Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quasi-Native Informant aka Mestizo Colonial Subversive aka the Avatar is never blue

Jake Sully asks, "Did I pass?"

It's funny that Avatar should come out right after I read The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) by Jacksonville native James Weldon Johnson, a book that foregrounds the phenomenon of racial "passing" as white among blacks. Like Titus Kaphar's painting Mother's Solution (2009) in which the artist physically cuts out a figure to symbolize the narrative of a light-skinned black daughter being sent off to live among white people as a matter of survival and economic strategy, Johnson (who also wrote the Negro National Anthem) depicts the triumph, tragedy, pain, and loss for the protagonist who sheds his black identity in exchange for a comfortable, violence-free, economically mobile white lifestyle. The protagonist is kind of like a white avatar.

Avatar the movie, however, does not care much for the point of view of the non-white (I guess blue) humans/humanoids. In a flip version of a book like The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Avatar fantasizes "going native" from the uncritical point of view of the white male savior. A fun movie but hardly perfect (see here and here), Avatar speaks to a number of used (but not really useful) tropes that begs to paste Tom Cruise's face (a la The Last Samurai) onto Jake Sully's 10-foot blue, abbed-out physique.

If only the Na'vi really existed, maybe all the earth's multicolored people would really unite to colonize their ecosystem. But since they don't exist then blue will always signify the very real brown and black, non-Western Other. Buck naked beast riding beasts.

We learn from Avatar that with technology we can choose our identity and "live among the savages" if you wish, so below are a few samples of appropriate avatars for the fantasizer of the Fil Am Funk.

For the mestizo in you that knows both the lives of the savage and the civilized, the benighted and the enlightened, perhaps a Jose Risully will do. "Is it PCN season already?" Jose Risully asks, his abs ripped from pre-performance crunches. A Revolution deferred, until Filipinos ride atop flying dragons...

Or, to stay faithful to Avatar's great white male hero complex, maybe a more transparent MacArthur-esque embodiment will do. "Fight for me, and I will deny you your promised veterans' benefits!" Then they will build statues for you and name highways after you.

This one is for a post-racial America...reveling in its own veiled imperialism. Does Afghanistan have bulletproof hammerhead rhinos? Cold War-era U.S.-made weapons? Yes? Oh. "Philippines, we will penetrate the MILFs," JakeBama Sully, the global everyman, warns.

But, why ruin a pretty face? You're the master user, the supreme agent. "Plug me in!" says Jake USBully. For the internet, virtual network, wired/wireless generation, Jake's hair can freakishly copulate with your database. Plug and play...and ride your beast.

Yes, you can pass...but is it worth the loss? And more importantly, whose triumph is at stake?

Ewok: "Who wouldn't want a face like mine?"

Friday, December 25, 2009

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Dillon serves Studies in Hunger

My brotha, my fam, my hip hop comrade Dillon (here for a more complete bio) dropped a new album Studies in Hunger. Representing Jacksonville, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia, Dillon will serve you like the glutton you are with the unique flavor of hip hop in the South. It's grimy, soulful, reverent to b-boy soundscapes, and well-studied in the execution of lyricism. And Dillon has been in the midst of this independent hip hop movement, and gathering from his latest album, he may be at the forefront.

I grew up with Dillon. In fact, he was my first friend (in fourth grade foo!) when I first moved to FL from CA. It was impressive to see the dude rock the show at TSI (see flyer above) to release his second album, which boasts a big name drop from Chuck D (who Dillon apparently cooked dinner for, but that's a different story) and rhymes from Akrobatic. Dillon has raised the bar, even when his first album (when he was known by the moniker MC Intellekt) was raw to the illest extent. His punchlines, cadence, and metaphors offer fun and smart wordplay.

Dillon defines himself on his own terms, moving away from Intellekt and becoming more confident in his own self, eccentricities and all. With knocks like "Stay Relative" paying homage to his family lineage, and as always, he includes drops from his mother and sister. "The greatest story you can tell is your own," he says.

And in Studies in Hunger you can tell Dillon and Paten Locke are having fun. Hip hop should be fun man!

And who is Paten Locke (and here)? Also known as Therapy, Paten Locke is one of Fil Am Funk's favorite producers. A member of the legendary J-Ville-grown Asamov crew (renamed the Alias Brothers), Locke knows the ear of the b-boy and lyricist enthusiast and he also holds down mic skills with authoritative command. Locke seems to capture a hip hop culture in Florida not known by many across the nation. Not the bouncy, T-Pain, Juvenile-type Southern hip hop, Locke captures the "4-elements" hip hop flavor that many folks in J-Ville and in the South (and yes, many Filipinos in the region) have been loyal to since the early 1980s. I documented a small bit of that scene in my short doc Hip Hop Mestizaje (see top right) in my interview with Alias Brothers Pinoy member DJ Basic. Studies in Hunger also continues an interesting candid, cartoony, pot-head-like stream-of-conscious skits utilized by the Asamov crew.

A mission of Fil Am Funk is to highlight hip hop culture from around the nation. The South has been slept on for a while. And just like Florida helped resuscitate the b-boy scene, if you're looking for quality hip hop music, Florida got what you need.

I found this 2006 article a while back, where Dillon aka Intellekt describes growing up with Pinoys and Pinays in J-Ville:

"'I learned from a young age how to stand out,' Intellekt said. He talks about his time growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, growing up as a white kid with a Filipino hip hop culture that 'totally determined where [he is] today,' cutting his teeth in talent shows to impress cute Filipino girls."

I'm glad these cute Filipino girls helped motivate a budding talent. Now, as a leading independent emcee, Dillon is creating music with a deeper hunger and ordering bigger plates. Get served.


Friday, December 18, 2009

You don't see us, but we see you: Filipinos under the veil

Here at Fil Am Funk aka Hip Hop Lives, we love the classroom. After working as a teaching assistant for a class entitled "Asian American Popular Culture" (here is their final project...lovely), I have had time to reflect on the meaning of the term "Asian American Popular Culture." I guess one of the most illuminating things coming out of the class is students' tendencies to separate "Asian" from "American."

For example, when we talked about hip hop, some students remarked on how "Asian culture" is so different from hip hop, that Asian American rappers act like a bridge between Asian culture and (African) American culture. In other words, this can be read as Asian and Black functioning as polar opposites.

This binary is somewhat troubling. First of all, it assumes a pure origin of what is considered "Asian." That is a huge blunder, especially when colonized countries in Southeast Asia are thoroughly mixed culturally in language, art, religion, etc. and claims to a pure "Asian" culture are laughable. In fact, any claim to a true "Asian" culture (if one should be made) is kind of chauvinistic.

Dwelling on this topic, it was kind of a coincidence that I stumbled upon a question asked on Hyphen Magazine's "InterrogAsian" question and answer section. One questioner asks:

"Are Filipinos the 'black' Asians?"

Now, the meanings of this question can be taken a number of ways. Is the questioner referring to skin color? Social class? Global labor position? Cultural expressions of Filipinos and blacks?

You can read the answer Hyphen chose to give (it's kind of funny), but the question itself--one I'm sure many of us have asked or have heard asked--reveals a broader curiosity that seems to afflict the minds of more than the InterrogAsian questioner. Back to the class, then, I wonder how the topic of Asian American rappers would be looked at differently if someone also asked the question "Are Filipinos the 'black' Asians?" especially given that a silent consensus agreed Asian culture and (African) American culture were so different?

I'm sure this topic is eternally debatable. After looking at some visual art by Filipinos and Filipino Americans these past few weeks, I was pleasantly surprised to witness the creativity with which artists address the topic of Filipino and Filipino American identity.

The picture above, Sakuna (Casualty), is one example of how artists portray Filipino identity and its struggle with making sense with U.S. cultural influence in the Philippines. The painting reminds me of The Roots song "Don't See Us" where Black Thought raps with an imagery reminiscent of noted African American scholar W.E.B. DuBois's "veil" metaphor:

"You Don't See Us, but we see you
You stuck on sleep, get on your P's and Q's
Cuz you will get crept, wit no discrept
You know the rep, we keep the flows in check"

The legendary Roots crew and DuBois (image on left) suggest the "double consciousness" of blacks in the United States: they live under a "veil" in which they see and know (white) American culture and people, but yet because of the mainstream marginalization of black life, people on the outside get an obscured view of black people. DuBois argues that blacks in the U.S. know at least two lives: "mainstream" American life and black life, thus the double consciousness under the veil.

Sakuna (Casualty) paints the same metaphor for Filipinos with a literal veil covering two Filipino boys and an American flag-themed hat obscuring the face of another. You don't see them, but they see you. For the artist, the 1899 moment is one not to be forgotten.

When we look to Asia, just how "other" is Asia from the white (and black) West?

In the field of Asian culture, where do Filipinos position themselves?
(We gotta go beyond lumpia shanghai and pancit canton!)

For Filipinos and Filipino Americans making music and culture, even under the veil they keep the "flows in check," hittin you with fluency in all kinds of P's and Q's. If you slept, guaranteed, you will get crept.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Mixtape bizz with the Rizz

Yo karaoke machine better not eat me.

The mixtape is a lost art. Only a few DJs are still dedicated to the creation of the musical journey called the mixtape, and DJ Mike Rizzy (Virginia Beach) is probably one of the most prolific with the gift, pumping out mixes like every week (or so it seems)!

I already spotlighted Mike Rizzy in May of last year, but since this guy is making new moves with a radio show in Greece (and is my companion as my soundtrack at the gym), I thought it'd be fun to catch up with this VA Beach pinoy.

Here at Hip Hop Lives, the mixtape is an important artifact. For one, it breathes life into older music. If you grew up in a certain generation, then you will likely not hear music from a prior generation unless you 1) listen to an old school-oriented radio station, 2) get lucky on Pandora Radio, 3) are a record crate-digger, 4) or are a mixtape fiend. Mixtapes move you through time and space, they are a collage of moments embodied in a single, coherent form (don't you miss the actual tape you have to rewind?). And DJs who do it right, do it with style--mixing new music with old favorites, providing a theme to all the songs on the playlist, mix-matching instrumentals and vocals, mixing genres, excavating an original song and the hip hop song that samples it, following a popular sample re-used/re-stylized in various hip hop songs (like "Apache" or Betty Wright or that infamous "Buddy" sample)... it's like a time machine decked out with a disco ball on the rearview and subwoofers stashed in the trunk. I'm still convinced that Filipino four track DJs who remixed love ballads with electrofunk/bass beats in the early 90s influenced So So Def All Stars and Destiny's Child.

Nuff a that. Here is Mike Rizzy, the sequel. And if you (the loving reader) have any suggestions on who Hip Hop Lives should spotlight next, I'm all ears (and eyes). You can click on the spotlight label to look at other artists/scholars I've highlighted.
Welcome back to the funk, Mike Rizzy. In our other interview, we talked about the Virginia Beach scene a bit since here at Hip Hop Lives, we make it a mission to highlight a non-West Coast Filipino experience. How is VA Beach nowadays? Whats your thoughts about the crowd and music there?

There's definitely a big difference to the scene in Virginia Beach now than say 5 years ago. I'm thankful I came up when I did and got to experience real hip hop at it's peak. Nowadays people don't even party with the same energy. A lot of it has to do with what's on the radio though because how many songs out now are actually 90 bpm's (beats per minute) or higher? So everything's too slow and gets boring. That's why I envy cities that can constantly do 80's or 90's parties. In Virginia Beach it's all business and most club owners don't want business from the hip hop crowds.

You seem to be pumping out these new mixes every other week, man! What inspires you to make them? Who are some of your favorite mixtape DJs?

The music I play inspires me. I don't make mixes just to play what's hot or to please any crowd. Everything I play is all about my personal taste and the type of music I enjoy listening to. I'm just trying to reach everybody that enjoys the same thing. I can't really fall into trends because it all gets old fast and there's no heart in it, but genuine soul music is timeless. I've been inspired by a lot of mixtape DJ's. Dirty Harry i've always been a big fan because his mixtapes are like movies. More of the old school DJ's like Rello & Jadel, Clue, Mister Cee, Ron G, Premier. New school I listen to J Period, Neil Armstrong, Mick Boogie. The mixtape game definitely isn't what it used to be though.

The internet changed the mixtape game because the market just became flooded with mixtapes.
Suddenly everybody's a DJ but most of them don't even mix. They just play songs and exclusives. Neil Armstrong's dope because of his creativity. All of his mixes carry on a certain theme. It's not about what's new or old it's all about your song selection and how you put it together. If you put your heart into your work it definitely shows. I take a lot of pride in my song selection and I can say you'll never find any filler tracks in any of my mixes. I get emails from all over the world and not once has anyone bashed my song selection so hopefully i'm on the right track.

You have this radio show in Greece called the "Get Fresh Mix Hour." How did that happen and how has that experience been?

Basically the main DJ at Mango Radio Anastasis just emailed me and asked if I was interested in having my own slot and of course I agreed. I'll pretty much play anywhere I won't be restricted to a certain play list. It definitely is opening me up to a whole new European audience. I'm just glad to be able to expose more people to good music that they normally wouldn't get a chance to hear. I've also been able to learn from them and more about their style and what they're into.

I listen to a lot of the other DJ's on Mango Radio and what I respect about the Greek DJ's is that they support a lot of their local acts and throw them in their mixes. But for the most part they play the radio hits from here which is why I'm grateful that they let me do what I do. I sound like nothing else on there and try to show them we have so much more to offer beneath the surface. I still don't really now how they found me but I'd love to do shows for anybody that would listen really. I'd love to do something for the Philippines if I got the chance. I might have to talk to Christine Gambito (Happy Slip) about that one haha. I catch TFC sometimes and it upsets me because it seems like all of their shows are just knockoffs of ours here in the US. I think to myself how are we going to get respect from other regions if all we do is copy everybody else? That's just my humble opinion though.

You recently dedicated a mix to Virginia's own Nottz Raw. You say that Nottz is your favorite producer from Virginia. What qualities do you like about his music? Why do you think Virginia is not really seen as a hip hop state?

Nottz just really gets it. He really understands what hip hop is about and he doesn't compromise his sound for anybody. I remember hearing an interview from him and he said that's what J Dilla told him to never change for anybody. His drums and bass lines really just hit you hard. Also the way he chops samples. I'm always going to be biased to sample based producers because sampling is the backbone for the hip hop sound.

Honestly I'm not really sure how Virginia is perceived because I'm on the inside. Musically we have Timbaland, Neptunes, Nottz, Bink, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Clipse, D'Angelo, Skillz, Teddy Riley spent a lot of time here. If we're not known for hip hop and soul music what are we known for? Better yet you'd be hard pressed to find a region that's had a bigger impact on hip hop sound especially on radio in the last ten years or so.

You seem to put a lot of Little Brother in your mixes. Why do you admire this group so much?

Little Brother carried the tradition of the golden era and stood for everything I love about hip hop. They followed in the footsteps of Tribe, Pete Rock & CL, Gangstarr where the DJ/Producer was just as important as the MC's. They just came out at the wrong time when everybody started downloading but if you make heartfelt music people will continue to rediscover it. As a DJ it's my job to educate people to appreciate good music and keep it going.

As we talked about before, you are a part of a group called Kuya Tribe Productions. How is the group doing? Do you all still spin as a crew?

Everybody's still doing their thing individually, and yes we still spin as a crew just not as much as I'd like. The main reason is because most of the spots in Virginia Beach don't want anything to do with you unless you play top 40. I hear from my peers all the time how they hate playing what they do but have no choice. I'm sure the economy has a lot to do with it but I refuse to go that route. If you just play what's on the radio nothing is going to separate you from the crowd.

What did you have for Thanksgiving?

The usual fried turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, etc. I actually didn't have any rice at all. No lechon or anything. Straight American style haha but it was great. Still trying to lose that weight.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Metro Manila hip hop heads conquering the "Lyrical Empire!"

This is the new project I'm working on. As many of you know, I was in the Philippines this July and I got to get to know a few of the hip hop heads doin the do in Metro Manila. Lyrical Empire is an homage to those talented folks and also a serious investigation on the social, racial, and colonial context in which this hip hop scene emerges. The rhymes are dope, the beats is dope, the dancers are world champions, but it's also worth exploring how the Philippines is a unique and important place for hip hop to thrive.

"Get up on game!!" I want people in the U.S. to understand, because the scene in the Philippines is on the rise. These dudes are English-speaking, Tagalog-speaking, Ilocano, even Spanish... And most emcees stateside only got one language in they toolbox.

"My hand-eye coordination is impeccable
Spectacular vernacular

Everything I do is theatrical

Juggling words and phrases

Like a circus...

I'm the boss

The M. Bison of the game

You little Ryu's and Kens need more time to train...
-Marquiss of AMP, "The Buzz" from Thinking Man's HipHop

Spectacular vernacular indeed! Marquiss not only flexes in English, he teaches you English. (No, literally, he is/was an English teacher for white people, ha!) Tiger uppercut!

And the beats? You need to check out Chrizo's Thinking Man's HipHop album. The Philippine's premiere beatmaster brings together the hottest, most talented emcees on this project. It's been on steady rotation in my iPod shuffle (that's bigger than a regular iPod, ha!). I have no idea how stateside people can get their hands on this thang. Chrizo, you gonna put it all up on the net or what?

And as SoulFiesta reminds us, it's been exactly a year since Thinking Man's HipHop's release!

There's so much to learn from these artists, and hopefully Lyrical Empire gives a little taste of the scene in Metro Manila and draws some curiosity from stateside audiences.

As the island-hopping (Guam, Hawai'i), Red Horse grippin, Bacolod City reppin emcee Aero spits in "So Pinoy":

"I'm so Pinoy, you call me promdi
I'm so Pinoy, you call me fobsy

I'm so Pinoy, I speak it konti...

I make it hard to rock shows

For those doing it after

A Filipino emcee?

Call me a lumpia rapper

Lumpia rapper... oh so greasy these lyrics. Peace!!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Legend lives on (in San Francisco)!

Just informing yall that my short doc Legend will be screening at the 16th Annual Filipino American Cinefest in San Francisco this Friday. It will be showing alongside the films of fellow comrades Eric Tandoc and Florante Ibanez. If ya in the errrya, reprezentzzz.

FACINE16: The 16th Annual Filipino American Cinefest

The FACINE festival is the longest-running festival of its kind in North America that features films by and/or about Filipino/a and Filipino/a Americans. Now on its 16th year, the festival runs for two days, November 20-21, 2009 at the San Francisco Main Library.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Our stories from the ‘hood

Legend (Mark Villegas, dir & prod; 5 min, 2009)- Legend highlights the DJ career of Isaiah Dacio (aka DJ Icy Ice). Navigating through cultural history of Filipino youth in Los Angeles during the 1980s and 90s, Ice narrates the vibrancy of Filipino talent in the mobile DJ scene. Starting as a young DJ in Carson, reaching fame as a member of the DJ crew the World Famous Beat Junkies, and succeeding as the owner of his DJ business Stacks Records, Ice tells the story of his immersion in a rich Filipino youth expression that continues its legacy.

Got Book? Auntie Helen’s Gift of Books (Florante Pete Ibanez, dir; UCLA Department of World Arts & Culture/Center for EthnoCommunications, prod; 8:45 min, 2005) - short documentary on Helen Brown, the founder of Pilipino American Reading Room & Library.

Sounds of a New Hope (Eric Tandoc, dir; Mass Movement & Sine Patriotiko, prods; 41 min, 2009) - Tandoc follows Filipino American rap artist, Kiwi, through his work with youth both in the US and the Philippines where he uses music to raise political consciousness.


Coincidentally, I'll be showing Legend in the Fil Am Experience class at UC Irvine on Thursday, November 19. Icy Ice will speak as an honored guest. He will talk about his experience as a Filipino in the hip hop industry. Thanks to him for blessing us.

Also, tonight I'll be screening my earlier doc Hip Hop Mestizaje in Florante Ibanez's Fil Am Experience class at Loyola Marymount University, near LAX.

This condensed Fil Am hip hop-edness week is purely coincidental. But glad its happening. Bring it.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


Congrats to Miguel Cotto for staying alive after a brutal beat down. All 12 rounds of Pac Man fist and lookin all pork face for pride?

Colonies are erupting in the living rooms of the Empire! "Wapak"!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Colonial Funk! Pacquiao vs. Cotto: violent island intimacies

Pacquiao and Cotto painting on a jeepney, for HBO 24 7 show

"On the tube, I'm just watching Pacquiao box it up. How would I know HBO would get a shot of us? Sittin so close that we almost got snot on us."
-Jay Z, "
Thank You"

"You know I get em with the rap's Manny Pac hooks!"
-Son of Ran, "For the Wax"

"My people pump your fists like you're Manny Pacquiao. Man-child with the wild-style, right to be hostile."
-Blue Scholars, "Solstice: Reintroduction"

The colonies is hostile this Saturday! Manny Pacquiao (representing the Philippines) and Miguel Cotto (Puerto Rico) will bout it out for WBO Welterweight supremacy. Moving up from 140 to 147 pounds, Pacquiao will once again be tested as he gains bulk, which is always a liability in terms of speed and power.

This blog has dedicated a lot of material to posing questions about Filipinos' relationships to other people of color. So, it is not surprising that the Pacquiao-Cotto fight is overheating the Hip Hop Lives thinking-engine.

As former/current colonies of Spain and the United States acquired by Western powers at the same time, the Philippines and Puerto Rico occupy historical discourses in almost identical colonial, cultural, and military relevance.

It's important to note that both colonies have a strong love affair with boxing. And--as hip hop heads know--Filipinos and Puerto Ricans in the U.S. have had a strong love affair with hip hop culture (Pinoys on the West Coast, PRs on the East). Finally, as demonstrated by Cotto's father's 25 years in the U.S. Army and by Filipinos' migration through military service, both colonies have for over a century been firm ground for military boots.

But of course a few things disrupt the otherwise seemingly perfect accord:

-The Philippines is in the Pacific, and Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean, bringing in some geographical dissonance.

-Although both are mixed racially, the Philippines has a large "Asian" population especially pronounced with a noticeable Chinese middle class, and Puerto Rico is home to a dominant African diaspora. After all, Afrika Bambaataa considers Puerto Ricans as "black."

-Puerto Ricans speak a Spanish vernacular and were not forced American English by the U.S. colonial administration. Whereas Filipinos were not taught Spanish because of Spanish prejudice against indio inferiority, but were/are instructed and speak a variety of American English. However, in the HBO 24 7 episodes, both Pacquiao and Cotto speak American English (but Pac-Man gets the subtitles! Doh!)

Political cartoon from the early 1900s. Uncle Sam disciplining the bad Filipino, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, and Cuban children

A few questions can be asked about the upcoming fight:

1. What does it mean to gaze upon two Filipino and Puerto Rican bodies in violent confrontation--especially with millions of dollars at stake?

2. How will the audience categorize Pacquiao and Cotto? Will Pacquiao be "Asian"? Will Cotto be "Hispanic"? Black?
And what does that mean for Filipino and Puerto Rican audience members (actually, all audience members) as they assess the other's body type?

3. In the HBO 24 7 biographical specials, the music and scenery (complete with food!) give vivid depictions of where these men are from. What kind of narratives can be written about the islands Pacquiao and Cotto represent? Will the shared histories of Spanish and U.S. colonization of both colonies be articulated, or are both effectively painted as completely incongruent?
(I mean, check "The Battle of East and West" narrative written on the Pacquiao-Hatton fight. I'm wondering the marketing strategy debates occurring with this current one. Rice and fish vs. rice and beans?)

4. What does it mean to have non-Americans, especially Pacquiao, figuring as a boxing icon for the U.S. boxing imagination? Will the Floyd Mayweather, who is from Michigan, rescue the all-American boxing iconography? (Remember, Oscar De La Hoya, from East LA, is called "Golden Boy" for a reason)

Like hip hop, this boxing thang unearths some interesting queries about ourselves as Filipinos and people of color! So before yall crack open the San Miguel and let loose, some crazy juice for your thinking-engine as we prepare for the big fight on Saturday!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Repost: Live and (DERANGED) from Manila: Part II

Peace and blessings everyone. I'm reposting this entry cuz some Japanese fooz hacked into my blog and post up sex solicitation ads in the comments on this particular LDP article. I don't know why, and I don't know how they do it. I have to delete their comments EVERYDAY. Hopefully once I modify the entry title, it will stop.

If you haven't checked out my writings Metro Manila hip hop, please check it out:

Live and Direct from Manila: Part I
Live and (Deranged) from Manila: Part II
Live and Direct from Manila: Part III: Hip Hop Talaga!
Live and Direct from Manila: Part IV: Mestizaje Talaga!
Arists breaking boundaries "Beyond, Beyond"

Stay tuned for more on hip hop in Metro Manila.

Filipino hip hop group Lyrically Deranged Poets. Look out, these young cats fast to catch ya: Abra, far left, Alex to his left, R-jay forefront

Oh this ignorant Fil Am is truly getting schooled. Its been a blessing meeting some very inspirational young folks here in Metro Manila. My journey into Filipino hip hop began with just one blog comment by the the guru himself B-Rocc of Turbulence Productions. Now I've been invited into a whole world that I'm certain few Fil Am hip hop heads know or even care about.

ET of Mass Movement TV was perhaps the first to introduce us to hip hop in the Philippines with his documentary "Sounds of a New Hope". Highlighting hip hop coming from the gang-affiliated youth of Caloocan, it opened many of our eyes to the power of hip hop culture in the Philippines among young people.

Last night I got a small taste of a sample of hip hop here. In the posh and hip Metro Manila district of Eastwood City, young people were dressed up and ready to party. It was the album release party of Young JV, a local artist getting mad love on the airwaves. The scene was just like the Filipino-patronized clubs and bars in Los Angeles or the Bay Area, well except, everyone is much younger (apparently there is no age restrictions in many of the night joints in the Philippines). Circa Bar was packed with Tim'd out hip hop heads and sexy party-goers alike. Right below the DJ (DJ Big Daddy), rappers took turns to rip the mic or beat box. LDP (Lyrically Deranged Poets, here is their MySpace) who are in their teens, and older more seasoned veterans such as Slick n Sly Kane and Mista Blaze shared the stage and showed deep love for the culture.

"Shout out to the world that I'm proud to be Brown!" -Abra of LDP in "Three Years in the Making"

In a metropolis canvased by billboards advertising whitening soaps and pills, where mestizo looks and status are virtually universally privileged, and where a distinct class of people have been ruling the nation's agenda for centuries, it seems that there are few spaces for alternative/resistant modes of racial and class identity. Today, hip hop provides one of these spaces. These rappers seem to be invested in making this way of being into a transformative part of Filipino culture.

I had the privilege of interviewing many of the rappers at the Eastwood City venue. LDP gave good insight to the culture here and expressed optimism that hip hop is only getting bigger. The talented and charismatic R-jay was hospitable and provided an excellent introduction to this particular independent hip hop scene in Metro Manila. Abra provided a tongue-twisting, hurricane-kicking Tagalog rap that'll test Bone Thugs' game. And Alex, a brotha of Nigerian descent, layed down some serious lyricism and gave some interesting perspectives on hip hop culture here and its promises of knowledge and dignity. His devotion to the Philippines is so deep that he even has a tattoo on his right arm proclaiming his Filipino pride.

LDP asks "What If?" in a track on their new album The Project. They pose, "What if there was no hip hop?" Curious question. But the important thing to remember is that there is hip hop, and the energy and commitment of the youth in Metro Manila show that hip hop is such a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

YOU CAPTION! Pacquiao at Wild Card

The Pacquiao-Cotto fight is on Saturday, November 14 at 9:00pm on HBO PPV. Have you been watching the HBO 24/7 episodes detailing the training and drama between the two fighters? Always good stuff. But why does Pacquiao have subtitles, and Cotto doesn't? Both speak English.

You know I'mma be all up ons the Philippine-Puerto Rico colonial funk happening here.

For fun, here's a snapshot of Pacquiao training at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. Yet another round of YOU CAPTION!



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Artist Spotlight: Mike "Dream" Francisco

Else1 dedicates a sketchbook piece to Dream

A few weekends back I had the privilege of attending the 11th Annual Mighty 4 in Oakland. Representin at the event were Lil John and Vogue 1, two Pinoy dudes I interviewed about 3 years ago at another Mighty 4 event.

Lil John is the brother of Mike Dream. Dream was a Pinoy brother from East Oakland who passed in 2000. Dream had been creating graffiti art since the early 1980s and his style became famous worldwide. The graff game is indebted to his creativity and genious. The hip hop world and socially-conscious folks miss his poignant political messages. This Artist Spotlight is dedicated to Dream, a beloved figure and pioneer in hip hop who stayed loyal to the culture and continues to inspire folks. It would be a huge oversight to not mention Mike Dream when discussing Filipinos in hip hop.

Above are a number of interviews I did for my short documentary, Hip Hop Mestizaje. I created this Mike Dream addendum to the film because so many of my interviewees gave shout outs to Dream as an influential Filipino brother in the hip hop hustle. Here are the interviewees in order of appearance: Geologic (Blue Scholars), Davey D (Davey D's Hip Hop Corner), Paulskee (Mighty 4/Rock Force/Zulu Nation), Basic (The Alias Brothers), Lil John (TDK), and Vogue 1 (TDK). Youtube has an abundance of Mike Dream videos. This one has a good interview with the brotha. And apparently he was supposed to be in a Converse commercial.

To learn more about him, here is an excerpt from Dream's article, "Writing is My Life":



"Writing is my life. I am a graffiti writer. Whatever people say about the terminology, I write. I've been writing since somewhere around '83...

I went through a consciousness phase in the writing, realizing that 'art for art's sake' was weak and that there was power in the message. I began to understand the roots of my own culture. My Filipino heritage taught me about the struggles and sacrifices of my people for equality in this country, opening my eyes to the racism that surrounds our lives, and all of our brothers and sisters of color. My pieces started to have more content and substance..."


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Only in Oakland Pt. 2- Mighty 4 and Estria Graffiti Battle photo essay

The Mighty 4 mastermind hisself, Paulskeee, all Barong Tagaloged out.

And continuing from the prior post, here are some more pics and vids from the 11th Annual Mighty 4 and 3rd Annual Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle, a special event with sights, sounds, and smells--from a bike powered sound-system to vegan soul food--you can only find in Oakland. Yee!

The circle encourages young folks to get down

Nice legs! Props to the folks pedaling for sound. The entire Mighty 4 sound system was literally people powered. What a great idea!

With the theme of "Grow," the Estria Grafitti Battle encouraged some creative, bizarre, and inspiring pieces. The dude Vogue (bottom) takes the crown this year.

Scraper bikes. With the thump powered by a car battery.

Lil' John Francisco and (I think?) Mike Dream's son, commemorating the iconic Mike Dream through his art and memorabilia

Young people keeping skating alive

Mighty 4 one-on-one b-boy battle finalists Kareem and Richie


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Only in Oakland Pt. 1- Mighty 4 and Estria Graffiti Battle photo essay

The legendary Estria being interviewed at the Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle

Only in Oakland, CA can a special event like the Mighty 4 11th Anniversary and the 3rd Annual Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle (and here) happen so beautifully. This past Saturday, October 10, hundreds if not thousands of hip hop and skate enthusiasts of all ages, all colors (but a mostly Black and Brown crowd) enjoyed the lovely East Bay weather at DeFremery Park, and of course partake in some colorful, genuine, 100% hip hop culture. Only in Oakland mayn!

Infinite props to Paulskee (Mighty 4/Rock Force Crew/Zulu Nation) for 11 years of organizing this hip hop institution. And congrats to Miss Paloma aka Papa Lo Down for helping coordinate the Estria Graffiti Battle happening simultaneously. The Pinays/Pinoys definitely represented.

Here's some pics and vids of the event:

Graffiti art surrounds the park, as graff writers compete for the Estria Battle crown

What's a hip hop event without Brazilian capoeira and Pacquiao jackets?

What's a pop battle without a Joey Guila sighting?

Pop battle judges at the bottom left. That's Bionic (John Bayani) of Supreme Soul far left.

Mighty 4 onlookers get down to Zapp and Roger in this spontaneous cipher