The days when Caleon Fox’s dad would bring him to tailgates at Raiders games are not far behind him, yet Oakland no longer resembles the birthplace of hyphy that once played host to parking lot sideshows.
As the landscape has changed, so have the artists who live there. For a rapper on the rise like Fox, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s gotten a lot better in the past couple of years,” he explains. “It’s really cool, because I feel like a lot of the music that was coming out of Oakland at first was related to gangs and violence. I listened to it, but I didn’t get too involved because it just wasn’t my scene. I feel like in the past couple of years, it’s been on a lot more positive note.”
The 25-year-old’s role in this next evolution of Oakland hip-hop remains to be seen — but the wait is almost over.
While thus far he’s only released a handful of tracks, he has plans to drop not one but two EPs this year. For a taste of Fox’s flavor, look no further than his song “Semi-Cinematic.” Backed by a summery, up-tempo beat, the track sees Fox engaging in playful wordplay peppered with moments of insightful introspection.
It’s the most serious offering yet for an artist best known as the creative force behind hysterical viral videos like “The Durag Song” and “No Swag No Swag.” His most popular upload is entitled “When Bae Hits You with That ‘So What Are We?’” — which is currently sitting at 4.3 million views on YouTube.
Making the jump from filming skits to spitting bars is no easy task, but establishing a career with elements of both comedy and hip hop is not without precedent. Ice Cube notably proved his chops as a funnyman with Friday and other rappers have since followed suit. However, going from humor to hip hop is a different beast. Thankfully Fox does have one blueprint to follow: Donald Glover, the musician, writer, actor, and creator of the hit FX show Atlanta.
“He started off doing comedy stuff and stand-up,” Fox says. “I’m pretty sure he was put into that bubble of ‘Oh, he’s a comedian.’ It’s really challenging to transition from being so known as this type of whatever you’re doing to something else. That’s something I can relate to with my videos and my music. It’s gotten a lot better recently, just from me doing shows and stuff. Now people are really able to recognize what I’m capable of doing, but one thing I’ve struggled with in the past year or so was being known as the guy from the internet or a YouTuber.”
Right now the focus is squarely on the music side of things. At the moment, Fox is wrapping a tour with Yung Gravy and prepping his first EP, If Only You Knew, which he hopes to release this summer. In the meantime, he’ll have a chance to take the stage in his hometown when he makes his festival debut at Oakland’s Blurry Vision Festival.
Set to take place at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park from May 12-13, Blurry Vision is the latest event from festival heavyweights Goldenvoice, who notably produce Coachella and operate several venues in the Bay Area. With a lineup that includes major names like SZA and Migos, Fox seems actually most awed by the venue itself—a place he has visited many times but never imagined would one day host him as a performer.
“When I used to do photography, I would take people there to shoot and just hang out,” he recalls. “It’s funny because when I saw the address, I wasn’t completely sure if that was the place. When we pulled up [to check it out], I got really excited. It’s so crazy that the festival is going to be there.”
Many of the artists Fox once listened to back in the day are no longer active. You won’t hear “Cupcake No Fillin” by Trunk Boiz wafting down the street too often anymore, but while that song once represented the Oakland of Fox’s adolescence, it’s his own music that now soundtracks his present.
He understands that many people will continue to love him as the guy that once threw on a wig and dropped lines like “I watch anime wit bae then peel potatoes for lunch,” but Fox is hopeful his fans can take the next step with him.
“I want to be known as Caleon Fox,” he says. “I want be known as the guy that makes music and makes video and is raw at what he does.
Blurry Vision Festival, Saturday and Sunday, May 12-13, at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland. $185 for two-day Passes, $99 for single day; burryvisionfest.com.