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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark, love the blog.

Though the projection of this type of Hip Hop concerns me, the comments left behind are more disturbing.

It seems some of the comments are by those that are possibly younger in age, but we can't tell.

However, some of the comments do come from somebody that has some kind of backround (the breadth of backround still impossible to measure)in Philippine History. Some note the existence of Filipino domestic workers and also one comment referenced Colonialism, both topics that are not necessarily talked about amongst the general populace here in the United States and even amongst Filipinos themselves. The comment with the reference to Colonialism was troubling because you think one would have the decency to sympathize with a colonized people. Then again racism, slavery, etc is sometimes relegated to a joke and not taken seriously.

As to your questions:

I have to believe that there can be cultural collaboration among diverse racial and ethnic communities (It is already happening, but on a broad scale, I dunno). I have to believe this, if this cannot be true then all my passions and desires for justice are empty dreams.

"Belonging" is troublesome. Where do we belong? Asian? Pacific Islander? Both categories to me generalize the diversity of the people they subsume into their ranks. In addition, I know Pacific Islanders that feel we don't belong with them and I know Asians that feel we don't belong with them. Moreover, White people, Black people, and others sometimes naturally categorize us into Asian group thinking we share dramtic similarities with Japanese and Chinese people (like those two groups are the same anyway).

Belonging is troublesome, as even within our own ranks we have those problems as well. Bourgeois Filipino/Working Class, 1st gen/2nd gen-post 2nd gen, Speakers/non-Speakers, Dark skinned/Light skinned.

Not only are we not accepted by others, some of us don't even accept our own.