OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Rapper, entrepreneur, community organizer, and hip hop legend Mistah F.A.B. is doing what he can to change Oakland’s tune on crime.
“I’m not afraid to shed tears about where I’ve come from and how I feel about my people and my city and my culture. It’s real,” he said.
He reflected on a violent year in his hometown of Oakland. This week, police are investigating the city’s 131st homicide – the highest number of killings in the last decade.
“Something that troubles me – and it’s very baffling for me to grasp is the fact of – when law enforcement kills us, we’re in a major uproar, as we should be, because they’re set to protect us,” he said. “But why are we silent when members of our community, kill members of our community, where’s the uproar?”
Mistah F.A.B. full interview with Betty Yu
F.A.B. is making noise in his own way.
He recently initiated a meeting with Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong and Lieutenant Aaron Smith to talk about solutions. The meeting was supposed to be 20 minutes – it turned into a two-hour discussion.
In an Instagram post, he wrote:
When asked what is the narrative of Oakland, he said: “get it how you live.”
“When you say get it how you live, it’s whatever you doing – if you homeless, you’ll get it from a garbage can or you’ll get it from asking somebody or panhandling. If you in the streets and you’re under desperate times of it’s either eat or starve, you’ll rob somebody or steal.”
The 39-year-old rapper believes in creating opportunities for young people. He himself benefited from community basketball programs as a kid, run by the now-chief of police.
“I think the biggest misconception is that people that’s doing bad in these streets are bad people, they’re not. They’re just trying to survive,” said F.A.B.
Betty: How did you not become one of those people?
Mistah F.A.B.: “I had a praying grandmother and a loving mother. My mother transitioned and got her life together, she devoted her life so I wouldn’t have to make those choices and decisions.”
But growing up in Section 8 housing, he says it wasn’t an easy childhood.
“We doing it for the healings. Like I tell people I was that kid. I was that kid that got left at home, man, ’cause his parents was on drugs,” he added.
F.A.B. has long been organizing toy drives and giveaways in Oakland to help at-risk youth and the less fortunate. He also runs Dope Era clothing store downtown on Broadway. He’s now working on his dream – opening the Dope Era Academy for youth. He says areas of study will focus on trade skills and practical courses like self-defense, coding, and crypto mining.
“I really care, like you know what I mean,” he said with tears streaming down his face. “We’ve been doing community events for almost two decades, no funding, all out of our pockets.”
He says it will take compassionate people who want to invest in the community’s young people to make lasting change.
“My children have to grow in a community like this. My daughter is a teenager, my son. They gone have to grow up in this situation and if somebody don’t make a change, it’s only going to get worse. If we don’t create institutions that create the next lawyers and judges and doctors, and scientists, then the streets gonna connect the next killers, the next rapists the next burglars,” said F.A.B.
Betty: “What do you want from the community?”
Mistah F.A.B: “People just need to get back to caring, man.”
His first community event in collaboration with the Oakland Police Department will be held at the Fox Theater on December 30th. He will face off in a Verzuz battle with Oakland rapper Philthy Rich.
F.A.B. said OPD agreed to provide security at no cost, and the venue fees will be taken care of by the city. Proceeds will go to non-profits and sports and STEM programs for kids in Oakland.