Monday, December 29, 2008

Go Numb? Understanding Palestine, Israel, and Slingshots

It is the holiday season, and big baby Jesus is on our collective minds. What is also on our minds (and in the news) is the war currently happening in Israel and Gaza (Palestine). The peace associated with the season and the simultaneous violence happening in the birthplace of Jesus could not be more ironic.

I just downloaded a great album called "Free the P" by the LA-based hip hop group The Philistines (Palestinian and Filipino rap duo). You can download it for free here. The homey Cookie Jar, the Filipino emcee, is a down brutha who is also an extremely talented instrumentalist and singer. He volunteered for an interview a few years back (maybe I'll dig it up and post it). Cookie Jar and Ragtop connect the plight of folks in Palestine and the Philippines--which can basically be seen through the framework of European imperialism/land grab.

On the rills, the message of The Philistines could not be more appropriate right now. Their album came out in order to raise funds for a documentary on hip hop culture in Palestine. Did you know that there was hip hop in Palestine? Well, now you do. Where there is oppression, there is hip hop, I guess. Peep the trailer to "Slingshot Hip Hop" below:

Watching the news, it may be very hard to digest what is going on in Israel and Gaza, so much that we may feel numb to the story. Like you, I'm learning a lot myself. Let's try to break down the most fundamental aspects of the story by "placing into context" the violence occurring right now so that perhaps we can think more critically instead of "going numb" and detaching ourselves from this global crisis.

Context #1: Nation-building
It is important to understand that the nation of Israel is NOT an ancient country that has been existing for centuries. I mean, all nations are essentially "created" and "imagined," but what makes Israel so compelling here is that it is new, born in 1948 (here and here) after violent aggression by Israel nationalists against the existing people of Palestine (and British colonizers, which is another part of the bigger story of European imperialism). When Jewish settlers (anyone in the world claiming Jewish heritage can become a citizen of Israel) started to occupy Palestine, it resulted in at least three occurrences: 1) mass exodus of Palestinians, 2) the killing of Palestinians, 3) the segregation/apartheid of Palestinians into small portions of the newly created Israeli state.

The situation can be compared to the segregated American South after Reconstruction--the lawful separation of people, the state-sponsored terrorism (lynching) in order to keep people in their place, and programs of "attrition" inflicted on Blacks through the allocation of inferior resources.

Better yet, the genocide of Native people in the U.S. is a more cogent example: separation (Indian reservations), killing (Trail of Tears, etc.), and programs of "attrition" (reservations, alcohol, inferior schools, healthcare).

Context #2: Violence begets Violence
To be fair, it is up to you to research the issue and understand the other side of the story-- that of the Zionists. True, Jewish people have been persecuted throughout history, thus one of the main arguments for settling in Palestine is a space for Jewish freedom and fulfilling a narrative of "returning to Zion" as written in the Jewish holy book. So read up on that. But what can't be ignored is the wholesale, uneven violence against Palestinian people. Its truly David vs. Goliath--a nuclear-armed nation against slingshots and rockets (although in the hands of the elite few). Like Talib Kweli says, "Palestinians got rocks, Israelis got tanks." Israel's failed attempt to "tame" Lebanese Hezbollah in 2006 is an example of the extreme force Israel can wield. Today's war is seen as round 2. Remember, the war that Israel wages against Palestine is not only a war against Palestinian militants (who are not without blood on their hands), but also a war against women and children. This is the greatest tragedy...and Kiwi puts it best (in an early song on the "Stray Bullets" mixtape):

"I place my words on an altar and offer it to my ancestors
To all my family, every brother and sister
To every inch of the land, to every drop of the sea
To every ounce of oxygen that we breathe

Cause I feel the impact of them bombing the earth
Cause every bomb that they drop leaves a scar in the dirt
From the woman that it hit as she was walking to work
And a couple oil barrels was all it was worth..."

read more or Kiwi's ("For Palestine" post)

Context #3: Collective Punishment
I think one of the scariest part of the violence in Israel and Gaza is the "collateral damage" of war, in other words, the non-combatant residents such as the women and the children. Like any nation, Palestine is controlled politically by one elite party--Hamas. Hamas does not represent all Palestinians, but Israel's attack on Hamas has been deployed as an attack on the whole of Palestine. Jack Stephens (worth clicking to learn more) puts it best here:

"This line of attack is no different then the line of attack the apartheid South African government used against the ANC, no different than the southern states speaking of reacting against radical Blacks within the NAACP and the SCLC, and no different then dictator Marcos justifying his suspension of democracy and imposition of martial law because of the First Quarter Storm.

As mentioned above, the attack on Gaza by the Israeli army is likened to southern Whites punishing ALL southern Blacks because of the actions of the NAACP. How can an army collectively punish a people, when a small group is the one firing the rockets on Southern Israel? In this war, both sides are losing: the non-combatant residents in Gaza and in Israel. Not a safe place to be. No wonder there are so many Palestinian refugees. (But ironically, Jewish settlement still continues). To add to that, it can be argued that continued violence helps the power agenda of both leading groups in Palestine and Israel, meaning that violence might be welcomed in order to consolidate power/incite hatred on either side.

The next time you watch "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," understand that Zohan is not just some random soldier. His character comes out of a very specific moment in history: a super soldier built to fight Palestinian/Arab resistance against Zionist occupation. Zohan is the protector of an Israeli occupation. Israel, the "only Democracy in the Middle East" surely has a lot to protect...Can Democracy exist on the prerequisite of violence? Sure, ask the United States.

Read up! Understand the issues, make informed decisions, and get a sense of your position(s). Will the new U.S. administration hold the same politics as the old? Or will our policies on the Middle East remain the same? Will the policies intensify the situation?

At the risk of "going numb," we must always be aware of the world around us. Like The Philistines say in "Free the P":

"We race for truth
Now we spit it face to face
From Palestine, Syria, Philippines, to America
Culturally open minds
Keep the strength in character..."


Note: I write this not to insult yall's knowledge, but to help others become familiar with the issue. I've been having too many conversations about it with my folks, that I'm saddened that not many people are informed about it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome to the new URL address/ VA Beach love/ BakitWhy

Whats up readers old and new! Welcome to the new Hip Hop Lives url address. I hope you update your google reader feeds, etc. The old one was long (, and I didn't know you can customize your own url address until last week (it's now

Check out my homegirl Jian's new blog on all things fresh and hip in Virginia Beach, VA:
VB2DC (or Virginia Beach to DC--she resides in DC but reps VB).
Get updated on the scene in VB, from fashion, to events, to artists. This is the home of Chad Hugo and N.E.R.D. and a historic Fil Am hip hop community. Whats up Salem High? Ha!

Yes that is Glory's famous pizza bread. What you know!

If you want to read a VERY fictional account of the VB Filipino community, you should pick up my friend Ate Evelina Galang's novel One Tribe. (I think that's me holding the book in that picture at the top). It has some interesting narrative on the tensions involved in community-building, a perpetual challenge considering the diversity of Fil Am communities. VB is a navy community, so that adds more dimensions to the context (just like Jacksonville, FL or San Diego). What's notable in the book is the gang culture among the young people, a very real part of our history that is rarely written about, so this book is a good start to hopefully more explorations about Fil Ams and gang culture (both violent and "crew" gang culture).

And the other reason why VA Beach is on my mind is my childhood homey just got married this weekend. He grew up in VA Beach, and many family members from VA Beach came down to Jacksonville for the wedding. The VB hip hop scene is well-known to be hot, the groom even imported a DJ from VA Beach, Philip Andrada, with all his equipment, just to rock the reception. Oh, and we did rock. Can you imagine all the groomsman lookin fresh in tuxedos and sneakers? After all these years, my homeys still bustin mills and 90s. This is the most hip hop wedding I've been to! Congrats Jo and Cheryl!

Speaking of VB and navy towns, if you don't already know, I am a content producer for a very neat Pilipino website called This site is the biggest, most comprehensive, most "national" website that consolidates a young Pinoy/ay community. Anyways, I wrote something relating to the navy experience in our community; here's a little piece on my hometown. Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Beatrock Store Becoming LA Cultural Haven

Fighting Cocks start off the night with their mellow, soulful style. Photo courtesy of Mike Nailat. Find more pictures at Mike's Flickr here.

On Saturday, December 13th, the Beatrock store in Long Beach and Sights and Sounds presented an art and music mash-up featuring paintings by LA favorites Stuter, Alfie Numeric, Pancho, and many others. Music was provided by Bambu, The Committee, Flowethics and J-One, Fighting Cocks, K9, and Mass Movement.

This was the first time I've been to the Beatrock store, and it was a great experience seeing all the art and performers congregate at a dope space not far from the city of LA. You can also cop a bunch of gear. Not too late if you're still shopping for gifts for the holidays. They not only sell the coveted Beatrock brands, but also other clothing, such as a funny new brand called Chicharron Adventures.

This store is quickly becoming a notable cultural space "outside" of the traffic-ridden LA-proper area. So for folks who live in Carson, Cerritos, Long Beach, Torrance, even Orange County, this spot will be a little bit closer if you usually hit up cultural events. It's a colorful, beautiful joint, so you should stop by even if there is no performance occurring.

Here is the address:
Beatrock Flagship Store
4158 Norse Way

Long Beach, CA

As always, Bambu wreck-shopped. The Committee ended their set with a hot 90's hip hop tribute--anthems such as Mtume (Biggie Smalls "Juicy" more specifically), Mary J. Blige, Talib Kweli (more 2003ish), all with live instrumentation! Hire them, Jimmy Fallen, instead of The Roots! Also, K9 represented the "5th" element of hip hop with a beatboxing exhibition. Aaliyah "One in a Million" all through voice, what? (Bambu controls the crowd. Photo courtesy of Mike Nailat)

The man behind Beatrock, David Araquel, is doing a great job with the store. Starting off as the kid in high school who people always turned to to draw sketches or paint murals, David has turned his passion into a successful cultural and business venture. From a simple idea years ago of building a store to a growing and thriving store/cultural space, this Beatrock thing is really taking off!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pnoy Apparel San Diego Jam Packs the House

Check out an article I wrote and "commercial" I filmed/edited for BakitWhy:

Many came, and many got turned away. The Pnoy Apparel/Alpha Psi Rho event "A Sammy Thing" (in reference to the cartoon character Sammy the Sun) at San Diego State University on December the 9th was so popular security rolled deep (police car and all) in an effort to "control" the crowd. So apologies to the many people who could not get in and missed an all-star jam featuring the hottest Fil Am talent.

Continue reading...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

On growing up Fil Am today: from "fobby" to fly

Yesterday was a good day. After a great line-up of NCAA football games, the night ushered in a new era of boxing with the victory of Manny Pacquiao, and the end of a legendary era with the womping of Oscar De La Hoya.

Sitting there at a homey's pad in Historic Filipino in LA (click here for a glimpse of us celebrating the TKO) with a gang of barking Brown folks, BBQ and boxing, I reflected on how growing up Fil Am today is so different than back in the 90s. Granted that I grew up in the South (in a very red county) and there weren't as many Filipinos as there are in the West Coast, I think in general, young Fil Ams have so much more opportunities to demonstrate their pride. I mean, under one house there was the Pacman (on the TV), Kiwi, Bam, Krish, and a whole host of Fil Am community artists and activists. LA may be an anomaly in comparison to the entirety of the U.S. because of its large and historic Fil Am community, but these folks, especially the artists, have an unprecedented reach to inspire young folks nationally. And with outlets like Heavy Rotation, I suppose a reach to inspire internationally.

Maybe its an internets-age thing. But I just have a sense that if it were even just 6 years ago, young Fil Ams wouldn't so much be rockin the Philippine flag sweaters, Bonifacio T's, and tri-star/sun caps. Nor would they be rappin in Tagalog. It must be noted, the growth in this Pin@y "pride" has to be linked with the explosion of the fashion designers (i.e. Beatrock), which by the way these Filipino-themed T's are not a new thing--think Tsinilas (based in Florida), Tribal Pinoy, or Downright Pinoy.

(Sports + hip hop + fashion + internet = growth in the reach of Pin@y "pride"?)

Maybe I'm wrong, and this is really a West Coast thing that has been happening strong before I moved here. Thoughts?* My point is that it is a special time to be a young Fil Am today (and maybe more specifically Fil Am masculinity). Where as in the 90s, we had a very Afro-centric hip hop, not the "Filipino-conscious" (which is not wholly separate from Afro-centric tradition, just as a note) hip hop --both men and women artists--we enjoy today. We didn't have a Manny Pacquiao. We didn't have a whole army of Pin@ys on reality TV (check out Bam's posting on "Reality and Rice"). And the fashion? Sure, there was the few Filipino t-shirt brands I would rock, but I would get clowned for being "fobby," a denigrating term people used to describe being "too Filipino." Not so much today. Today its a badge of pride and not shame to have Manny emblazoned on your shirt.** How many Pac Man shirts were there at the Bridge's show after the fight? Dang. A sista was even rockin a Philippine flag on her necklace.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the South is just a different animal. Maybe because the South and the East Coast in total doesn't have a "Pilipino Culture Night" (here and here) tradition. Maybe cuz there's no FPAC or Pistahan there. There are varying opportunities and spaces to learn and express "Filipinoness." Today, it seems like those opportunities and spaces have reached beyond expectation.

I mean, in the Souf, we did have Santo Nino and Gang Starr, but that didn't seem to be enough mayn.

From "fobby" to "fly".
I hope it lasts long.

Let me have it...

*I get a sense that young Pin@ys in the 90s were also more immersed in gang culture. Pride for sure, but qualitatively different, in ways I can't articulate yet.
**I think that the Filipino-themed fashion today is more likely linked to politically-conscious movements, and not only a desire to look cute in a Pin@y tee.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jivin' turkey (real) talk: Filipinizing the holiday

"Dear God, are those douche bag heathens crashing our shit again?"

Happy Thanksgiving! Here is a good article, "Thanksgiving: A Native American View", that gives light to a more accurate truth to why we celebrate the holiday.

I love Thanksgiving. Most of all, I love Thanksgiving food: stuffing, sweet potatoes, ham, syrup, gravy, green beans, etc. Yes, its a good excuse to eat carbs and fatty foods.

But I'm writing today not to exalt the holiday. Rather, today is an appropriate opportunity to address the realness the holiday represents, a realness which is masked, erased, and obscured by our glorification of the food, shopping, and gathering with family members you don't want to see (but not MY family. Maybe yours).

I did the lecture for our Asian American History class Tuesday, and I argued that we are able to shop and eat during holidays like Thanksgiving and Columbus Day because we "forget" about U.S. and European colonization and violence that underpin these celebrations. The title of my presentation was "Yes! The Rhythm, The Rebel! Filipino Funky Hybridity and the 'Magic Trick of U.S. Empire." Sadly (and embarrassingly), no one in the 200 student audience caught the reference to Public Enemy's "Rebel Without a Pause" (did you?).

This is the explanation of my weird title:

The Rhythm: The syncretism of "Western" musical rhythmic timing (3/4 and 4/4) in Filipino musicality. But it is also a reference to the "rhythmic" pattern of U.S. colonialism- it's cyclical and even predictable!

The Rebel: The resistance of Filipino and Black Buffalo Soldiers against U.S. violence. I talked about David Fagen and the mythology of Black and Filipino cultural and political coalition.

Filipino Funky Hybridity: The "mixedness" of Filipino culture with U.S. influences. Not only are there "rhythmic" syncretism in Filipino culture, but more important to acknowledge is the political-consciousness alliances Filipinos made with Blacks, and vice versa. Carter G. Woodson, the "Father of Black History", learned about the deceit behind American "tutelage" from his excursion as Supervisor of Schools in the archipelago, and later wrote "The Miseducation of the Negro." Renato Constantino would write "The Miseducation of the Filipino" about 30 years later. Political resonance? Yes.

The "Magic Trick" of U.S. Empire: "If they hit once, they can hit twice" (no one in the audience got that reference either, sigh). Why don't we know about the U.S. war in the Philippines? After watching the film Savage Acts, I asked my class what was most surprising about the film. One student commented on the amount of violence the U.S. inflicted on Filipinos. Why is this so surprising? Why don't we learn/commemorate the Philippine-American War (often called the Spanish-American War)? The "disappearance" of U.S. violence in the Philippines (or against the Indians in the continental U.S. or against Pacific Islanders) allows for the U.S. to do it again...and again.

And so here we are today, Thanksgiving, consuming all those sweets, carbs, and fatty foods (unless you're a tofurky fan). Let us have fun with family and friends. But also, let us remember the historical conditions that allow us to celebrate this day.

Some books on the topic of "invisible" U.S. Empire in the Philippines:
Anarchy of Empire by Amy Kaplan
American Tropics by Allan Punzalan Isaac
Model Minority Imperialism by Victor Bascara

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: "Hear it" from Lauren Santiago

Lauren Santiago is the Pinay you don't want to challenge at karaoke night. I found out about Miss Santiago through DJ Marlino's Heavy Rotation radio show and have been hooked ever since! Lauren gives a soulful quality to her music that many R&B acts today lack. Combined with the fresh tracks by Freddie Joachim and Choice37, her music is appealing to anyone who digs the earthy, gritty, but "lay back" feel of soul music.

Her EP "Sundays" gives you a that feel-good sunny Sunday afternoon vibe- you might cook a breakfast (of eggs and garlic rice?) and clean up your place on a Sunday afternoon with Lauren jammin on your box. Each track is unique- experimental in texture, key, timing, and even pitch.

Sista got pipes. And the fact that she rhymes too? Golden. So don't sleep on her music. Make sure you cop the EP "Sundays" on her myspace or search for her on iTunes. And definitely keep a look out for her album dropping in Spring 2009.

You can peep an interview by Rafu Magazine for more scoop on Lauren. I had the fortune of interviewing her all the way from NYC! Enjoy!

Who is Lauren Santiago?
I'm reppin' So Cal. I'm (like totally) a Valley girl. I never noticed how "Valley" I was until I moved to NY about a year ago. East coasters call me on my lingo all the time, but I love it 'cause it's a nice reminder about where I'm from. I'm living in Bed Stuy (do or die), NY at the moment and am diggin' this Brooklyn energy. I classify my music as Soul, but I'm branching out into variations of the genre. Electro, experimental, hip-hop, but it's Soul at heart.

How did you get involved with music?
I sang in choir in the third grade and people told me I was good, so I kept going. I was actually super into rock back in the day. I'm talking like Guns n Roses and Metalllica. Then I slowly transitioned into R&B and was really into TLC, En Vogue, Xscape (yeah I said it). I would sing their stuff all the time! When I got introduced to Dre and Snoop via my bro, I was in love. Then, lord, Lauryn Hill hit the scene and I REALLY wanted to be her. I wrote rhymes, got pretty good at it and rhymed at parties. It was fun. But I wanted to sing. I revisited singing in college, hooked up with an all-girl a cappella group at USC and from then just kept going.

Who inspires you stylistically?
Right now I'm inspired by Yukimi Nagano, Santogold, Portishead. They are so unique in style and they embody the perfect marriage of vocals/lyrics/track. Sick. Of course, there's Alicia Keys. I love the grittiness in her voice. Leela James is awesome too. That smokey, old soul vibe is fresh. Erykah and her bugged out "I don't give a f*ck" ways. There are so many to name.

What are some of the greatest challenges as you create music?
Finding time to sit down and go at it. I have a day job that is taking over my life. No joke. So what happens is, I go and work a looong ass day, write on the train, come home and work on arrangements and recording. I've been sleeping a lot less lately.

What are some of the greatest rewards?
Some of the greatest rewards are hearing the product and having people say, "Yeah, I'm feelin that. That sh*t is nice." Haha in so many words. Also, when people can relate to the subject. For example, I had a 15 year old kid from Arizona hit me up saying he just broke up with his girl and he posted "It's So Easy" lyrics on his blog cuz he was going through that same situation. That rocks.

One of my favorite songs is "Hear It From You." The song, like many other songs in your EP, have a complex texture, timbre, and unconventional sound timings (like the change of beat and timing in Jacewon's rap "outtro" in the song, or the echoey/haunting yet soulful vocals in "Hope"). Describe the creative process in making "Hear It From You."
That song is produced by Freddie Joachim, and the emcee at the end is Jacewon. Choice37 was the one who offered up his studio to have me lay it down. Freddie hit me up about getting on his album and I was feeling that track, so I laced it. Jacewon was also feeling that track so we collab'd. (Freddie and Choice37 in picture to right)

What inspired the lyrics was at the time I was diggin this cat from NYC while I was still in LA. He had no idea 'cause it was never discussed, and I didn't wanna say anything cuz I assumed it was on that "I'm here, you're there, let's connect when you're in town" type-thing (boo for that. FYI fellas, I can NOT be that casual). So anyway, I was like "Damn! Just tell me you're into me and let's get this poppin' - screw the distance!"

What is your favorite "era" of hip hop?
The 90s! From Dre, Snoop, Quik to Souls of Mischief, Hiero, and Common. I wanted to be like all those guys! Hip hop was real. This crap on the radio nowadays is so beyond me it's like I can't believe the public eats up this crap.

Do you sense a difference in the Filipino American community (hip hop or otherwise) on the West Coast and that on the East Coast?
I don't really see a Fil Am community out here in NYC. Maybe that's the difference! I've been to maybe one party, and it was the same as the West Coast. I actually felt like I was on the West. But, I don't really see a community out here. It could be because I'm outta the loop, who knows. NY is mixed like no other place I've ever been, and the sense of community IN GENERAL is through the roof! I love that. No one judges you. They just let you be who you are, act a fool, dress like a clown, and let you on your merry way. The west coast will ALWAYS be home though.

What should listeners be on the look out for? What new projects are in store?
I'm working on my full-length album. It's taking a while but it's coming! Spring 2009 is the goal. In the meantime I'll be pushing out some free joints, teasers/sampler types mainly for the DJs to throw in the mix. Working on more uptempos too. I love the laid back, relaxing type tracks but I'm trying to break out of that in a major way! Freddie and Choice37 are of course on the bill. I'm throwing in a couple of other producers as well. I'm working with this sick cat from the UK (nex*is) and more TBA...

Is there anything else you would like readers to know before you go?
Yes. I'm on iTunes. Cop that!

Thanks for the interview Lauren Santiago! Stay warm in freezin cold NYC! We're waiting eagerly for that album!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"All You Can!" A Street Fighter II Generation

I've been thinking about Street Fighter II lately. A friend mentioned that Street Fighter II was something that "housers" (who were somehwhat like the breakdancers of the early 90s) were really into. That's strange because I've heard about the houser-SF2 connection before. Why is that?

Anyways, here's a little letter to a personified SF2 to help us reminisce about the days of Ryu, Chun-Li, and Dhalsim.

Dear Street Fighter II:

It's been a while since we've seen each other. Yes, it's been so long since the calloused-thumb days of childhood. Since the days of dirty socks on neighborhood boys' living room carpets. Since the days of "housers" and gangsters. Since the tense standoffs of the Cold War era. Since "In Living Color" and Rodney King. It's been a while.

But recently you've been on my mind. Even in my dreams. Yes, I dream in Street Fighter II. Is that bad? Regardless of whatever pathology you've permanently imprinted in my brain, after hours upon hours and days upon days of play, you've taught me invaluable life lessons.

Through you, I first learned about the complexity of international relations (i.e. Guile's ontologically Western militaristic projections of power. And heck, the other Anglo is a British military girl...wearing tight spandex). What better way to convey the state of world affairs in the late 80s and early 90s than to show a big fat Japanese dude that sits on people, an Indian guy that levitates and spits fire, and a sinister Russian dude who is the final boss, but isn't really too hard to beat? Killed that fool, like Coke killed communism. That's all the worldly knowledge we need. Street Fighter is all teenage boys need for adequate cultural exposure.

Also, through your lessons, I also learned about the stringent and unwavering modes of racial classifications. People from Brazil are green monsters. Yoga really makes you lean and stretchy. I learned that you don't mess with white dudes who throw the first punch:

White dude: "I'll be whoever I want for Halloween!"
Black dude: "OUCH!"

Yes, you prepared me well for a journey through an arduous college career. But, I had a few questions to ask that have never been answered:

Are Ryu and Ken brothers? Why do they have the same exact moves, but one dude rocked Goldilocks' hair? Are you commenting on the myth of racial purity, of the already hybrid forms of culture, of the constructed discourses of authenticity? Or is blonde simply the opposite of "colored"?

Also, why could Vega jump on the fence and attack people, but no one else was able to? (1:14 here) Was the fence reserved only for gorgeous colonizers, and electrocuted the freaks? That's f*cked up.

I heard that "M. Bison" was originally the name for Balrog, but "M. Bison" was too similar to "Mike Tyson", so you transferred the "M. Bison" name to the spinning Russian dude. AND THEN, the spinning Russion dude was originally named Vega. Is this true? Then what was Vega's name? Balrog? That doesn't sound Castillano. Sounds Star Warsy.

Finally, since the Cold War is kind of over, who will be the ultimate villain? An Arab dude who swings from monkey bars? A Korean fool who jumps off of a nuclear warhead to melt you with flaming kimchee? Two gays who want to marry your daughter?

Anyways, it was fun catching up. I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to the world outside of my little town. The world is really made up of electric freaks, ladies with long, kicking legs, and fire-breathing Indians. I've attempted to befriend at least one of each of your racial classification. It hasn't been successful, especially when I pull violently on all my Indian friends' arms (sorry Satish).

All You Can,


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Money-money in my socks, freedom-freedom on my mind

Just when you think you'd get sick of an album. But no, this still be on heavy rotation in my (old and broke) pod. It's kinda hypnotizing. Me need more!

Check out this trailer to Bambu's newest video, "Crooks and Rooks":

Bambu "Crooks & Rooks" Teaser from Xylophone Films on Vimeo
Visit the homeys at Kid Heroes and Xylophone films to see more videos. Nice job fellas!

I had learnt a lot in this hurr interview of Kuya Bam (where that freedom at?):

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Halloween Letter: Dear Dude in Blackface

Dear Dude in Blackface,

It was Halloween night, and I was looking for a dance floor to throw down and maybe even throw up. I was glad I found a party, because this city is lame. So of course I graciously accepted the invitation to this grad student shin dig from a colleague.

After walking into the party, I immediately felt out of place because I didn't have a stupid costume. But also I probably felt uncomfortable because I was one of three non-White revelers. No dancing, no costume. I wanted to leave.

But alas, you caught my gaze. "Another person of color!" I thought. But wait, as you passed by, you began to look like a buried coal miner. You flashed your gold chain with a dollar sign medallion as a testament to your downess. Yes, a down coal miner, I thought.

But wait, as you came closer, I had a sick, sick feeling. You're a white dude, in blackface.

With a warm beer in my hand, I asked my colleague (who is Asian), "So we're gonna have blackface at this party?"

His answer caught me off guard: "At least we're being ironic about it."

"Oh," I thought. "This is a hipster party." If only that was the case.

Aside from the fact that I see no irony in a white guy in blackface at a Halloween party (how cliche is that?), I am surprised my colleague said "we" to include himself in the crowd. By "we," I think he meant nerdy, unsexy grad students (but I guess that encompasses me too).

So I ask you: really? Grad school? Did you lose your way to the frat party?

Barack Obama had not yet been elected, and you still had the gall to celebrate a seemingly neutralized, unpoliticized, deracialized performativity of Blackness? Couldn't you at least wait till next year and say, "Hey, a Black guy's my president. How can this be racist?"

Just remember this: After centuries of being called ugly, savage, evil, unpure by Europeans...Black people don't need you to flaunt your ability to wash that shit off. Plus, you need to do research on the long, disgraceful history of blackface performance. It didn't start with Kramer.

As Bambu says in "Exact Change": "Maybe they associate us all with that--Overlook it just because a presidential candidate is Black--Nevermind the fact prison numbers is ridiculous--Instead we see rappers on TV flashin they necklaces..."

Next year, I recommend dressing up as a White guy. That'd be ironic. Eat hummus and pita, kiss your dog, recycle, shop at organic stores, buy expensive sandwiches...a presidential seal (instead of a dollar-sign) around your neck. Run with it homey.

On second thought, maybe you were really a Black guy, who put on white-colored make-up (even down to your neck and in your ear), then black-colored make-up haphazardly on top of that. If that were the case, you're freakin awesome.

Posted in the cut,

PS: My president is Black. Oh yeeahh...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Making Moves and Movies: Check out "Reminder" here and "Legend" in Chicago

These Fil Ams be runnin for democracy! Boogie Brown and Calamity remind us to vote on Nov. 4th in "The Reminder" below. Or maybe they runnin away from a mo mo. Hala!

Good music from Common Market. Good shots of NY (Astoria? Chirping Chicken foo!!) Brown and Calamity be inspirin me to get on the grind. Who wants to be in my next film project? Anyways, "The Reminder" brings to the cipher an important question:
What are the (electoral) political issues of the Fil Am hip hop generation (i.e. war, the economy, prison reform, education, veteranos, affirmative action, etc.)?

Photo from "Legend." A young Icy Ice (rockin a fresh McGuyver mullet) as one of the last Spectrum DJs. Los Angeles, late 1980s.

On another note, just when I thought it was all said and done, "Legend" is still making its festival rounds. After a fun week showing at the San Diego Asian Film Festival (and the UC Riverside extension program last week), my film will be showing at the Chicago Filipino American Film Festival on Sunday, Nov. 9th. Midwest folks, come support!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

SDAFF and DJ Tribute testimonies

"Beyond Manila" filmmakers (and actress) at SDAFF

It's been more than a month since the 17th Annual Festival of Philippines Arts and Culture (FPAC), and the "beautifully traumatic" (all love!) event has recently been on the brain. Screening Legend and other great (and extremely emotional) short Filipino/Fil Am films at the San Diego Asian Film Festival (check out yo boy at 1:00 here) and kickin it with UCI Kababayan folks (faithful FPAC supporters) reminded me that I still haven't posted up some post-FPAC analysis.

No doubt, one of the highlights of FPAC was the FPAC Tribute to the Filipino DJ, which honored a handful of the most impacting Fil Am DJs out there. Thanks to Zeta Phi Rho at CSULB for hosting me for Pilipino American History Month last week, and allowing me to screen Legend and chop up on some hip hop history. I hope some folks in the crowd that night were also at the Tribute, because it was history in front of your eyes.

Kat, Nasty Nes, Babu, Babu's son, Rhettmatic, Kuttin Kandi, Brian Samson (Def Jam), MV (photo credit: Mike Nailat)

So it was a great honor to help put together this Tribute together with Kat and Mary Rose. Below are excerpts from DJ Dstrukt (2006 Stacks Amateur Battle Champ) , who opened up the Tribute with a turntable set, and DJ Nasty Nes, one of the honorees. We all hope this can be an annual occasion, and more people (especially the younger, YouTube generation) pay attention to those Fil Am hip hop heads who blazed the way.

DJ Dstrukt
It was dope seeing Rhett and babu get love from the Filipino community. But I believe there are many more dj's and crews that paved the way for other dj's. For example, 5th platoon's neil Armstrong & Vinroc, everyone from the Skratch Piklz( Qbert, Shortkut, D-styles, Disk, Apollo, Mix Master Mike), Swift Rock, Mike Boo, majority of the Junkies, etc. Too many to name. The world is full with djs.

I felt more then honored to open for these legends. But it's kind of hard to do your set when you got Rhett, Babs, Nes, and Kandi in your peripheral vision. haha. We're all human and we all get nervous from time to time.

DJ Nasty Nes
I expected a rare look at 4 legendary filipino dj's standing together on one stage sharing their experiences & knowledge with the public & with the younger kids who will one day would like to become a dj when they get older.

To me it was an honor to be amongst my peers & hundreds of filipinos in one area. My mom passed away nearly 30 years ago so to be able to get on stage & share my experiences of my mom & what she taught me growing up & to dedicate my award to her really meant a lot to me.

It was like winning an Academy Award. A joyous feeling to be recognized by your people. I almost broke down crying on stage because the FPAC Award really touched my heart & I will treasure the memories from September 7th, 2008 for the rest of my life.

I'm so proud of Babu, Rhettmatic, Kuttin Kandi, Brian Samson & Kat Carrido. I've known just about everyone of them for over 10 to 20 years. I have to give props also to Icy Ice who was out of town & couldn't be at FPAC this year. Icy Ice has been down with me when I was on top & when I hit rock bottom. In this biz, you know who your real friends & family are!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Right and exact: Bambu's "Exact Change" what hip hop needs

Whew...Is hip hop dead? In a coma? Underfed? Well, whatever the case may be, hip hop music is thriving, bold, brave, and well-fed in Bambu's Exact Change album. FOBBDeep spells out some of the meanings of the phrase "Exact Change," appropriate during this election season.

I just picked it up at the UC Irvine Kababayan First Gen last week (thanks Kat!), and only now listened to the whole album in its entirety. Whew... its not only what hip hop needs, its what I need right now to stay spiritually sane (naw mean?). Exact Change is intelligent, street-smart, soulful, well-produced, while staying faithful to Bambu's messages of social justice in regards to Filipino, people of color, and women's lives.

In the liner notes, Bambu writes he wanted the album to be "a little more headphone friendly" and "wanted the lyrics to be a little more introspective," and this is what he gives you. Looking back, I think Bambu's last album I Scream Bars for the Children was more meditative than introspective ("Life in Rewind" or "Jeepney" anyone?). Bam bares his soul in this new joint, especially in regards to his growing family and the necessary self-transformation (check out "Seven Months").

For many Filipino/a Americans, I think this album may be a spiritual journey. Bam speaks to a variety of issues that many of us "feel" and he puts it in words.

A few gems:

In "Misused," Bam lays out the crooked cultural politics when it comes to church. Why is Jesus always shown as white? And why are we--as brown Filipinos--not questioning this consciously-constructed mythology?

"...And when I'm dead and gone
It's the same ole song
I'll walk right out of heaven
If it's primarily blonde, and
Blue eyes lies since I was born
And now my son gone have to deal with
People sayin he wrong
For not believing what they believe
He livin in sin
Because he'll never kneel down and pray
To that color skin, no.

I used to sit in church and look at the stained glass
And wonder why none of them look like me.
You know what I'm saying? And I just don't want
My son to go through that shit."

Bam's monologues (the non-rapped, spoken words) are very instructive. Check out the song "Exact Change" for the troof:

"So, to create change and to make a real shift in our society, it's not as difficult as you think. You know what I'm sayin? The process might be slower than you like, but once those series of events begin, especially with yourself, you'll see that the individual becomes a group of individuals. And that group creates the climate for social change. You feel me?

So, you gotta educate yourself. Organize yourself. Recognize that you are not simply one person, but a bunch of strings bound into a rope, you know what I'm sayin? And you could pull yourself out this shit."

Exact change. Make change...change that matters. Start with yourself. Then get on that bus yall.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Styles upon styles upon styles: From the Islands to the Streets

Dressed in jeans and jamming to an I-Pod, the Pinay dancer struts to the center of the stage, whipping her long hair to the sounds of "Bebot" and Jocelyn Enriquez. Then, all of a sudden, the headphones quit working, and the gentle sounds of metal kulintang gongs emerge. The spotlight reveals a varied collection of musicians in the rear of the stage. The colorfully-dressed gong players increase the aggressiveness of the percussion when the spotlight then reveals loin-clothed musicians pouncing on animal-skinned drums. Soon enough, the graceful sounds stringed instruments makes an entrance, and the rondalla musicians appear, magically intertwining their guitar sounds with the other percussive instruments. The staccato and harmony of the music appears almost chaotic, but it somehow makes sense. It works.

Photo credit: Dixon Perey. The Pinay dancer is in pink to the left. You see the visual color variety, can you imagine the way the music sounded?

Putting down her I-Pod, the Pinay dancer revels in the sonic madness, moving rhythmically across the floor and vibin with a variety of Filipinos dressed in traditional garb who come down from the rear.

This opening scene sets up the "post-modernism" and "interconnection" that describes "the Philippine spirit in music and dance" in the production "Magkaugnay" put on by the Kayamanan ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts (KNL) organization featured at the Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday, September 13th.

Photo credit: Yvette Federizo. Spanish-influenced dance (jota i think?)

"Paso Doble" Spanish-influenced dance.
I like how the girl flirts with the priest at the end.

Walking into the amphitheatre, I didn't know what to expect. KNL has always been an institution within the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC), so I was familiar with the organization. But at "Magkaugnay" (translated: interconnectedness), the cutting-edge artistic messages blew my lid. How can you mesh in Spanish guitar music and Moro gong sounds? Maybe I'm naive and uninitiated, but it was the first time I've experienced this bold and brave attempt at sonically layering and remixing the complex musical traditions of the Philippines.

Photo credit: Yvette Federizo. Mountain tribe suite. Loin cloths and all.

Photo credit: Yvette Federizo. Muslim dancers, with rondalla and kulintang in the rear.

Much of the show reminded me of the Fil Am turntablist, who blends, bends, freaks, and funks with existing samples and sounds. This is where the "post-modern" aspect comes in--an aesthetic experimentation of anachronistic moments meshed together without a claim to authenticity (for example: the Muslim should be compartmentalized here, the Spanish here, the hip hop here, etc.). Instead, the production was self-aware of the complex and varied music(s) of the islands and the Filipino diaspora (hip hop), and unapologetically remixed it--indeed, "interconnected" it--to form an aesthetically coherent (although complex) narrative on Filipino musical traditions. Tiiiight!

Photo credit: Yvette Federizo. "Modern" (aka hip hop) dancers, with rondalla string musicians posted in the back.

Isn't that soooo hip hop?

I wonder if that's one big reason for Fil Am immersion in hip hop culture: our existing Filipino cultural/political legacies of layering, variety, sampling, borrowing, mixing, Westernization, Easternization, polyrhythms, mestizaje...

Re: Authenticity is a joke. So let's create and have fun!

The musical traditions of the islands are a DJ's record collection! Round and round and round we go...Yo! It's in the title: "styles upon styles upon styles is what I have!"

At the closing of the show--after we get a good glimpse at the musical and dance traditions of the Aetas, the Muslims in the South, the Indigenous tribes in the North, and Spanish-influenced Visayans, the Catholic traditions of Ilocanos, etc.--the Pinay prances back on stage as the music violently meshes together again, almost rumbling in its forced synchronization. As the sounds climax, she looks down at her I-Pod, turns it off, and the music ceases.

Great show KNL, Rondalla Club LA, Institute of Native Arts, and Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble! Hope it happens again next year!

Photo credit: Yvette Federizo. Our post-modern performers wave to the crowd after a audience participation (dance) finale.