How Hip Hop Made Asian Americans (And All of America) Cooler
Man. I used to be all serious. Believe it or not MORE serious than I am now! (Is that possible? My dad was in his twenties when he fled Communist China. I learned my times tables when I was in kindergarten. I was once CEO of my own candy-stuffed bear company. I was *born* serious.)
I was so serious that I took my pop/hip-hop music teenage upbringing and flipped that stuff to get all serious about writing rap songs. I needed to channel my newly-minted socio-political angst! Okay?!
Besides Oakland and New York City, I believe the South Bay of Los Angeles circa 1990 was where you could find the Blackest Asian American kids in America. Okay. Correction. We didn’t think we were Black. We just liked rap. And Cross Colours. And doing the running man. And quoting lyrics from A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy, usually, without knowing the context for what they were saying. Oh wells.
I was a product of the mainstreaming of hip hop – when suburban and non-black kids “discovered” that you could talk-rhyme over a beat (My mom likens it to Buddhist monk meditations). And let’s be honest, the marketing was extremely good. A bunch of Asian American athlete/honors students could manage to hang with some coolness with our highly non-white, multi-cultural student body at North High school. I once re-wrote a number of rap songs and ballads to describe the book All’s Quiet on the Western Front, and Trigonometry functions (“One, two, three point one foh’. Jen doggy-dog, Dr. A is at the doh”). Don’t be jealous.
Nowadays, you can’t even mention Asian Americans and hip hop without talking about America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC) and how that became a platform for some SERIOUS Asian American bboy/bgirl domination. Ah. They warm my heart (Quest Crew, Jabawockeez, etc).
Apparently the OC Weekly decided to rate some of the top Asian American rappers. What do you think? Blue Scholars is missing? The Visionaries? Um…dare I say…Black Eyed Peas?! (teehee)
Yeah. This is an excerpt from my one EPIC rap song I wrote back when I used to think I was a rapper. (Don’t laugh…I actually put this little gem of a chorus together while playing a Nas song on repeat.)
It’s the Game that I train for, but if you ignore, the consequence will be repentance a life sentence of chains and sins,
for not keeping the score for those who’ve come before
who cried for freedom and then some,
the battle’s won but not the war,
that I train for and if you ignore, the consequence will be repentance a life sentence of chains.
It may be impossible to adequately describe the surge of shame infusing my body as it locks into full cringe position right now.
Comparing is always a harsh and mostly unproductive road to take when it comes to creativity. But here are some other people who actually rap.
Without hip hop I couldn’t be a “light MC” (not MC Lyte)! Comedy raps anyone?! I’m starting a whole series just about food. My current style:
Tapioca milk tea is what I like
I just wanna rap about it when I’m on the mic
It’s real smooth, kinda creamy with ‘piocas to savor
And a hint of tea for the motherland flavor.
Yes. I’ve traded in Nas, for Weird Al. Weird Al Rules!!!!