“Truthfully, I want people to know that Oakland’s always been dope. You moving over here and going into a food truck or a pop up or art crawl, you’re not making our city cooler than what it was.Your just adding to it. Oaklands been cool, it’s been a dope spot. It’s been safe. It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s been cool. It’s been diverse, it’s been authentic. For new people moving in,I just want them to know that it’s okay to, to speak to people and not feel like you’re coming over here and you gotta treat us natives like strangers. This is a city that has been built on dopeness this a city built on authenticity. Instead of coming in and trying to make people feel like you’re adding to make it cooler, just recognize that this has already been a cool city and you’re here to enjoy it with us. Come to the table with what we’re more than just a plate, bring something to the table and enjoy what we already had going on.”
What is your name and age?
Tony Vic, 40 years old.
What neighborhood of Oakland are you from or do you associate with home?
Although I grew up in many different parts of Oakland, I would say home is Lake Merritt part of Oakland, California.
What was it like growing up on your street, neighborhood, home, etc?
It was cool, growing up over here about the lake, we moved around a lot, but it was the hub of a blue collar black families. You had a lot of working class fathers and mothers. I grew up with my mom and my brother on Mandana. We had a lot of friends that lived in a neighborhood that went to our local schools like West Lake or Piedmont or Lake View, it was a cool neighborhood. Although we grew up in an apartment, it was almost like living in a house because we have friends around and it was just a good neighborhood and wasn’t too crazy. You had some ups and downs here and there, but it was a good neighborhood and everybody knew each other. Back then it definitely wasn’t as diversity as it is today. There’s definitely a lot more San Francisco influence or gentrified influence that’s in the neighborhood. Even as we stand at this apartment building now, this was considered low income, now it’s prime real estate, you know?
It was a lot of black families, a lot of black moms, I mean my neighbors, most of my neighbors were black women and they knew my brothers and I mom and my mom, they even watched out for us when my mother wasn’t around. It was a good place to live and grow up. It wasn’t as exciting to live by the lake then as it is now, people love living by the lake now. But back then it was just, it was just another part of Oakland. It was essential center of Oakland.
It’s funny cause even growing up here, I remember whenever I told people I was from Oakland, people would always ask like, “hey, where are you from?”. Cause I would travel down in Los Angeles a lot. My mom let me do music trying to follow my brother’s footsteps. People would frown like, “Oh, you’re from Oakland”. They thought it was so bad, but it didn’t look bad to me. It didn’t feel bad to me. It was odd when I would travel outside of the city and people would look down on us because we were from this town. And now you look around life, people can’t wait to come here. They’re trying really hard to come here. Oakland really raised me to be strong, to be brave, to be resilient and I’m extremely happy that I spent my childhood here. Even moving around from place to place. I would never want to change it for anything in the world. I think this is one of the most beautiful places and I’m happy that although we grew up with a single mom, my father wasn’t really around. I just think that she did a great job and I think the city of Oakland did a great job to raise us cause it made us who we are today.
What did you guys do for fun growing up?
Rap, write raps, play outside. I would always try to follow my brother. He was getting in trouble, hanging out with the other rappers that he would hang out with. But since he was my bigger brother, I was trying to follow his footsteps and I couldn’t always play with him. So I found my own friends and we would just ride bikes throughout the neighborhood.
We would go to Montclair and think we found a new land cause we saw big homes that we never saw before. Kids stuff, ride bikes, cap on one another. We used to play the dozens all the time, like just roast each other, then we would do raps. Me and my buddies would always rap.I was in this little a crew called YCP, Young Corporated Posse. Cause we were trying to be the younger version of BWP my brothers group, Brothers With Potential. So we would rap, run around a lake shore. I don’t know if you remember when Lake Shore had RainbowRecords and the Ice Creamery La Pinatta. SoKinda just hang out, we was young kids hanging out on the streets doing what young kids do. Playing at Astro Park. You know, we was kids doing what kids do straight up. I wouldn’t change it for the world. That’s one of the reasons why I made the company “Lake Merritt, California.” because I had so much pride with Oakland.
Real quick story, even in my adult years, when I was living by the lake, people would say, where are you from? And I’d be like, Oakland. They would cringe. White people, black people, all. So sooner or later I was like I live by lake marriage. They’d be like, Oh, you’re from the lake. Oh, I love that. And I was like, you know, that’s Oakland, right? People would say I didn’t know that. So I started coining this phrase Lake Merritt, California. Lake Merritt, California. And it just caught on. And that’s one of the reasons why I make the company Lake Merritt, California. To let people know that this is Oakland, it ain’t a separate part of Oakland. It’s the town. Like it’s still Oakland. And it caught on like wildfire. Now I think people know about it. The brand had been picked up pretty well during those times and years. And people still say LMC to this day.
When did your family come to Oakland and why?
My mom was already living in Oakland when I was born. Why she came to Oakland, you know? I mean although my mom passed away, I wish I could ask her that question right now. I’m not too sure. From what I think, I think it was to get away from San Francisco cause a lot of our family was in San Francisco at the time. She moved around a lot, a lot to find work and I think that was one of the reasons that brought us over to Oakland. I’m not sure. That’s a good question. You might want to ask my brother that he might know more than I do.
What does it mean for you to be an Oakland native pride man?
Love . Pride. This is home, my heart is here, my heart is in Lake Merritt. It means just support. When people say that it takes a village to raise kids, I think that the true definition of that village is what Oakland is all about, especially over here by the lake. When people know each other and they watch out for one another and they say hi to one another and they ask, how’s life going? How’s things going? And they ask me how school and they really care about what was going on in your life. That’s what it means to be from Oakland and be a true Oakland native. You don’t just care about yourself, you care about the others around you.
What do you think makes Oakland as a city special?
It’s dope. It’s a dope ass city. The culture, the vibe, the slang, the nuances, the people, the diversity. We set trends. It’s funny cause I always felt like Oakland always set trends, but then across the world we looked on like the little brother that people pick on and they take all of our trends, but then they don’t give us credit. But yet we’re the makers of that. You know what I’m saying? We’re the originators of it. Revolutionaries from Black Panthers to Sly and the family stone, to Mc Hammer, I mean we have generations of like great people, entrepreneurs, athletes, entertainers, it’s dope. Oakland is dope.
What do you think is driving so many people to move here now?
The culture, everything I just mentioned earlier. Everybody wants to be cool. The people that don’t live here want to move here because it’s the hip place to be, is the cool place to be. The rent a little bit less expensive than it is across the water. It’s still expensive, but it’s just a little bit less expensive. So people want to move here because they get more culture. It’s cooler, you know what I’m saying? It’s not just a tourist attraction. Across the water it’s more of a tourist attraction, over here it’s more authentic. You can either go to a chain restaurant or you can come to the authentic spot and this is the authentic spot. People want our vibe, they want to feed off the culture. They want to feed off the vibe and people want to be hip. They want to be a part of something cool.
What do you wish people knew about Oakland before they came here?
Or what would you tell your new neighbors are the guide to being a good Oaklander?
Truthfully, I want people to know that Oakland’s always been dope. You moving over here and going into a food truck or a pop up or art crawl, you’re not making our city cooler than what it was.Your just adding to it. Oaklands been cool, it’s been a dope spot. It’s been safe. It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s been cool. It’s been diverse, it’s been authentic. For new people moving in,I just want them to know that it’s okay to, to speak to people and not feel like you’re coming over here and you gotta treat us natives like strangers. This is a city that has been built on dopeness this a city built on authenticity. Instead of coming in and trying to make people feel like you’re adding to make it cooler, just recognize that this has already been a cool city and you’re here to enjoy it with us. Come to the table with what we’re more than just a plate, bring something to the table and enjoy what we already had going on.
What do you think are the cultural values of the community of Oakland?
Pride and Love. again, growing up here, if my mom wasn’t home my neighbors would be like “Tone what are you doing?”. Ewwww Ima tell your mother when she get in. They cared about other people and it was a lot of love. We had a lot of Oakland love from the festival at the lake Where you see people like saying what’s up to one another and going outside and talking to people, kids were playing outside. You don’t see kids playing outside no more. The values that Oakland stands on its pride, its love, its community and it’s supporting one another. And that’s important to remember, recognize and understand that that’s what keeps this community growing.
What are you, uh, unhappy about as far as the current changes in Oakland?
I’m unhappy that people are getting priced out. I’m unhappy that people are moving over here thinking that they’re making it cool. I’m unhappy that people are going to particular areas of Oakland thinking that they might be a little undesirable so they’re gentrifying it per se so that they can feel like they’re the pioneers of an undesirable neighborhood and they’re making it cool. When really that part of the neighborhood just needed a little bit of love, you know?
I think that that’s sad, even growing up right here in these apartments, I think my mom back then was paying like $700 for two bedroom, now the one bedrooms here are $2,000. You’re located a busy corner with traffic and you’re in front of a 7/11, it’s unheard of. And that’s this spot up the street i’s $2,400. So it’s just weird. We’re getting priced out. The culture is being ripped and taken away. And pretty soon what’s going to happen is if you get rid of the soul of the city, no one’s gonna want to live here.
What are you happy with as far as changes occurring in Oakland right now?
I like the growth. I’m not going to lie. I really do appreciate the growth. I like seeing new young and older people coming into Oakland, creating jobs and opportunities. There’s more entrepreneurs here now than ever before. So there’s a lot of opportunity with the tech industry. I think the hustle mentality of Oakland breeds resilience and people are being more creative. We have the people with the popups, the people that throw functions the Lake, the people that are selling clothes, people like you doing things like these projects. You have more opportunities now than ever before. I think Oakland is attracting that and that’s beautiful. Even with the buildings growing downtown, It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s one thing because the rents are going up but it’s another thing because it is bringing more economic value to our city. Some of the smaller mom and pops shops now have a better chance at thriving as long as we support them. But I am happy about the growth, it’s cool to see the town grow.
What are your hopes for Oakland moving forward?
My hopes for Oakland moving forward. I hate to sound like a resounding gong, but I really do just wish we could all support one another. White, Black, Latino, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, you name it, all the different cultures. I really wish that we could just really support one another. Stop having a blind eye to one another, treat each other like brothers and sisters and be true Oakland natives and remember that pride and community and love is what it’s all about. I think that’s the future of open. If we support the small businesses, if we support the local photographer and videographer. We keep The Warriors in Oakland. If we just support the local businesses and support one another, I think that’ll help the city continue to thrive and grow and be here for eons and decades to come.