Thursday, August 7, 2008
With Style: Filipino Americans and the Making of American Urban Culture
By Victor Hugo Viesca
The global popularity of rap music has shed light on the role of Filipino Americans as a significant force in the urban based culture of hip hop. This is particularly the case in the art of DJ-ing, one of the original four elements of hip hop along with rap, graffiti and breakdancing. The role of Filipino Americans in shaping and reproducing hip hop culture is most evident in their prominence as world renown DJs...(read more)
The article above by my friend Professor Victor Hugo Viesca is old school. But that's a good thing. What Victor is writing about in this 2002 article is the popularity of Filipino American DJs and the influences of Filipino Americans in urban culture in general.
The article is old school because the popularity of Filipinos in hip hop culture has now broadened way beyond DJs and turntablism. Taking a look at Filipinos' dominance in televised street dance competition, this year might as well be called "battle the Filipino." Filipino presence in hip hop culture is getting noticed- sure, ok- but Victor gives us historical context and demonstrates the impact Filipinos have been making in street culture for much of the 20th century--from the zoot suiters in the pre-WWII era to beyond.
Perhaps the bravest statement by Victor comes in the last sentence of the first paragraph:
"In fact it may be argued that if it wasn't for Filipinos' support and practice of hip hop's various elements, hip hop might have never exploded and gained the momentum that it did in the 1990s."
As a Chicano, Victor's observance of Filipino Americans in hip hop culture is refreshing because it shows that someone is testifying to Filipinos' long-term investment in and contributions to hip hop culture other then, well, ourselves. In a broader sense, Filipinos and hip hop are not usually congruent, except of course when mentioned in that one Jay-Z song or when Q-Tip shouted us out at Rock the Bells. So even though the article is a little old school (where is the new generation of Fil Am DJs?), it builds a good (middle) base to the hip hop structure that Filipinos been building. Can't wait to read about the popularity of Fil Ams servin up street dance.
So, what do you think?
Do you think hop hop might have never exploded and gained momentum in the 1990s if it wasn't for Filipinos' dedication to the culture?
Note: In no way am I claiming that Filipinos are only now getting heavily involved in hip hop culture. I'm only referring to the wider appeal we gettin. Like when Latinas and Black ladies start sweatin Pinoys strictly because of Jabba. Oh lawd! Mask me!