Rap Atlas: Oakland

Oakland Coliseum

7000 Coliseum Way

The Coliseum is where the Raiders and the Oakland A’s play. Bill Graham used to do the Day on the Green concerts there too, and it was the last place Led Zeppelin played on their final American tour. But it also has a lot of hip-hop history, and figures prominently in MC Hammer lore. Hammer grew up in East Oakland, and he used to go to A’s games and do dance moves as a young kid. The story is that Reggie Jackson noted his resemblance to Hank Aaron and named him Hammer, before he was an MC or anything. Hammer was a ticket hustler, he told me he used to scalp tickets in the walkway leading up to the Coliseum, along with guys like Felix Mitchell and Lil’ D, back when they were kids. They went one way, and Hammer went another.

One day, Hammer got spotted by Charlie Finley, the A’s owner, who saw him dancing to a James Brown song and asked him who he was. Finley brought him into the clubhouse, and he became an Executive VP and spy for the owner. He would report back to Finley, who lived in Chicago. Hammer tried to become a baseball player, that didn’t work out, so he went into the military and bought a drum machine and made hip-hop demos. When he came out, he started a gospel rap group, he called himself the Holy Ghost Boy. Then he got some A’s players he was tight with to put up the seed money for the Bust-It label. He put out a few 12-inches which did real well. Then in 1987, he dropped the Feel My Power album independently, most of which became Let’s Get It Started, after he signed to Capitol in ‘88.

The Coliseum Arena is right next door to the stadium, that’s where the Warriors play. It’s also where they had the Fresh Fest in 1985 with UTFO, the Fat Boys and the Real Roxanne. The next year, 1986, Run-DMC played there on the “Raising Hell” tour, that was real big. That bill featured LL Cool J, Whodini, the Beastie Boys, and Timex Social Club, it was like 14,000 people. That’s the concert that really broke hip-hop in the Bay Area. In 1987, the Def Jam tour played there with LL Cool J, Whodini, and Roxanne Shante. They put New Choice and Too $hort on that bill too. N.W.A. did a show there too in 1988 with Eric B. & Rakim, UTFO and Whodini that Eazy-E was actually the promoter for.

But there were always knuckleheads who would start fights and stuff at rap shows. In December of 1989, there was a melee at a 2 Live Crew show which ended with one dude getting shot. That led to the city of Oakland banning all rap shows for a year. Even after the ban was lifted, there weren’t too many hip-hop shows at the Coliseum. The last big rap show they tried to do at the Arena was Cash Money in 2000. Cash Money didn’t even get to come out, a riot started inside the arena, people were throwing chairs at the stage.

MC Hammer - "Let's Get It Started"

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