In this Ones to Watch feature, we catch up with ALLBLACK, an irreverent hitmaker whose highly stylized persona walks the line between authenticity and parody. With next to no info available about him online, we attempt to peel back the curtain on the gleefully ambiguous aesthete.
Seated in his grandfather’s home, ALLBLACK, the Bay’s prodigal son tasked with uplifting the region’s sound into the mainstream, recalled the migration of his grandparents from the South to East Oakland, the “Murder Dubs” neighborhood, where his evolution from studying the game on the blade into one of the West Coast’s strongest talents originated. “My granddaddy from Texas, my grandma from Little Rock Arkansas. They came out here and bought this house and he built three extra rooms in here. Built bathrooms up in this house, with only flights down on our house from 80 block radius” ALLBLACK says as he inserts his infamous rose gold grill in a room surrounded by family as he prepares for his 27th birthday party.
It’s a rainy day and ALLBLACK is cracking jokes with Boosie and Tubbz, his childhood friends turned bodyguard and tour manager, as they wait on Marco, his stylist, to pick an outfit for a Patrennessy-fueled night that can only be described as film school. ALLBLACK is overdue for celebration; 2 Minute Drills, his collaborative EP with Kenny Beats, landed the rapper on rappers to watch in 2019 lists from the likes of Pitchfork and Complex. Within the past 12 months, ALLBLACK and Delency Parham, his cousin-turned-manager, have navigated the music industry like Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins in 1972, an undefeated and perfect season which resulted in a Super Bowl win against the Washington Redskins.
“Win a game, go back to practice, just keep grinding. No pauses. People ask me a lot like ‘why don’t you wear this’ or ‘why you ain’t buying,’ ‘you know you could do this or these things if you want to?’ It ain’t what it’s about, we ain’t running the same race,” the 27-year old says. “I have people to feed, you know what I mean? I got a million people that love me, I gotta stay with my people.”
Beloved by his people, ALLBLACK’s music has transformed into Oakland’s diary. From D9 undergraduate house parties, early morning commuters on BART, and heavy rotations on weekends at Halftime Sports Bar (where Patrennessy is readily available); his discography speaks to the lived experiences of people who call “The Town” home. “You know, you have your family, you have to have your people. Why wouldn’t you want to share this with them? See my people, feed my people.” Last year, ALLBLACK donated 100% of the proceeds from his first headlining show to People’s Breakfast Oakland, a community-led organization that provides hygiene, food, and clothes to communities experiencing homelessness throughout Oakland.
Blocks away from the neighborhood that raised him, ALLBLACK made his festival debut at Rolling Loud Bay Area and cemented his place on a roster filled with industry heavyweights as a contender worthy of carrying on the Bay’s rap legacy. On stage, he was surrounded by the Play Runners Association, an authentic rap collective composed of ALLBLACK’s childhood friends such as Offset Jim, Prada Mack, and Geechi, as they invoked spirits of Oakland’s mobb era over DJ Joe Wax’s beats.
“I just wanna bring everybody else into our world and show them how we do shit, how we move. Let them know it’s okay to be yourself and really step out and speak your mind.” ALLBLACK, given name D’Andre Sams, is speaking truths about remaining true to yourself in the midst of an industry battle, where rappers will sacrifice essential parts of their identity for streaming numbers. There’s wisdom embedded within his words. He’s a prophet of the blade, and carries the stories of partners who lost their lives to game or mass incarceration.
ALLBLACK is breaking into the mainstream rap consciousness at a transitional time, where regional rap is being celebrated for its innovations in structure and flow in an Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles-based market. G-Eazy, one of the few rappers from the Bay to reach Billboard Hot 100 success, has developed a familial relationship with ALLBLACK, and fought for him to be featured on his latest release, “West Coast,” which features Blueface and YG, in a unified California anthem. On his ‘Endless Summer’ tour, G-Eazy invited ALLBLACK to perform “Canadian Goose,” Bay’s song of the year and breakout single from Kimson, his 2017 EP, in front of 22,000 people in San José, and gave him a taste of the national attention that is on the way for the East Oakland rapper.
Months later, ALLBLACK joined forces with the Heartbreak Gang’s hyphy heartthrob, P-Lo, for the ‘Prime’ tour, where two of the Bay’s strongest talents toured across California and Washington, and took the audience to film school. At their hometown stop, concertgoers recited every word on his set list back to the King of the Murder Dubs, including deep cuts from his No Shame mixtape era, a period where the rapper was trying to reintegrate into society from a stint in jail. “Going through legal shit, going through all that and then you get on stage, you work, but at the end it’s just never forget why you still love, you know? Still let the people know,” ALLBLACK says. “I’m human. That’s why we straight.”
Across from his grandfather’s home, a promotional poster for KimSon is plastered along a light pole as ALLBLACK and his friends joked about the previous night’s antics at a private birthday dinner for the rapper at 938 Crawfish, where family and friends ruined a crisp new pair of designer shoes with birthday cake. His accessibility to the community that invested in him is reflective of 2Pac and Nipsey Hussle, West Coast legends who centered the uplifting on their community in spite of their professional success. Evidenced by ALLBLACK asking his friends about opportunities to donate his gently used sneakers and skateboards to youth in the community, his humanity is one of the rapper’s strongest strengths and reflective of the principles instilled in him by his grandfather.
“I got food, you all should eat some. You want something, go get it. You out there risking your life on some selfish shit, you got these people that love you. You out there playing like that? That’s why we run play, that’s why we take this so serious.” At his birthday party, ALLBLACK was surrounded by family, the ones you call on when it’s the 29th and rent is due, and his interwoven community of family, friends, and brothers gained from long nights on blade and running plays celebrated his forthcoming as an East Oakland king.