The Luniz and 3X Krazy Reunite to Celebrate Soul Beat, the First Black-Owned TV Network

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Three young Black men pose among dice, money, rims and a giant watch
3X Krazy, as pictured on the cover of their 1997 album 'Stackin Chips.' (Noo Trybe Records)

If you lived in Oakland in the ’80s and ’90s, chances are you turned on your television and witnessed history in the making—even if it was 3am and you'd just switched the channel to a call-in show involving jokes and insults from a man called Night Doggie.

The channel was called Soul Beat, and it’s recognized as the first Black-owned TV network. It was started in 1978 by a former Marine named Chuck Johnson, who understood the East Oakland community in ways the cable TV giants never could. Comedy shows, homemade commercials and rap videos made Soul Beat a hub for the newest sounds and fashions, and the latest Oakland news, until it folded in 2003.

Today, the memory of Soul Beat is kept alive on Instagram, on T-shirts and at events by a Soul Beat personality who happens to also be named Chuck Johnson (no relation).

"One thing that will never go away is the conversation about Soul Beat," Johnson says. "I can be in a different world, doing something totally different, and someone who’s older, younger, in the music industry, working at city hall, on the street—they'll bring up Soul Beat! It’s almost like Soul Beat represents the soundtrack of people’s lives."

The younger Chuck hosted the Rap Show on Soul Beat, where he interviewed artists like Jay-Z and the Fugees early in their careers. So it’s only natural that for Soul Beat Day, a celebration of the network in Oakland on July 30, he’s convened three legends of ’90s Oakland rap to perform.

The biggest news is a special reunion of 3x Krazy, the group that included Keak da Sneak before he struck out on his own, and who hasn't performed together in over 10 years. "Everybody's lives have been going in different directions, in different time zones, so even to get them together is a big thing," Johnson says.

Just as notable is a reunion of the Luniz, the group behind the Bay Area anthem "I Got 5 On It." (Members Yukmouth and Numskull hadn't talked in about a year, but Johnson got them on the phone together at 1am one night, and by the end of the conversation, they'd agreed to perform.) The lineup also has Dru Down, sure to perform his hit song “Pimp of the Year,” a number of guest DJs and hosts.

The good news is you won’t have to stay up until 3am to celebrate Soul Beat. This is a daytime event, from 2-7pm, on Saturday, July 30, and it all goes down at the New Parish in Oakland. Details here.