Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Cipher: You wanna battle? Estria does it again

Vogue 1 (TDK crew) "healing" through the spray can at the 4th Annual Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle (2010). The theme for the competition was "heal." Check out who came out on top.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Artist Spotlight: Infected by Generation ILL and Deep Foundation/Hydroponikz EP

It's time you DLed the new EP Deep Foundation & Hydroponiks present Generation ILL. The EP is an East Coast+South collaboration between the NY/NJ emcees of Deep Foundation/Hydroponikz and the Florida beat production crew Generation ILL. And what a sweet collaboration it is. The album also features cameos with Bambu, Rocky Rivera, and Ashley Robles.

The tracks touch on various themes, from the mellow dance hit "To The Beat" to the multi-meaning diaspora-inflected "World's Apart". The latter is one of my favorite tracks: it cleverly manages to portray the pain, angst, and contradictions involved in living as a Filipino in the U.S. as well as painting those same conditions as seen on the streets of the U.S. and the Philippines.

Peep an excerpt from Mugg Shot's verse in "World's Apart":

"Was mothered by a land
Where white stands for rich
And dark tans are brands
On backs that stand stiff.
When your status is defined
By similar outlines
Social classes divided
By aboriginal ties
Round-eye descendants of
European demise
Fetishizing a skin to avoid
Being deprived.
We lacking pride from
Where our people derived.
We came enslaved
The day they people arrived..."

Hip hop still speaking truth to power. Word. I was fortunate enough to catch up with illa and SoCo from Generation ILL to find out more about the geniuses behind the sound:

Who are the folks in Generation ILL? What's up with the name?

SoCo: Generation ILL is comprised of five members: myself, illa, PMBeatz, Eladbrit, and Sidewayz. I mean, it just kinda sounds cool, right? But really, there’s multiple meanings behind the name. Generation ILL is not only a music production crew, but we also represent a collective of like-minded individuals that recognize dope music and support the artists that make it.

illa: We wanted our listeners to realize that they are a part of that same generation that fell in love with the true spirit of Hip Hop. You are a part of Generation ILL if you listen to and support other artists that are making good music—especially in Hip Hop. We want good music, not just our own, to re-infect the masses and spread like an epidemic.

Describe the beginning stages of putting together this EP.

illa: In 2009, we heard Deep Foundation and Hydroponikz were working on a project so we sent one of our Gen ILL Beat CDs to their manager. As you can see, they ended up using most of our beats for the EP. As a matter of fact, "At Your Request" and "Worlds Apart" were specifically made with this project in mind.

SoCo: We use a lot soul samples in our production and the beats that DF and Dro chose for the EP elicit a lot of emotion and inward reflection—almost an escape to introversion, you know? As a result, it helped influence the amazing lyrical content they ended up writing about. Content that also reflected the reason behind the name for our company.

illa: At that point, they were like, okay, let’s present Generation ILL, the production crew, and at the same time describe what the state of affairs is for the everyman all over the world. After that, it was a wrap.

Artwork by Manila Ryce

How was the process with working with DF in NY? Was it difficult to work in together in the virtual world?

illa: It was definitely a new experience for us. It’s one thing to pass a beat to an artist who you may not be able to work with during the recording process but with this project, the music was just the beginning. As the EP evolved into a joint venture between us, DF and Hydro, we became fully involved in all aspects of putting the project out—everything from distribution to promotions, we were definitely grateful for the opportunity to work with those guys.

Soco: You know, thanks to smartphones and the internet, there wasn’t a lot of downsides to the process. Of course, if we were up in NYC, I’m sure it would’ve made things a lot easier. They shot a couple videos for the EP up there, too—we would’ve loved to be in front of the camera together with DF and Hydro. There’s still an opportunity for that, tho…we’ll keep everyone posted once they’re released. I mean, so long as there are planes, we’ll still be able to meet up in person.

How has your experiences being part of Filipino American community spaces influenced the energy and tone of the album (or your music in general)?

SoCo: Well, three of us actually met back at the University of Florida when we were part of the Filipino Student Association (FSA) there. We were actually pretty active in the organization until we started making music, funny enough. However, Filipino music had a big influence on our production—specifically old OPM soul.

illa: We’ve always been a huge fan of OPM music—the amazing vocals, instrumentalists, and arrangements. So whenever we hear some really good Filipino soul music, we’re like, "the world needs to hear this!” The thing is, outside of Filipino producers, most music heads (let alone those in Hip Hop) don’t realize the depth of emotion old, Filipino soul and folk singers delivered their lyrics with. It’s pretty awe-inspiring.

Soco: I guess we were fortunate enough to have joined the FSA in a year with older members that were big music heads. Some were DJs, others were really big into music in general and we learned a lot about other artists we normally woudn’t have had exposure to so soon. Like, one of the guys had just bought Blackalicious’s NIA and I had never heard anything like it. I remember, our friend Ray was part of Slum Village’s street team and that was the first time I had heard anything from Dilla. Our minds were blown away listening to Fantastic V2.

illa: And really, if it wasn’t for the UFFSA, we probably wouldn’t be here doing this interview. We started making beats and recording music while in college and later, when we were performing, it was that same organization—that same family—that came out to support us whenever we had a show. Now that we’ve evolved into Generation ILL, and since we’ve collaborated with Deep Foundation and Hydroponikz, we’ve seen that support from not only FSAs, but the FilAm community nationwide as a whole.

illa and SoCo prefer visual anonymity in order to impress your ears

Why do you think it is important for this collaboration album to be heard by Filipino Americans?

SoCo: Just as Deep Foundation and Hydroponikz draw from their own experiences of life growing up as Filipino Americans, we try to make sure our beats capture that same type of intensity drawing out those same emotions. Of course, as Filipino Americans, we have something to say. And as you hear in the EP, it’s not just about what we go thru here in the States, but what our families and friends go through in the Philippines as well. Most of our struggles, though they may be on different scales, parallel day to day. That’s what we hope to convey to Fil-Ams and Filipinos alike.

Who are some of your musical influences?

In terms of producers: J. Dilla, 9th Wonder, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, illMind, Just Blaze, Kanye West -- just to name a few. Many of our influences range from Jazz Artists like John Coltrane to soul artists like Curtis Mayfield or Gil Scott Heron.

In terms of beat and lyrics, what is the motivation behind "World's Apart"?

illa: One day we were listening to Pandora and the first song that came on was a track called, You by Marvin Gaye. When I heard the lyrics, "Worlds close yet worlds apart". I immediately thought of Deep Foundation's track from earlier in their career, A Place Called Home. I immediately sat down, slowed down the sample, chopped it up, laid a Little Richard drum break over the sample and sent it to DF. I think the chorus obviously had a big influence over the concept of the song and that's actually one of my favorite tracks from the EP. Its another example of where we didn't even need to communicate our intention of making a particular beat, they already knew.

Why do you guys prefer to work in a crew?

illa: Well, the idea of Generation ILL as a production crew/company was a product of the jam sessions we used to have up in Gainesville. Every Thursday night, while the emcees would be freestyling, the producers would get together and chop up a single sample and present them once everyone was done. It was a chance for us to not only share production techniques, but also an opportunity to introduce each other to the different equipment and programs we used. The producers started to meet up more and it gave us a chance to build that camaraderie fueled by making beats.

Soco: One thing we all have in common, other than music, is that we all have separate lives in separate cities. Nine-to-five’s, school, family responsibilities—and as individuals, the fear is that you might get lost in reality. We all decided to come together as Generation ILL to represent that bond we share as artists and beatsmiths and to keep that passion alive—the passion to keep making dope music. It makes us better in our craft—iron sharpens iron, you know? Being part of a crew lets our individual styles shine from one point, which in turn allows artists to find a plethora of different sounds in one place.

Any future projects?

We're looking forward to some collaborations with several artists from the West Coast. Currently, we're working on a track with Bambu/Beat Rock Music on an upcoming project. We have a R&B/Soul- inspired beat cd in the works which will be available soon and we have plans to release a Generation ILL project with a series of featured emcees during the 2nd Qtr of 2011.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Cipher: Hip Hop in the Philippines freestyle

Chelo of the Philippine Allstars/O.N.E. and Knowa Lazarus of
Q-York/O.N.E. host the 2-on-2 Bboy/Bgirl battle at Sofitel Hotel in July.

Knowa Lazarus sums it up pretty well in this 3-minute freestyle session at the Capital G Shop in San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What makes a "People's Champion"?

Check out this great article by veteran hip hop authority Davey D, who is featured in the opening part of my 2007 documentary, Hip Hop Mestizaje (embedded in the right panel of this blog).

Manny Pacquiao the People’s Champ: Is that too Much for Floyd to Handle?

from Davey D's Hip Hop Corner
November 15, 2010

"...While the world watched and cheered, we’re sure a certain boxer with a big mouth and lots of money sat at home also watching. There is no doubt that Floyd ‘Money Making’ Mayweather has come to realize two unshakeable truths. First, he can’t beat Mr Pacquiao. Yeah, yeah, we heard all the talk about how he’s a skilled precision fighter, a true student of the game blah, blah, blah…Save it. He knows it, I know and you know it. Mayweather watched and realized this past Saturday night this is man he can’t beat.

The other thing he realized is that he’ll never be seen as one of the greatest, even with an undefeated record. As a world champ, he misread history and what it means when you hold such a title especially as a Black man. The ring was always symbolic of power we did not have.. Even with boxing legends like Sugar Ray Robinson, part of what made him great was his accomplishments in the midst of hard oppressions. the accomplishments of boxing greats like Joe Louis and Jack Johnson became a symbolic victories for all those who felt marginalized and oppressed. Their victory was our victory.

Manny Pacquiao has captured that spirit globally. Sadly Floyd Mayweather has misread the signs of today’s times and missed the opportunity to be ‘the people’s champ‘. If Mayweather and Pacman were to fight and he somehow won, Manny would still be seen as champ all over the world. A Mayweather victory would be a hollow victory. Mayweather does not have the admiration of the people especially globally, and no matter how much he brags or ‘adroitly ‘plays the role of villan’ aka the ‘man you love to hate’, he’ll never be seen as a man for the people. What a wasted opportunity...."


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Cipher: Fil Am renaissance?

Premiere is a testament to the 90s Filipino American R&B musical "renaissance", a moment when Fil Ams were at the brink of mainstream status, nudging at the edge of the niche ethnic market, and certainly spreading out of the Bay Area cultural core to Fil Ams all over.

If the mid to late 90s was an era for Fil Am R&B acts, then the 2000s is for Fil Am emcees (and the scenes, audiences, markets, and artists do overlap). Is this decade a new "renaissance" for Fil Am artists (hip hop, R&B, or otherwise), or was the 90s just a special, special moment (well, certainly there were more women and group-oriented acts)?


Asian American Invisibility: You don't see us, but we see you!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Filipino-Mexican showdown x kultura (x champorado)

Ready for the Pacquiao vs. Margarito fight this Saturday? Will the congressman defeat the Master Plaster? Patis or Tapatio?

The match this weekend is a good opportunity to explore the Filipino-Mexican connection, a growing scholarly topic, and a visual and cultural "common sense" among many Filipinos and Chicanos in Southern California. One scholar is doing interesting work on looking at Filipino and Chicano emcees and their political messages relating to homeland and diaspora.

The upcoming boxing performance echos the influence of "real" performance traditions between Mexico and the Philippines, with the latter as "New Spain" working as a colonial mediator to the far-off Spanish island colony. Here is an excerpt from Palabas: Essays on Philipine Theater History (1997) by Doreen Fernandez, a book that outlines various Philippine "performance" traditions, ranging from precolonial rituals to Philippine theater in the 1980s. (I suppose it is up to one of you to write a book on hip hop traditions in the Philippines.)

"During much of the colonial period, Spanish culture was introduced through Nueva España (Mexico), from where the Philippines was ruled by Spain through the Ministro de Ultramar. Soldiers of Adelantado Miguel López de Legazpi in the late sixteenth century are believed to have been the ones who brought over from Mexico the metrical romances of chivalry and of the lives of saints and martyrs, which were popular in their day and which, in indigenized form, became the native awit and corrido" (5).

Oh! This explains the whole champurrado/champorado thing! We all just one big chocolate mix. Well, of course Mexicans use the corn/masa, and the Filipinos, rice. And according to some recipes, the Mexican champurrado is served with alcohol.

meet champorado.

Lambanog champorado for cold nights!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Cipher:GRAE matter

Philippine emcee Marquiss is dropping his G.R.A.E. album November 25th. More from B-Rocc at SoulFiesta.