Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Cipher: Artstrong growls!

This guy is ridiculously talented. Don't sleep on Artstrong! He is a hybrid of hip hop, jazz, and R&B. In this video he's growling and scatting like Louis Armstrong! An embodiment of Filipino performance in the African American tradition! Check out his other videos--he can do it all, and he can b-boy! Philippines represent!



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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

Will the Filipino American R&B group Legaci create a legacy for more Asian American exposure in mainstream popular music? Here is an interesting article, "Unexpected Harmony," in the New York Times about Asian American challenges in achieving career acclaim in the U.S. music industry. They are currently the backup singers for Justin Bieber (yeah, I know, but they gettin paid!) and getting mad attention worldwide. As the article states, because of their proven talent and critical mass of audience on YouTube as well as their appeal to Bieber fans, they are working on getting a record deal-- an opportunity to break through the glass ceiling that teases people with Asian faces. This opportunity to reach a wider audience is especially compelling given that Filipino Americans have been providing quality soul and R&B music (especially in Northern California) for some time now (Legaci started in 1997).

The article describes the challenges of Asian American singers (and rappers, representative of in a generic sense, but one can't help but notice the overwhelming amount of Filipino Americans represented in the R&B scene (kind of like this top ten list of Asian American Rappers of All Time...blah).

After trying out impressively for various national reality TV contests, Legaci member Micah Tolentino notes:

“We tried them all,” Mr. Tolentino said. “And they all said the same thing, ‘You guys are great, you have great voices, but you’re not what we’re looking for.’ The first couple times we were like, ‘O.K., maybe we didn’t hit it that hard,’ but the more we heard it, we couldn’t help wondering: ‘Is it because of who we are? Because we’re Asian-American?’ We decided that if TV wouldn’t give us a chance, and major labels wouldn’t give us a chance, we would turn to YouTube.

YouTube as the great talent equalizer, erasing the biases and prejudices of industry gatekeepers?

When it comes to legibility within a U.S. cultural membership, Asian people have been seen as "outside," therefore marketing them to a U.S. audience has been disheartening, especially for artists themselves who are good at what they do, but are denied access to audience because they are supposedly impossible to market to an "American" audience.

Professor Christine Balance notes this lack of cultural currency for Asian Americans:

“How do you market an Asian-American star?” she said. “African-Americans are foundational to U.S. popular culture, and for Latinos there’s the adjective ‘Latin’ music that’s used to describe a variety of musical forms. But Asians are still seen as foreign or alien to mainstream America.”

Justin Bieber and Sean Kingston fans swoon over the vocals of Legaci

Alien or not (I vote "not", especially given U.S. investing in a tortured "domesticating" of the Philippine up on the Insular Cases people!), Filipino Americans have been making impressive music regardless of mainstream recognition. Legaci is so impressive that ?uestlove tweeted that they were the Asian New Edition.

A reference to New Edition is not surprising, given that Filipinos have been exposed to and been active participants in American (including African American) musical culture for more than a century...back in the islands and on the continent.

So we live in a world where Justin Bieber is marketed and will make a lot of money (and like ALL child stars, will ten years later be hooked on drugs or something) and become a U.S. musical icon. The fact that Legaci, along with an infinite number of Asian American performers, emcees, etc. are invisible, unnoticed, and/or relegated to the background while mediocre (or bad) singers get the limelight, well, what else can be said? One YouTube commenter remarked on Legaci's rendition of "Without You" by Chris Brown: "wats wrong with this world? justin bieber should sing back up for them instead."

Fil Ams will always be making good music and bustin good moves, and the "real" world knows it. That's probably why YouTube and "reality" TV is abundant with their songs and dance.

And at least we got the street dance scene on lock. JabbaWockeeZ blowin up Las Vegas, but, ironically, their branding is one premised on invisibility--the mask. They are doing something right, and rather clever.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Roscoe Umali reppin on "Lake Show" Lakers Anthem

Pardon the absence. The Fil Am Funk account got hacked and temporarily disabled. We're back and in action! Today was the Lakers' parade in downtown LA. with an estimated 65,000 people lining Figueroa to get a glimpse of the team and sneak a peak at the Finals MVP.

LA's own Roscoe Umali makes an appearance on the official Lakers 2010 Anthem, "The Lakeshow," pumped by Power 106. This Fil Am emcee commands the mic alongside Ice Cube and other LA institutions. Umali's flow clear and powerful, as always, as he provides a litany of Laker greats. (Will there be a new dynasty in the 2010 decade??)

Why are Filipinos so intimately linked to the Lakers? For example, a Chinese American dude once told me that when he thinks of Filipinos, he stereotypes them as avid, overly enthusiastic, purple and gold bleedin Lakers fans. I know someone whose Lola was buried wearing a Kobe jersey. And also someone whose cousin is named "Kobeshaq"--like that, one word, first name: "Kobeshaq". He was named pre-divorce, I guess.

What's up Pinoyz? Anyone bleed green?

This is why Ron Artest was beastin the whole series: he's powered by halo-halo:

Note: halo-halo's ube and leche flan: purple..and goldish.

(Stay safe in the cyberworld! Back-up your work and don't depend on the internet too much! You don't own it, it owns you...)


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sunday Cipher: La Femme Deadly Venoms kill it! + Quest lovin it

The fabulous La Femme Deadly Venoms flex at the 2010 DMC California Regional Battle. Your favorite Bay Area pinay turntablist, DJ Celskiii (right) along with Deeandroid (center) and Lady Fingaz. As Jeru says, "bring ya skillz to da battle!"


Take me to Las Filipinas! Great music from Quest (prod. by B-Roc) that has the quality to explode on the radio, sa states at sa pinas. Good vibes! Dominic Nuesa delivers another masterpiece with gripping images of our folks.


Monday, June 7, 2010

JabbaWockeeZ get wicked Sin City!

The JabbaWockeeZ try their luck in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand! But this opportunity ain't just about fortune, cuz these guys are pure talent. Advertised right in between David Copperfield and Tom Jones, are these the most popular Filipino Americans in the States right now? Between the supernatural and the karaoke hitmaker, these guys are like the magical Filipinos!
The 2000s are a great era for Filipino Americans and hip hop! The crucibles of Filipino American culture are demanding and commanding national attention. Seattle and the progressive Filipino community bred the talent of legendary poetry troupe Isangmahal (who are back apparently) alongside one of the most successful independent hip hop groups the Blue Scholars. Seattle is interesting, people!

Performers who cut their teeth in the San Francisco/San Diego Pinoy/ay hip hop spaces have clearly demonstrated their skills to the TV world on America's Best Dance Crew, and now the tourist world in Las Vegas gets to experience the JabbaWockeeZ. Not that the measure of skill and success should be defined by "outsiders", but a little attention never hurt nobody. Especially when MGM JabbaWockeeZ tickets go for over $70.00 each, man, a little money in yo pockets never hurt nobody either! Make that dough, bro. And look good doing it...

Besides, if purists want to keep the culture "inside" (hey, I ain't mad at ya), it looks like we're doing just fine doing that too!

From the garage ground to the world stage! Isulong!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sunday Cipher: Takin it back and Free Wheelin'

Remember the early 2000s? Well, if not, let's take you back, way back. This early Blue Scholars music video came out in 2004, and the song was probably made in 2002 or 2003. Meaning, our freshmen in college today were in elementary school back then.

The Blue Scholars are hotter than ever and it is great to see they still carry the same passion from circa 7 years ago. I personally love the first EP. And if you haven't heard "Bluechini," then you haven't heard their pre-EP jams. Late 90s, early 2000s were great years for Filipino Americans doing hip hop music.

A special shout out goes to John Delloro and Tam Tran. Too many we've lost in such a short period of time. We miss you and love you. Your labor, love, and passion motivate us daily. You feed the fire of social justice and peace.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Joe Bataan marches around the world

Joe Bataan starts his march around the world in Santa Ana

Last Sunday, internationally-known Latin Soul artist Joe Bataan kicked off his international tour in Santa Ana, California. Joe will be bringing the Harlem heat to Japan and Europe. The Afro-Filipino is still going on super strong and shows no sign of slowing down. Peep his first hit, "Gypsy Woman," performed in the above youtube clip I shot in the Santa Ana show. "Gypsy Woman" (a remake of The Impressions song) became a huge hit in 1967 and jump-started his career as the "King of Latin Soul."
The audience packed the house at the Galaxy Theatre. The unique thing about Joe is that he attracts such a diverse audience. From Filipinos who are just discovering this brutha, to the low-riding Chicanos in Los Angeles who dominated the Galaxy Theater, to Soul music connoisseurs of all kinds, Joe is being re-discovered by a whole new generation of music lovers who appreciate the music of the 60s and 70s, while he continues to magnetize a loyal following of fans dating back to his generation.

Geeky hip hop heads will know Joe as arguably the first artist to press a rap record, the infamous "Rap-O-Clap-O" song, which made it big in Europe and Latin America, but never that popular in the United States. Check out the sexiness:

The Fil Am funk travels across generations and throughout the globe! We're proud of and excited for Joe as he shares his gift of music with the world. Come to the Philippines soon, Joe!