Back in 2006, Oakland's unofficial hyphy ambassador Mistah FAB -- like the movement itself -- was a relentless ball of energy, with a 10,000-watt smile on his face. On any given day, he'd be popping up at a Youth Uprising dance battle or an Oakland City Council meeting, joining forces with the Silence the Violence campaign, or strolling into a local high school. At 24, the man born Stanley P. Cox Jr., seemed to be a bit of a goofball, a big little kid relishing his star power, decked out in gold, diamonds on his grill and a big cartoon bus around his neck. His rap persona, too, was something of a cartoon character all the kids adored, with his nasally rhymes about "getting on the yellow bus" -- a.k.a "going dumb" or "wilding out" -- and ghost-riding -- dancing on a moving car with no one behind the wheel.
Now, Mistah FAB is the father of a two-year-old girl, and he's no longer playing the class clown. In fact, he seems a little chagrined that he has encouraged so much recklessness in the past, even as he was advocating for the youth. Now, he's thinking his future could be in politics, leading Oakland as mayor some day. At August's Fresh Fest in Oakland's Mosswood Park, he gave a stirring speech to the crowd, still shellshocked by the involuntary manslaughter verdict against BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle in the death of 23-year-old Oakland resident Oscar Grant.
"As mentors, we must realize that when we tell these young dudes, 'Oh little homie, you tripping, you hyphy, you wild!' -- that's not the way," FAB told the audience. "Let's tell these dudes, 'I feel your pain, I know your brother got life. I know you don't know your dad. I was in that same situation. My brother got 100 years. My mother has cancer right now, so every day, I'm appreciative to be with her. My daddy died from AIDS.' ... We can't continue to give up on the youth. Stop saying there's no hope for the future. We have to give them the feeling that 'You can make it, too.'"
I recently just dropped another video called, "Get Away." To me, that's the alternative solution. "Get Away" says before you allow yourself to crash on that highway, you just need to get away, go somewhere else. And if you can't physically go somewhere else, mentally go there. Although your body may be trapped and enslaved, your mind is free to roam. See yourself somewhere else. Be somewhere else. Because growing up in the inner cities that we come up in, the only thing that saves most of us is having a great, vivid imagination.
These videos are a part of a collection of 10 videos I'm doing, like a semi-movie. All the videos together will tell a story. The project is called, We Against the World, and it's basically taking a chapter out of Tupac Shakur's ideology of his album, Me Against the World. All of the songs are going to tell the story of "How does Oakland feel?"
LH: Is this also going to be an album?
FAB: No, it's more like a mix tape/street album. The next major album that I'll drop is called Liberty Forever, which I've been working on for 2-3 years. My daughter's name is Liberty Forever Free, so the album is named after her, but it's also a symbol of how I am, at 28 years old, of what I'm feeling, where my mind is at. I'm feeling liberation. I'm feeling like, for the rest of my life, as long as I allow myself to think freely, be emancipated mentally, I'll never be able to be captured, or held down, or restricted of anything. You can put up a roadblock, but you can't block my thoughts.
It helps a lot. I've become so strong-minded that I'm not letting anything interfere with that. I don't drink alcohol anymore. I don't smoke weed anymore. And I'm not trying to say I'm better than anyone that does that. But that's what works for me.
LH: What are your thoughts on the Oscar Grant verdict and the reaction to that verdict in Oakland?
FAB: It's like, to what level do you equate fear and justice? One loses his life, another has to do a couple months for it. Even if he had to do life, does it still make it fair that he took a life? You can escape the legal system, but universal law is the judgment passed down by a higher power that we all have to answer to on the day of our calling. That's the way you have to look at that. That's the only way to maintain some level of sanity, and not allow yourself to be so overly frustrated that you go out and you do something that may risk your liberty. You don't want people to rile people to do something ignorant. Then that's going to be another person that's going to be a sacrificial lamb for the justice system.
LH: Can you tell me about your Black Liberty clothing line?
FAB: Black Liberty just symbolizes freedom, and the thought of, "Everyone has a dark side -- let's free it." Let's bring our dark side into the light. It could be physical emancipation, it could be mental emancipation, it could be spiritual emancipation. Through that, we establish black liberty. We establish the darkest things and the most awful viewpoint that people have upon us, and we throw them out the window. Black Liberty is also raising awareness of political prisoners like, Mutulu Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Assata Shakur. I'm also working on a motivational book called, Maximize Your Minimum. I'm just trying to involve myself in a lot of different things to continue to uplift -- to play my role in changing lives one life at a time.