Interview with Longtime SF Hip-Hop Artist/Activist Equipto about Frisco Day (4/15)

Posted by Billyjam, April 14, 2016 10:30pm | Post a Comment
Not to be confused with other important dates in the hectic week ahead such as Tax Day (Note: 4/18 this year) or 4/16 (Record Store Day) or 4/20 (Dank Day), 4/15 is the newly assigned annual date to celebrate Frisco Day. That's 4/15 as in April 15th symbolizing the numerals of the 4-1-5 area code of San Francisco (aka Frisco). But 4/15 Frisco Day is more than simply being a day for residents to celebrate pride in their City by the Bay. It's more about solidarity among poor blue collar / working class San Franciscans who've been marginalized and endangered by the influx in recent years of high paid tech workers to their city. That's according to veteran San Francisco hip-hop artist and activist Equipto who is one of the organizers of Friday's 4/15 Frisco Day event. This week the Amoeblog caught up with the passionate and always politically outspoken emcee to ask him about 4/15 Frisco Day, and about life in general and hip-hop in particular in San Francisco in these gentrified times.

Amoeblog: So this is the first official 4/15  Frisco Day but it has been around for a minute already, right?

Equipto: Frisco Day, April 15th is a special day for certain Frisco die hards that I know. My friend Barry, who has the clothing company SFOG, has thrown dope intimate shows on 4/15 for some years now with performers like San Quinn, RBL, myself and more. But this year, this Friday 4/15, will be the first official Frisco Day for the public

Amoeblog: So what does Frisco Day mean to you and why is it so important now?

Equipto:  To me Frisco Day means bringing solidarity amongst the black, brown, red, yellow, white and poor folks regardless of age difference or cultural beliefs etc. It's to show those that don't know, like all these techie newcomers, that Frisco has a deep culture of black and brown, indigenous people who've lived here for decades and helped build this city. It's to show these powers that be, that we can still organize and gather our people in the name of love  to celebrate our city's diverse culture. I was growing up in the 90's out here and I think that was a significant era that helped shape SF hip-hop culture to what it was and became. I think everyone needs to know that!  It's so important right now because every social problem Frisco is facing currently is at a state of emergency basically. Housing, healthcare for the homeless, budget cuts on education, police murdering with no consequence or accountability, the list goes on. We're dealing with a corrupt mayor who's a puppet for anything or anybody that will throw dollar signs his way. So it's important that we make sure that's known, especially on this day. The people that know this is wrong, the people that are getting hurt by this first hand, this is everyone's opportunity to stand in solidarity and show concern and love for the communities of SF.

Amoeblog: Last time you were interviewed for the Amoeblog it was coming up on Mayor of San Francisco election time last November. Were you surprised with the outcome of that election and what will it ultimately mean for the future of SF? 

Equipto: I can't say I was surprised, but I was definitely disappointed. Mostly disappointed in the lack of support from the people. The people that are convinced it's too late to make any type of change or that it's useless to fight back and use their voice or vote. [SF Mayoral candidates] Francisco Herrera and Amy Weiss were not far behind. They didn't lose by much at all. Look, I'm aware we're fighting the biggest monster there is to fight, being that it's one of the most expensive places to live in the world. But it won't stop us from resisting and exposing these things in any form or fashion we can. What it means is that Ed Lee in office [for] another 4 years as mayor of Frisco would be terrorism, genocide and colonialism. It's going on now in SF. But at this rate in 4 years, the true poor and working class will be either dead, in jail or moved to where they can afford to eat and live.

Well there's already been quite an exodus of people born in SF who've been forced out to relocate to more affordable places like Sacramento. And in the poster image for 4/15 Frisco Day there is a banner that reads "We are the last of Black SF."  That profound statement on how things currently are in SF makes one wonder if things will ever revert to the way they were in the not too distant past? Like say if there were to be a bubble burst in the tech industry, would those driven out of SF over recent years to places like Sacramento, now return to their city?

Equipto: I believe we can definitely restore some culture and bring some long time black and brown native residents back to the city to live affordably. Organizations have already laid a blueprint and are still fighting for things like this. It's up to the people to support and to build with these folks so [that] we can be stronger and bring these issues to the forefront to be dealt with. But it can happen. I think we need to show solidarity and be the example of what can happen in the city. If we stick together and make very bold steps, they will have no choice but to listen to our demands.

Amoeblog: From a hip-hop perspective how has the housing market in San Francisco,  as well as the entire Bay Area, affected the music/music scene in the region?

Equipto: It's tough but I have hope. It's tough because as the city becomes more gentrified, so does the hip-hop. I believe my SF generation was the last to grow up in a diverse city exposed to the cultural arts of Bruce Lee, Jerry Garcia, historical landmark areas like the Fillmore ("Harlem of the West") etc. So the newbies will never really know how dope this city once was. Unless we take that responsibility and carry it on our shoulders which is why I have hope too. I believe with all this money going around out here there's a few people with a heart, a lot of money, and the passion to help change the world or our city. Maybe possibly they'll make a monthly donation to help some of these causes and organizations out here that are already knee deep in their plans of action!

Amoeblog: Speaking of organizations that seem to be about positivity and change, I was curious as to what do you think of HipHopForChange?

Equipto: I support some of what they're doing out here. But I have differences with every organization out here basically, and I believe there's nothing wrong with having differences. When using the words "hip hop" and "change" together and being based in Frisco, it makes me feel like, me being an elder in this hip-hop scene and a big fan, [that] I have the responsibility to address how I honestly feel. In my opinion we all need to be careful when using that word and definition "hip-hop."  I talk with [founder] Khafre [Jay] here and there, and he knows how I feel. We've had sit downs and stand ups. He's a cool cat.

Finally what projects, music and/or activism, do you have planned for the remainder of 2016?

Equipto: Solidarity Records, in collaboration with OSK (Old Soul Kollective) this week dropped an EP called DropZone by the artist Professa Gabel. Also, The People's Tree project Treedom hit stores this week. I'll be dropping a solo album May 28th called Far & Few Between. As far as the activism, it's everyday. Just know that we have some big things planned and that it will be on the door step of City Hall..
Go to the Facebook page for  more info on 4/15 Frisco Day

Equipto (along with Mike Marshall) in video directed by Dregs One, shows mad love for the City
by the Bay in video for his San Francisco anthem "Heart & Soul" (2011)

Relevant Tags

Hiphopforchange (4), Bored Stiff (14), Equipto (22), Bruce Lee (2), Gentrification Of San Francisco (1), Frisco Day 4/15 (1), Jerry Garcia (5), Ed Lee (3), Amy Weiss (3), Bay Area Hip-hop (37), Dregs One (11), Mike Marshall (1), Amy Weiss (3), Francisco Herrera (2)