Street corner prophets

“In a few years it’ll be a crazy story to tell of how you could come to a corner in Sac and see all those artists in the same place for free,” ZFG founder Andru Defeye told me after the first-ever Intersection, the latest guerrilla entertainment event put on by the ZFG hip-hop collective.

Over the course of the first two Intersection events—every Monday just outside of Old Soul at 40 Acres since July 10—many of Sacramento’s biggest names in a capella hip-hop, poetry and spoken-word stopped by to perform including Hobo Johnson, SpaceWalker, The Philharmonik, Paul Willis, AndYes, Dante Pelayo and many others.

The idea behind Intersection is simple, yet entirely unfamiliar: It’s an outside open-mic with no host, no sign-up sheet and no order, except for whatever gets created by the community. It represents everything ZFG is about, wrapped up into one fun, ongoing get-down.

The artists and audience made a circle around the concrete planter next to Old Soul’s patio area. The performances were mostly intense. During a piece at the first Intersection, rising hip-hop artist the Philharmonik said, “Of course, the media always be the quickest to blame ’em, like black-on-black crime ain’t white man’s orchestration.” On the second week, a young man named Cam stood up on concrete planter and delivered some powerful words: “They cracked whips back in the day that ripped through generations. And they took our reparations and they gave it to the natives, successfully made us hate us.”

Person after person took a turn shouting-singing-rapping about institutional racism, personal gut-wrenching pain and sticky relationship drama. Passersby and Old Soul patrons huddled around to enjoy the free entertainment, participating in the call and responses whenever the artists decided to directly engage the audience. The entire event was spontaneous and unexpected, a natural fit into the fabric of Oak Park.

Some folks who’d stumbled upon the event even joined in. One woman on the second week asked, “You guys do this every Monday? Can anyone go?” After some encouragement, she spit out an unexpected hardcore rap she wrote: “You bitches think I’m playing with you hoes, but you playing with you nose.” Someone in ZFG jokingly called her a “gangsta rap mom,” a title she loved.

Since so many of the performers were at such a high caliber of talent, several of the amateurs seemed intimidated to join in. In fact, that first week, there were hardly any nonmale performers of spoken word. AndYes called for a timeout and asked if any woman or nonbinary artist was willing to take a turn. It took a moment, but a girl who’d been sitting there since it started pulled out her phone and nervously delivered a poem she’d written. Everyone in the circle applauded wildly.