Oakland is the birthplace of influential artists in music, literature and film
Oakland native Kehlani Ashley Parrish, simply known as Kehlani to her fans, is one of many artists and musicians to come out of the city known as the “bright side of the Bay.”
Kehlani’s first mixtape, Cloud19, was named one of the “50 Best Mixtapes of 2014.” Her album, You Should Be Here, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album. The album brimmed with subtle nods to her love of Oakland and its impact on her life.
Not long before she released her first mixtape, Kehlani was effectively homeless, sleeping on friends’ couches. She was unemployed, yet still trying to make her mark on the music industry. In the midst of her rise to fame, the artist has never forgotten her roots, saying of her home city, “Oakland taught me that I can never compromise who I am. Never compromise my heart, never compromise my soul, and never forget where I came from.”
Kehlani is just one of many Oakland Oakland natives who have gone on to national and even global fame. The East Bay city has produced artists that have made waves in the music, food, film, TV and literature industries.
Here are five other emerging and established artists, actors, and musicians to come out of the city.
One of Oakland’s many famous natives is Zendaya. This young actress and singer made her television debut in 2010, with a Disney comedy called Shake it Up. Her popularity skyrocketed with other Disney Channel series, including K.C. Undercover.
As her fan base grew, Zendaya landed roles in major motion pictures like Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Greatest Showman.
Commended for her commitment to activism, Zendaya draws inspiration from her home city. “Everything sprung out of Oakland from a hard place,” she said. “And it turned out beautiful.”
Known by the musical pseudonym “Spelling,” Chrystia (“Tia”) Cabral is one of Oakland’s most beloved electronic music artists.
Pitchfork says, of her new album Mazy Fly, “Tia Cabral’s second album retains the great mysticism of her songwriting. The unsettling synth textures and soundscapes fly around her soulful voice, making something beautiful out of sheer terror.”
Cabral is a singer, songwriter and producer — a triple threat who’s just getting started.
3) Lyndsy Fonseca
Oakland native Lyndsy Fonseca got her acting break at a young age. At just 13, she was cast as Colleen Carlton on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless.
She has gone on to appear in guest roles on shows like How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, and Big Love.
4) J. Otto Seibold
A self-taught artist without any formal training, J. Otto Seibold is one of Oakland’s most beloved children’s book authors and illustrators.
His art is frequently featured in galleries and museums around the country, from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to a solo exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in nearby San Francisco.
5) Bells Atlas
This psychedelic pop band took the city of Oakland by storm with their first EP, and recently performed for a packed crowd at Bandcamp’s new Oakland venue.
Band member Doug Smith says of his home city, “One of the things that make the Oakland scene so great, is that it’s truly diverse. It’s home to so many different types of artists that all play and attend each other’s shows, but there’s rarely any imitation.”
As PAPER magazine says, “Bells Atlas has much in common with pop experimenters like OSHUN and Ava Luna, but Bells Atlas’ irreverent embrace of contradiction — ambiance and discord, spirituality and science, one woman’s intimate experiences and five people’s musical synergy — is all their own.”