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
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.