‘I’m proud of where I’m from’: Berkeley hip-hop artists spotlighted at Cornerstone

LOE Gino headlined at Cornerstone Friday, putting Berkeley’s burgeoning rap scene on full display.

LOEGino at Cornerstone
LOE Gino performing at Cornerstone on July 23, 2021. Credit: Supriya Yelimeli

In 2018, LOE Gino (pronounced el-o-ee Gino) was presented with his first opportunity to perform at Cornerstone as an opening act for Vallejo rapper (and Bay Area royalty) Nef the Pharaoh. Unfortunately, due to a fight that broke out in the crowd, Gino didn’t get a chance for his first big hometown gig.

It became more of a turning point than an obstacle for the West Berkeley rapper, who stepped onto the same stage Friday at one of the venue’s first shows after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted with a lineup full of Bay Area artists.

“The night of the (2018) Cornerstone show, me and my homeboy Will, we pretty much planned out my first project — which was Birkenstocks with the Socks,” Gino told Berkeleyside after the show. “Everything from that show led up to everything to this show. I consider my Birkenstocks project as the project that showed I was a pretty cool artist.”

After releasing a batch of consistent high-quality EP’s and albums since 2018, Gino is at the forefront of an emerging new hip-hop community in Berkeley showing their craft during the ongoing pandemic, and he’s not alone.

LOEGino at Cornerstone
LOE Gino joked with the crowd, dressed in his classic Birkenstocks, while performing at Cornerstone on July 23, 2021. Credit: Supriya Yelimeli

In an intimate crowd on Friday night, filled with friends and family of the artists, local Berkeley hip-hop artists Clyde Shankle and LargoBlas took the stage, joined by R&B musicians Shanté, a teenager from Oakland and Ashley Mehta, from San Jose.

LargoBlas attended Longfellow Middle School with Gino and has been recording music seriously for two years. He performed songs from his debut project “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere.” South Berkeley native Clyde Shankle opened up the concert with a collection of his music, including his newest track — “Space and Time.”

Shanté, accompanied by a solo guitarist, performed original pieces like “Vibration,” and got the crowd moving with her song “Dangerous.”

After a brief intermission, and some top rap hits played by the DJ, Mehta bounded across the stage cheered on by a tight, energetic group of her fans, covering R&B hits by Mariah Carey, Frank Ocean and local artists like Vallejo’s H.E.R. Once the crowd was settled, Mehta topped her performance off with a preview of an unreleased song ‘Mood for Love,” whose upbeat cadence and heavy instrumentation got the crowd ready for the headliner.

LOEGino at Cornerstone
LOEGino at Cornerstone
Shanté (left) and Ashley Mehta (right) performing at Cornerstone on July 23, 2021. Credit: Supriya Yelimeli

Gino opened his set with his most recent single ‘Biscuit Bitch’, and transitioned to crowd favorites ‘Live Fast Die Young’ and ‘Spilled Milk’. Gino, the self-described introvert, poked fun at the crowd when their dancing wasn’t up to par, dropping retorts like, “If your arms tired, you need to hit the gym.”

Periodically throughout his set, Gino had fans turn on their phone flashlights lights on (“If your phone’s dead, we’ll get you a charger.”) providing a heightened glow as he bounced around stage.

After the concert, LargoBlas and Clyde Shankle embraced each other, celebrating their first time watching each other perform. They warmly reflected on how impressed they were with each other’s lyrical capabilities and approach to crowd engagement, as a gaggle of supporters rallied around Gino and expressed similar sentiments on the other side of the venue.

Gino opened and closed his set with the same sentiments. Love for his community, and pride for his city. “I’m from Berkeley, California,” he said, pausing for cheers. “And I’m proud of where I’m from.”

LOEGino at Cornerstone
LOE Gino performing at Cornerstone on July 23, 2021. Credit: Supriya Yelimeli
D'Andre Ball is a Berkeley-based freelance music and culture writer. In his free time he enjoys listening to music, reading and going on walks with his dog Mia X.