Oakland State of Mind

The song "Oakland State of Mind" is the debut single from the full-length Youth Roots sound recording Edit the Real. The song is a re-make of Jay-Z's popular single titled "New York State of Mind."

Oakland Leaf

Submitted by: Stephen Walrod
Oakland, CA


Artistic Disciplines:
New Media

Artist Statement:

The mission of Youth Roots is to analyze and re-approprate media. Our aims are to help youth make sense of the world as it presently is, and to nurture their process of imagining a new world. We call this process going from "consciousness to criticality." But perhaps more than our mission statement may imply, Youth Roots is first and foremost a family. We bring together youth of multiple religious backgrounds, races, and ethnicities who share a common interest in creating social change in Oakland, and along the way, they learn to call each other brothers and sisters. 

The work submitted here speaks to the notion of intersection, while remaining committed to the Youth Roots mission. The Youth Roots music video, "Oakland State of Mind" is a re-make of rapper Jay-Z's hit recording "New York State of Mind." The original Jay-Z recording celebrates the diversity of New York City, and instills a sense of pride for all New York City residents. Likewise, our intent was to instill a sense of pride in the city of Oakland in all of it's complexity and diversity. By recognizing Oakland through the eyes of this diverse group of youth, we witness firsthand that through art, we may truly imagine a new world.

The youth began this process by studying the song lyrics of the Jay-Z original. Youth Roots adult mentors then began the process of assisting the youth in re-writing the song, so that it remained true to the original's intent, but was simultaneously transformed to remain true to their concept of "an Oakland state of mind." The song took two weeks to complete, from re-conceptualizing the lyrics to recording the song in the studio.The video was filmed in each section of the city of Oakland - North, East, and West. Recognizable Oakland landmarks appear throughout.

The official release of the "Oakland State of Mind" video took place at the All Oakland Youth Talent Show, which was hosted by Youth Roots. The event, which drew 1,200 people in May 2010, was the perfect place for release. The talent showcase was a celebration of Oakland Youth across the city, to show that they are about more than just what we see and hear in local news media. Thus, the video - in concert with the talent showcase - speaks to the power of what our young people can do when they recognize what their world is, imagine a new reality, and seize the opportunity to act.

Our students show that there is not one Oakland state of mind, but that Oakland is a city of plurality. But our future hinges on our ability to dream a world where our plurality emerges as our strength, and that Oakland can be a beacon of hope.

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