Reclaiming Asian hip-hop
When we think of hip-hop, we usually think of big names such as Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Tupac. Yet, Friday night’s Asian Hip-Hop Summit opened viewers’ eyes to what may have seemed to many as uncharted territory.
In its last stop on the tenth anniversary tour across the Eastern United States—including college campuses such as Davidson College, Illinois Wesleyan University and Princeton University—the collaborative concert brought an array of Asian American hip-hop artists to the Hill’s very own LoPo. The event, which previously helped bring forth the wildly successful Far East Movement, featured Yellow Boyz, Lyricks, Decipher and Smokes in a celebration of cultural dynamism, campus unity and musical energy.
The two-hour show began with raps from the College’s Hip-Hop Alliance, who set the stage for the four Summit groups. The room instantly ignited with flashing lights, music videos projected from the wall and a crowded dance floor. It was the Hill’s own little dance club with the power of live talent.
The music varied from sampled beats of Lil Wayne and Lloyd Banks to original productions, yet the rapping remained unique for each track. From Yellow Boyz’ catchy “Millionz” to Decipher’s ground-shaking “Decipher That,” the crowd had its hands in the air and feet moving. While some of the lyrics touched uniquely on Asian culture, much of them expressed universal messages, such as the desire for success.
According to the artists, it was one of the best stops on the tour, claiming that the Hill brought some of the most energy they had seen. This was due not only to the crowd on the dance floor but also to the students in the pub, who added another level of vivacity to the atmosphere. Looking at the audience made it hard to believe that Asian hip-hop has not found more success in popular U.S. musical culture. Lloyd Liang, president of the Asian Cultural Society, voiced his opinion on the paradox: “I have no idea why [it’s] not as popular. Maybe when [people] see an Asian singing hip-hop, they don’t expect something good so they don’t look into it...[and therefore] it’s not spread out. African American hip-hop is known to everybody [and is] usually more main stream.” Korean artist Smokes expressed this very sentiment at the show, saying, “They said I couldn’t make it because I’m an Asian rapper.” However, the music spoke for itself, and the reaction of the crowd showed an enthusiasm for the rhymes and bass-dropping beats.
For Liang and the Asian Cultural Society, bringing the Summit to the College was as much about fostering community on campus as it was about introducing new music. As Liang said, one of the main goals was “to form a collaboration with various clubs on campus and basically to reach out to the Colby community.” Multiple campus groups were involved in the tour’s arrival, including Outings and Activities for Students Initiating Sobriety, the Ralph Bunche Society, the Hip-Hop Alliance, the Student Government Association and the Pugh Community Board. The collaboration of clubs culminated in the performance Friday night, where Liang said he hoped to spread a “new vibe to hip-hop.” Most of the students seemed to welcome this new vibe with open arms. As rapper Lyricks said, “We have real music, real artists and real hip-hop.” And that is just what the Hill got.