A Look at ‘California Love,’ a Personal Ode to the Real LA

Lead Photo: From "California Love" cover art. Courtesy of LAist Studios.
From "California Love" cover art. Courtesy of LAist Studios.
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When the beat drops in the beloved and iconic track “California Love” by Tupac and Dr. Dre, Cali residents, and Angelenos in particular, feel an immediate sense of pride. A new podcast of the same name, hosted by LA-native and former New York Times reporter Walter Thompson-Hernández, is also an ode to the city as he shares stories of growing up in an LA that no longer exists.

“Listeners can expect to hear a version of LA they’ve never heard before. It’s really rare for a person of color to be able to have a platform to tell LA stories. That role is usually reserved for white folks. This show is different. And we’re all really excited about that,” he tells Remezcla.

Tupac’s song kicks off the introductory episode with Thompson-Hernández recalling the pride he felt when that song came on and the connection to the lyrics. While Pac raps “Now let me welcome everybody to the Wild Wild West/A state that’s untouchable like Eliot Ness,” Thompson-Hernández reflects on going from having no idea who Eliot Ness was to later learning he was a Prohibition-era law enforcement agent who was part of a team known as “The Untouchables.”

But the state, and in particular LA, aren’t untouchable, and he mourns how gentrification tore down the Los Angeles he grew up in. He lists all the places he visited that are now gone and shares how friends were forced out of their homes due to the high cost of living.

Through his work as a New York Times reporter, Thompson-Hernández was able to travel the world and shares that though he’s been to many places, Los Angeles was where he learned “how to survive, how to read people, and how to spot a dangerous situation a mile away.”

It was a sense of obligation to his family and the city that raised him that led him to return home two years ago to the house he grew up in. Now, he’s reflecting on the experiences that shaped him growing up as a person of color in the City of Angels. In a city where Black and Latino people make up more than half of the residents, it’s stories like those of Thompson-Hernández that aren’t often told but are the reality for so many people of color.

Check out a video trailer below and follow along wherever you listen to podcasts. The latest episode, “Scared Straight,” is on the writer’s experience in a Juvenile Impact Program that used military-style techniques to discipline youth.