Rapping and Repping Asian…

April 16th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

“Rapping and Repping Asian: Race, Authenticity, and the Asian American MC.” Alien Encounters : Popular Culture in Asian America. Ed. M. Nguyen, T. Tu. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007: 35-68.

Anthology essay (solicited, refereed).

Discusses the history of Asian American rappers, from the late 1970s and through the early 2000s, paying special attention to the ways in which these artists negotiate the challenge of racial authenticity as non-Black/non-White participants.

Background: My interest in Asian American rappers began in the early 1990s as a matter of personal curiosity. I was Asian American. I was a hip-hop fan. Ergo, when I began to read about Asian Americans making the jump from fan –> performer, I was intrigued. Then, when I began my journalism career in the mid-1990s, writing for both ethnic and music press, it made sense to integrate the two by writing on this emergent wave of Asian American rappers. I followed (as best I could) trends within that community through the early ’00s and graduate school allowed me to bring new sets of critical tools to thinking on and writing about the topic.
This essay was therefore a culmination of many years of thinking about the politics of race, representation and identity amongst Asian American rappers, beginning as early as the late 1970s and bookended in the “present” with the emergence of Jin in the early ’00s. Of course, Asian American rappers have gone onto evolve in myriad ways since then (but that’s another essay awaiting to be written.)

Trapped In Between The Lines…

February 8th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

“Trapped In Between The Lines: The Aesthetics of Hip-Hop Journalism.” Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop. Edited by Jeff Chang. New York: Basic Civitas. 2007.

Anthology essay (non-academic).

Traces the history and evolution of hip-hop journalism/criticsm from the early 1980s through present day. Looks at the relevance of publications such as The Village Voice, Source, XXL, ego trip and modern blogging.

Background: This isn’t a formal academic essay but I took a scholarly approach to researching and writing on how I suggest hip-hop journalism has changed over the course of over 20 years. I sifted through a good deal of magazine back issues (all this in the days before Google Books!), as well as drawing upon my own background in the field from the mid-1990s forward. Ironically, while this essay was being written at a time where many of my colleagues knew that the internet was changing the infrastructure of the journalism industry, it didn’t come out until such a time where that industry was collapsing at a perilous rate. It says much that for an essay published in 2007, what I describe feels downright anachronistic just two years later when the landscape has been so brutally transformed.

Book Review of “Hollywood Asian”…

January 8th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink


Book review of Hye Seung Chung’s Hollywood Asian: Philip Ahn and the Politics of Cross-Ethnic Performance. International Journal of Communication, 1(1), 2007.

Book review in journal (solicited, refereed).

Reviews Chung’s “critical biography” of Korean American actor Philip Ahn and his long career in Hollywood playing a variety of “Asian” roles.

These Are The Breaks…

November 8th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

“These Are The Breaks: Hip-Hop and AfroAsian Cultural (Dis)Connections.” AfroAsian encounters : culture, history, politics. Ed. H. Raphael-Hernandez, S. Steen. New York: NYU Press, 2006: 146-64.

Anthology essay (solicited, refereed).

Discusses hip-hop as a symbolic space through which Asian/African Americans encounter one another with both progressive and regressive results.

Background: I was approached to write this essay by Dr. Steen because it was felt that their anthology needed something about how hip-hop spoke to this core idea of interracial encounters between African and Asian Americans. Writing the essay came at an ideal, though challenging time, since I was rethinking many of my previous assumptions about the nature of Afro-Asian relations and beginning to examine some of the difficult lines of fracture that ran through previously idealized narratives of solidarity. Especially since this essay’s writing was timed during the explosion of press around the Chinese American rapper, Jin, there was a backlash of sorts in effect, critiquing how Jin was being framed as the Asian David in a community of Black Goliaths. Combining that with some other experiences of racial tensions, I try to explore how hip-hop serves as an important – but uneven – terrain on which African and Asian Americans interact and negotiate social relations.

Between the Notes…

November 8th, 2001 § 0 comments § permalink

Between the Notes: Finding Asian America in Popular Music.” American Music, 19(4), Winter 2001.

Journal article (solicited, refereed).

Examines how trends in Asian American popular music-making reflects changes, tensions and aspirations within the Asian American community from the 1970s until present.

Background: This essay, my first published piece of academic work, represented a culmination of nearly 10 years spent researching the politics of identity amongst Asian American musicians. As an undergraduate and graduate student – as well as arts journalist – I had interviewed many Asian Americans involved in jazz, folk and hip-hop and used this essay as an opportunity to lay out ideas about how those musicians perceived the role of race and identity within their work. Asian American music is still largely understudied and theorized in my opinion (the excellent work of my mentor Deborah Wong excepted) and especially with the seeming explosion of musical interest in a younger generation of Asian Americans during the ’00s, there’s many new ideas to bring into that conversation.