Friday, April 30, 2010

Metro Manila Emcees Overcome Challenges in a Multilingual Nation

Marquiss and Chrizo (Photo Credit: Bong Andres)


Lyrical Empire: Metro Manila Emcees Overcome Challenges in a Multilingual Nation

Ridin’ out in Metro Manila

On a drizzly, humid July afternoon I squeeze into an overflowing train headed for Las PiƱas, a city in southern Metro Manila. I hop from the train onto the Philippines’ most ubiquitous forms of transportation, the jeepney, a functioning relic of the United States military ostentatiously stylized with distinct Filipino flavor—bright paint, shiny chrome, and customized body kits. Like the other commuters, I cover my mouth and nose with a handkerchief as we battle the Metro’s pollution and traffic.

I am on my way to interview the Turbulence Productions crew, a small, independent group of emcees, beat producers, and entrepreneurs who rank as one of the most respected hip hop crews in the Philippines.

As someone who has been immersed in hip hop and who documents Filipino American involvement in the cultural cipher, I, like many other Filipino Americans, carried my own biases about hip hop in the Philippines. I believed because the Philippines is a poor country whose people are obsessed with mimicking catchy American pop songs, the quality of hip hop in the country must be sub-par.

I had it all twisted.



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lyrical Empire countdown! Special guest appearances!

World Premiere: Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Program 31
TIME: 1:30 PM


It's almost that time! Please buy your tickets online in order to avoid a possible sell-out show. Remember, there are a total of 6 short documentary films screening in a 200 person capacity venue. So each film will likely bring in their own hefty amount of homeys.

Also, our friends at Evil Monito are helping advertise the premiere. Keep posted as they will be featuring an article on hip hop in Metro Manila sometime very soon. Peep this neat, informative, and smart website!

Finally, it's confirmed! Lyrical Empire personalities Jerome Smooth (WAVE 89.1 Manila) and Type Slickk and Tracer One of the legendary MastaPlann crew will make an appearance at the premiere. Maybe a few words during the question and answer part? Let's find out!

(United States/Philippines, 2010) Dir.: Mark Villegas
Take a glimpse into the lives of hip hop artists from Metro Manila, in a country where hip hop culture is under constant scrutiny from a skeptical public. What will it take for these artists to prove their skills? Will hip hop become big in the Philippines or will it be forever discarded as ‘jologs,’ underclass, and uncultured? These hardworking hip hop heads show you the passion and style they bring to the game where lyrical boundaries blur and innovation is prized.
Video, 20 min., color, documentary

Lyrical Empire Facebook event page here.

Bonus: Check a thorough article on hip hop in the Philippines by Miao Olivar:
"Philippine hip hop: Truth or misnomer?"
What is your opinion?


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gifted Unlimited: Rest in Power a legend

The Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, GURU, died yesterday from a bout with cancer. I fear that as times go by, this decade will see more hip hop icons pass. And Guru was a young cat, only 43. Thanks for blessin us with knowledge and spirit, you shaped a whole generation.

Here is a note from Kuttin Kandi:

by Kuttin Kandi

"they say it's lonely at the top, in whatever you do
you always gotta watch motherfu*kers around you
nobody's invincible, no plan is foolproof
we all must meet our moment of truth"

In a music industry that can sometimes be so cold, where you've known Artists for years long before the "business" can change like a blink of an eye because of something called "fame"; it is often seldom that you meet folks that you know you can really call your friends. so, when you do meet someone who you know is down for you, who got your back, and shows you mad love you know that you should cherish that friendship. You know that you should value that relationship and hold onto it for as long as you can.

It's been nearly four years that I've been living in sunny San Diego, CA. Till this day, I haven't quite adapted to the lifestyle here. Till this day, I still claim NYC as my forever home. And while there is a dope Hip Hop scene out here in San Diego, I am disconnected from folks even out here. While I know that Hip Hop is global, I still can't ever let go of the home of Hip Hop - New York City. In these four years, while I struggle to make new friends here in San Diego, I've been trying to maintain my relationships of family and friends back home in NY. I've also been trying to stay connected with music, Hip Hop and my friends within Hip Hop while still trying to pursue newer endeavors in my life. I try to do this with phone calls and emails with friends. However, with the fact that I go through my stages of wanting to stay out of the "spotlight", i've done a horrible job at keeping in touch with people.

So, when you receive news of someone passing in your life via a social media like facebook, the news is horrible and shocking. You would think that even with a learned lesson i had months ago back in October of dear friend, legendary DJ Grandmaster Roc Raida's passing, I would have stepped up in staying connected by now. Perhaps it's my 3000 mile distance, perhaps it's life just gets too busy and I never stop to even breathe. The truth is, there really is no excuse. Not even the fact that I've been trying to work on my own well-being and health can really be an excuse.

I miss people back home. I miss music. and I miss the friendships I have made through Hip Hop. I miss Guru as I miss Hip Hop.

I remember the first time i met Guru. Moment of Truth dropped and I started competing, I was just beginning to make a name for myself in Hip Hop, but i was still up and coming. It was at a record signing at Fat Beats and I was too excited. I never really get star struck, but I knew Gangstar, was the epitome for me. It was the ultimate highlight of a dream come true for me to meet Gangstarr. I stood on line, just like everyone, waiting, and waiting for my vinyl to be signed. As I approached Premier and Guru, i said "I'm a DJ, I'm such a big fan and I've always wanted to meet you.". Guru smiled and Premier said, "Well here i am baby". Someone next to them, looked at me and said "You don't look like a DJ, if you're a DJ then get up on the turntables and spin." And of course it was Fat Beats record store, so of course there would be turntables. Premier and Guru both looked at me if i was ready to take the challenge. Inside I was excited and wanted to jump at the opportunity to showoff my skills to my biggest idols. Plus, there was nothing more I wanted to do but shut that man up who questioned my ability to DJ. Shoot, what does a DJ look like? He was just too coward to state what he really meant - that he didnt think women can DJ. So yeah, it would have been nice to make him look a fool. But then I looked around the record store and saw all the MC's, DJ's on the line who I knew would have wanted the same opportunity to showoff their skills too. I didn't want to take up space and be considered a showoff. Of course my insecurities took over too, "I'm just not good enough". So, even as DJ Max Glazer who was working at Fat Beats at the time, vouched for me that I was a dope DJ, I still walked away, with my head down, declining to show and prove my skills.

But as I walked away from Fat Beats that day, I held my chin up and said to myself, "I didn't need to show off my skills. One day Premier & Guru will know me. They will know who i am. And they will respect me, not as a fan, but as a fellow DJ and artist."

A year later, at a diner near nassau colliseum, I seen Guru at the cashier register buying food. I approached him and I said, "Guru, I met you a while back... " and before I could even finish my sentence he said "Wait a minute, I just seen you in the DMC 1998 Video. Haha, Wow, that's so dope".

It's been nearly 13 years since that day at Fat Beats, and I can honestly say I've had many moments of truth with Guru. We had been friends for many years thereafter. Speaking to each other off and on the phone. Giving me advice, sending me records and cheering me on. I even remember the first time Guru asked me to DJ for him and how nervous I was. I was so nervous that I didn't even notice
I accidentally spun "Dwyck" with the lyrics. He looked back at me on stage and was like "Kandi, play the instrumental" but laughed it off and didn't embarrass me that I just f'd up his stage show. It was him that was more excited than me to be working together.

He was like "It's you and me, Guru & Kuttin Kandi, baby, we're making history...".

I look back at that day at Fat Beats, and how sad I was that I lost out on an opportunity to show and prove to the one and only Hip Hop legends Gangstarr. I smile at that moment.. and I know that I had not only won his respect, but I had gained his friendship. And I am forever blessed, so forever thankful that he had been such a humble, kind, respectful friend to me. Looking out for me, checking in on me.... from time to time... never forgetting me... always remembering me... constantly giving me opportunities.. that i am so thankful for.. after all, there's so many other DJ's he could have worked with, so many other DJ's he could have connected with... so many other's he could have looked out for - but yet.. he welcomed me.

As I work on my newer steps, my newer endeavors with music... and life... I will carry with me for the rest of my life, my friendships with legendary people like Guru, GM Roc Raida and so forth... and I will hold onto those privileges I've had to get to know them, be mentored by them and be blessed by them. I will take those moments.... to resinspire me, to challenge me and reconnect me to many others I've lost touch with over the years... including Hip Hop.

Life is too short not to stay connected to the people you love and all the things you love in life.

Thank you Guru - for giving my Moment of Truth. I love you.


War-torn Philippines, the first Vietnam

This is a bit dated, but Nam and Geo spit the gift on this one from Nam's album Exhale. Check out Geo's verse at 1:22. His analysis of Filipinos sa U.S. and their displacement never forgets the moment of U.S. occupation (rather than reiterating a liberal immigrant tale). The reference to The Cry and Dedication Carlos Bulosan's unfinished novel on the leftist peasant movement in the Philippines, speaks to the radical vision of Filipino diasporic sensibilities and counters the American assimilationist narrative that many people read in Bulosan's more famous book America is in the Heart. It seems that Geo is mindful of genocide and violence as structuring the contours of a Filipino diaspora (and of course the beauty in struggle associated with this).

The ending reference to the Philippines as the "first Vietnam" raises important questions about why military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan are called the "second Vietnam" and not the "third Philippines." This is the violence of historical erasure. "Beats, Rhymes, and Rice" illuminates an otherwise veiled condition.

This song is more than rice. It is the meat in the meal of knowledge.

Nam feat. Geologic, "Beats, Rhymes, and Rice" (2008)

[Geo's first verse at 1:22]

The reason that they killed
Made the reason we arrived
Left the bodies on the field
We the children of survivors
Fam with severed ties
Our plans been set aside
The Cry and Dedication
Our hands will never die
I stand side by side
With the riders of all shades
Heart beats to tropical soil
And shallow graves
The pale called us slaves
And complained
Upon the moment we came
To take back what was stolen
Way back in the day
Until the present
The yellow, brown descendents
Of peasants who held weapons
To defend our essence
So check the work ethic
In the author who writes
One generation removed
From harvesting rice
I stay up nights
Composing my raps
And moms still call the place home
Though she knows
We can never go back
And so I make balikbayan
through song
War-torn Philippines
The first Vietnam


Deep Foundation responds to Adam Carolla's ignorance

The dudes Deep Foundation in NY/NJ respond to Adam Carolla's comments on Pacquiao and the Philippines. I think that Carolla's remarks are not anything new in the shock jock steez, but when you couple ignorance with the wholesale erasure/obscuring of Philippine history in the context of U.S. imperialism, jokes like Carolla's do a particular kind of damage that extends the already protracted imperial project in the Philippines. To make savage/slut a U.S. colony, I think, does more to make invisible that very moment of colonialism rather than reveal it. The veil becomes darker...

Anyways, DF provides a space for cultural resistance to such ignorance. What would be interesting is a more critical look at the Philippine state, rather than a blanketed heroization of the homeland. For the Philippine state is also repressive, especially when it comes to the Moro south, peasants, and indigenous people.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BakitWhy? Get down to Hip Hip in Metro Manila

Get down to Hip Hop in Metro Manila

Pilipino Americans
are known to be quite talented and successful in hip hop culture. For street dance and turntablism, it is almost a given that Pilipino Americans are a formidable force. Even for emceeing, in the past 9 years they have been making a big mark on underground hip hop, with top acts like Blue Scholars garnering a multiracial and multigenerational national audience. And it does not need mentioning the strong Pil Am presence in the San Francisco Bay area emcee scene.

But, for Pilipinos in the Philippines, the roles seem to be switched.

During my visit to Metro Manila this July, I was able to interact with a handful of talented Philippine emcees, producers, DJs, and dancers who express the difficulty of attracting a Philippine audience. For them, especially for the emcees, Pilipinos are very skeptical of their hip hop performance. While Pilipinos love hip hop from the States (Kanye West, Flo-Rida, Jay-Z, etc.), they tend to look down upon their own local talent. While rock bands have been a staple to the Philippine soundscape for a while, it has been an uphill battle for Philippine hip hop to gain acceptance. The reasons, of course, are multiple, contradictory, and complicated.

Nonetheless, there is a faithful circle of hip hop heads trying to break into the Philippine music industry, and ultimately to gain global exposure.

Will Pil Ams embrace their Philippine hip hop counterparts?



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Philippine hip hop is SO WONDERFUL

This is why I love Philippine hip hop. Nimbus9 and featuring Quest hit you in the head with this grown and sexy track. BoJam on the sticks, supa sick widit. You play for a Southern marching band, man? Intricate drum snare tones. And the horns man!

Ill music like this makes me feel like Lyrical Empire is getting more and more out-dated each day that goes by. The islands steady pumpin new ish!! Ain't no slowin!

via SoulFiesta

Monday, April 5, 2010

Call to Action Against CBS Corporation!


"...Adam Carolla starts off his vulgar tirade by bashing Manny for not giving blood before a fight. He then proceeds to say that Manny is off “praying to chicken bones” and that you don’t have to respect him because he’s a “fu**ing idiot”. “Someone has to tell him that it doesn’t make a difference.”

The Philippines

The following are quotes from Adam Carolla about the Philippines.

“Here’s how you know when your country doesn’t have a lot going for it: When everything is about Manny Pacquiao."

“Get a fu**in life as a country”

“All you fu**in got is just an illiterate guy who happens to smash other guys in the head better than other people”

“Really, you want some guy with brain damage running your country? Why don’t you get your sh*t together?”

“All they have over there is Manny Pacquiao and sex stores.”

“What happens when Floyd Mayweather beats him? Does your country go into depression?”"


via Kuttin Kandi:

Aiming for Adam Carolla is just scratching the surface. We need to
head straight for the bulls eye, knock over the
Adam-Tip-of-the-Iceberg and get to the very foundation that instills,
enforces, enacts, enables and allows this kind of oppression onto our
airwaves. This foundation begins with K-ACE Radio, CBS Radio and CBS
Corporation. These foundations are the very entities that allow Adam
Carolla’s hate speech to live on. They are the beasts in which we need
to fight. Not just Adam Carolla.

In 2005, a few Hip Hop Activists, Educators, Journalists, Writers,
youth and myself went up against a huge radio station Hot 97 and it’s
big parent company Emmis Communications. A racist parody song titled
the “Tsunami Song” was aired by radio host Miss Jones four times was
followed by racist comments against Asians by herself and her radio
colleagues. Another radio host Miss Info was the only personality on
air that refused to have the song played again and got into an
argument with Miss Jones live on air. After hearing the “Tsunami Song”
which poked fun at the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami survivors/victims by
using lines like “women and children being sold of into slavery”; we
all came together and formed a coalition called R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop
(Representing Education, Awareness, Community through Hip Hop).
R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop Coalition joined forces with the Coalition Against
Hate Media and battled against Emmis Communications by throwing
rallies and protesting from Union Square to City hall. We worked
strategically to ensure that we were heard by marching our way up to
Hot 97 to hand in our list of demands to Hot 97’s Program Director
John Dimmick who (mind you, didn’t even know who Godfather of Hip Hop
Afrika Bambaataa was) tried to buy us off. Prior to our meeting with
Hot 97 we already had various victories with Sprint and many other big
commercial brands pulling out their ads from Hot 97. From our rallies
and protests alone, which were held less than a few weeks, Hot 97 lost
about 6 million dollars in revenue.

However, it was understood by all of us that although Miss Jones and
the rest of Hot 97’s radio dj’s were to be held accountable for airing
such a racist song along with their hate speech; we knew that the real
beast we were fighting were Hot 97 itself and Emmis Communications.
The “Tsunami Song” was not the first of it’s racist attacks on Hot 97.
As a matter of fact they have a whole timeline of racist, sexist,
homophobic, and etc..etc.. list of oppressive antics such as their
SmackFests along with their continuous use of the “N” word. When our
coalition came together, we knew that we were fighting a bigger entity
than Miss Jones. We knew that the DJ’s were the “fallguys” doing the
dirty work for the racist white man at the top. We knew what we were
fighting was white supremacy and we knew that in order to fight, we
had to aim for

What is White Supremacy?

I think long-time Chicana Feminist Elizabeth Betita Martinez has one
of my favorite breakdowns on defining institutionalized racism and
White Supremacy. Read:

“White Supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated
system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and
peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European
continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of
wealth, power, and privilege.”

and she goes on further to explaining the system, “By not seeing that
racism is systemic (part of a system), people often personalize or
individualize racist acts. For example, they will reduce racist police
behavior to "a few bad apples" who need to be removed, rather than
seeing it exists in police departments all over the
country and is basic to the society. This mistake has real
consequences: refusing to see police brutality as part of a system,
and that the system
needs to be changed, means that the brutality will continue. The need
to recognize racism as being systemic is one reason the term White
Supremacy has been more useful than the term racism.”

This is why, we, R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop, knew we couldn’t remove just Miss
Jones and the rest of the “few bad apples”. We had to get to the core.
We had to get at John Dimmick & Barry Mayo at Hot 97, then we aimed
for Jeff Smulyan at Emmis Communications. We took it to the top,
fought the beast, but we were still strategic and personalized these
institutions for the masses to know that these CEO’s are people. They
may seem big, bad and scary cause they have power and money, but
they’re still people. People with families too. I’m sure Jeff
Smulyan’s and the John Dimmick’s of the world have their own homes
with families. I’m sure they might have children, maybe a little girl
who they wouldn’t dare allow them to hear their own racist and sexist
“shock jocks” on air. So, I’m also sure CBS Corporation CEO Leslie
Moonves and Chairmain of the Board Summer M. Redstone have families

This is why, today, 2010 - nearly five years later since our April 4th
Stop Hate 97 Rally at Union Square Park - we need to continue to
fight. Because these beasts like Clear Channel, Emmis Communications,
Fox Business Network, CBS Radio, CBS Corporation and etc, etc.etc,
still rule our air waves and our televisions. They dictate our minds,
our children’s minds, and show no kind of social responsibility
because they continue to hire oppressive shock jocks like Don Imus,
Miss Jones, and Adam Carolla. They instill it, laugh at it, love the
publicity it brings... and shuts it all down when crisis begins and
acts like they have nothing to do with it. Meanwhile Don Imus has
historic racist and sexist comments dating back since 1984, long
before his racist attacks against Rugter’s University Women’s
Basketball team on his “Imus in the Morning” show. Yet, even as he has
already been fired, his name tarnished across America, Fox Business
Network will be bringing him back in April 2010 airing “Imus in the
Evening” ----- That is what I’m talking about!! These White
Supremacists love this! Because they don’t care. All they care about
is money. The money that it brings to them. The power that it brings
to them. As long as it doesn’t affect or impact their pockets, they
don’t care.

So, what do we do?

First, we must not be afraid. Yes, these corporations are big. And
yes, it may seem like we can’t win such a case. But every little bit
counts, every little fight matters. It makes a difference. And it
reminds us all, including them - that we are all people, and that we
are here. The louder we are, they louder they hear us telling them
that we are strong, that we are loud and that we will fight. And that
their stations belong to us. That they work for us. And their jobs are
to provide us with safe, educational and informative programming, and
healthy entertainment.

Second, we must educate ourselves. We need to understand and be
knowledgeable about White Supremacy. White Supremacy is no joke. It’s
what is embedded in all the systems in our world that divides our
communities. White Supremacy can so easily be hidden that it can
hardly be recognized unless you got the trained eye. It is so
institutionalized in our school systems, prison systems, media and our
government. It has also affected people of color in ways where we have
assimilated into this very system, where we too, perpetuate whiteness
and White Supremacist acts.

After we educate ourselves about White Supremacy, we must then educate
our communities. White Supremacy is tactical that it is quick to
divide our communities. They are quick to pin people of color against
each other and it does it in ways where we won’t even notice how they
were able to set it all up. So we must help educate each other, so
that everyone is able to recognize White Supremacy and help give
language to what they feel and know as an act of White Supremacy.

After we work on the education - we must prepare, be strategic and
work together to battle against corporations like CBS Radio, CBS
Corporation and others who instill all the isms and phobia’s of the
world. In the words of Godfather of Hip Hop Afrika Bambaataa -
“Organize, organize, organize!”.

So, everyone, stand up with me, write a letter, organize around your
local city, make your phone calls, gather your friends and protest
against CBS Corporation now!

2010 AT EXACTLY 9:00 AM EST (12:00 PM PST)

These are the numbers in which you should call:
CBS Corporation
CBS Headquarters51 W. 52nd StreetNew York, NY 10019-6188

complaint line: 212- 975-5005
Investor Relations
51 W. 52nd StreetNew York, NY 10019investorrelations@cbs.

KACE through

Kuttin Kandi
DJ ~ Poet ~ Writer ~ Activist
5th Platoon, Anomolies, Guerrilla Words, The Heart
Founder, R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop (Representing Education, Activism & Community
Through Hip Hop)
Program Assistant, UCSD's Women Center

Austin, Texas, you funky?

I'm presenting this at a conference in Austin, Texas on Thursday. CJ of Deep Foundation, Hopie Spitshard, Joell Ortiz, and Crazy Legs bless us with the slide #1. Hee haw!