Fil-Am Hip-Hop At It’s Finest
December 12, 2009
What do these Fil-Am hip-hop groups all have in common?
These are individuals who create rhymes to create change. The choice of weaponry are their words, words split into verses to fight fear and give voice to those who stay silent. These are emcees that manifest words for the sake of awareness producing songs that deem another art form possessive of activism.
I first stumbled upon Fil-Am Hip-Hop when my friend passed me a CD. It was titled: “Barrel Men.” The first thing I asked my friend was “Barrel Men? Are these guys Filipino?” He responded and told me, “Yeah, how’d you know? They’re called ‘Native Guns.’” Immediately by just looking at the title I knew this Native Guns album was going to possess sounds I’ve never heard of. First track I listened to was “Ain’t Afraid.” Upon my first listen, I noticed the words they spit were straight fire. They didn’t spit about money, hoes and luxurious cars. They instead took on a more political role in their music. Whether it was about Philippine politics or American politics, Native Guns created songs that clued folks in on real issues. It wasn’t much surprise after I had done my research though. After googling their names, I discovered that both Bambu and Kiwi have community-organizing backgrounds. They both worked with communities in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. They both were activists in their own right. Music was just another way for them to express themselves to raise that awareness. I felt this to be an interesting trait for an emcee. Mainstream radio rarely plays songs with this form of substance. Before these guys, I had never heard of Philippine issues being addressed in music.
Another group I feel possesses these same characters is the Hip-Hop duo from Seattle, Blue Scholars. Their emcee, Geologic is a former organizer as well. When I interviewed him recently, he explained to me, “Community organizing in it of itself is a struggle – one of the largest struggles. Whatever we do, it’s gone beyond the notion of the stereotypical ‘activist.’ And being an artist and a musician and finding out that culture plays in a movement, it’s always what pulled me in. It’s the issues that pulled me in. Knowing that things got fucked up. The history of colonization and Filipino discrimination we face in the States. It’s that fire.” Geo reassured me that is why he chose to revolve his music partly about community issues. He felt that as an activist he can go beyond just doing work in the community physically, but he can also spread more awareness across the world through his craft.
I feel this is a common trend for Filipinos today. I may be taking a leap in generalizing, but I feel Philippine people have been known to be creative in some way. If you were trace back in history we’ve been innovative with our meals, our clothing and especially our way of thinking. This connection between music and activism reminds of Jose Rizal and his written pieces that sparked a revolution and fight against injustice in the Philippines. Groups just like the ones aforementioned reminded me that art is a form of activism that we must embrace and use it to our best ability for change, positive change.