Andrew St. James - A Prayer For East Oakland
“He possesses remarkable lyricism and self-awareness.” – Interview
“’Doldrums’ is nearly overflowing with clever lines and lyrical intricacies.” – American Songwriter
“This kid is headed for big things.” – USA Today
Incorporating a beyond-his-years lyrical vision with a unique gift for melody-making on Doldrums, Andrew St James is emerging from the fog-enshrouded misty hills of San Francisco’s Twin Peaks. His music lands firmly in the alternative folk world, but displays a real knack for timeless songwriting skills that have already been noticed by MTV Hive, Interview, SF Weekly, USA Today, American Songwriter, and Performer Magazine among others.
Produced by St. James himself along with veteran Bay Area producer Jim Greer (a platinum record recipient for his work with Foster The People), Doldrums is out now via the Island Jar/Fortune label. Here, St. James speaks frankly and candidly about the inspiration behind his song “A Prayer For East Oakland”.
“The lyrics to ‘A Prayer For East Oakland’ are formed around Psalms in the New Testament. The song was originally a poem I wrote after a childhood friend of mine was murdered during the summer of 2011 outside of his home in East Oakland. Watching the homicide rate in the city rise almost exponentially during that time made me frustrated with how little people around me knew or cared about the violence in a community so close to our home.
There were 110 reported homicides in Oakland during 2011, rising to 131 in 2012. Almost every night of those two years, the first ten minutes of the nightly news would be attributed to reports of gun violence in Oakland. Reports of toddlers being shot and killed in random acts of violence were forgotten along with the weather report. The memory of those 241 people, the majority of them African-American, has been lost on the outside world, disregarded by people of privilege and forgotten by people with power.
It is easy to see that the class system, along with ingrained racial discrimination in this country has disenfranchised the African-American community, creating a pattern that makes it significantly harder to strive for the rights deemed unalienable by the Constitution. Held down by the crumbling education system and a loss of faith in the defining American value of equal opportunity, those who die in the American Ghettos are only memorialized by those first ten minutes of nightly news, and deemed unimportant by the American public.
The casualties of poverty are widely misunderstood in a land where the struggles of economic opportunity are foolishly attributed to racial culture, and subsequently swept under the rug. In communities like East Oakland, it is easy to see that the African American community has been abused, and is today still abused, by systematic oppression in the highest, most obvious degree.” – Andrew St. James, January, 2014