Monday, December 24, 2007

Hella Hyphy: Making Sense of Filipin@s and Black Expressions

"My Blood Type is an 8-Bar Loop." Music video with rapper Nump dedicated to graf king Mike Dream

First of all, before we get into heavy discussion, I just want to acknowledge deep and profound respect for Mike "Dream" Francisco, a truly gifted and powerful graf king who continues to transform minds and art even after he left us in 2000. His saying "Dream, but don't sleep" speaks volumes to the inspiration he gives to artists, young people, and those who want to make genuine social change. Here is Dream's website:

Mural dedicated in remembrance to Mike Dream.

The music video above, whether you think it's good or not, includes some of Dream's most legendary artwork as well as a collection of veteran graf artists from Oakland, where Dream represented. You may know Nump from the hyphy hit "I Gott Grapes" and "Oooleee" from the Native Guns Straybullets 2 mixtape. Nump's not new to the music biz having worked as a sound engineer for heavy hitters such as E-40, Rick Rock, Mac Dre, Keak da Sneak, and Nate Dogg.

There are a lot of hyphy-haters out there. Many people who don't come from the West Coast may not be familiar with hyphy, which is a musical and cultural "movement" akin to crunk in the South. Some critics say that the movement has been dying out, but its highest points of popularity were probably between 2003-2006 (right? Sorry, I'm not too familiar with it as much as others). Hyphy is sometimes described as an extravagant form of black youth expression in the East Bay Area of California: gold fronts, big glasses, muscle cars , ghost ridin' (dancing outside of your car while it moves slowly without a driver), big dreds, thick slang, bright colors, hypnotizingly fast electronic-sounding music, etc.

And then we have Nump, who is Filipino. Nump Trump, as he calls himself, is gettin' his, gettin' paid, and havin' fun: all this in hella hyphy fashion! You don't have to hate hyphy to understand the tension here. Nump (and many other Filipinos hyphied-out) are sometimes called out because they are "trying to act black." This is interesting, because some will say that hyphy is as much a Bay Area thing as it is a black thing. So, being that Filipinos are sort of integral in Bay Area demographics--and definitely in Bay Area hip hop culture, which is celebrated by many blacks in the area (Mike Dream is legendary cross-racially)--what does it mean when Filipinos make videos like the one above? How far is too far when Filipinos indulge in black expression?

Here are a few examples of some comments about the Nump/Mike Dream video left by viewers on YouTube:

"Wow another stupid asian trying to rap! Vomits!!!!"

"As I was saying,
ATL AND SOUTH GEORGIA, WHERE THERE ARE ACTUALLY BLACK FOLKS, will destroy these retarded Asians and Hyphy fags."

"one more thing...
Atlanta and South Georgia, where there are actually black folks and not retarded Asian Motherfuckas, would kill this fairy."

"fuck asian american we flips dnt consider ourselves to be asian you fucker!"

"Hey whos that gurl wt the squinted eye? she not pinay.> they should remove her race in this video. Whose the director?!!!"

"fucc all u flip flops.. mix breed bitches!!!!!!! ya can never be like us!!"

"Flilpinos are the beaners of asia is true. 3/4 familes own a "bun muis" hahahahahahaa"

"Yeah,they do a lot of menial work. What's a bun muis?" [Editors note: Bun muis means Filipino maid in Hong Kong]

"good cause asians dont get walked over. dirty pacific islanders do though. look at ur raped country dripping cum from every fucking post-empire. choke on a lumpia"

(Sigh) Do you sense some tension here? I don't even know where to start. Although, most likely, these posts are from 15 year old kids with too much free time, I think they bring up some very serious debates. Here are a few points to discuss (aside from the Bay Area/South claim to the crunk/hyphy sound):

1. The black conflict with Asian representation in hip hop culture.
2. The emasculation/feminization of Asian men in this scene.
3. The debate on racial ownership of hip hop culture.
4. The tenuous placement of Filipinos in the Asian racial category, both internally by Filipinos themselves, and externally by other Asians and non-Asians.
5. The rejection of Pacific Islanders of Filipinos within the PI category (the other choice category by Filipinos aside from Asian)

So where do these points take us? Can there ever be a successful cultural collaboration among diverse racial and ethnic communities? And where do Filipino/as belong if some people from both black and Asian communities reject Filipino/a participation?

Whatever the case, even though it may not be the "best" video in terms of lyricism, I'm glad this video was made because more people outside of the Bay Area need to know about King Dream and his enduring impact culturally. R.I.P. King Dream and to all other cultural creators in the Bay who continue the legacy! Yeeee!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

In Those Genes?

Charice Pempengco: Asian Face Don't Match?

At the risk of sounding essentialist, "it's in the genes!"

Of course, I'm being sarcastic, but how many times do we hear this statement? It's even in the comments section of the above clip. Anyways, I would really like to know: What's the deal with Filipino talent? We all probably heard of the stereotype of Asians not having rhythm, soul, voice, etc. because of some stoic, passive, serene cultural attribute. But for some reason that never really made sense to me. In fact, I remember at a New Years Party/poker game with mostly Filipino/as, when people started groovin to the music, a homey who was white said he didn't know how to dance because he "wasn't Asian." I'm very confused.

What is more confusing to people is seeing Asian faces that don't "match" the performance. I am convinced that Filipinos are out there to baffle Joe Averageman. Sadly, I think that the legacy and tradition of Filipino dance/song/music performance has been very underappreciated, especially in the U.S.; it is underappreciated on both sides: from those who just dismiss Filipinos as a curious aberration that don't really contribute to the development of creative culture (how many times have we gotten "oh you're just another Pinoy breakdancer/DJ?") AND from Filipinos themselves who might blow some pipes or bust dope moves but don't realize they are part of a greater history and community of Filipino performance tradition. For the former, I think the notion of Filipino "invisibility" and "misrecognition" as Elizabeth Pisares writes about has much to do with the downplay of Filipino creativity; we simply don't fit nicely into a racial/ethnic category for people to easily understand or consume. And for the latter, I think Filipinos should dig deeper in their creative roots and understand the historical and community context in which their talent emerges. "We're very talented people" shouldn't be a saying that we giggle about; we need to take it seriously and not downplay a very proud tradition.

And to touch on the "genes" theory, I have a hunch Miss Charice Pempengco is Chinese-Filipina (peep her accent when she talks to Ellen? And "engco" on Filipinos' last names are "Filipinized" Chinese names, right? I need your thoughts). If that's the case, then we can be sure that creativity and skills (and rhythm) are reproduced through culture (as I have been emphasizing throughout this blog) and not through blood (I mean, not to say that those who are Chinese don't have the above attributes, as I know that's definitely not true!). Even though Filipino culture has strong precolonial performance roots, as we know, the Philippines, as a U.S. colony, has been going through a thorough "Americanization" which includes a "African Americanization" for more than a century (hence the dope yet little known soul, jazz, and funk bands in the Philippines and States in the 70s, Filipino American R&B and hip hop today, and Filipino hip hop(ish) dance troupes worldwide). So the colonized speaks! And "speaks so well"...

Keep on keepin' on, good people. Keep it loud and keep it hot!

Click Here for fresh Pin@y talent:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Owners, the Workers...and the Street

Ever wonder why historically there have not been huge, vibrant Filipinotowns like there are Chinatowns or Koreatowns in the U.S.?

Well, the clue lies in Filipino history. As a colony of Spain for over 300 years and the U.S. for half a century (at least formally), Filipinos have historically been working people (in the socioeconomic status sense) at the service of Western economic powers.

As during the periods of colonization, Filipinos continue to provide an important source of global labor for economic powers hungry for workers. Especially with our experiences in the U.S., we have proudly labored as farmworkers, bellhops, plantation laborers, nurses, navy stewards, postal workers, airport security, caregivers, and babysitters. Simply put, Filipinos have not been given the resources and capital that other Asian groups have in order to be "owners" in the U.S. (For example, refer to the history of post-WWII Korea and bilateral U.S. foreign aid to that country, which in turn translated to Korean entrepreneurship in the U.S.). So although Filipino businesses do indeed flourish especially in dense Filipino areas such as Daly City, Carson, or Jersey City, they do not flourish nearly to the extent of Korean or Chinese businesses (and other nationalities with entrepreneurial capital). Neither do Filipinos have the extensive network of ethnic loan lenders that other Asian groups enter the U.S. with. The histories of each country are very different, and the Philippines cannot be examined without its connected history with Spain and the U.S., and the racialization and economic subordination that comes along with that history.

A cousin of mine from the East Coast recently told me a story of a panel discussion on "Asians and Hip Hop Culture" that occurred at his university. One black student mentioned the irony of East Asian (Korean, Chinese, Japanese) youth's fascination with hip hop culture, because of the sometimes antagonistic relationship between East Asian groups and blacks and Latinos. (Let's assume here for the sake of this entry that blacks and Latinos are seen as the main representatives of hip hop culture). She made the exception for Filipinos, "who seem to get along better with blacks and Latinos." Filipinos' history of colonization, their subsequent position as workers in a racially segmented U.S. society, and their unlikelihood to occupy the "owner" status in racially segregated ghettos may give us clues to how Filipinos "get along" better with blacks and Latinos.

I'm not saying that by virtue of interacting with working class people of color, that Filipinos get along with them and perhaps share cultural habits. Although this may be true for some Filipinos who work alongside people of color (many nurses, postal workers, navy stewards, etc. are black, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc.), the bigger point I'm trying to make is that the power relationships that place workers who perform "menial" labor subordinate to bosses, owners, entrepreneurs, and "white collar" professions stratifies the economy in terms of power and prestige, especially in urban areas where race relations can be tense. This stratification has an abundant history of racialization (race being a way to differentiate, exclude, and marginalize people in society). The way we talk, shoot the shit, interact, dance, make music, make art, and identify with one another are greatly informed by the imagined relationship we have with relative groups in a racialized, stratified economy. Peep Linda Espana-Maram's look at the youth culture of Filipino farm workers in the 1920s-1950s. Filipinos vibed alongside Mexicans and blacks in the dance scenes at the time. You can watch's "Bebot Generation 1" music video to get a fictional glimpse of that scene. (Also read up on the "Zoot Suit Riots" for the violence against Mexicans, blacks, and Filipinos in that scene).

So when the panelist made the comment about Filipinos "getting along" with blacks and Latinos, that needs to be examined in the context of the culture of working people. (As a note: no matter if Filipinos live with two car garages in the 'burbs, we know Filipino parents often work their asses off with overtime to attain a level of luxury). Not so much for Filipino parents, who may harbor racial prejudice against blacks and Latinos inherited from the U.S. colony (the Philippines), but the second-generation and young Filipino immigrants must deal with the racial politics of the schoolyard and therefore may be more sensitive to their position in a highly racialized society. The nature of their parents' labor (as sons and daughters of navy stewards, nurses, postal workers, etc. who work alongside other people of color) may provide important clues to how youth imagine their racial and economic position among their East Asian peers who are more likely to be (or perceived to be) owners or "white" collar (especially in urban areas). In addition, the perception of Filipinos in the eyes of blacks and Latinos may be less antagonistic as with other Asian groups because the owner/non-owner relationship is not as severe for Filipinos in urban areas; instead, they occupy similar spaces of labor.

I know the situation is more complex than what I have written about above, but I just extend this idea as one of many explanations of Filipinos' alignment with other people of color and their cultural productions. Your thoughts...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fil Am Modern: Are You Funkier than a 5th Grader?

Check out this clip from the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro on Sunday, September 9th. These young people (ages 4-14) are from Oxnard, CA, just north of Los Angeles County.

Not to the (numerical) magnitude of the Filipino version of "Thriller" or "Sister Act," but these kids kill it with their skills and technical nuances (watch the really small ones pop the off-beat!).

Is dancing in our genes?! Well, I sometimes ask myself that when I see my 3 year old family members do coffee-grinders on the kitchen floor, but it's probably more the institution and tradition of choreographed dance at universities with a critical concentration of Filipinos. In fact, the choreographer of Undeclared (the group above) is an alum of Pac Modern at Cal State Long Beach. Also, we have to consider the long tradition of theater performance among Filipino college students: Pilipino Culture Nights (PCNs) and Barrio Fiestas are staples of Filipino community-building at colleges (that and the keg). See Anna Alves and Theo Gonsalves for more on Fil Am theater in U.S. colleges.

At all of the universities that I have attended (or teach at), Filipino students seem to dominate the choreographed dance scene. At the University of Florida, our Filipino Student Association always placed first, second, or third at the university-wide dance competitions. And it seems that my friends from various campuses across the country are extremely immersed in competitive dance. Whether it be in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, or Georgia, young Filipinos are spending more time doing 8 counts than studying for midterms. Dance is a HUGE institution for Filipinos. (How many versions of the matrix or the puppet can you do!? How many times does the one or two b-boys gotta do a flare, somersault, or suicide front stage for audience reaction before it gets old?! Hip hop tinikling again!?)

Another interesting observation: many non-Filipinos love dancing with Filipino dance troupes. Whether your group is called Pac Modern, Samahang Modern, Kababayan, FSA Modern, what have you, as much as the troupe is "Filipinized," the reality is your group is probably very mixed ethnically. Many Vietnamese, Koreans, Chinese, and Caribbeans made up the FSA dance troupe during my time. This definitely added a wonderful, interesting mix.

I'm still waiting for the day when there is a nationwide Fil Am campus dance throwdown. Does it already happen? (Of course there is World Hip Hop Championships, but is there a coast-to-coast Fil Am dance championship? West Coast universities vs. FIND campuses, man!)

So why do you think competitive, choreographed dance among Filipino youth is such a national phenomenon, even transporting itself to the Philippines and other countries?

And where do non-Filipinos, particularly other Asians, fit into the Filipino dance community? Where do Filipinos fit into the tradition of street dance? The ever elusive gradient of FUNK!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Closing the Authority

I have some very sad news. Many of you may already know it. On Thursday, it became publicly known that Stacks Vinyl, the vinyl authority, will be closing. After a severe slump that began last year, Stacks' owner Isaiah Dacio aka DJ Icy Ice officially announced the store's demise.

Stacks opened seven years ago, and has been a solid home base for many DJs, record collectors, and hip hop heads in the Los Angeles area (and in San Diego for a while). The Cerritos location is still open for now (and I think the Ontario location will remain open under different ownership), and has some hot sales in order to rid of merch and to subsequently hook you up. The store is also online and you could still order your gear and music from there.

The closing of the store is a huge and sad loss. Stacks Vinyl affirms the thickness and vitality of the hip hop scene in the Los Angeles area, especially among Fil Am youth. Ice brought hip hop from innocent fun to a serious, committed business, an ambition that many hip hoppers couldn't manifest. The LA Weekly article "The Fil Am Invasion" which I wrote about below could not come at a more ironic moment. (BTW, here is Rhett's response to the article. See the Aug. 24th entry). As much as Stacks affirmed the strength of the Fil Am hip hop scene in Socal, it also continued to create a community and supported the development of the scene by providing a source of music and fashion, and also a performance venue for artists and DJs. Where else in Socal can Fil Am youth turn to to find the center of their hip hop scene? The closing is sad news indeed. (Thanks Mark Pulido and Isaiah for sharing your stories).

The reason for the closing? Plain and simple: Serato and digital music. Serato is becoming more and more popular, and there simply isn't any reason for younger DJs to collect vinyl. Stacks' staple consumer base is men in their mid 30s to 40s who grew up on 80s and early 90s hip hop. The only reason young people would collect vinyl would be to appreciate the record's visual aesthetic and its attached nostalgia. But in all honesty, who wants to lug around a dozen crates to a party when you got your laptop and Lacie harddrive? It just makes more sense to use Serato for many young people, and it's at the expense of the ways of old. And unfortunately (like whats happening with Blockbuster and Tower Records), the material, physical forms of vinyl (and also DVDs and CDs) are becoming more and more obsolete. Digital is the choice of media--download it, and its yours . Coupled with the unstoppable machine of the music industry, the old school ways have no chance. Nas' declaration "hip hop is dead" which I wrote about below may ring true for vinyl lovers. And along with the death of the artform is the death of businesses that rely on the materiality of the artform.

It's a huge loss that vinyl be reduced to a collector's item and no longer a functioning part of music culture. With the loss of the record is the great vinyl cover art, that tells as much of the artists' story as the music itself. (In fact, a guy was in Stacks yesterday just buying record album covers to display on his wall). So long visual aesthetic!

Of course, jazz musicians loathed the advancement of the record player and radio, which diminished the role of live music. Where live music used to be the source of all music, live music performances today is just seen as a "hip," cool, and different thing to experience at an open mic night or during a live jazz night at a bar. Just as digital technology is killing vinyl culture, radio and vinyl technology brought the demise of musicians (damn you Freestyle keyboard sound!). See Robin Kelley's article in Three Strikes for the story of how musicians lost their livelihood because of changes with the film industry--live musicians used play the score for silent films, and with the advent of "talking pictures," they lost their jobs. Technology is good for many (i.e. it democratizes and accesses music to the masses), but bad for some (i.e. the cultural creators of music).

So, it has been great Mr. Mobile DJ. We can't turn back the hands of time, but we can always treasure the moments and try our best to share history with the new generations. Hopefully this history will continue to be appreciated and add to the vitality of the emerging scenes. As jazz has given hip hop fresh and new ideas (by looking back at old forms), hopefully vinyl and other dying forms can somehow add to emerging cultural production. How? Good question.

I'm an advocate for progressing art forms: experimenting with sounds, moves, colors, and rhythm. I know technology plays a huge role in innovating the way art is created (i.e. the sample is a foundation of hip hop music). But how can technology also stifle art? How can it choke already existing modes of creativity?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Reminiscin' When It Wasn't All Business": Hip Hop's Preoccupation with Yesterday

Is hip hop dead? Or is it just malnourished and underfed? This has always been on the minds of hip hoppers. In Nas's song "Hip Hop is Dead," he mourns the death of hip hop, which he rhymes as being one thing in the past, and now has changed into something he loathes (or at least has ambivalent feelings about). He raps that hip hop

"Went from turntables to MP3s,
From Beat Street to commercials on Mickey D's"

Nas, "Hip Hop is Dead"

I was going to write how I noticed many hip hop songs coming out TODAY concern missing the "old" values and pleasures of hip hop culture. For example, Joel Ortiz's "Hip Hop" and KRS-One and Marley Marl's "Hip Hop Lives" transport us back in time when trains were bombed with graffiti and kids did babies on cardboard. There are many more examples out there from CURRENT hip hop that express "hip hop nostalgia" and long for the days of old. The reason for rap's decline (according to some artists, like Nas) is the growing popularity of the hottest rap out today, i.e. Southern crunk.

Joell Ortiz, "Hip Hop"

Then, I thought of many other songs from the 90s (not only today) that articulate this nostalgia for the old days and (usually) the scorn of new music. I mean, the Black Eyed Peas built their early career on hating on new music coming out, claiming they were "real" hip hop. (And it's very ironic that produced Nas's "Hip Hop is Dead" song, isn't it?)

In many of these songs, hip hop is constantly personified, sometimes taking the forms of a woman ("on my second marriage, hip hop's my first wifey" according to Nas, or "hip hop you're the love of my life" according to the Roots), some kidnapped dude, or a corpse. Take "One Day" by Jeru the Damaja. For Jeru, the flashy, catchy, and hypersampled hip hop of the Puff Daddy years was kind of like the Southern rap of today. In "One Day," hip hop is a kidnapped dude that Jeru and Afu Ra try to save from Bad Boy and Suge. He raps,

"If I recall correctly I last saw hip-hop down at Bad Boy
We'll see if Puff knows whassup
Cuz he's the one gettin' him drunk and fuckin' his mind up...
So we went to L.A. later that evenin'
When we got there, everything was aaight
And we brought Hip-Hop back home that night.

In another example, for Common Westcoast rap was like the Southern rap of today or the Puffy rap of 1996. In "I Used to Love H.E.R." (1994), the artist personifies hip hop into this woman who is "unpure" because of the way she has been tainted by the gangsta, Westcoast culture. "Boy I tell ya, I miss her," Common reflects. Westcoast rap used to be denigrated! How things have changed (for hip hop in general and Common himself)!!

Hip hop personified exemplifies artists' tight, intimate relationship to the culture, so much like a women or a friend. But a deflowered female, a kidnapped dude, or a corpse also shows artists' perception of hip hop as property and/or powerless, having little agency without the artists' help.

Common, "I Used to Love H.E.R."

In his newest album, Nas laments that real power has been taken away from the artist; the rapper no longer has the freedom to be creative and go in their own direction. Hip hop is dead.

But, some artists are reclaiming power in the non-mainstream arena. Again, this isn't anything new, and the "underground" scene has always thrived from its critique of capital gain and scrutiny of the formulaic, predictable, and non-creative way that the mainstream music industry operates. From Hiero to Lif to Kweli J-Live, there is no scarcity of material that underground artists can rap about because the music industry and capital go hand in hand.

Relating this to Filipinos and hip hop, the infatuation with the "original" and "old school" elements of hip hop culture has always been strong in this community (with turntablism and b-boying as the obvious elements Pinoys are immersed in). And their rep in the rap game is more on the underground side. I'm not saying that Filipinos keep hip hop "more real," because, in all obviousness, there are too many examples of Pinoys that create and support the mainstream genre.

But some artists, like Blue Scholars, provide good material to challenge the idea of the loss of power in the hands of the artists (and people in general). In "Southside Revival," Geo raps,

"Let your hands be the pillars that be holdin' up the sky.
I heard a few heads say that hip hop is dead.
No it's not, it's just malnourished and underfed"

Blue Scholars, "Southside Revival"

So what is this debate about? Sure, we can always remind ourselves that WE as regular, non-celebrity people have power. But does Nas also have a point in saying that power has been taken away and hip hop is dead? Is penetrating the mainstream really necessary to create meaningful, lasting change where hip hop is concerned? Or is creativity and power only possible in the underground? And if by chance the lyrics expressed by underground artists is made more accessible in the mainstream, will people of color (and not just white college kids) even listen to it? A classic debate.

But anyways, I'm curious to know other songs that reminisce about the good old days and/or point out how current music sucks. Certainly I think that critiquing new, strange sounds is a staple of popular music culture. For hip hop, which emphasizes "realness," the old school, the golden days, the boom-bap era, back when hip hop was "real" will always be an issue as the culture moves forward. But in this era of MP3s, MPCs, internet access, globalization, hypercapitalism, hip hop as mainstream (because it used to be in the margins, remember?), hip hop in video games-- do these nostalgia songs have a new meaning than when Common used to love her? Is it more urgent?

Anyways, for the b-boy/girl, he/she could care less about the latest hip hop jam. Diggin' that funk is where it's at.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hip Hop Mestizaje Showing at Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture

To all of my adoring fans, I am pleased to announce that my short documentary/multimedia project "Hip Hop Mestizaje: Racialization, Resonance, and Filipino American Knowledge of Self" will be featured at the 16th annual Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) in the Pinoy Visions tent.

FPAC is happening at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro on Sep. 8-9. Peep the website for more info: Fil Am Arts

Support community arts! Represent at FPAC this year (if you're on the West Coast)!

Also, don't forget about the famed FPAC Amateur DJ Battle, happening the Sunday of FPAC. The battle is brought to you by Stacks Records.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fil Am "Invasion"?

For those of you who may not have read this, here is a link to last week's LA Weekly article on the Filipino American hip hop "invasion" of Hollywood clubs.

I'm sure we're all glad that the mainstream media is highlighting our communities. But if you read closely (or not so closely), you might find a number of errors and problems. Here are a few:

1. In the print edition, J Rocc (Beat Junkies) is the cover picture. Although he's a down brutha, J Rocc ain't Pinoy, and the story is strictly about the Fil Am "invasion." On the website, J Rocc is also featured spinning in a You Tube clip, as if he represents the Fil Am youth Slovick is trying to portray. They also list Rodney-O as a Filipino. It gets weirder...

2. Filipino youth have been involved in hip hop in LA and Hollywood since the 1980s. Why does the author Sam Slovick make it seem like this is a new thing? What a nasty insult to the OGs.

3. This sentence is disturbing: "These Fil-Am kids are serious about having a good time, and that’s about it. It’s cultural. It came from the islands. The celebratory communal music and dance go way back to tribal roots." Ok, let's ignore the Americanization (and African Americanization) of Filipinos in the Philippines since 1898. Gotcha!

4. He pits the "old" DJs against young, trendy club promoters. He calls Icy Ice part of the "first-generation" of Filipino DJs. No! Ice is probably considered the newer era of mobile DJs, because there is a whole lineage before him! He started learning from older cats at age 12!!

5. Slovick needs to justify what he means by hip hop, because the young, trendy club promoters are more the side of business and partying, rather than the cultural, aesthetic, and disciplined realm of hip hop, a dimension of hip hop that Slovick sets up in the beginning when introducing Icy Ice and other "first-generation" DJs. Bright colored sneakers, spermicidal foam, porn stars, and cars-- oh the generation that embraces these wonderful things really needs to be emancipated from dusty-fingered, disc jockeying old fogies! (Beware the coming era of Reconstruction and Jim Crow.)

6. If this is about hip hop, where are the legendary Fil Am graff artists, dancers, rappers? This is in Los Angeles, and there is no mention of Black Eyed Peas (pre-Fergie)? They were a famed dance crew before they turned to music, and very deeply influenced by the Filipino American dancers (like Regan). And Apl is Pinoy.

7. Slovick needs to learn how to insert his screwy, neoliberal, off-color interjections more craftily when he tries to write about a group he doesn't belong to or understand. This is how he ends the article: "Today, hip-hop is a form of assimilation — a way for anyone to show up in the USA and invent him or herself, to take the prevailing culture and add to it what they brought with them. God bless America. Everybody is a star, baby." No craft! You're sinkin' foo!

Red flags go up when anyone mentions assimilation. Maybe because it starts with the word "ass."

For more discussion on this, look at Oliver Wang's posting and comments on his blog:

No Hip-Hop Hurrah


Saturday, August 4, 2007

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Kuttin Kandi picks up the mic and drops the science [CONTINUED]

[Continued from May 10th, 2009 post]


By DJ Kuttin Kandi

i do this
for the love of Hip-Hop
i do this whether
i make it or flop
i do this so i can one day
open a record shop
i do this to afford a new pair
of addidas shell-tops

knod my head
to a funky be-bop
hands in the air


can’t ever make me stop
playin a good beat drop
can’t break me up
cause i can’t seem to get enough
of a love more than just hip-hop

most people think
i do it all for a name
while all that’s good
it’s still all the same
if you really know me
beyond Kuttin Kandi
you’d know that
im pretty plain

ill say

forget the fame

forget the glory
i do this to tell my story

i spin wax
to write my wrongs
and say im sorry
i don’t care to spit rhymes
and slay poetry

not for some poets on tv jam
i don’t care if i win
some timed poetry slam
i don’t restrict myself
for television finds a way
to keep the truth banned

i know who i am
i am my own fan
i never compromise
my art to a fake
label-head man
never sold my soul
to a devil dressed up
like a businessman
i’ve made my own plans
all i need are my own hands
a pair of needles, pen and pad
and i make my demands

cause whats the use of a spoken word
when the words aren’t spoken
beyond these lips
whats the use of a backspin
when we don’t turn the tablez
beyond chart hits
why do i spark spliffs
when i could be on a natural high
takin good whiffs
whats the meaning of a dope spit
when your children learns no wit
whats the point of a sign on a stick
when you cant protest and save a brother
from falling sick

we need to get licked
just to realize that the worlds
cause i do this
for a sister
who’s been conflicted
too many times
her body has been depicted
as if her souls drained
and heroin addicted
its either she’s on too many diets
or her breasts been lifted
she talks about women strength
yet she’s living proof
of someone who’s contradicted
i do this for the brother
who forms a fist to her face
and is still not convicted
i do this for me
because i was once that addicted
to a love that never existed

i let myself go
hoping the music
keeps me persisted

i let myself go
i let myself turn
i let myself spin
i let myself flow
with the drip of a pen
and these are the times
i stay in it to win
these are the days
i never give in

so i do this for the love
that the music has got to lead
my skin has got to bleed
sometimes you gotta die
so the soul can breathe
sometimes you gotta ask yourself
what you got left to feed
sometimes you have to be the change
just so this world can fly free

and i love myself too much
to ever let me
just be
what everyone expects of me
i love myself too much
so i let me be
just me
for me
to survive
i have bled and i have died

i know what its like to carry
only 2 bucks in my pocket
for one metrocard ride
sometimes not enough
for a roundtrip
back to the other side
i don’t hide
just to satisfy those
who think they’re

cause as much as this is for me
this is for all of you

for the best friends who have loved me
watched me at every show
stayed with me since the beginning
even when i was at my low
this is for all the
lovers that will come and go
this is for all the mc’s
who can rock a dope flow
for the DJs
that think i’m just a female dj
who says i don’t deserve such a glow

this is for all the peace writers
and all my freedom fighters
raise your fist
light your fire

for this is
for the leaders
that divide us
bleeds us
and blinds us
it wont be too long
till my music sets us free
it wont be too long
that my words will make you see
that im more than just a platoon
or an anomaly

more than just a DJ
spittin ill poetry

i’m a survivor
that can never be beat
i’ve juggled songs to defeat
kuttin it all up has kept me un-weak
and the words I write
is what the whole world speaks

i do this cause
i’m tired of the struggle
that no one thinks exist
i’m tired of reminiscing the moments
i’ve tried slitting my wrists
blood stains a perfect wish
i don’t want to spend my nights
relying on liquor & spliffs
and i want to let go of the times
he used to hit
useless memories
makes waste of a good spit

i’m so sick of this shit
sick of fallin into bottomless pits
sick of tryin to keep my wit
frontin like everyone else
tryin to stay in shape and fit
society has a way of makin
a big woman like me
a misfit

why must i
hold myself back and resist?
why can’t i speak the truth
and raise my hands in a fist?
why can’t you recognize me
and the way my wind shifts?
that a strong Pinay sister
like me exists
i’m more than
getting’ it good with me
just to get on the DJ’s guest list
that you
my people
should never enlist
we need to take risks

recognize you
recognize me

this is all way beyond
the name
Kuttin Kandi

that i aint done no thing
this poem aint no thing
Hip-Hop done no thing
all these words and music
aint no thing
when my people
aren’t even listening

this is for you
this is for me
this is for the love
of a thing called
poetry and turntabltry

this is for all the makers
and the creators
this one is
especially for the

this is for the friends
who called me a friend
but never knew what
ride or die meant

this ones for those of you
who smiled in my face
talked shit behind my back
and didn’t think id make a comment

this is to let you know
that im goin to rise above it

this is for my soulmate Rob
who is in love with
my individuality

this one is for my sister
that believes in me
this is for all the things
my mother gave up for me
and this is in the name
of my father’s loving memory

this is for my Lola’s Filipino accent
this is for the times I wish I hadn’t
denied I was Asian and
that my eyes were slanted

this is for Bush, Marcos,
Arroyo and Bin Ladden
spilled blood on my land
enraged my people
and turned us maddened
back in our homeland
and it makes me sick to imagine
5,000 pinay’s on
rest and recreation ships
I can’t even fathom
167 politically assasin’d
38,000 human rights been abused
and my hearts saddened

they hearts savaged
me lands ravaged
they souls havent

heard a good song
so i let the record play
and let them know
i aint haven’t it

i don’t this to make new trends
or to profit off the fact
that im this rare
who’s Asian
i do this to pay my rent
i do this to make amends
i do this cause sex-traffickin our sisters
are up at 600 %
i do this for the
Guerrilla Words movement
through me
Mumia, David Wong,
Carlos Bulosan
And Gabriela
can’t be kept silent

this is how i want my last days spent

to hear the clapping drums
of an audience
to feel it fall from the back of my neck
as all my fake friends sweat
to lift record crates and
have my back all bent
to see the spotlight on my people
as i represent
to play to the beat of my own

to be everything we’ve ever dreamt

we dare to live
don’t ever say
you could never give
that chance

i do this because if I didn’t
who would?
imagine if the whole world could

i do this to say
this is what happens
if you should

this is for the stories
we all need to share
let loose and walk bare

you should do this
for the love of Hip-Hop
you should do this whether
you make it or flop
i do this so i can one day
open a record shop
i do this to afford a new pair
of addidas shell-tops

knod your head
to a funky be-bop
hands in the air


can’t ever make you stop

playin a good beat drop
can’t break us up
cause i can’t seem to get enough
of a love more than just hip-hop

most people think
i do it all for a name
while all that’s good
it’s still all the same
if you really know me
beyond Kuttin Kandi
you’d know that im pretty plain

i’ll say

forget the fame
forget the glory

i do this to tell my story

that i aint done no thing
this poem aint no thing
all these words and music
aint no thing
when my people
aren’t even listening

[RETURN to original post]

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Kuttin Kandi picks up the mic and drops the science [CONTINUED Pt. 2]

[Continued from May 10th, 2009 post]

The MisEducated
By Kuttin Kandi

i was only
19 years old

i remember
it was today
it was
right before
passed away

i sat by his
hospital bedside
and laid
my head down
on his chest
as he stroked my hair
speaking his last words…

“I want you to
take care of your mother
and sister
i want you to
finish college…ok?
Promise me…?
Promise me?”

i nodded my head
tryin to fight
the tears

at the time
it all made sense

it all goes in order

high school
go to college
get married
raise children
have a family
over the next few years
after learning
the truth
of my own
people’s history

became clear to me

all my parents
ever wanted for me
was to live
a better life
than they did

growin up
home in the Philippines

but this is what happens
when your country
is civilized

make you dream
of coming to America

sell the white-picket fence
and my family
bought their tickets

but I wish America
would have told
my parents

that even
college degrees
back home
is not enough to
prove legitimacy
here in the states


national tv shows
desparate housewives
from the philippines

my father
a navy man
who saved every penny
to bring
his whole family
so hard
with my mom
while goin to
Laguardia Community

to get

then he worked
in the VA hospital
to help
feed Vietnam Vets

and in his last few
as a waiter
catering banquets

relied on tips

to save up

for college
for my sister and me

I wish
my father
really knew
what it was like for me…

in high school
Lord byron

that have absolutely
nothing to do
with me

didn’t even
help with my
my math

come to find out

all this time
I had a
learning disability

so all this time

have done
a disservice
to me
could have
helped me
guided me
mentored me

lost my
had interest in me

judged me
they thought I’d never
amount to anything
all they saw
was the gangbanga
i was goin to be

then in 1993
i heard
Tribe Called Quest


“you couldn’t
you couldn’t

and finally
understood me

then that’s
when it clicked for me

want to go to college
get to higher education

with no roads
that can ever really
lead us there…

elementary schools
middle school and
high schools

grade scoring systems

to lead us to other
kind of systems
and other kinds of institutions

2nd and 3rd grade
reading scores
used to determine
how many beds and cells built in the prison system

when are we going to see

that we don’t even need to go to prison…

that these very systems

our own education systems

behind these walls
exist institutionalized racism

give me an F

flunking me….

well they’ve
BEEN failing
you and me

failing our students
failing our teachers
failing our parents
failing our communities

because there’s not enough support
not enough resources
not enough classrooms
not enough teachers

not enough people of color as teachers

not enough teachers trained enough to teach
to connect
to build
to learn

and then they’re not paying our teachers enough

not giving our faculty
their deserved

because they’re
not straight enough
not white enough
not man enough

little by little
there won’t be a thing

cause they’re already wiping us out
before we even get started

every department

from ethnic studies
to black studies
to asian studies
to chicana studies
critical gender studies

and struggling
to keep
their programs alive

while in our communities
our younger students
trying to stay alive
in high school

tryin to find
1 teacher
who gives a damn
and when they finally do

pink slip….

in new york city
when I was growin up

they set up
vocational type of
in high schools

another way

of sayin
instead of really
you for college
just might
not make it…

we’ll set you up
with these kind of
job core
type classes
so by the time
you graduate
you’ll have a job…”

i wanted
to go college too..

i know them
in the other

college prep

and elite
SAT teachers

visit their school?

so instead
on career day

you send
the military

its true

the army
almost recruited me too

my father
navy military himself
knocked some sense to me
“go to college” he said

but no one

prepared me
told me
that my 1st year
was goin to be hard

didn’t understand
the process

all the paperwork
financial aid
all those lines
cause back then
we weren’t really

and of course
back then

i didn’t understand
i had anxiety
and was agoraphobic
didn’t understand
why crowds
made me feel
so claustrophobic

sat in class
go through a panic

because of my
i didn’t
the teachers said

i reached out
but no one reached
for me

of course
it had to be
my first year in college
tryin to get a
nursing degree

a white male
in psychology
said the most
to me

then told me
i dressed
like a “boy”

and of course
at the time
i was still
my sexuality
and identity

i was
never went to class
and then
eventually I got a D

I dropped out of school
and decided to travel the world on tours as a DJ

of course today
i have no regrets

just out of 2
i come
with a world of experience

gained my own Ph.D
through the 4 elements

of Hip Hop

through Hip Hop

Saul Williams
Public Enemy
Queen Latifah
Lauryn Hill
Dead Prez
soothed me
loved me
and saved me…..

and now it’s funny….

i’ll run into
some academic
at some panel discussion

usually a male white

who wants to belittle me
with their academic language

but what they don’t realize

even though
it might take me longer
I can speak
your language too

i can make it
just as
make it

not your average

you use
to speak to me
tryin to use your
to stake claims of
hierarchy over me
just because you have a
ph.d degree

Malcolm X
once said
"I am not educated nor am I an expert in any particular field. But I am sincere and my sincerity is my credentials.." –

and yes
I am sincere
in my passion
to not just
help change the world
but to be
with the rest of the world
my sincerity
for a brighter future
that starts with me
to help my mom
find a home
back in new york city
that longs
for my homeland
the philippines
in my experience
that helped me
get this far

you see

while I stand here
at the age of 33
with not even
an undergrad degree

i’ve spoken
and performed
in over 150
across this
sat with
from Harvard
to Princeton
and Stanford
as a poet
and now
even as an MC

don’t you know
i’m written
in the books
you use
in your classrooms

Hip Hop
in Ethnic Studies

have used me

and to top it off
i now
at your university

all because
of my poetry
traveling the
from Africa
to my hometown
new york city
2 turntables
the truth of me
vinyl records
to survive
the streets
tell my

i was once
a few times
on this left

I also
almost took
my life
several times
because I just didn’t
think I had what it takes
to take

i’ve lived
to tell you
a struggle
it’s been for me

so tell me

while you’re
right there
stuck at this
tryin to make
your climb
look as
though it’s too
high for me
to reach

to make me
feel like
i need
to legitimize


my soul to you

to an
education system


wanted me
in the first place

because of
my race
because of
my gender
because of
my culture

because my hair
is too dark
because my skin
is too brown
because you don’t
make the seats
even big enough
to fit
a woman of color
like me
because I have
a learning disability
because I have a mental disability
because my jeans are too baggy
because I’m too gay
because I’m
“too ghetto”
because people in third world
countries are more educated
than you and me

because they’ve BEEN
saving our planet
long before any academic
did researches about it

I am that loud

i’ll make
in your
if I have to
to Chaucer
to Browning
audre lorde
bell hooks
angela davis
lorena barros

shout A’s
from the top
of my lungs
sing songs
of victory

one day
i will
have my degree

and not for you
not for
just sees me
as a number
to prove they
have some sort of
for publicity

and no

not even
for my

we all get
caught up
tryin to live
to those standards


not to live-up
value standards

Martin Luther King jr.
“These middle class values were not the values which led to the civil rights movement; these are not the values which lead to positive social transformation."

so, i will study
education is a right that belongs to me
i want to know
my enemies better
a sister, a woman of color like me deserves better
i want this world better

not for some piece of paper

not to recolonize
our people

not to perpetuate
some hierarchal
bubble over our own people

and certainly not
to prove to you
that I am worthy
of you accepting me

because I’m already high…

despite all the scars
and the baggage’s

i’m speaking
all these languages

and I’ve BEEN
learning yours…

all this time…

can you..
can you…
can you..

speak my language?

Can you…

teach me
teach me

i mean
teach me
cause I’m willing to learn
from you

the question is…

are you willing to
learn from me?

[RETURN to original post]

Do You Miss Me? Freestyle Music and the Filipino Scene!

Many Filipinos grew up on Freestyle music before or during their love affair with hip hop culture. I remember listening to Jocelyn Enriquez, Buffy, Debbie Deb, TKA, Cover Girls, Johnny O, Steve B., etc. in mixtapes blended with Latin booty, Uncle Luke, electro-funk, and other hip hop music. The foundation to these genres is usually simple and convenient: a Planet Rock-type kick, snare, hat. And the DJ can cut it up nasty with the transformer sound, eagle, chirp, or what have you.

I heard from a close friend that in the San Francisco Bay Area, Freestyle music used to be closely associated with Filipinos, and this view came from folks outside of the Filipino community. Surely there is a dope set of Filipino artists rockin' the Freestyle scene, but also Filipino youth themselves (along with Latinos) in the 1980s and 90s vibed to this music (complete with big Aqua Netted hair), and for some, they b-boyed/girled to it. This was our music of choice in my little crew back in middle school.

So why Freestyle? For some, we know that our parents cha-cha and line dance to Latin-style music. In fact, some folks cha-cha to Freestyle. Is Freestyle an echo of the Latin sonic environment of our Filipino communities? Or does Freestyle provide DJs a favored arsenal for mixes and scratches, that easily flirts with the hip hop sound? Is Freestyle simply enjoyable to dance to, despite its hip hop kinship? Or did you really think Judy Torres was Filipina? All of the above?

Even though both men and women enjoy Freestyle, I would also like to know how Freestyle might have opened up more space for Pinay artists.

Tell me your stories!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Filipino phenoms East of CA

Florida Soul. Country fried and hungry for more.
(Photo: Clear Effect Photography)

Whats up fam? This blog is supposed to bring together heads and non-heads alike to discuss the phenomenon of Filipinos and their immersion in and transformation of hip hop culture. As fellow Chicano scholar Victor Hugo Viesca stated, Filipino youth were doing hip hop "with style" in the 1980s and 90s, helping create a nationwide (and now worldwide) culture that has exploded.

But often when we read or watch videos about Filipinos and hip hop (i.e. Scratch, Cerritos All-Stars, Rock Force Crew, etc.), it is usually West Coast dominated. I know for a fact that Filipinos were active participants, if not leaders, of hip hop culture in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida (Mayport Navy Station, what!). I also know from talking to family and friends from the East Coast, Filipinos also controlled the b-boy scene in New Jersey. And for sure, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Filipinos had a rich DJ and b-boy culture.

What about other parts of the country, East of California? I hear stories about Texas and Chicago. I would like to know more about these scenes. Let's make this blog a forum for folks who grew up on hip hop and helped develop a scene, but get no play!

Also, just to throw it in there, is hip hop culture among Filipinos a result of our participation in the Navy? Peep all the navy towns like Long Beach, Seattle, San Francisco, Virginia Beach, Jacksonville, etc. I'm sure some of ya'll have seen videos of Pinoys doin' it "with style" from those cities. When its break time at the Commissary, the smocks come off and folks get down, no?

Kevo of Main Ingredients (Jacksonville, FL) rippin' it up. Unstoppable!

Hit it up. Lemme know the scenes from our lesser-known cities of the U.S.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

KRS-One Hip Hop Lives

RIP Mike Dream

More Bambu Videos

Roscoe Umali and E-40

Nice song, nice ladies. How do you feel about Filipino hip hoppers going for this flava of rap representation?

Peep Rhettmatic, Bambu, and many many more notable homies in this clip!