Stunnaman02 performs 'Big Steppin' in front of an energetic audience at Cornerstone in Berkeley, July 17, 2021. (Pendarvis Harshaw/KQED)
I could write a whole book about the energy bouncing off the walls at Cornerstone in Berkeley on Saturday night—and specifically, from Stunnaman02.
I watched handshakes between reunited friends turn into palm-grasping mini-gig sessions. Airborne beach balls that drew people toward the stage. A sprayed bottle of champagne that caused them to retreat. At one point during the action-filled evening, a woman stood on the edge of the balcony, twerking a full story above the rest of the world.
All through the night, I watched energy emit from a crowd of true Bay Area hip-hop lovers. I took as many photos as I could, all the while knowing that capturing images doesn't equate to capturing a vibe.
I moved from the balcony to the front of the stage, taking photos and monitoring the energy.
I took note of how the vocals of one of the opening acts were drowned out by the recorded track that they were supposed to be rapping over. I acknowledged the way seasoned veterans, like Hieroglyphics’ DJ Toure and San Francisco’s Big Rich, played the cut and let the youngsters turn up. I listened as Drew Banga managed the music on the ones and twos, and simultaneously controlled the amount of people on stage—or at least attempted to.
I laughed at the way the thick weed smoke and lack of air conditioning made the term “hot box” an accurate double entendre. By the time the opening acts concluded, it was house-party hot inside of that joint. Then Stunnaman02 hit the stage, turning up the temperature, the energy, and every other lever he could find.
Stunnaman02 went from the edge of the stage to rapping in the middle of the crowd. I perched myself in the balcony to take bird’s eye view photos of his performance, only for him to run upstairs, past me, down the next stairway and eventually end up on top of the bar, rapping the whole time.
Hailing from San Francisco, Stunnaman02 is the artist behind the high-energy track “Gut Check,” and the more laid-back song “SloMo.” He’s also the guy behind the regional hit that’s quickly becoming the Bay Area the song of the summer, “Big Steppin.”
Over the weekend a video surfaced of Stunnaman02 and E-40 doing the Big Steppin Challenge, a dance trend that rhythmically mimics the act of bench pressing. As of this article's publication, Stunnaman02 has recorded 41 straight days of himself doing the dance, oftentimes appearing in notable Bay Area locations with other known artists.
Late last month, Stunnaman02 teamed up with fellow Fillmore artist and actor Gunna Goes Global to drop the uptempo album Feel More. Stunnaman02, real name Jordan Gomes, is also an actor, featured alongside Gunna Goes Global in the film The Last Black Man in San Francisco. And he plays the role of a cop in the web series Rent Check. On top of that, Stunnaman02 is an entrepreneur, selling clothing and a self-made beverage, 02 Juice. And if that's not enough, Stunnaman02 was a part of a group that momentarily shut down the Bay Bridge last year, protesting police brutality.
All of this to say: he's an active dude. But he's not just a hyphy-ass live wire.
At one of the last pre-pandemic events I attended, in February of 2020, I bumped into Stunnaman02 at Oakland's Black Joy Parade. He was stopping anyone and everyone who would listen to him, asking nothing more than that person have a great day.
This past weekend, during the show at Cornerstone in Berkeley, he showed that same sincerity.
After tearing his shirt off and rocking the crowd, Stunnaman02 concluded his set with a prayer.
The crowd simmered as Stunnaman02 asked for the health of all of those in attendance. He rattled off a long list of specific types of health, including financial and mental. He then said the names of a couple of deceased friends, before screaming into the microphone, "WE STILL WINNING!"
Other artists followed, and the show's energy didn't wane. Young Bari lit up the crowd when he came out giggin' to his track "So Mobby." BossLife Big Spence and 10 Piece Tone rocked the stage for a few minutes, took a set break and doubled back with an outfit change—and then rocked the crowd some more.
My weary legs, fatigued from not attending a fully energized live hip-hop show in over a calendar year, told me it was time to leave. As I exited the building and made my way back out to the Berkeley streets, I saw producer Quakebeatz and Stunnaman02, and used my last bit of energy to congratulate them on a successful show.
Looking back at the footage from that night, some true gems were documented. A photo set by Sydney Welch does justice to what took place that evening. And a duo of Instagram posts between BossLife Big Spence and a huge fan of his, Big Less, who says Big Spence's music has helped him with his battle against stage four cancer, really puts the power of that evening into perspective.
Yeah, there could be easily be a book written about the energy of Bay Area hip-hop artists and fans. But words and photos never fully capture that energy—you've just got to experience it.
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