A podcast about history

That's not stuck in the past


After spending more than three decades working in the underground economy, Titus Lee Barnes compiled his stunning stories of “the street life” into a self-published book titled “Drug Lords of Oakland: The untold stories of California’s most notorious kingpins of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.” Starting with the rise of infamous heroin kingpin Felix Mitchell, Barnes traces the trajectory of bloody turf battles and shifting allegiances throughout the emergence and implosion of the crack era. His personal connections with many of the young kingpins he profiles provides a uniquely nuanced view into a world of notorious figures that most people are only familiar with through mugshots.

Although “Drug Lords” details the flashy cars and lavish parties that accompanied booming profits, Barnes doesn’t shy away from the heartbreaking consequences that inevitably followed. 

In this interview, he shares his own experiences of being shot and incarcerated as “a cautionary tale” and offers some surprising insights into the Bay Area’s ongoing crime woes. Listen now to hear Barnes’ memories of growing up in Ghost Town, the improbable romance between a small-time East Oakland hustler and Colombian “cocaine godmother” Griselda Blanco, drug dealer investment strategies, and much more. Available via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts.

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Titus Lee Barnes on writing “Drug Lords of Oakland“: “Once I had the time, all I did waspurge my memory of my experiences and some of the colorful characters I encountered in my life.”
After spending three decades in what he calls “the street life,” Barnes became an author. His latest novel, “Soulstrippers” was released in February 2024.
Barnes grew up in the Hoover Foster area (bottom right), which is also known as Ghost Town. Listen to the episode to hear about how he was recruited into the neighborhood’s infamous Hollyrock crew while still a junior high student. [Photo: Liam O’Donoghue]

“The streets have changed drastically”

“Drug Lords of Oakland” author on the rise and fall of local kingpins
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