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.



cheryl said...

Mark! Your trailer is even better the second time around. I LOVE the research you are doing. It makes me want to quit english lit and jump on the bandwagon. i just might. my research is hanging by a thread. Did Char tell you we're teaching a writing class on the history of the hip-hop generation (jeff chang's book) at uic? Let us know if you think there's better books out there. -cheryl h from chicago

Anonymous said...

hm hm hm, well coming outta va beach..

the upcoming Seven Deadly Cities ( which was formerly known as(?) All Skool ( and often featured the ever popular Kuya Tribe Productions (

i was too young to really remember when Zulu had a big following in the area and would throw events at one of va beach's most popular city parks, but i do remember the guys investing in a giant sheet of linoleum, transporting it from garage to garage via bicycle by rolling it up and hoisting it over their shoulders, and spraying crazy amounts of pledge before sessioning.. GOOD times

Anonymous said...

ATL sh shawty! i do not know if you will take this seriously since i am your partner. I believe Filipino-Americans started the Asian-American "club" scene in Atlanta. The first DJ's in the Asian-American club circuit were Filipino. We're a little late, so I believe the year was 1994ish. That same group also started the "car scene". The first DJ was originally from Atlanta, but I believe others moved from the Bay Area.

Anonymous said...

*ah yes, to clarify.. the aforementioned events were largely organized and attended by filipino youth and students. and were also often frequented by the two magic words: chad hugo :)

in terms of how hip hop first got to va beach.. i am also sure it was through folks coming and going via the navy and/or people visiting their fam out in ca and then bringing it back with them. this goes for hip hop, the import car scene for us also, and even gang affiliations.

its interesting that Zulu's events used to bring together a good mix of people, considering at that time (about the mid-1990s and speaking on salem at least), there was a lot of tension between the black students and the filipino students.. ie: days designated as "beat a filipino up" day, etc. by the time people our age started coming through high school, that sorta tension definitely cleared up. i've always wondered if Zulu helped out in any of that..

MV said...

Chad Hugo! Of course. How could we forget to mention him?

Anyways, the gang affiliation is huge in the Fil Am experience, especially in terms of hip hop. Some people I interviewed definitely saw breakdancing and DJing as an alternative or a complementary act to gang activity. Peep United Kingdom and Legend Entertainment in LA.

Also, with the Navy town thing, many of my interviewees also talked about moving a lot because of the Navy lifestyle, and bringing in different ideas of music and style to wherever they moved (holla Basic!)

Unknown said...

Peace everyone,

Representin' FL's own J-Ville, 904, DUUUVAL. I think we can break down the scene from the above picture you have. That's a perfect photo of 3 generations of Filipinos in the Jax scene.

I'll have Basic breakdown the first generation since he rolled with City Street Breakers (CSB). (Sorry to blow up your age homie!)

As for me, I consider myself part of the 2nd gen. (What you think Kenski?) Filipinos were throwin down garage/debutant hall parties with our own DJ's in the '95-'99 era. Folks didnt just break, there would be hiphop dance routines, wavin, glidin, and a whooooole lotta booty dancin, and for those that know whats up folks were WOOOPin as well. Gangs were dying out and more folks started resurfacing as breakin crews in the '97-'00 era.

Now Mark, I know you from the Southside, but on the Westside (best side!) of town, folks like CSB held it down for years and kept the traditional breakin styles alive.

I wasn't too down with those folks since I was a lot younger, but I taught myself and remember tearin up the other High School scenes before they had folks and in the midst of 5mo we had like 5-6 crews in schools that ran 10-30 deep!

We'd rep and hold beef at debutant parties and parties would just straight up turn to battles for like hours. We were also breakin to freestyle songs. If Rockelle or Jocelyn was spun at a party, everyone knew to clear the floor! This would sometimes lead to some Southside/Westside battles, crowd humiliations, obscene popping gestures, how-creative you can drop on-the floor contests, and someone getting kicked out and a lot of irritated 16-yr old debutant sistas!

The 3rd generation--is what I consider the era of mainstream bboy battles and tournaments. CSB held the first one--Got Skills?-- in 2001 and would open up Jax to the rest of the FL/Southeast scenes. That's where Kevo's generation comes in--with the sole focus of people coming together for organized battles. Folks would bring a lot of hardcore, crisp, battle routines and the crews kept becoming more competitive.

Even though that was Kevo's generation--he's been rockin since he was in Japan and also moved via the Navy.

The Filipino parties would always be at the Navy Military halls inside the bases too. As for other connections, it was a known fact Filipinos had Westcoast tapes floatin around heavily--from Seattle, Cali and Bboy Summit--they definitely influenced the powermoves and footwork/uprock styles of the day.

Daym, those were the days!
Shoutouts to all the families and crews that gave folks like me a reason to rock all day & all night: Scotty Rubox from Orlando (started it all for me); LOD, NexLevel--Oliver, Carol, DreRock, Jolene, Loreto, Orlando; Isotonic MANGO Flavaz--Fred & Mike--remember h2o? Marvin and the first generation Forest folk; Kenski and original CSB, Jaypee (Burn on!) and the rest of my HS Style Control fam--Sean, Drek, Nick, J-Fresh; Emerson, Jo Alvaro and the rest of VFM, CHONK and PHATfoot, Sadida, South Side Asians and the Ortiz twins; DJ Neptune, Speed and J-storm--those parties are legendary; Ill immigrants reppin Orlando; my 4 Corners fam, Junkneeqs, Main Ingrediants who brought Jax on a national/international level, DJ Basic--the reason why bboys/bgirls today still got SOUL, and all the debutant celebrants we crashed to break.


Boogie Brown/The Brian said...

Jersey in the house!

so let me breakdown what i remember, which might be slightly inaccurate since i didnt go to high school in jersey and was on the periphery of the scene.

when i was in jr high (around 95), all the older filipino males in my area (livingston/west orange/essex county/30 mins west of nyc) were dj's and had very well established crews. they pretty much dominated every school dance around as well as birthday parties, weddings, debuts, random basement parties, etc. they used to even throw their own parties at VFW's and knights of columbus rec centers where of course everybody there was filipino. and at these parties, folks would come from all over jersey to get down.

i think it was really these dj's who made shit popular in our social circles. we knew our dancehall reggae before any of that got on the radio. dj's made a lot of mixtapes that were passed around all the filipino youth. i remember meeting people in college from other parts of jersey that had them too so it was pretty widespread. some notable crews were kuya tribe productions (not really sure if they were jersey or ny) and AST or audio spin tribe. AST would later become five star in the new millenium i think. the notable dj from their crew was dj yoshi, who was classmates with my sister. he's known for this dj mailing/newsletter thing that highlights all the hottest new music. he was also the official dj of the NJ Nets and i'm pretty sure he did stuff for Bad Boy at one point.

but if we're talking about filipinos in hip hop, we gotta talk about dance. so at all these parties, there were always bboys repping in cyphers. from my area, EDK or Eight Devils of Kinone (anime reference) controlled the circles. tons of style but had plenty of power too. just north of us was thee premiere crew of jersey called RWF or Rock Wit Finesse. I only heard stories about them but they were mostly filipino of course. i met some of them later on in life including Darvy and Sweet Pea who are still getting down till this day. when i went to college in philly, i found out that bboys from south jersey were reppin hard, and again mostly pinoy representation. the crew that i knew of was ETC or Editing Technics Crew (or maybe Technique). but anyway, all the bboys i saw were always filipino with the occasional east asian dude that inevitably rolled with a lot of pinoys. it was up and down the garden state.

i really think we were responsible for developing this suburban bboy culture outside of new york city.

i started to learn how to break from my filipino friend in high school Key West of Mixed Nuts Crew from Bergen County which is northern Jersey. we also had another friend Gabe from more central jersey who learned from his cousin from the infamous Rock Force Crew in cali.

but ppl were also really into hip hop choreography. every debut or bday party had a "modern" dance which was basically a hip hop routine. it was something that more pinays were a part of and had control over. ppl would make any excuse to choreograph something and perform it. in the summers of 2001 and 2002, i was part of Talagang Crazy, a dance group started by Key West. we did hip hop choreography with tinikling, so-called "modern" tinikling. we performed a lot during those summers at philippine parades in manhattan, jersey city, philippine fiesta at the meadowlands, and various church, nurse association, and school gatherings.

so how did suburban middle class filipinos in jersey get involved with hip hop? for my generation, we saw hip hop go mainstream in the late 90s. however, it's obvious our youth social circles were into it long before that and that we were sustaining underground cultures specifically in djaying and bboying. so i think part of it comes from jersey city where there's a large filipino community that lives side by side with large latino and black communities. and so the culture spreads amongst co-ethnic peers. and as in the case of my friend Gabe, the culture was being transplanted from the west coast via family.

and so our interest in hip hop forced many of us to go to nyc and philly and test our skills amongst other people of color, thus expanding our understanding of the culture. that greater understanding was then shipped back to the burbs, creating two-way flow of culture. this is just my theory though.

other folks from jersey should add to this, and clarify things. i would love to hear someone from bergen county since they had their own thing going on with rap/dj group Organic Thoughts, big time producer Illmind, and a whole other scene of djs and bboys.

Unknown said...

It's refreshing to hear the East Coast reppin!

I was also missing another connection which Bboyin in our communities was also spread throughout the Church networks ie Youth For Christ.

The national YFC conference in Jax '99 is where I met Reinen of Rhythm Bugs-LA and Darvy from Rock Wit Finesse-Jersey. That after party was like Bboy Summit all night!

In those events there would be Hip Hop choreography which durin those times we had some crews in the 90s active as well as a grip of Filipino guys starting up acapella groups way before Kai. The folks before my bboy generation can talk more about that.