right on right at the base of West Oakland, right there on the other side of downtown. And I’m looking and first you hear the music, you hear the beat come in. It was “Do It” by the Bar-Kays. That’s why I did that on this mixtape. You hear “baaaeeerrr” and you slowly start seeing it was a big drop top Eldorado coming over the hill. You can barely, you know, because it’s like a little hill is that you see the first you see the kids in front of it with the with the little batons where they call them. Anyway, the car comes over and it’s bumpin. It’s a drop top El Dorado bumping “Do It” by the Bar-Kays, but it has two big-ass house speakers in the back seat, in the top down, you know, so it just looks tight. But there’s this girl doing the dance with with the things, the batons, whatever they’re called, to “Do It”. And it’s just like, you know, we all fell in love with her. Basically,
She was killing it and she was pretty. And I just remember the sound of “Do It” by the Bar-Kays with the Eldorado Cadillac, at the Black Cowboy Parade, it was like my introduction, you know, to my real strong memory in Oakland.
We used to walk to Lake Merritt on the weekends, me and my sister and some kids. This kid lived next door to me. And at that time Disco Roller Skating was still big. So there was this whole scene on the part of Lake Merritt where the cages are I don’t know if they are bird cages or monkey cages.
But we used to all go down there and watch the people disco roller skate. So all the first songs on the mixtape were songs I remember from that time period, like Knee Deep and The Gap Band, you know, the disco records, funk, disco, funk, because like West Coast was a real funk, funk, disco. And then I brought the mix tape up in time to a period when Boogalooing and was out I actually lived in Berkeley at the time when Boogalooing really blew up, like in the mid ’80s, like ’83 to ’85, ’82 to ’85 I lived on Oregon street in Berkeley and we’d be uptown Berkeley all the time. And all those like the Boogaloo records were dedicated to that time period because that’s really how I got into DJing was from from the breakdancing scene and boogaloo. And I was like a little boogaloo kind of I could get down a little but yeah, I mixed. And then and then after the boogalooing was over, then when I got out of high school I moved in with Mon’ [Money B] on 63rd. That’s right before Digital Underground popped. And that’s when I was getting into a lot of like you know like the first Oakland Hip-Hop records. The Too Short, Freaky Tales are the funny thing is the first time I heard that I lived, I was right around the corner from where I live now on Gaskill and it was only when the cassette was out of Freaky Tales, he hadn’t signed to Jive yet. And it was like there was Cisco involved, Cisco involved in that memory. It was waking up under a pool table in a pool hall in West Oakland, was involved in that memory off the Peach Cisco. And then a lot of other stuff was just kind of my some of my favorite records from right when Digital Underground had popped and like lyrical hip hop was still big, you know, like Kool G Rap, EPMD, right before and right after our sound was big. The songs that we all really liked, me and Money B and Shock G we all loved Kool G Rap, EPMD. Then there was all this stuff that slapped in cars from the ’80s all the way till now. I included a lot of those kind of songs, Just Ice, a lot of that Miami Bass like slow Miami Bass records. Yeah.
I mean, from the time I lived in these neighborhoods, most neighborhoods to now, I mean, things are completely transformed. You wouldn’t even barely recognize the neighborhoods anymore.
I mean, we don’t even got to talk about my neighborhood, Gaskill. I mean, let’s just put it in reference. That song, New Oakland came out in 2007, maybe right when Hyphy was big was a real big I don’t know if it was 2006 or 2007. And that’s since become like a bay area classic record. It’s really the only Hyphy record from that time that you hear every night at every single party in Oakland. Right. But when that song came out, Gaskill was still all bad. Well, maybe not all bad, but it was like it wasn’t cool to just just do anything around there. You could get rigged up. My corner is 56th and Gaskill and you know, there was some hella Gaskillians around there still. I mean I don’t even to this day I don’t really claim Gaskill because I don’t, I don’t run in the streets and I just kind of just mind my business, stay with my family. So but I’m proud of being from there. And my corner is actually… This dude I know he was a little kid when I moved in. He got killed and they they did like a makeshift memorial for him on my garage. And they just like they drew some stuff. R.I.P. and I left that up. I let it stay up because I knew the kid. And so that kind of became a makeshift memorial for a lot of people who passed away from North Oakland. One day I walked out and F.A.B. was shooting a video out there and I was like, “oh yeah, that’s my garage, man, do your thing. It’s all respect”, but let’s talk about how the neighborhood has changed. I mean, it used to be when I first moved in there, it was a lot of stuff going on and I moved there in ’94. And the week I moved there, there were like three killings in that one block radius. People sling dope pretty out in the open, but it was always kind of moving around there. It was. You know, there’s a lot of prostitution on San Pablo and these are some of the bad things that come with having poverty in the neighborhood. No development, you know. But there were good things about the neighborhood, too. I threw a crazy ass house party, shut down the whole block. The Luniz were there 3x Krazy, Dru Down probably this is when I was working with all of them. The Source van showed up, was just blasting music super loud. And it was like a huge block party, makeshift. Nowadays that couldn’t happen then. And the police would come immediately. Shut it down. We haven’t done a house party in years just because we assume this by you know, it’s not cool anymore, but the neighborhood’s not really as dangerous as it used to be, which is good if you have a family. Back then, I wasn’t really tripping off that. But now I’m happy. I am glad that the neighborhood is somewhat safer, but maybe not for my kids. You know, if the police haven’t seen walking down the street and because they’re they’re mixed, you know, I’d say the last thing is that the probably the most dangerous thing in my neighborhood that happens to you now is you might get coffee spilled on you. And also, you know, there’s a lot of dog do, too, around there, the new people who move in dont know how to clean up their dog doo doo, that’s a negative-ass gentrification issue.
My mix was really personal, had to do with my memory. So a lot of people won’t get maybe what was important about a lot of the songs to me, Freaky Tales specifically and Dope Fiend Beat. But also I didn’t put that on the mix because it’s so raunchy. I didn’t know maybe some kids watching, but Freaky Tales is I have a memory of being at the Oakland Coliseum before Digital Underground popped. This would be like ’88 or ’87, ’89 and Too Short came out. He opened the show for like Erik B & Rakim, L.L. Cool J. He opened the show and and he played a couple of songs like Short but Funky, which is more faster, like kind of clubby. But then when he dropped Dope Fiend Beat it was like everyone in the Oakland Coliseum was singing the song and Freaky Tales and Dope Fiend Beat. And it was just one of those moments, you know, and shut it down. It shut the whole concert down like the other rappers…Rakim or L.L. Cool J. Somebody with a Kangol and a gold chain was looking out like, what is going on? And then the plug got pulled on Too Short. And people like it was like he shut that shit down. That was a good old memory. That’s why I put Freaky Tales on there. But like all these songs were like these moments,
I mean, of course I got a shout out to the city of Oakland for, you know, being such a nice place to ride a bike around. When you’re bored as a kid, shout out to the Samoan family who took care of me, protected me when I lived in East Oakland, or else it might have been a wrap for your boy Fuze.
Shout out to the Digital Underground crew Shock G rest in peace 2Pac, rest in peace, Money B, still close friends with him. Shout out to Money B. Shout out to Somar Bar where I DJed for so long. The only place I had a long residencey where I got to play whatever I wanted in Oakland, shout out to all the clubs that are closed now that have been demolished. You know that I used to DJ at up to a hundred clubs in Oakland, most of which are gone now. And it was all just good memories.