Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pssshhh, Ain't You Chinese?

Huong's 3/24 response

“Yeah, I’m Chinese. And what?” I think this opening line to Jin’s song, Learn Chinese represents the crux of the message he tried to get across to his audience. According to Wang, Jin “flips the race card back by embracing his racial differences and uses them to ridicule his rivals.” Listening to Learn Chinese for the first time, I didn’t pick up on some of the subtle references towards his ethnicity, but upon a closer listening, I heard the familiar pentatonic scales with the lowered 3rd scale degree playing in the background in a very twangy “Asian” way. But then over top of this very stereotypical Asian sound, Jin is rapping, “STOP, the chinks do it again/ This ain’t Bruce Lee, ya'll watch too much T.V” This creates for himself an identity as an Asian American rapper – but not one to be lumped with every other Asian American – he is unique.
I think Jin’s whole idea of uniqueness and breaking away form stereotypes really comes across in the skit titled, Chinese Beats. Again, I think this track really hammers home Wang’s argument that Jin was flipping the race card to break free from stereotypes very well. The DJ that is supplying beats for Jin is under the impression that Jin would want to have all the very oriental sounding beats and effects in his music because in all the beats that he has laid down, there are these elements. In the first beat, you can hear the stereotypical cymbals and oriental sounding instruments somehow being altered to sound even more oriental. Then again in the second beat, you can hear the pentatonic scale with a zither like instrument also being altered to make it sound more foreign and oriental. Jin rejects all the beats that the DJ has laid down and says that “I am trying to change the game.” I really like the last line of the skit, “pshh. Aint you Chinese?” said by the DJ laying down tracks of which none were picked by Jin to use. I think it throws in the face of the listener the fact that Jin is not going to be your stereotypical Asian American artist, but that he is trying to break these bounds and create his own image.

Chris A Tuesday Resp

Listening first to rapper Jin's track "Chinese Beats" and reading the skit's lyrics/conversation, I immediately picked up on Jin's use of sly humor but also, his maintenance of a distinct seriousness essential to hip-hop songs and the quintessential rapper image. Since Jin is Chinese, the opposing character in the skit who proposes multiple beats proposes all which aim to express Asian identity through the music and instrumentation. While hearing the beats the [guy] is dropping for Jin, Jin maintains his sanity and his patience in hearing these ignorant representations of 'Orientalized' music. After multiple beats resounding repetitively with synthesizers of somewhat nasally timbred plucked strings, Jin finally exclaims “I need that fire yo I need something different: I'm trying to change the game.” After one final try of a beat with the same instrumental characteristics and including a small flailing female voice, the producer displays total misunderstanding of Jin's goal in finding a beat, calling her “Chinese Caroline”: mocking the tasteless blend of cultural elements and eventually calling it absolute garbage.
In the rhythm of “Learn Chinese” (another Jin track which resonates with Asian-American self-awareness and pride), Jin's ethnic identity is conveyed through the song's lyrics as well as the musical imagery, yet the style melds more into contemporary hip-hop than those beats heard in “Chinese Beats.” In “Learn Chinese,” the beat gravitates more around the bass movement, which seems to have a uniquely twanged timbre compared to the excessively booming bass many rap beats strive for. As the chorus arrives, its distinctly plucked and highly “Orientalized” tone displays a smoother blend of cross-cultural elements, unattainable in “Chinese Beats” due to their highly Americanized sounding appearance. In lieu in extracting the Asian-American identity of the performer as the highlight of the musical instrumentation, Jin (in “Learn Chinese”) promotes his identity by conveying it within the context of the hip-hop music, adding subtle “Orientalized” instrument lines which he cleverly raps over expressing his strength in Asian-American identity. By speaking the language of hip-hoppers (using traditional contemporary templates for his songs(including a booming bass, memorable chorus, and also a verbal rap hook), his message becomes clear and resounds with the listener following a listen.
Oliver Wang, in an analysis of “Learn Chinese” highlights Jin's ability to verbally debunk cultural stereotypes of Asians in his rap. Not only are his lyrics as mainly positive on this front, but his music conveys this same point as well. Through his seemless blend of notoriously African-American hip-hop elements with some foreign, almost “Oriental” timbres, Jin is able to exact his identity as an Asian American hip-hopper in two ways: on both musical fronts. In an earlier example in this same article, Chops of the Mountain Bros. (Asian American musicians) sang, on "Invisible man": “sit in the aisle in the back of class silent//'cause I can't relate//debate is about race, today that makes me out of place//only a two-sided coin so me I'm thru trying to join...//I'm disagreein with steven believin even the blind could see//that ebony and ivory could never be applied to me" (pg 7), summing up American racial awareness and also displaying the dichotomy of race in our society. Relating directly to the lyrics of Jin, which also echo the same feeling unnecessary of disclusion in the highly dichotomous racial view of mainstream society, both lyrics attempt to attack Asian-American mis-representation in extremely clever ways. Although their commercial successes have not attainable on the large scale of superstar-dom, both groundbreaking acts definitely blaze the trail for not only Asian-American, but also, other minority musicians to show their own unique identity through song and lyrics.

the undefeated champ, the asian american lyricist: jin

In attempts to cross boundaries placed on the hip-hop industry (attributed to its origins and roots as primarily an African American art form), a large majority of Asian American hip hop artists have decided to emphasize their talents, rather than focus on their racial identity, as if not to allow their ethnicity to function as a gimmick for their success. This allows audiences to focus on their talent as an artist as a means to counteract the opinions of their critics. This phenomenon plays a role in obtaining success for other non-black hip-hop artists. I can easily recall Eminem’s debut and how hip-hop fans received him: “He’s pretty good for a white boy.” But was it the Eminem’s race that made him a successful rapper overnight, or was it the concept of his “real” or “gritty” upbringing that made him relatable to hip hop audiences?

Similar to Eminem, Jin crosses racial boundaries by becoming one of the most famous Asian American rappers. I remember watching BET’s 106 & Park each Friday to see who he would challenge and even how ecstatic I was upon his induction into the Rap Battle Hall of Fame, after being undefeated for (7) weeks. Looking back I have to question what was the “it” factor that made Jin so successful? What made audiences acknowledge his potential? Oliver Wang argues that, “[R]ather than downplaying these [racial] differences as previous rappers had, Jin strategically embraced them, drawing attention to his race, in attempt to minimize it” (Wang 55). It was no secret that Jin was Asian American and he consequently chose not to neglect his identity in his quest to become a successful hip-hop artist. Wang argues, “Jin recognized that his audience could not ignore his racial difference, and he was effectively daring potential critics to make an issue of it” (Wang 56).

Jin directly addresses his racial identity several of his rap songs; he tackles race by intending to refute stereotypes of Asians (or Asian-Americans). Listening to at least one track on Jin’s debut album The Rest is History offers substantial evidence as to how Jin goes about proving himself as a rapper. Wang’s analysis of Jin’s first single “Learn Chinese” supports the notion that Jin “racialize[s] himself without being prompted” (Wang 56). He opens the track with the line: “Yeah, I’m Chinese […] and what?” Here, Jin lays it out on the table that he is Asian and it’s almost as if he dares any contender to challenge him. The track’s rhythm is very much a typical hip-hop beat, “laced” with an Oriental riff, one would say. In addition to the music, Jin’s lines are full of countless stereotypes of the Asian, followed by lines that reject these stereotypes. Instead of the Chinese delivery man, Jin asserts this new identity of the hypermasculine Chinese man; a gangster who, in turn, represents all Asian Americans, which is portrayed through the lyrics of “Learn Chinese”: “The days of the pork fried rice and the chicken wings / coming to your house by me is over” or “and the only po-po we know / is the pigs on the hook out by the window.”

I do agree with Wang’s analysis and would even go beyond it to say that the reason for Jin’s success can be attributed to his approach and attempts to merge two identities that don’t necessarily fuse well: his Asian-American identity and rap as an African-American form of music. Whether or not this fusion functions as a gimmick, it certainly can account for Jin’s mainstream success and his existence in the rap industry. Even the title “Learn Chinese” alludes to the idea that audiences will accept Jin, as an Asian American and as a rapper.


What is Jin trying to do? What does he contribute to the rap? Well, he has demonstrated with his songs and his style that even Asian American can conform to the rules of the rap game. His style, music, and the story he tells appear to be just as contrived as any other rapper out there. He has contributed nothing but the sterotypical rapper in an Asian American wrapper.

Yes, he confronts his Asian American appearance head-on. Wang states that Jin's goal was by "tackling his racial difference head on...he attempted to get his potential audience to look past his race and focus on his talent" (Wang 57). But the problem I see here is that, we don't get any deeper than he's Chinese. What unique experience does he bring to the table other than the fact that he doesn't look like the average rapper?

"Chinese Beats" is interesting as it plays up the Asian sounds using a high pitch "ting" and picking sound that is associated with China. It's a funny skit that just repeats the same sound over and over again in a different rhythmic form. Jin goes from irritated to completely angry, as he states he's "trying to change the game" and the beatmaker keeps giving him the same thing.

"Learn Chinese" is an oversexualized, overly violent version of Chinatown. The beat grooves easily underneath Jin's witty rap with Chinese phrases and words thrown in between the chorus. The bridge consists of a chorus of women first singing and some Chinese and then immediately goes into the women singing in English about the sex appeal of "Mr. Jin" Jin tries to dispel the image of Chinese men being weak and unmasculine by surrounding himself with hoards of beautiful, exotic black and Asian women who praise him.

Well, I guess if Jin's goal was to "change the game", he hasn't changed much of it.

responding to Jin

I believe Oliver Wang is wrong when he accuses Jin of "willingly racialized himself without being prompted." It's true that "Learn Chinese" opens with the statement: "Yeah. I'm Chinese ... and what?" Oliver Wang interpreted this as both an affirmation and a challenge, effectively "daring potential critics to make an issue of it." However, even before listening to the tracks, it was my interpretation that this song wasn't starting with challenge, but a continuation of a meta conversation and his answer with a dismissal. After listening to the two tracks, which also happen to be sequential, one notices that the end of track 8(Chinese Beats) ends with the line "psh! ain't you Chinese?" This confirms my original thought that this wasn't a challenge but a response. It makes sense that Jin composes and arranges his tracks as a whole, and this was just a way to bridge two tracks.

I think that Steven and Mia's interpretations of Chinese Beats amply describes what Jin was trying to do with this track. My basic interpretation of it is that Jin doesn't want his race to be the only characteristic that people know about him. I think by having this track as a skit on the album instead of a song highlights the importance of the meaning. Jin easily could have created a song with lyrics that express the same meaning. However, often a song with a meaning hidden in the lyrics, the meanings go misinterpreted or even missed. I think by conveying his message by this skit, it would be hard for a listener to miss or misinterpret.

I find it interesting that no one thus far has offered up a full interpretation of "Learn Chinese" and that most have only focused on the first line "Yeah, I'm Chinese and what?" I admit I don't listen to rap, nor do I know anything about lyrical analysis but I thought it would be fun to try. While, I don't get the point of this message, I feel that some parts have more meaning than the literal translation. For example the chorus "Ya'll gonna learn Chinese" I don't believe it can be taken literally that someone is going to learn the language Chinese, I take this as a play on the sometimes ambiguous meaning of the word "Chinese." Does "Chinese" refer to the language or the people? I think in this case, Jin is saying he is going to educate the listener on Chinese people. The line "When the pumps come out, ya'll gon' speak Chinese" I believe this means that when you see the truth about Chinese people, it's going to be scary like going face to face with a pump shotgun, and you'll be speaking gibberish(like Chinese sounds like to most people, at least specifically to the audience Jin is singing to). This idea is reiterated with the lines "And the battle of the gun is gonna make you speak another language and amigo I ain't talking about Spanish". I see Jin as trying to break the model minority myth, to show that Asians can be dangerous, something to be feared. Jin seems to be saying, I might not be Bruce Lee but I'm still to be feared. "This ain't Bruce Lee, I watch too much TV. this is a game of death when I aim for your chest". I think the line "And the only po-po we know is the pigs on the hood out in the window" also has a double meaning. It first gives the imagery of a pig hanging outside a restaurant in Chinatown, however, pigs on the hood out in the window may be implicating a more violent scene of a policeman killed and splayed across the hood of a car. Either way, it seems with the line "the only po-po we know," seems to be saying that Asians have to look out for themselves, because they do not have law enforcement on their side. I bet that as a class we can probably do better than what I have done alone. I think it would be interesting to see what people think of some of my interpretations.

You want to say I'm Chinese/ son, here's a reminder/ check your Timberlands/ they probably say "Made in China"

“I’m no Eminem/ but I’m not wack either/
The only reason you compare me to him/
Is because I’m not black either.”
These lyrics from the song “I Don’t Know” are a clear indication of Jin’s awareness towards his Asian identity and its function in the hip-hop world. As Oliver Wang stated, “Jin was intimately aware of how race played into perceptions of him…both [he and Eminem] played up their racial difference as a way to disarm potential critics” (56).
In his song “Learn Chinese,” Jin acknowledges the issue again with his terse and introductory exclamation “I’m Chinese…and what?” According to Wang, this is both a challenge and an acknowledgement of his Asian identity, his way of “calling-out” the critics before they do it to him. The lyrics also point to a desire from Jin to establish his own place in the rap world as an MC not modeled not on others. Jin does not want to be aligned with Eminem, the other non-black rapper, but rather prefers being “China man.” Finally, he challenges Chinese stereotypes in his song hoping to create a Jin devoid of such images as a delivery boy or Bruce Lee and instead build one on the ideas he provides like, “And your girl, she love the Jin motion, rub it on her body like body shop lotion.” While he confronts the effeminate Asian male stereotype often lamented by the Asian American community, the alternative he offers is not necessarily any better. Is a nerdy, feminine Asian man any better than a hypermasculine misogynistic Asian male? In my opinion, no. It’s simply trading one bad fortune cookie for an old piece of watermelon – in other words, he switched stereotypes: “Jin failed to create an alternative to the problematic construction of black masculinity; he was merely changing the face of it” (Wang 56).
An interesting part of Jin’s “Learn Chinese” is the typical Orientalist riff he utilizes, a rhythm often associated with Asians and what was examined earlier in the year in Flower Drum Song. His intentions are unclear on whether incorporation of the stereotypical sound was meant to be satirical, but it would logically follow from Jin’s attentive lyrics and his racial awareness that he employed this background against his words for a reason. Perhaps this was his juxtaposition of traditional (or what has been traditionalized for Asian American) versus new, American’s vision of the East living in the West as oppose to Jin’s vision of the East/West embodiment.
“Chinese Beats (Skit)” offers an insight into Jin’s struggle to effectively and comfortably fuse his race and his music. His rejection of the “Chinese Beats” at the end of the track and his vocal frustration speak to the obstacles he faces: the always prevalent suggestion of using Orientalist riffs and the expectation for him to like Orientalist riffs because he is Asian. While I commend Jin for his smart rhymes, I cannot but agree with Wang on his statement concerning Jin’s face over black masculinity. His “black” masculinity does not hide the fact that women are moaning his name while embracing his “Jin motion.” Should we celebrate? The new Asian American male paradigm is a Chinatown gun-totting, sex machine. But in order to be fair, Jin’s lyrics should then be held to the standards of his peers, which, if anything at the time, were more than willing to encourage this machismo behavior. Should the responsibility fall on Jin, as an Asian American male, to uphold different virtues? Or does this suggestion just circle back to the model minority?

"Chinese Beats" and "Learn Chinese"

According to Oliver Wang’s article “Rapping and Repping Asian,” Jin has been called “the Golden Child” perhaps largely due to his success and exposure in the hip hop world. Since hip hop is an industry that has closer ties with the African American community, both Jin and other rappers such as Eminem have had a more difficult time being accepted. One reason for their success, according to Wang, is that “both played up their racial difference as a way to disarm potential critics.”

Listening to Jin’s tracks “Chinese Beats” and “Learn Chinese,” both tracks display the fact that he is Chinese very openly and address and attack some of the prejudices against being Chinese. In “Chinese Beats,” Jin displays his power and influence since the track is mainly about how he does not approve of the beats or material that he is presented with. Unlike the stereotypical images of the Asian male, Jin really asserts himself in this song and voices his opinions. By doing so, he portrays an image that is the opposite of the passive, demasculinized Asian male.

In “Learn Chinese,” Jin does add certain “Asian” elements within the music. The rhythm of this song is especially interesting. They seem to be syncopated, which is a common expectation of Eastern Music that is not necessarily true. However, in closer examination, the beats are not actually syncopated, it just sounds that way. The issue is in the 3rd beat as the rhythm goes 1, 2, 3+, 4. At times the 3rd beat is de-emphasized by using a quieter percussion instrument or left out all together. Other times, the 3rd beat is emphasized with a louder instrument. This unexpected twist creates an illusion that the beats are syncopated when they are actually fairly straightforward. This song also includes certain Asian elements such as the use of pentatonic scales in certain riffs. What’s also interesting is that the song was produced by Wyclef, so this is another example supporting the idea that non-African American rappers need African American producers to be successful.

Jin’s ethnic background is made obvious in these songs. Wang’s analysis only focuses on the lyrics and not the music itself. He states that in a way, Jin kills “the archetype of the Chinese delivery boy in favor of a hypermasculine Chinatown gangsta.” Wang also says that Jin may have portrayed Chinatown in a negative manner since he emphasizes the dangerous aspects of the neighborhood, a stigma that residents of Chinatown have been trying to get rid of for years.

I agree with Wang in that Jin does come across as hypermasculine through the use of sexual images such as. I also agree with Wang in that Jin falls into “problematic constructions of black masculinity” by rapping about being a gangster in a dangerous neighborhood. However, Jin does combat the discriminations and stereotypes placed against him and does include some aspects of his ethnicity in his music.

As for the negative images, hip hop music is a genre that portrays hypermasculinity, violence, and is demeaning to women. So unless people decide to stop buying music with these negative images and the genre changes, successful hip hop artists and artists who are trying to become successful will continue to make music with these themes.

Jin Assignment - Mia

At the turn of the century (2000), Asian American hip hop artists began to use their Asian American identities in a new way -- to influence the way their audiences perceived race. Jin, arguably the most famous Asian American hip hop artist of the past decade, “strategically embraced them, drawing attention to his race in an attempt to minimize it.” (55)

At the beginning of “Learn Chinese,” Jin states “Yeah I’m Chinese…and what?” For Wang, this is both an affirmation and a challenge to his racial identity. By blatantly calling out his heritage to the public, Jin was “effectively daring potential critics to make an issue of it.” (56) Aware that “race played into the perception of him,” Jin sought to address the issue head on. (56) With the incorporation of pentatonic scale or “oriental riff” throughout “Learn Chinese,” Jin is further identifying his ethnicity and challenging critics to comment on his ethnicity.

In “Chinese Beats” however, Jin seeks to demonstrate something different. The producer continues to play tracks for Jin that have east Asian instruments as part of the beats including the zute family of sting instruments, specifically the pipa? This skit is a parody, as the producer cannot look past Jin’s ethnicity to provide him with a beat that does not include some kind of “oriental riff.” The two go through numerous tracks, as Jin states, “thats coo' u know but I need something different yo…” But song after song has an Asian sound that Jin seeks to distance himself from.

In this sense, we see too sides of Jin: one embracing his ethnicity and the other shying away from it. He knows that by using sounds that are associated with his East Asian heritage on EVERY one of his tracks, he will begin to hurt himself as he becomes more of a novelty and becomes less “universal.” Universal is something that Jin aims to achieve as he attempts to illustrate a commonality between himself and his audiences.

Wang goes on in the article to draw comparisons between Eminem and Jin in the hip hop world. Wang boasts “Jin and Eminem prodded listeners to confront the specter of race, forcing skeptics to confront their own biases.” (57) The two hip hop artists are able to make this very sensitive issue more identifiable. Jin asks his audience to find a commonality and “rather than broadcasting these issues just to an Asian American audience he sought to educate and entertain a broad, implicitly multiracial audience.” (59)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jin and his sick skillz

As a Chinese-American rap artist, Jin acknowledges that he is not only a member of the hip-hop community but also represents Asian America as well. Unlike the Asian rappers before him, Jin embodies the new breed of Asian rappers who take the initiative and “strategically embraces” (as Wang points out) his racial differences. Jin makes his ethnicity visible to his audience—making sure his listeners know that he is not afraid of being different. As Wang points out, rap and hip-hop both have close ties with the black community. Even though this creates many difficulties for Asian American rappers, Jin’s success is proof that there can be a “viable space of acceptance and success” for future Asian American rappers.

In looking at Jin’s single, Learn Chinese as well as the skit that precedes it on his CD, we can focus on the intricacies of Jin’s music, and see how he deals with the issues of race and identity. Starting with the skit, Jin purposely brings to the forefront the racism which he faces on a daily bases. Instead of glossing over such phenomenon, Jin uses the skit, in which an individual brings to Jin some beats and demos, to show the ignorance and assumptions of those around him in the industry. As the skit opens, Jin is heard being very receptive(and possibly optimistic) of potential material—but visitors comments reveal questionable tastes. As the beats start to play the individual states “it’s like my Chinese club joint,” and later exclaims to another sample “It’s Chinese Outkast…Chinese Caroline.” All the while, Jin becomes more dismayed at the samples lack of any quality or style. (And impatience at this individual’s shallow belief that since Jin is Chinese, everything he does must be somehow Chinese as well) These samples are purposely made to sound “Orientalist,” full of discordant plucks of strings and virtually pentatonic scales. Jin is eventually fed up and proclaims “When the fuck does the beat drop?!” Followed soon by “That shit is garbage!” The other individual, in a sincerely exasperated tone (seemingly shocked that Jin, the Chinese rapper, would be so against his samples full of “Asian style”) replies”Pssssh, ain’t you Chinese?”

The track then immediately transitions over to his song Learn Chinese. The first line has Jin, almost replying to where we last left off with the individual, “Yeah I’m Chinese, and what?!” We see through the skit (its overt sarcasm and witty use of the ignorant individual) as well as Jin’s reaction and reply that he is not afraid to address the issue of race. Furthermore, as Wang states, Jin “flip[s] the race card back on his opponents by embracing his racial differences and then using it to ridicule his rivals.” (53) Even though Wang is talking specifically about Jin’s freestyle approach, we can clearly see Jin’s use of his ethnicity in order to make those who are ignorant of the complexities of race (like the individual in Jin’s skit) appear as the real loser. In doing so, Jin forces the audience to recognize his ethnicity and respect him for it.

Assignment: Analyzing Jin

Analyze Jin’s tracks “Chinese Beats” and “Learn Chinese” on his album Rest is History. Both tracks are posted on Collab. Read the lyrics:

"Chinese Beats"
"Learn Chinese"

Listen to the rhythm closely. Your analysis should focus on Jin’s expression of his ethnicity. Discuss what Oliver Wang says about Jin and “Learn Chinese.” Comment on Wang’s interpretation: you can support or challenge his claims by offering your own interpretation of Jin’s tracks.

Post your analysis on the class blog by 7pm, Tuesday March 24. And make sure that you read your peers' posts and comment whenever appropriate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wikipedia Assignment 3: Sketching a Draft

Great work, everyone! Make sure that you take the time to read everyone's post and comment on them.

Here's the list of the guiding questions that will help you formulate the next draft. Some of these questions may be more relevant than others for you.
  1. What stands out the most in your research? Is it history? Number of figures? Important figures? Dates? Representational styles? Communities? Scholarly literature? Connections to historical/social events?
  2. Which scholars/writers have written on your subject? What do they say about it?
  3. What is the significance of this genre in Asian America?
  4. How are you defining "Asian American" in your research?
  5. What strategies are these musicians (or the music industry) using to represent themselves?
  6. Is everything empirical and factually supported?
  7. Is there anything that would fall into another section?
  8. Is there anything that would fall into the introductory section?
Next Wikipedia Assignment Due: April 14, 2009. Plan ahead!

Asian American Hip-Hop

This is a very rough outline, but I've included the format that I'd like to include, as well as artists that I'd like to explore and their contributions to the hip hop community. I'm not sure if I want to include breakdancing or info about producers. I found several media clips that I'll plan to add

General History of Hip-Hop in Asian America

Timeline of Asians in Hip-Hop
Key dates
1990s emergence…politically charged groups
1995 release of Key Kool album
1998 re-emergence of music
2004 first Asian American to get signed to a major label

Influences/Contributions to the Hip-Hop Community & Culture
Fusion of traditional Asian music with American music
Transition into mainstream culture
Offering of new perspectives to Hip-Hop

Mountain Brothers
Asiatic Apostles
Yellow Peril
Seoul Brothers
Key Kool & DJ Rhemmatic
Tom Shimura

DJ Phatrick
Filipino American DJS
DJ Q-Bert

New York
Los Angeles
New Jersey

Media Outlets

Quote that I want to include in the general overview
"Hip Hop is American. I mean we're Asians, but the problem is we got to look at ourselves as American before we look at ourselves as Asians. Just because you're doing hip hop doesn't mean you're doing a black thing. You're doing an American thing", says Chung.

Le, C.N. 2009. "Martial Arts, Video Games, & Hip-Hop." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. (March 17, 2009).
Rap's freshest face is Asian American By Alona Wartofsky | Special to The Washington Post

Asian Americans and hip-hop By Oliver Wang

Traditional Asian Music

The traditional music of Asian Americans ranges from unique instruments to fanciful folk song and dance. Each region of Asia has its own distinct types of traditional music.

China: There is a vast collection of traditional music in China. String and wind instruments are an important part of much of the traditional music compositions. Examples include the pipa, erhu, banhu, suona, and guqin. Many traditional and folk musicians utilize these instruments. The variations of rhythm, beat, tone quality, and embellishments in traditional Chinese music are highly distinctive and unlike their Western counterparts. This is mainly due to the unique sounds and playing styles of traditional Chinese musical instruments. China is also renowned for its Chinese Opera. There are as many types of Chinese opera as there are dialects. The most popular form is Beijing/Peking Opera. Operas contain many aspects of performance, including acrobatics, singing, orchestra band, as well as actors and dialogue.

Japan: Japan has very diverse types of traditional music. The oldest is Gagaku. Other types include Biwagaku, Sokyoku, Nogaku, Shakuhachi, Shamisenongaku, and Minyo. All of which revolve around certain types of musical instruments. Notable instruments are the Koto and the Taiko drum. The Koto is used in Sokyoku and is a zither with 13 strings. Today, most players of the koto belong to either the Ikuta or the Yamada School. The playing techniques and sitting techniques are slightly different and certain music pieces belong exclusively to one school or another.

Taiko is the name for the small round stick drum used in Noh and Kabuki and the large stick drum that plays such an important role in Kabuki sound effects. But there are many other traditions of stick drum ranging from the smaller festival drums, to the enormous drums played with great vigor in the newer performances of Japanese percussion well known around the world.

South Asia: One major type of traditional music that originated from Inida is Bhangra. Bhangra is a lively form of folk music and dance that originates from Punjab. There is a wide variety of drums and other musical instruments that accompany Bhangra. Bhangra has also recently enjoyed a surge in popularity worldwide, both in traditional form and as a fusion with genres such as hip-hop, house, and reggae


Asian American Rock Music

From near the birth of rock music, Asian and Asian Americans have had their hands in creating extremely relevant and ground-breaking rock music. Many of these artists, through their unique styles and experimentation, have contributed major progressions in different compositional technique, purpose, and even (in the case of Japanoise) general genre creation.

Earlier Rock
FANNY – Most likely the first all-female rock band to sign with a major label - fronted by two Asian Pacific American women (Filipinas Jean/June Millington).
YOKO ONO'S PLASTIC ONO BAND - Band formed by Yoko Ono which has only recently begun to be credited with having a major influence in the progression of rock music, particularly on musicians, grossly disproportionate to its sales and visibility (much like the Velvet Underground, cohorts of Andy Warhol).
JOHN & YOKO – releasing Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins in November 1968, John Lennon and Yoko Ono collaborated to form a very progressive audio art form. Combining elements of futurism, Zen philosophy, and racial/gender equalities, the two thematicized the female body and symbolized the role of women in society through their avant-garde compositions

BLONDE REDHEAD- comprises of Kazu Kakino, Maki Takahashi, Simone Pace and Amedeo Pace and is known for its dissonant and chaotic sound. Although Takahashi has left, the band continues to record and their sixth album is due out in early 2007.
"EAR OF THE DRAGON" a compilation album of Asian American indie rock bands including Seam, Versus, Aminiature, Skankin' Pickle and J Church, is released in 1995, followed by the inevitable multi-band tour
BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS - Led by Todd Park Mohr, of German, Korean, and Native American descent
CIBO MATTO - Popular Japanese rock band touring the US
HARVEY DANGER - rock/alternative band from the late 90's which rose to fame in 1998 with “Flagpole Sitta” - includes multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lin
METALLICA- Kirk Lee Hammet (lead guitarist) of Filipino, Chinese and Irish descent
MOIST - David Usher (Thai/Jewish) was the lead singer of Moist.
NO DOUBT – ska band which hit rock superstardom in 1995 with its release "Tragic Kingdom." One of their first hit singles, "Don’t Speak," is about the end of the romantic relationship between lead singer Gwen Stefani and Indian American bassist Tony Kanal.
STATIC-X – Los Angeles alternative metal band
WIDE MOUTH MASON - Group opened for the Rolling Stones

Bow Wow Wow's- ANNABELLA LWIN OF "BOW WOW WOW - their music ranges from simple, goofy, non- sensical tunes to complex, crisp pop masterpieces. Their music has been described as a pastiche of Latin and African beats, 50's rock-n-roll, and spaghetti western soundtracks placed together with an incredible sense of humor and vigor.
COCO LEE (singer) performs "A Love Before Time," from the "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" soundtrack, at the 73rd annual Academy Awards (2001)
DEFTONES - Chino Moreno (vocals), Stephen Carpenter (guitar), Chi Chang (bass) and Abe Cunningham (drums) combines elements of punk, pop, hip-hop and traditional metal. The new album, the Deftones' sixth (including a 2005 rarities collection), presents another dynamic collision of atmosphere and metal guitar as singer Chino Moreno soars and tumbles through the ether, fueled by wonder and alienation. It is a sound both agonized and wistful, the kind of contemplative shoe-gazing rock that occurs when you're doubled over in agony.
DIALATED PEOPLES - The group DJ, Babu, is of Filipino descent and is a member of the DJ crew Beat Junkies.
ENDA – four-piece alternative rock band including Valerie Moorhead and Jennifer Yee, two Asian-American singer songwriters
HOOBASTANK - Led by Doug Robb (half Japanese/half White)
LINKIN PARK - Mike Shinoda (lead vocals / m.c.) & DJ Joseph Hahn (DJ, sampling, BG vocals) are part of this successful and popular group.
P.O.D. ("Payable Upon Death") - Asian Pacific Islander American (Guam) cousins Sonny Sandoval (vocals) and "Wuv" Bernando (drums) lead this group
Sum 41 - The band includes Dave "Brownsound" Baksh, who is of South Asian descent, and broke onto the charts in 2001 with their album “All Killer No Filler”
SUSIE SUH - upcoming artist on a major American label
TRUST CO. - Alabama-based band features guitarist James Fukai
UNWRITTEN LAW - band's eclectic blend of punk and ska features Pat Kim on bass. Their 2005 CD is titled "Here's to the Mourning."
YELLOW CARD - Ventura-based punk quintet is led by Sean Mackin - a "Hapa"
THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Lead singer Karen O is of Polish and Korean parentage, and was born in South. She is known for her livid stage antics and quirky sense of style.
RACHAEL YAMAGATA – upcoming American born/educated singer/songwriter of the new decade

Capturing the attention of not only college radio, but critics and American musicians alike, a wave of artists originating from Asia have had a profound impact and definite success operating in multiple sub-genre's in American rock music. Although the influence of these Asian musicians has no genre-bounds, one of the most prominent of these movements within the rock genre is the surge of noise bands many have come to refer to largely as 'Japanoise' These groups include:

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE - Japanese psychedelic band
AFRIRAMPO - Noise rock band from Osaka, Japan
BORIS - Japanese psychedelic/drone metal band
THE BOREDOMS – Japanese noise rock band
CUI JIAN - "Father of Chinese Rock Music combines traditional Chinese instruments and melodic sensitivities with Western rock.
DO AS INFINITY - Japan's popular hard rock band
EVERY LITTLE THING - pop rock group from Japan featuring Kaon Mochida (vocals) and Ichiro Ito (guitar)
MAD CAPSULE MARKETS - hard rock band from Japan
MELT BANANA - experimental noise band from Japan
N.E.X.T. - Korean metal, industrial, rock & techno punk band
RUINS- Experimental Japanese rock duo
ANOUSHKA SHANKAR - touring and performs classical Indian music with her father Ravi Shankar

includes Cornelius; Buffalo Daughter, who caught the eye of Luscious Jackson, followed by a contract with Beastie Boys' label Grand Royal; and Kahimi Karie.

Pizzicato Five -- currently being represented by Matador Records -- and Shonen Knife --

Other resources on Asian- Americans in Rock music:
http://www.starla.org/articles/aam.htm - Interview with James Iha, guitarist of the Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle
http://www.allaboutasians.com/asian-music5.html – An extensive list of websites focusing on Asian music and bands (underground and more mainstream)
http://www.explode.com/media/asianrock.shtml – an informative article discussing racial aspects in rock and media. An excerpt: "Due to their lack of presence in mainstream American rock, Asian American-led bands may automatically be viewed as a kind of marketing gimmick, which coincides with the recent influx of Asians in the media the last several years. However, Asian Americans have had long-standing, solid ties"

Asian American Pop

Asian American Pop

Is the genre of mainstream musicians that are Asian American. While there are few known Asian American pop stars, the numbers are swelling as more Asian Americans enter the music scene.

One of first notable Asian Americans in pop is Yoko Ono. (direct towards her homepage). While she has been branded in the media as the one who “broke up the Beatles,” her art and music career began before she met John Lennon. Her music had a feminist approach that attempted to express itself through her heterosexual relationship with John (in opposition to the then popular means of expressing it through lesbian relationships). Her goal in her art and music was also so overcome the racial barriers she encountered as a Japanese female and as John Lennon’s wife (and to some, the one who “broke up the band”).
Levitz, Tamara. “Yoko Ono and the Unfinished…’John and Yoko’”

Through the years, other Asian American pop groups or musicians have included James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins guitarist/backup vocals & solo recording artist), successful record producer Chad Hugo (Filipino) of the Neptunes, rock band member Mike Shinoda (Japanese and Russian) of Linkin Park, pop and hip-hop group member Nicole Scherzinger (a mix of Filipino, Hawaiian, and Russian) of the Pussycat Dolls, Vanessa Hudgins (a melting pot of Irish, Native American, Filipina, Spanish, and Chinese descent), the Black Eyes Peas, and William Hung.
Miyera Navarro “Missing: Asian American Pop Stars” International herald Tribune. 4 March 2007. http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/04/news/singer.php
“Is the US Ready for Asian American Pop Stars?” http://www.goldsea.com/Air/Issues/Pop/pop.html

The Black Eyes Peas include Filipino MC Apl.de.ap (usually referred to as Apl) who has incorporated Tagalog into some of his work, such as the song “Apl” and “Bebot”. According to Rachel Devitt, using Tagalog in mainstream music serves as a political and social commentary on US-Filipino (post)colonial relations and the diasporia now living in the US: “‘The APL Song,’ ‘Bebot,’ and their videos lay claim to the hip hop diaspora, employing its transnational language to interpolate the annals of hegemony with the experiences that have systematically slipped into its cracks. At the same time, the songs and their videos tap into rich Filipino lineages of (post)colonial artistic and cultural resistance. Interweaving history and historiography, swirling story around story, “The APL Song” and “Bebot” draw multiple lexicons together into a performative vernacular that speaks to just what ‘contentless’ mainstream pop music is capable of.”
Rachel Devitt “Lost in Translation: Filipino Diaspora(s), Postcolonial Hip Hop, and the Problems of Keeping It Real for the ‘Contentless’ Black Eyed Peas” Project Muse University of Washington http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/asian_music/v039/39.1devitt.pdf

The other popular Asian American pop icon has been William Hung, a contestant on American Idol who was popularized not for his talent but rather lack thereof and rejection on one of the most popular US television shows. His success has been considered to be racist, condescending, and a manifestation of all negative Asian American stereotypes (David Ng). Although Hung admits he is not popular for the right reasons, “I’m infamous, a joke” (Ng), he did acquire a fan base and produce four records.
David Ng “Hung Out to Dry: What We Laugh about when we laugh at American Idol’s most famous reject” The Village Voice; Apr 7-Apr 13, 2004; 49, 14; ProQuest Direct Complete pg. C52

Asian American Religious Music

The most important thing for me to do at this point in time is to structure my Wikipedia article so that clearly convey the important aspects of the Asian American religious music. With that, I’ve decided to divide my topic into four main religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism and then Additional Religions, which is to include smaller, but growing religions among Asian American. Since the article does is about music, I’m making it a point to explain the role music plays within each of these religions , while also including specific artists who create music for their religion as well as Asian American performers who are associated with a specific religion. Furthermore, I can’t discuss the music effectively without putting it in cultural context. One thing I am really interested in discussing is the growing number of Asian American evangelical Christians in the US, especially on college campuses. This is other topics to include Religious Life in the US, will consist of issues and address questions facing individual religions, discrimination, among other things. To give a name and a face to each specific religion, I’d like to include prominent places of worship, and people who have been Influential Leaders within Asian American religious life. Finally, one of the most important things for me to do is to make sure that I define similarities and differences between Asian American music and Asian music and how influential the latter is within the Asian American music community and religious life in general. For the most part, my article is not going to be taken from a very historical, archival perspective, but I rather seek to write this section with a more forth-looking and modern day point of view since the face of the Asian American community is constantly changing, many not having a long history here in the United States. My goal is to make the article as thorough and clear as possible, allowing one who browses the page to get an immediate grasp on the nature of prevalence of Asian American religious music on just a cursory glance. If possible, I would like to include listening samples and pictures, because the best way for me to accomplish that is with clear subtitles and opening sentences, as well as charts, graphs and pictures with subtitles.
Notes and Resources
Koti Hu
http://us_asians.tripod.com/ articles-koti-hu.html
"US ASIANS: What do you see as your role/participation in the Contemporary Christian Music industry as an Asian American?
KOTI HU: I see it as peripheral only. I do not have that strong of an ethnic identity and therefore don’t have too much of an agenda at all concerning that. I will let my music speak for itself. Anything that develops will be a byproduct of that"

Asian American evangelical Christian movement on the campus of Berkley


Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity and Ethnicity

Monolid Magazine

Christan Organizations at Harvard

Changing Dynamic of the Churches

Human Resources

Pluralism Project at Harvard University
University of Texas, music journals

Harvard Asian American Christian Fellowship

Monday, March 16, 2009

Asian American Jazz

So for my article, there already exists a wikipedia article on Asian American Jazz. However, as it exists now, it is little more than just a listing of links to other wikipedia articles on various artists. Even some of the links don't work (the article to Jordan White points to a deleted article). The links that do exist are very insubstantial (only 2 sentences on Mark Izu and a paragraph on Jon Jang). The paragraph in the article mentions the San Francisco Asian American Jazz Festival only in passing, and doesn't even provide a link.

I intend to take the current article and use it more of an outline to develop something more of it. I want to take some of the ideas presented in the articles we read in class previously and apply some analysis, rather than just a presentation of facts. I want the article to look more similar to the wikipedia article on Jazz fusion. This includes tracing the influences of Asian American Jazz, a chronology, and some text on representatives of Asian American Jazz. I also want to include information on the Asian American Jazz Festival.

Asian Americans in Classical Music

Asian Americans in Classical Music

According to Mari Yoshihara there are different classifications for Asian American Classical musicians:
Asian American
Merely a descriptive rather than political/social identity
Many are sheltered in conservatories
“discovered” by American teachers
Immigrant Geniuses
Migrant Performers
Transnational Offspring
“Hybrid” Asians

Asian American Classical Musicians
Akira Tana
Born March 14, 1952 in San Jose California
Self taught drummer
Studied Jazz drumming
Has worked with Al Cohn, Tete Montoliu, Spike Robinson, James moody, Dizzy Gillespie
Yo Yo Ma
Born October 7, 1955 in Paris, France
Took up cello at age 4
Performed for JFK, with Leonard Bernstein by age 15
Plays in Silk Road Ensemble
Known for his smooth, rich tones and well considered for his virtuosity
Has won several Grammys for various works on albums
Midori Goto
Born October 25, 1971 in Osaka, Japan
Taught violin by her mother
Moved to New York to study at Juilliard
Legendary performance at Tanglewood at 14
Sarah Chang
Born December 10, 1980 in Philadelphia, PA
Admitted to Juilliard School at 6
By 8 was accepted to play with New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra
Kyung-wha Chung
Born Mrach 26, 1948 in Seoul, South Korea
Fame peaked in 70s when she was performing with Zukerman and Perlman
By age 9 was playing with Seoul Philharmonic
Moved to US at 13 to study at Juilliard
Margaret Leung Tan
Born in 1945 in Singapore
Studied at Juilliard at 16
Most famous for performing on toy pianos and other unconventional instruments
Pioneer in prepared piano playing
Met John Cage in 1981 and worked together for 11 years

Asian Americans in Spoken Word

*Note that the wikipedia entry on spoken word is cited in several places. Because of a lack of sources cited in that entry, other sources of information will be used to appropriately update the wikipedia citings.
Also note that artist descriptions were taken directly from each artists' respective website. More critical views of each artist will be searched for and used to update descriptions.

What is Spoken Word?

Defining spoken word is a difficult task. To some, the term is very closely related to performance poetry. Other consider this art form to be much more. The writers at SpokenOak contend that spoken word has "no simple, singular definition" for spoken word. However, they write that "for the sake of scholarly study" and "federal arts funding", the following definition of spoken word is useful:

"A category of performance art to encompass any new seriously developed genre or traditional form that is primarily word-based & is not exclusively Music, Theatre or Dance but may include collaborations with other non-word-based art genres or works created in collaboration with artists from non-word-based disciplines."

Wikipedia also suggests that all spoken word contain "the common element ... protest and a critical or corrective tone." Answers.com differentiates between performance poetry and commentary of a political and social nature.

Origin of Spoken Word

Finding the history of spoken word is also a difficult task. According to spoken word's wikipedia entry, spoken word developed out of the poetry slams, or cabaret-style duels between poets, of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Why spoken word in an entry about music in Asian America?

Some would say that spoken word has nothing to do with music and should not be included in this wikipedia entry. However, as stated above, the definition of spoken word is very difficult to pin down. Also, some spoken word prominently features aspects of music performance, though this fact does not need to be emphasized in order to justify the inclusion of spoken word within the framework of music in Asian America. Rather the flexible and encompassing definition of spoken justifies its inclusion.

Asian Americans in Spoken Word

Several notable Asian Americans in spoken word perform. Many perform with a special emphasis on issues of race and culture in America. Below is a short list and description of notable Asian Americans involved with the art of spoken word.

Yellow Rage

Michelle and Catzie are a dynamic duo of Philly-based Asian American female spoken word poets. Through their voices, Catzie and Michelle hope to provide an awareness that is not often heard. Exploring topics from fetishes to cultural appropriation to ethnic pride, Yellow Rage challenges mainstream misconceptions of Asianness.

Giles Li

Giles Li is a spoken word performer based in Boston. He is affiliated with community groups both locally and nationally to work for social change.

His experience and leadership within Asian American communities has led to his having been quoted as an expert on Asian American community issues in many publications, including the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and Oakland Tribune. Most recently, he appears in the book The Snake Dance of Asian American Activism: Community, Vision, and Power.

Kelly Tsai

Throughout her evolution as a writer, performer, filmmaker, and multidisciplinary hip hop theater artist, Kelly constantly strives to broaden the impact and reach of spoken word poetry in its efforts to transform political realities, revolutionize arts and entertainment, and empower audiences across the globe.


Long live giles li.
http://www.gilesli.com, 16 March 2009.
SpokenOak. http://www.spokenoak.com, 16 March 2009.
"Spoken-word", Answers.com. http://www.answers.com/topic/spoken-word, 16 March 2009.
"Spoken Word", Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoken_word, 16 March 2009.
Yellow Rage. http://www.yellowrage.com, 16 March 2009.
Yellowgurl.com : Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai. http://www.yellowgurl.com/bio, 16 March 2009.

Asian Americans in Musical Theatre

Musical Theatre

Anything Goes (1934)
• Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
• Takes place in various locations on an Ocean Liner (www.ibdb.com)
• Characters: Ching and Ling
o Two Chinese ‘Converts’ and reformed gamblers who accompany the Bishop
• Character Sir Evelyn also admits to a one-night stand with a young Chinese woman in Act II

South Pacific (1949)
• Rodgers and Hammerstein
• Set in two islands in the South Pacific during WWII
• Based on James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific
• Musical won Pulitzer Prize for Drama 1950
• Main theme is not traditionally of that island, but more of what Rodgers imagined to evoke the island feel (PBS documentary on Broadway)
• “Bali Ha’i”
o sung by Bloody Mary, who is an islander
o she is often cast as Black but is supposed to be Asian or Pacific Islander

The King and I (1951)
• Rodgers and Hammerstein
• Set in and around the Royal Palace in Bangkok (“Siam”) in the 1860’s (www.ibdb.com)
• Based on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, which was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens
• Story of an English governess who goes to Siam to teach the king’s children
• Integrates European culture with Siamese elements “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You,” “Shall We Dance”

Flower Drum Song (1958)
• Rodgers and Hammerstein musical
• Based on the novel of the same name by C.Y. Lee
• Story is about Asian and Asian American cultures and the differences in these cultures, set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the present time
• Features 4 main characters:
o Linda Low (Americanized female)
o Sammie Fong (Americanized male)
o Mei-Li (not Americanized female)
o Want Ta (not Americanized male)
• “Chop Suey”
o “Song that celebrates American culture as defined by a white popular culture, not the ethnic pluralism that the title suggests” (Wang, Oliver. “Between the Notes: Finding Asian America in Popular Music”)
• “I Enjoy Being A Girl”
o About the stereotypical qualities of an American girl
• Musical emphasizes the importance of such “Asian” qualities as honor, family, and background

Miss Saigon (1991)
• Lyrics by Alain Boublil, Richard Maltby, Jr.; Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg
• Set during Vietnam War
• Based on Puccini’s Madama Butterfly
• About an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War who falls in love with Vietnamese prostitute
• Controversy: Casting European American actor, Jonathan Pryce, to play Eurasian pimp (Wei, William. “Who Am I? Creating an Asian American Identity and Culture”)
o Asian American Theatre Company protested
o “Cameron Mackintosh and his associates maintained that casting Pryce in the lead was purely an artistic decision”
• Originally starred Lea Salonga (Filipino singer and actress)
o She went on to play both Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables, both traditionally European roles (www.ibdb.com)
• Inclusion of Vietnamese traditions – “The Ceremony (Dju Vui Vai)”
• Also features various images of the American Dream – “The Movie in My Mind”
• Ends with the main Asian female character, Kim, committing suicide so that her American lover (and husband), Chris, would be forced to take their son back to the States

Avenue Q (2003)
• Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
• Won Tony for Best Musical in 2004 (www.ibdb.com)
• Original musical, satire and political humor, set in present day (2003)
• Details the lives of various characters, both human and puppets, who live on Avenue Q
• Character: Christmas Eve
o Asian American, married to Brian, who is a white male
o Japanese, therapist with no clients (song “It Sucks to be Me”)
o Has an Asian accent and some grammar issues throughout the show
• “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”
o Song is about racial slurs and discrimination coming from everyone
o Christmas Eve has a part complaining of the term “Oriental” and how it is “offensive to me”
o They mention in the song that the correct term is “Asian American”
• “It Sucks to be Me”
o Christmas Eve has a solo
o “It suck to be me! I say it Sucka-Sucka-Sucka…”
• “The More You Ruv Someone”
o Christmas Eve song
o Highlights her Asian accent (absence of the “l” sound in some Asian languages results in the “r” sound)

Asian Americans in R&B

Asian Americans in R&B

There are two types of Asian American artists in the R&B genre: the Asian American artists who choose to control their image and ethnicity in attempts to appeal to a broader audience to achieving mainstream success AND the Asian American R&B artists who openly discuss ethnicity and identity through their music.

(1) Asian American R&B Artists who control their Asian identity

Popular artists such as Cassie, and Amerie are more well known it seem as a result of their efforts to downplay their racial differences and appeal to a larger mainstream audience.

Similar to that of Hip Hop, many R&B artists of Asian decent have found that “listeners hear them differently on whether they’re already known to be Asian American.” (Wong 252) In this way, the R&B artists who are Asian American try to control listener’s initial perception to their sound in an attempt to achieve mainstream success. These artists acknowledge that it is harder to receive the claim that her other counterparts (black and some white) do if they incorporate their ethnicity into their music. Hip hop group The Mountain Brothers, relate similarly with R&B artists looking for mainstream success in stating that

We avoid initially making explicit references to ethnicity so that we can be given a fair unbiased listen based on the merits of our music, lyrics and style, as opposed to avoiding making explicit references to ethnicity so that we can pass for Black. (Wong 252)

Like the Mountain Brothers in Hip Hop, Asian American artists trying to get into or already in the mainstream, fail to comment on their Asian ethnicity and heritage in the hopes of appealing to a bigger audience to achieve mainstream popularity and success.

Mainstream artists like Cassie, who’s father is Filipino and mother is Caribbean, Mexican and Native American, does not make any explicit references to her father’s Asian heritage or its influence on her music and identity. Her big hit “Me & U,” released in 2006, sold over 1 million digital downloads and was a dance club success (Cohen). “Me & U” does not make any references to Asian culture and could be sung by a number of R&B artists of various ethnic backgrounds as the song pertains to a typical heterosexual relationship situation experienced by all ethnicity.

Other R&B artists such as Amerie, create similar music in which discussion of their ethnicity is limited and songs with themes of love, hate and relationships in which any two people could be place into the situation are sang about more often.

Amerie who’s father is African American and mother is Korean has allowed her the ability to move between identities, sometimes embracing her Asian heritage singing in Korean and other times embracing her African American heritage appealing to urban radio airwaves and competing with non-Asian artists such as Ashanti and Tweet.

Interesting, many of the best known and most popular Asian American musical artists tend to be multiracial Asians ('hapas')… Successful multiracial Asian solo artists include Norah Jones (Asian Indian and White), Michelle Branch (Indonesian and Irish), and Amerie (Korean and African American). Many believe that record executives feel multiracial Asian American artists are more "culturally acceptable" or "marketable" to American consumers and therefore are more eager to promote them than monoracial Asian American artists. (Writers, Artists, Entertainers: Asian Nation)

The generalization of her songs topics is common among R&B artists. In singing about common love issues, Amerie is able to appeal to a greater audience and achieve success. BUT she also keen to incorporate some Asian features into her music, whether is being the Korean language or symbolism in her music videos. Interestingly enough, these Asian images are used to displaying attractive exoticism that is intriguing to mass culture.

Both of these artists are of Asian decent and another ethnicity. Being mixed allows these artists to highlight one identity over another when they feel necessary. More often, it is the African American identity that is highlighted as R&B is typically seen as originating from African American culture.

Cassie “Me & U” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6EJZtQjiYA
Amerie “One Thing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa1qaAcJG70
Amerie “Touch” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs0tub17v3E&feature=PlayList&p=6D45D545ACE74C23&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=17

(2) Asian American R&B artists who incorporate their Asian identities into their Music

These artists and bands are typically less well-known because their musical aesthetics and politics are applicable to a smaller audience, usually Asian Americans or smaller niche audiences.

-ROSE ANN DIMALANTA - Vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter

"I'm not accepted by the Black culture because I'm Asian, and I'm not accepted by Asian people because I'm not 'Asian'. Let's face it, who is the racist here?" says Kevin So. "Asian American artists have to create a thing, [where] artists have to band together and work together to create a show worth seeing. The people who are complaining about it - they got to come out and support people. If you want to see change and you're too busy to do the change yourself, then you've got to do at least something."
“Rhythem” Christine Chen
Kevin So and Midnight Snack “A Brighter Day”

-JENI FUJITA - Japanese "Teena Marie" who worked w/Wyclef Jean
“She stole the show by singing Japanese lyrics over a seductive reggae beat. Wyclef, Lauryn Hill and the recently pardoned John Forte were also fans of her distinctive voice, and they all tapped her to sing background vocals on their albums.”
Entertainment Weekly (http://margeauxs-mix.ew.com/2009/01/jeni-fujita-ind.html)

-GERRY WOO - was signed with Polydor in 1988, issued one LP Listen To My Heart, sang on one track on the UCLA Gospel Choir's CD and reappeared as Harlemm Lee who won on Debbie Allen's TV Show on NBC.
“Rebirth of Gerry Woo” AARising used to have an article but it got taken off the internet

-IBU – “IBU has been called Chicago's hottest male vocal group by WGN Channel 9 and was introduced as "Asians with Soul" by Chicago's power 92.3FM, IBU is different from the most pop/R&B groups. This three member group delivers such rich harmonic sound that makes them different from the other boy bands. IBU can perform a cappella, they sing with acoustic guitar accompaniment, they perform with instrumental tracks, have choreographed numbers, and they break dance on stage too. It’s the complete package that makes IBU a truly entertaining group.”

I’m sure there are more…if anyone found anything let me know!!

Sources and Websites:

Cohen, Johnathan. “Diddy: Cassie CD Will Catch People ‘Off Guard.’” Billboard.Com. April 7th 2008. NY. Date accessed: 3/15/09 < http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003786642 >

Le, C.N. 2009. "Writers, Artists, & Entertainers." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. (March 16, 2009).

Wong, Deborah. “Speak it Louder”

Afro Asia By Fred Wei-han Ho, Bill Mullen pg 306