Best Place to Hear Live Hip-Hop

Shattuck Down Low

Hip-hop shows on this side of the Bay Bridge were few and far in-between until the Down Low, as it’s usually referred to, came into existence five years ago. Oh sure, occasionally a local group would play Ashkenaz or La Peña, but most of the time, beats and rhymes took a backseat to Cajun fiddlers or Chilean folk. Luckily, the Down Low stepped in and became a chill place for the East Bay hip-hop community to congregate. How important is that? Sadly, in the past few years, every single club in Oakland’s entertainment district that prominently featured rap music — from Mingles to At Seventeenth to Bluesville to Zazoo’s — has been forced to close its doors due to violent incidents and unruly crowds. Somewhat remarkably, the Down has escaped these problems. Perhaps presciently, the venue never catered to the hyphy crowd, but instead made a point of booking conscious hip-hop groups with more peaceful followings, attracting not just a younger demographic but also folks in their 30s (and even 40s). It’s made it a point to involve much-loved local artists like the Coup, Lyrics Born, and Blackalicious, as well as book nationally known acts like KRS-One and dead prez, while becoming a consistent place to hear up-and-coming artists like Jahi, the Attik, and Deuce Eclipse. While not strictly a hip-hop spot — the club also regularly features live reggae and salsa — it’s nice to see a venue that both respects and supports hip-hop culture and attempts to cultivate it, instead of just trying to make a quick buck off whatever’s trendy.
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