Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Cipher: In the Trenches with the 5th Platoon

Just wanted to switch coasts and give a little taste of what was happening in the East. 5th Platoon definitely represented for the New York turntablist scene. As you know, we at Hip Hop Lives try to give better representation for Filipino Americans who are NOT on the West Coast. I'm always sad that many West Coast Filipinos (or...people in general) don't even know about the 5th Platoon.

This short video definitely exemplifies the spirit and the loyalty of the underground hip hop community that Kuttin Kandi speaks about in her tribute to Fat Beats.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cinema Lounge Roundtable: Interview with Filmmakers

I'm happy to report that last week's screening of Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila in Hollywood was a great success. The room was packed and the audience had some compelling questions. I'm happy to engage the topic of hip hop culture in the Philippines (or anything about the Philippines for that matter) to a broader audience.

Below is an interview with three of the filmmakers featured for this month's Cinema Lounge.

Cinema Lounge Roundtable: An Interview with the Filmmakers - August 2010

From a look at the hip-hop culture in Manila to a secret terror filled phone call, to an intense rock-paper-scissors competition or the hunt for the perfect nanny; this month's line up of Cinema Lounge films presents an eclectic mix of short films from a talented group of filmmakers. We caught up with filmmakers Mark Redondo Villegas, Jesse Shapiro, and Theodore Melfi for a pre-screening chat about their films and what it took to get them made.


Can you each tell us a little bit about your project? What's it about? Where did the idea come from?

MV: Lyrical Empire is about a circle of hip-hop artists in Metro Manila, Philippines who are struggling to be embraced by fellow Filipinos. I have always been involved with hip-hop in the United States, especially among the Filipino American enthusiasts who have been faithfully involved in the culture from the get go. I have done a few films about hip-hop culture among Filipino Americans. After being asked about hip-hop in the Philippines, I decided to find out about the scene myself.

JS: Practical is about a guy with three alleged friends who, in my estimation, play the worst possible practical joke you could ever play on someone. I came up with the idea after a practical joke gone wrong - I got REALLY worked up, said mean things about dear friends, and generally acted like a total asshole. A few days later I became excited about the idea of doing a short film where the audience is the victim of a practical joke and is taken on an emotional journey with a character. So I sat down and wrote Practical.

TM: Roshambo is about a rock-paper-scissors competition. I actually got the idea when my wife's aunt sent us a newspaper article about a small town accountant from Massachusetts who had just won the Bud Light rock-paper-scissors world championships in Vegas. I started researching and was blown away by the sport and its following.

I Want Candy was born out of Roshambo ...the actors who played the promoters ...their performance so disturbed me that I imagined their home life to be very kinky. They looked like they have lots of dirty secrets. So we explored that thinking in Candy.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Cipher: Very First DJ Band (1992)

DJ Qbert and the Shadow Posse slice it up in rare early documentary

The Shadow Posse describe their integral contributions to the turntable "band"

DJ Qbert demonstrates how to destroy your needle and vinyl...with style (ha!)

Shadow Posse's dance crew, the Knuckleneck Tribe

We been international!

Don't you miss this era of hip hop? The dude DJ Dave Dynamix archives some rare documentation of hip hop in the 1990s from the Bay Area.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Last Stop for Hip Hop won't last: Fat Beats closing

Very sad news for hip hop today. One of the few remaining community spaces + retail joints for underground hip hop culture is closing next month. Fat Beats, "The Last Stop for Hip Hop," will be closing their two stores in New York and Los Angeles in September, heralding the advancing triumph of digital technology over physical, real-life music, people, and space.

Fat Beats' demise is eerily reminiscent of Stacks' closing three years ago.

Even though the New York Daily News article gives some insight on the importance of Fat Beats as an intimate cultural entity for hip hop aficionados, our dear friend at Fil Am Funk DJ Kuttin Kandi writes a more personal narrative on Fat Beats and its key role in bringing a "human connection," reminding us that "Hip-Hop connects you to your community."

As hip hop continues to be digitized, disconnected, and disciplined by exigences of big industry, how will our communities change?

Read Kandi's article below:


by DJ Kuttin Kandi

Fat Beats recently announced that they will be closing their legendary Fat Beats Record store in Los Angeles and New York City in early September (New York: Sept 4, Los Angeles: September 18th). Upon hearing this sad news many things came to mind, but first my emotions got the best of me. My heart stopped breathing and I felt as though I was going to choke. It was like the world suddenly ended. I felt like I lost a best friend and a big part of my identity. That’s simply because Fat Beats was truly like a best friend to me. But even more so, Fat Beats had much to do with my identity. Like many Hip-Hop heads I pride myself in stating the words of KRS One – “I AM Hip-Hop”. And like many true Hip-Hop heads know, Fat Beats IS Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop IS Fat Beats. So, it’s only natural when a Hip-Hop head like myself hears the news that the world famous Hip-Hop store is closing they know that it’s like losing a big chunk of Hip-Hop. Suddenly the words of “I AM Hip-Hop” can’t seem to ring true anymore when Fat Beats closes.

For those that are just now learning of what Fat Beats are I am saddened that you are just learning about Fat Beats now and that you won’t be witnessing the Fat Beats that many of us once knew and loved to heart. I will do the best that I can to give honor to the store that paved the way for all of us.

Fat Beats is a place for which many of us call “underground Hip-Hop” or “real Hip-Hop”. As much as many of us don’t like to divide Hip-Hop, the truth is the mainstream music industry creates those rifts where independent Hip-Hop just don’t get the opportunity to have mainstream airplay. The co-optation of Hip-Hop culture of big corporations many of which are record labels and etc. controlling and monopolizing mainstream airwaves, many of whom don’t know a lot about Hip-Hop history or culture, play a huge factor as to why many independent artists are never heard. So, many of those great legends in Hip-Hop and dope Hip-Hop top-notch-ill-lyricist who can actually rhyme, you might not ever get a chance to know about unless you went to Fat Beats or were part of that “underground Hip-Hop” scene in which Fat Beats played a huge role.

Before I even get into how Fat Beats played a huge role in Hip-Hop, let me start how it played a huge role in my life. Memories of Fat Beats are starting to play like a needle to the groove as I reminisce my earlier days in the scene. The year was 1995, and DJ Roli Rho and I walked throughout the Greenwich Village of New York City, looking for the record store we had heard about from other friends. The original store was located in a basement and if you were a regular passerby you probably would never notice it was there unless you were intentionally looking for the spot. The minute Roli and I walked in we were mesmerized. We knew we walked into a paradise of not just records, but pure, original, organic, and true Hip-Hop. That was the day we also met Joe Abajian aka DJ Jab, the owner of Fat Beats. When we left Fat Beats that day, Roli and I, like little kids who found a secret stash of candy, swore to each other to keep the place secret and to only show people who were worthy. I know, right? What the heck? Lol, why so secret? Well, quite honestly, we knew we found something so valuable. We knew it was a treasure we felt we had to keep safe. We had to protect Hip-Hop. Eventually, we couldn't be that selfish. We knew we had to share it amongst folks and deepen the knowledge for others who were looking for really good music.

Ed Lover and DJ Rhettmatic at Fat Beats, Los Angeles

It was from that point on that my world changed. Through Fat Beats, I’ve met some of my greatest friends as well as some of my idols, inspirations and mentors. Fat Beats introduced me to a whole world of true Hip-Hop. They’ve introduced me to my crew the 5th Platoon. I probably would have never met my all-female-crew Anomolies had it not been for Fat Beats. So many moments, so many memories, so many people. People we all grew up together with in this culture Hip-Hop we loved so much... Arsonists, Non-Phixion, Stronghold, Percee P i'll never forget you chillin there! I mean, i can't name everybody, but we all were there. Visitors all over the world, comin through to the tiny spot that moved to upstairs ave of america's. We moved on up! Fat Beats was the place to be, the place to go to find out all the underground Hip-hop events. It was the place where I met Gangstar, and had it not been for that moment of truth time Guru (rest in peace) and I might not have been longtime friends. Fat Beats had seen me grow as a DJ, has helped me to become a DJ. They sold my mixtapes. Then when I proved my skills, Fat Beats invited me on stage to perform with legends. One of them being in 1995, our very first Fifth Platoon show for Fat Beats Anniversary and for GrandMaster Roc Raida’s (rest in peace) birthday. That was the day I also made my debut. Fat Beats developed my name – Kuttin Kandi - could not have existed without Fat Beats. And right now, as I am 3000 miles away from Fat Beats NY, our 5th Platoon signed picture still hangs on their ceiling till Fat Beats closes.

Memories, so many of them. And I am sure it is not just me reminiscing….

Long before twitter, facebook, and blogging ever existed – people relied on fliers, word of mouth and real contact with people. Fat Beats was the place to find out all the upcoming Hip-Hop events, where’s the next open mic spot, who’s the next artist. You had to go to Fat Beats because there was going to be an MC Battle, a record release, a DJ Battle. You had to go to Fat Beats because they were going to tell you the newest artist. You knew they were going to be the first to play the artist before they blew up. You were going to see cats outside of Fat Beats selling you their CDs. There were going to be lines outside of Fat Beats. Tickets to the hottest Hip-Hop event were going to be sold at Fat Beats. They promoted our events. They pushed and moved our careers. They’ve seen us come up and make it. And they kept the buzz going. But most of all Fat Beats kept true to keeping vinyl alive. Even as I’m sure vinyl sales went down over the years and the rent on avenue on the america’s were going up, Fat Beats still kept trying to go on. I'm surprised it stood ground for this long, but then again I'm not that surprised because they knew how important the music and the culture was to all of us. And because Hip-Hop knew how important Fat Beats was to keeping true Hip-Hop alive.

So what does this mean for Hip-Hop? Well, the good news is that Fat Beats will still continue on with their website, retail and their wholesale distribution. Of course, on our ends will need to continue supporting Fat Beats. But while it’s a good thing that Fat Beats will continue online and etc, I am still saddened. Having a space for Hip-Hop heads to gravitate to is so important for the culture. Sure, I know we’ve got our open mic spots and other little spots. And i know we'll survive this just as we survived when the Stretch and Bobbito show ended. Even recently good long-time friend dope ill battle MC Sara Kana from Grind Time reminded me and told me that, "We Are this Underground Hip-Hop".

But this is big, at least this is big for me... having a record store may not be the full representation of Hip-Hop but it definitely plays a huge role in bringing us together.

Let’s bring this to the perspective of community.

Starbucks, and other coffee spots, a fairly known place, has been labeled a “third space”. “Third Space”, is a popularized coined term created by urban sociologist, Ray Oldenburg which is used to label spaces created by businesses that create an “anchor of community” to have conversation, dialogue and discussion. While I often enjoy a good latte once in a blue, hanging out starbucks will never be my “place to be” nor are folks from my community really chillin there. I don’t consider the “third space” of starbucks a place where I find a sense of community. And again, it’s not my community. Nor do I want it ever to be my community.

Fat Beats is that third space for me, and for many of us, particularly for us, people-of-color (and our allies) who love real Hip-Hop. Fat Beats is that independent store we love to support, because they support independent Hip-Hop artists. They support people-of-color. They support our communities. They support our history, our culture, our passion, our friends, our music. And I am sad, that we lost this third space. Where and when will we have that space again? A space where we can be truly who we are… where we can get down.. listen to what we love… and not conform to the mainstream status quo. Where will we have that space for us again?

While I love the fact that the internet has opened up doors, bridged some divides, and actually helps independent artists, it has also closed a few doors for us.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I still support newer technology. Serato has made things easier in my life, at the same time there is still a loss. Everything is so accessible to us now. We no longer have to dig in the crates and search for a record. It’s just with a stroke of a key that we can get that joint. You don’t even need to memorize the color of the label no more, because you just enter the title and the song comes up. Record shopping created relationships and friendships. Crate diggers know this, especially all of you who are true classic collectors. And I’m sure you all still do this in whatever record store still remains in your city. But losing Fat Beats is a sign for us to find ways to stay connected. It’s a sign for us to not lose ourselves completely to technology. We are losing human connection. While we connect with people, more than we can imagine, via the internet… we are still losing the human touch. We need to walk out the door, go to a record store, meet that lifelong friend who knows exactly how you feel when you put the needle to the groove. Listen to the music together at the record store. Nod your head. Bboy, Bgirl… cut it up… because it connects you to Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop connects you to your community. This is what Fat Beats taught us throughout the years.

Thank you for believing in me and thank you for supporting me all of these years. Thank you Joe and for all the staff throughout the years (DJ Boo, Lalena, Max Glazer, and so many others), especially the legendary DJ Eclipse for holding it down all these years. You will never be forgotten!

Thank you Fat Beats for a lifetime of memories, music, love, hope, independence, vinyl and true Hip-Hop.

With love,

DJ Kuttin Kandi

5th Platoon, Anomolies, Guerrilla Words, R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop

DJ, Poet, Writer, Activist

For more articles and videos on Fat Beats read here:


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Cipher: Vintage Mike Dream doc

After a month in the motherland and questionable internet connectivity, the Sunday Cipher is back! I just want to thank everyone in Metro Manila who took me around and extended the opportunity to build, especially Jerome. Shouts to Chelo and Knowa and everyone else from the Philippine Allstars and Capital G Shop. B-Rocc, good to finally meet up! Next time, more sober atmosphere hopefully.

Back to the Cipher, below is a vintage Mike Dream documentary. Good (often profound!) material here. Just thinking about dude after returning to the sterility of the first world from the funk of the motherland.

Peep game:

(5:08) "Writing wouldn't be writing if it weren't illegal. It gotta be illegal. It gotta stay illegal... When you don't see writing on the wall then damn, it's something wrong! To me that just shows muthafuckas really got us in check!"

(4:10) "Truth is, a brotha with five cans of paint and the majority of it being silver could serve somebody using a whole buncha colors just because he know how to freak the style. Style to me man- you can have a laced out, nice, just freaked out wild style piece with you just saying the words that could cut up a whole ten man production, to me. That's just cuz that style just outsize that production."

And, as a bonus, here is a shot of the MastaPlann Reunion (B-Rocc's thoughts and more pics here) show last night in Manila, thanks to Mica Regala (aka Millc):

Isulong!! Fil Ams and Filipinos stay connektd.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MastPlann historic reunion show in Mall of Asia!

August is a month full of historic moments for Philippine hip hop. The big event happening this Saturday is the 2010 DMC World DJ Championship- Philippine Finals, featuring the MastaPlann Reunion show. Read the article below, but I have a few videos here (including one on shaved heads!!) on MastaPlann and some thoughts on their impact on Philippine hip hop. These platinum-selling artists are getting together after 15 years and going strong with new music!

Also just released is a music video that bridges the veteran generation and the up-and-coming hip hop artists in Metro Manila. Turbulence Crew and A.M.P.'s young powerhouse Marquiss combines with MastaPlann and equally important veterans the Sun Valley Crew for the song "Forget About It". You gotta love the 90's vibe many Philippine hip hop crews give homage to, Chrizo lays out a dirty, nasty beat for this one. You can cop this song on Marquiss's highly anticipated G.R.A.E. album.

A.M.P. on the set of "Forget About It." From GRAE Area.

While on my way home to California, I borrowed a copy of the Manila Bulletin to read on the plane. I was pleasantly surprised to find an article on MastaPlann's Reunion concert (right above an ad for a Boyz II Men concert at Araneta Coliseum!). So I decided to steal the page and scan it. Click on image below to see a bigger picture.

Here is the same article re-printed in the online edition of The Philippine Star. Napakasuwerte to whoever is going! Astig!

Masta Plann reunion concert
(The Philippine Star) Updated August 09, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - It’s the biggest thing happening this side of hip-hop: on Aug. 14, Saturday, 8 p.m., Mossimo, one of the country’s leading apparel gives hip-hop fans all over the country something to look forward to as it brings Johnny ‘The Type’ Luna, Butch Velez Rodriguez (‘The Tracer One’) and the 1992 DMC Philippine DJ Champions DJ MOD (Master of Disaster), DJ Sonny and DJ Ouch, otherwise known as Masta Plann, together for their first and last reunion concert after 15 years.

This event is happening at 1 Esplanade near the SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City and will coincide with the 2010 DMC World DJ Championships (Philippine DJ finals).

The reunion concert is presented by Mossimo along with San Mig Strong Ice as co- presentor. In cooperation with DMC Phils., Stagecraft, Pioneer DJ, Oxford Suites, DJ Academy, and Allen and Heath. Media partners are radio station U-92FM, NU 107, 99.5 RT, MAX 103.5 Fm. JAM 88.3, MAGIC 89.9. 101.1 YES FM, WAVE 89.1, MYX Music Channel, Manila Times, and Focal Cast.

One of the main purveyors of hip-hop music in the country, Masta Plann first recorded an album in 1992 under Universal Records. This was followed by their Way of the Plann album two years later. Their success in the recording industry helped them win a loyal following not just in the Philippines, but in Asia after their albums were released in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan through the efforts of their management led by Jesse Gonzales Cambosa of DMC Philippines and the late Bella Tan of Universal Records.

These albums went platinum and to date are still selling worldwide, thanks to the continued popularity of hip-hop music. For tickets inquiries, call TicketNet at 911-5555.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Lyrical Empire screening in Hollywood Aug. 17

My documentary Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila will be screening in Hollywood on Tuesday, August 17 at the Film Independent's monthly program Cinema Lounge. There will be a total of four short films being screened, ranging from 7 minutes to 23 minutes long (Lyrical Empire is 23 minutes). Would love to see you there!

Cinema Lounge is a casual, cool, and fun atmosphere where filmmakers network, share stories and meet other filmmakers. It is a free event and open to Film Independent members and Filmmaker's guest. They will serve free beer and popcorn.

Filmmakers will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.

WHEN: Tuesday, August 17, 7:30 pm

WHERE: The W Hollywood (6250 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California, 90028, between Vine St. and Argyle Ave.)

PRICE: Free for Film Independent members and their guests.

PARKING: Limited street parking and private parking lots are located within walking distance from the hotel. W Hollywood valet parking is also available ($10.00 per hour up to $35.00 maximum).

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: The Hollywood/Vine station on the Metro Rail Red Line is conveniently located at the W Hollywood.

RESERVATIONS: Not required- first come, first served

RSVP on Facebook Event Page here.