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So I haven't posted on the Blaaag in ages, due to other circumstances that have taken the vast majority of my time... but now that things are (relatively) back to normal and finals are about to consume my sanity, it's time to procrastinate!

Hip-hop is no doubt the most influential American musical genre, or comprehensive "culture," since jazz; in its 30-odd years of existence, it's become a worldwide phenomenon, and has stretched from the viciously political to the nonstop party music to the... well... forgettable. Hip-hop journalist, former label head, and author of
Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, Jeff Chang, has dubbed the current era the "hip-hop generation" because hip-hop has been precisely the cultural marker of American youth--whether message or commodity--for decades now.

Yet, where do Asian Americans fit into this mix? While I can't cover everything in the short time that I have before I should get back to my homework, I'll do my best.

One of the first Asian American hip-hop artists was
Fresh Kid Ice, a.k.a. Chris Wong Won, a member of the late-80's/early-90's rap outfit 2 Live Crew, known for their raunchy and sexually explicit songs, such as their hit single "Me So Horny." Fresh Kid Ice, of Chinese and Afro-Trinidadian descent, released the 1992 solo album The Chinaman, featuring such insightful songs as "Long Dick Chinese." Out of respect for women everywhere, I'll decline from showing a video of his.

In 1991, however, a new sound arose, this time in the realm of competitive deejaying, also known as turntablism.
DJ QBert (Richard Quitevis), a young Filipino American from San Francisco, CA, rose to the 1991 Disco Mixing Club (DMC) USA championship with his unique blend of scratching techniques.


DJ QBert, 1991 DMC USA Championships

He, along with partners Mix Master Mike and DJ Apollo, also of Filipino descent, went on to win the DMC World Championships the next three years straight. They, with other Filipino American DJs, formed the legendary Invisibl Skratch Piklz; Mix Master Mike also became the Beastie Boys' DJ. Filipino American DJs have been fairly commonplace in hip-hop circles; another favorite, DJ Babu (Chris Oroc), is a member of the Los Angeles-based alternative rap group Dilated Peoples.


DJ Babu, 1995 Scratch Routine U.S. Finals

In 1996, a group of three emcees from Philadelphia rose to national prominence through, interestingly enough, a Sprite commercial. The Mountain Brothers (CHOPS, Styles, and Peril-L), of Chinese and Korean descent, were the first Asian American hip-hop artists signed to a major label, and released two albums--Self, Vol. (1999) and Triple Crown (2003)--before disbanding. CHOPS is still active as a producer, and has worked with big-name artists like Kanye West. MB's style is somewhat throwback; less about an Asian American identity, it instead embraces a "classical" notion of posse hip-hop and pure lyrical stream-of-consciousness.


Mountain Brothers, "Galaxies"

In 2001, a Flushing, Queens, Chinese American emcee named Jin (Jin Au-Yeung) took to the stage of BET Rap City's Freestyle Friday and won an unprecedented seven weeks in a row, thereby winning a deal with the major label Ruff Ryders outfit, home of DMX and Eve. His first single, "Learn Chinese," gained some attention (albeit slightly ridiculous and self-orientalizing); his debut album, The Rest is History (2004), however, was a commercial flop, despite appearances by big-name artists like Kanye West, Twista, and Styles P. Blaming a lack of decent promotion, and dismayed by the music industry, Jin dropped from his label and instead released a string of independent albums: The Emcee's Properganda (2005), 100 Grand Jin (2006), and the Cantonese-language ABC (2007).


Jin, "Learn Chinese"

At roughly the same time, rock-rap hybrid
Linkin Park had the best-selling album of 2001 with Hybrid Theory (2000), featuring emcee/guitarist/producer Mike Shinoda, who is half Japanese American, and deejay Joe Hahn, who's Korean American. While Linkin Park has been phasing out their rap side in recent years, they embarked on a mash-up project with Jay-Z in 2004, Collision Course, and Shinoda released a solo project in 2005, The Rising Tied, under the moniker Fort Minor. The album features the song "Kenji," a narrative of Japanese American internment during World War II.


Fort Minor, "Believe Me"

Pop-rap group Black Eyed Peas also have an Asian American member--apl.de.ap (Allan Pineda Lindo), of Filipino descent. A song on their 2003 album Elephunk, "The Apl Song," features a chorus in Tagalog.


Black Eyed Peas, "The Apl Song"

On the West Coast, Berkeley, CA emcee Lyrics Born (Tom Shimura), who is half Japanese, had his hit single "Callin' Out" featured on a Diet Coke commercial featuring Adrien Brody. A co-founder of Quannum Projects with Blackalicious and DJ Shadow, and an ex-affiliate of Jeff Chang, Lyrics Born is known for his avant-garde, rock-influenced music and breathless delivery.


Diverse (ft. Lyrics Born), "Explosive"

Recent artists have begun to achieve significant prominence. The Seattle, WA-based Blue Scholars, recently signed to seminal progressive label Rawkus Records, have risen to the national scene recently with their 2007 LP Bayani (meaning "hero of the people" in Tagalog, and "the word" in Farsi). Consisting of Filipino American emcee Geologic (George Quibuyen) and Persian American emcee Sabzi (Alexei Saba Mohajerjasbi), Blue Scholars is known for their political messages, proletarian affiliation, and soulful stylings.


Blue Scholars, "Back Home"

Other notable Asian American hip-hop artists today include The Pacifics, a Chicago-based group of 3 Filipino American emcees (KP, Strike III, Norm Rockwell); Denizen Kane (Dennis Kim), a Korean American member of multiracial Chicago group Typical Cats, and a former member of the Asian American spoken word collective I Was Born With Two Tongues; NYC and Berkeley-based Magnetic North, a duo of Direct (Derek Kan) and T-Vu (Theresa Vu); Kiwi and Bambu, West Coast Filipino Americans formerly of the radical duo Native Guns; and NYC-based DJ Rekha, whose styles blend hip-hop and contemporary bhangra (a Punjabi dance music).


The Pacifics, "Story of My Life"


Denizen Kane, "Patriot Act"


Magnetic North, "Drift Away"

Native Guns, "Champion"

Of course, there are many other artists, but naming them all would be really hard, and some probably don't deserve recognition anyway.

...and, that's a (w)rap.

9 comments:

  1. skyxie said...

    Mah gawd, so many YouTube links. And nice ending line. I think I now officially have the title of fewest Blaaag posts (though probably most Blaaag comments =P).  

  2. David said...

    Actually..........
    Mimi has fewest posts.
    Mimi!!! The Blaaag is waiting for you.  

  3. David said...

    Make that Mimi and Xtina.  

  4. Marilla said...

    i can safely say that this entry has kept me from finishing my work  

  5. Nhu-Y said...

    OMGAW RYAN. OH MAH GAW.  

  6. David said...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ3uBPNiO0I
    This is rich. And also spun up.  

  7. skyxie said...

    Haha, yeah I love that video. Didn't you get that video from me David?  

  8. David said...

    Lol yep. (So not Mongolian.)  

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