Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Golden Yellow Age of Hip Hop: Yellow is the Colour of Sunlight

Now that I've been linked by the venerable Soul Sides, I considered hanging up my blogging hat: there's just nothing left to achieve (Soul Sides! Me! Holy shizz!).

After I woke back up from nearly passing out in excitement, it dawned on me that many of the writers I read concentrate on soul/funk/jazz/hip hop/etc, and a good majority of them are Asian. O Dub, Hua Hsu, Jeff Chang, Junichi Semitsu (more pop culture than music, save for the Dixie Chicks), etc. A growing number of influential hip hop artists are Asian: members of the Skratch Pikels, Kid Koala, Dan the Automator, the entire country of Japan breakdancing their asses off, etc. Seeing as how none of us would ever dream of ending up in the media save for becoming a Survivor contestant (my theory is that they'd never let us on Fear Factor because, well, we eat everything - I swear I saw an episode where the challenge was eating a Chinese 1,000 year old egg, which we all know goes well with pickled ginger), just wtf are we doing in the media at all?

I don't have any clearcut answers to this, apart from it being sheer coincidence, and I'm certainly not equipped to launch into any exploration of race politics. I posited the question to Frank Litorco, fellow Asian journalist:

"Here's the conundrum: The Asian MCs, DJs, even the breakdancers don't want to really talk about it, and the Asian writers don't want to really write about it. Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos - you name it, they're all representin' in wicked ways. The funny thing is we may very well be in this golden age of "chopstick" hip hop, but who's going to say anything? (Yeah, I know - Filipinos don't really use chopsticks.)"

Leave yr theories in the comments.


  1. Interesting question and I would suggest that this might be a generational issue. I actually have written QUITE a deal on Asian Americans involved in hip-hop (as rappers, DJs, etc.) and so have some of the other writers you've mentioned. The thing is: I haven't done it in a few years (Jin's been the only exception). I did the bulk of my API hip-hop-related journalism in the 1990s and since then, I haven't had the same interest in continuing to report on it. It's not that the topic is no longer relevant but at this moment, I don't have anything new to add about it.

    That doesn't mean that younger writers aren't in a position to cover it however and I definitely don't think the topic has been done to the point where there's nothing new to say about it. But almost all the writers you mentioned came up in my generation as well and without trying to speaking for friends of mine like Jeff and Hua, my guess is that most of us just don't have anything new to add.

    But the writing is out there even if it's not as contemporary as possible. I think it'd be great to see a new generation of writers pick up and starting reporting on the new movements of APIs in hip-hop since I'm certain while somethings may seem the same since the '90s, other things have changed quite dramatically.


  2. Btw,

    I've also found that most of the artists themselves are more than happy to talk about race/ethnicity but many of them don't wear it on their sleeve. However, the same could be said of rap artists writ large, including Black artists. We're not in the same kind of politicized/identity era of hip-hop anymore compared to when I first got involved back in the early '90s.