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Mistah F.A.B. Drops ‘N.E.W. Oakland’ Music Video, Nearly 20 Years Later

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Mistah F.A.B. at Hiero Day in Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, Sept. 4, 2023. (Eric Arnold/KQED)

In 2005, when rapper Mistah F.A.B. originally released “N.E.W. Oakland,” he was barely old enough to legally drink. Nearly 20 years later — now a veteran, community fixture and business savant — he’s finally decided to drop the video.

Mistah F.A.B. is known for pouring his all into The Town. In addition to running Dope Era (a clothing shop that also offers a youth arts development component), he recently began offering Thug Therapy (a free, bimonthly support group for men).  But “N.E.W. Oakland” shows how F.A.B. was bringing folks together long before that, with a call for pride and unity in the Oakland hip-hop scene.

The ode recounts each side of Oakland (the North, East and West) with a triumvirate of game-certified, lyrically diverse representatives: F.A.B., G-Stack and Bavgate. As a young, rising freestyle rapper, Mistah F.A.B. — the self-proclaimed “Prince of the O” — first got the idea when he ran into the pair of Oakland legends, whom he grew up idolizing.

“I was in the studio and was like, there go G-Stack, that’s a super pioneer for the culture with [his group] The Delinquents, and what they done for Oakland. Then Bavgate walked into the studio after that. He used to be with No Limit [Records], selling millions,” F.A.B. recalls. “I’m like, ‘I’m from the North, he’s from the East, he’s from the West.’ Let’s do a record about the whole Town being together.”

“I had a beat from E-A-Ski and I freestyled the hook,” he continues. “Everyone was like ‘Yeah, that’s cold.’ So we wrote our verses. [But] never would I have thought that ‘N.E.W Oakland’ would be a song that stands as a Bay Area anthem.”


Unlike so many rap songs about warring factions, “N.E.W. Oakland” brings each side of Oakland together on equal footing, with shout-outs to each neighborhood’s markers. There may not be another hook with as much centrifugal gravity for all of Oakland as when F.A.B. shouts, “I got the North, got the East, got the West with me.”

At the time of the song’s release, F.A.B. says that North Oakland wasn’t receiving its proper respect, often being left out of the larger rap conversation, while East and West Oakland rappers got their shine. In the 2005 Keak Da Sneak track “Town Business,” for example, the raspy-voiced linguist rattles off a litany of Oakland locations — but none from the North side.

“That was a big record that summer,” F.A.B. says. “I was like ‘Damn, y’all didn’t say nothing about North Oakland.’ So when I did my verse [on ‘N.E.W. Oakland’], I started it out with the same cadence Keak used but it included areas from North Oakland. It was a friendly response to my big brother about how they forgot about us. It’s not no diss or anything. It’s just letting people know about the North.”

On the opening verse of “N.E.W. Oakland,” Fabby bombards listeners with references to “the North Pole” — Gaskill, Bushrod, 62nd, Goldenville. He then reminds the Bay Area that Oakland is bigger than its notorious East and West sides: “My side been forgot about and that’s what I’m hot about.” Then he enlists two lyrical giants from each contingent to tell their sides.

The song was instantly a hit on street corners, at house parties, lakeside cookouts, car cruises and more. And its unifying theme is surely part of the reason the new video struck such a deep chord with today’s audience after it premiered on May 10.

Mistah F.A.B. headlines a show honoring the legacy of Oakland's Mac Dre
Mistah F.A.B. made a name for himself during the hyphy movement with his unapologetic representation of North Oakland. (Photo: Courtesy of Mistah F.A.B.)

Shot and directed by Thee Shooters, the video is a mix of documentary and artistic angling, spanning each rapper’s turf — beginning in the North, then sliding through the Deep East and circling back to Ghost Town in the West. Despite the shift in eras (and technology), the 20-year-old song seems to have even gained a few octaves of trunk-rattling superpowers with each passing year.

Bay Area fans seem to agree that it slaps. The comment section under the “N.E.W. Oakland” video’s Instagram post is like a group chat of diehard fans and major Bay Area personalities and institutions, including Rexx Life Raj, DB Tha General, 22nd Jim, Seiji Oda, The Grouch and more.

“Who here been waiting 20 years for this video button [100 emoji; fire emoji; clapping emoji],” one fan on YouTube wrote. “I’m 33 now, this slap came out when I was a freshman in high school!,” says another. And perhaps the one that hits the bullseye: “Maaannn, very smart release.”

If it feels rare for a rapper to reach into the archives and shoot original footage for a track that was released nearly a quarter-century ago, that’s because it is. For better or worse, hip-hop has often been presented as a genre of the moment, and the culture is still figuring out how to age gracefully and honor the past — particularly as some of its mainstay figures pass away, and others radically shift gears to stay relevant.

In that context, it’s compelling for three well-established rappers to come back in a way that is fresh, dynamic and genuine — not by trying to create a contemporary hit based on today’s TikTok trends, but to honor their past work together in a sincere way.

It begs the question: Why isn’t there more of this? If it’s the right song, and it came out at the right time, but there’s no existing video for it, then why not release a video after the fact?

Capturing Oakland, then and now

Back in the day, music videos were mostly financially out of reach for independent rappers — it could’ve cost $25,000 to $50,000 to film a proper one. Without record label budgets, artists learned how to survive out the trunk rather than aspiring for Hollywood’s recognition. In fact, most of Mistah F.A.B.’s legendary discography — along with many of the alpha rappers of his generation and prior — didn’t have official videos until later in their careers. They made mixtapes, and then there were bootleg mixes of pixelated slideshows created by avid fans on YouTube, long before social media existed.

Two men dressed in black stand on stage, smiling
Ice Cube and Mistah FAB on stage at Fremont High School to commemorate the unveiling of ‘Too $hort Way’ on Dec. 10, 2022. (Kristie Song/KQED)

For F.A.B., it only felt right to resuscitate an important moment in Oakland’s rap history by providing a video. The idea first came together organically during F.A.B.’s birthday party earlier this year; G-Stack and Bavgate were in attendance. F.A.B. realized he had a film crew available that could do what he didn’t have the ability to do at 21 years old. So he locked it in.

“Documentation supersedes conversation,” says Mistah F.A.B., like a professor about to freestyle an entire dissertation. “When it’s locked in, there’s nothing to talk about. We here. You can see it for yourself. We just captured the moment.”

The video serves as a testament to not only what Oakland is right now, but what it felt like back then — if not in the physical form, then at least in the spiritual realm. Due to relentless waves of gentrification that have dismantled so many community hubs, it’s hard to imagine what this video might’ve looked like if it came out in ‘05 instead of ‘24. That’s not lost on the artist.

“Some of my friends that were there when we made this [song], they’re no longer living,” says F.A.B. Same for physical landmarks that are no longer here: “When I talk about Goldenville, that was a project building we all grew up in. Know what I’m saying? I would’ve loved to get those kinds of buildings and people in it.”

F.A.B. even admits that he initially thought the video could’ve worked in black and white. But he’s ultimately glad it’s in color. The energy and liveliness of contemporary Oakland is exactly what he had hoped to convey, without diluting it or hyperbolizing it.

“The directors did a hell of a job of capturing the energy,” F.A.B. says. “If you ever wanted to know what Oakland looks like, here it is.”


Mistah F.A.B. hosts Thug Therapy, a mental health check-in for men,  on first and third Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at Oakstop California Ballroom (1736 Franklin St., Oakland). The next event will be held on Wednesday, May 29 and feature Rick ‘Freeway Ricky’ Ross. Free entry, includes complimentary food and beverages.

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