Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

Too Much Of A Good Thing Sometimes Is Better Than You’d Think!

His name is not Jeff.

I’m recovering from a minor operation, just maxin and relaxin with Skelaxin. The web looks much better in all these new colors.

Big shout out to the folks at Asia Pacific Arts Online Magazine, who were perhaps a little too generous with their space for me this month. But not for my man O-Dub, who gets three sections to drop just a tiny portion of his wisdom on freelancing, race, Asian American music, and a gazillion other things. This is a must-read.

BTW the editors promise that there is action video on the way which will also conclusively and definitively prove that Oliver and me are not the same person. Another conspiracy theory foiled.

But for real, it’s an awesome issue, also featuring a Who’s Who of Asian American arts critics. (Which reminds me: We want a 10-page interview with Ben Fong Torres!) Plus Tokyo Drift, Dante Basco, and the indomitable, invulnerable, uncanny, ever-loving Wendy Wu (Brenda Song), who reportedly has stolen the hearts of all the elementary and pre-school-age Asian Americans in the East Bay.

Best of all, there’s a big package on our homie Keith Tamashiro. You can still get info on donating to Keith’s recovery fund at his Myspace page. Get well, brother!

posted by @ 12:10 pm | 11 Comments

11 Responses to “Too Much Of A Good Thing Sometimes Is Better Than You’d Think!”

  1. Danyel says:

    get well soon.


  2. ronnie brown says:

    west and wewax, my friend.

  3. ronnie brown says:

    The Asia Pacfic Arts interview of Oliver Wang posed three questions that struck me as a cultural form of “penis envy”.

    1. Is it a matter of time before we see an Asian soul phenomenon?

    2. Do you think hip-hop from Asia will ever be popular here?

    3. As rap grows in appeal so rapidly, how would you address the opinion that African-Americans have more legitimacy or ownership of rap or hip-hop?

    …and this notion of jazz and blues being “deracialized”…not a good look.

    comments later.

  4. Oliver says:

    NAGL in terms of the fact that it’s happened? Or NAGL in terms of suggesting that it has?

  5. ronnie brown says:

    I consider both those notions (no offence to you, of course) questionable.The popularity of any art form in no way negates the legitimacy/influence of the founders that created it. No doubt blues and jazz are not, at present, the cultural vanguard of the Black community. Sure, more white folks have taken an interest in jazz and blues and are currently the primary audience in terms of supporting live shows and such…but how does that translate into being deracialized? Who’s gonna turn history on it’s head and declare that Black folk didn’t create these art forms. You’d have to be pretty ballsy to do that.

    my thoughts on the rest of the interview when i get back…

  6. ronnie brown says:

    as i was sayin’…the nature of the questions seemed to imply that the “Blackness” of Hip-Hop (or R&B or any other Afro-based art form) was somehow an obstacle to Asians maximizing their participation in the culture. When you ask, will we see a “Asian soul phenomenon” anytime soon?, or will Hip-Hop from Asia will ever be popular in the U.S?…aren’t you really asking, “WILL IT BE POPULAR WITH (or embraced by) BLACK PEOPLE?”…for me, this is the underlying anxiety that prompts such questioning.

    Bottom line, Black people will ALWAYS be the gatekeeper of the art forms that come from our community…But that’s never stopped Black folks from giving proper due to those non-black folk who have taken up black musical styles and done them right!

    That’s the difference between a Teena Marie, a Hall and Oates, an Average White Band and a Michael Bolton or a Justin Timberlake. “Soul Music” is more than trying to approximate a feeling or vocal inflection…It’s about conveying an affinity for the PEOPLE, the community that gave birth to it…and it’s that difference that makes one either a shameless appropriator of the culture or one who has been truly been inspired of it.

  7. Chris says:

    Wow, what an interesting discussion… I was originally from Malaysia and I’ve heard of Chinese hip-hop. Do I like it? Yeah… kind of… Do I think it’ll be big in the US? Probably not, but it’s definitely something different. At the very least, the music videos and lyrics are less vulgar and “woman-izing” (if I may use that word).

    Sometimes I get really confused because many of these Asian artists didn’t grow up on the “streets,” but they’re pretending that they did… If you guys have a chance, check out Jay Chou’s and Wang Leehom’s so-called “chinked-out” music. It’s pretty cool… The music genre is a hybrid… and it has a combination of Chinese traditional music + hip-hop beats.


  8. Oliver says:


    This is what I said in the interview: “what’s happened in that process, is not simply have those genres become open to different races, in some ways, it’s deracinated, the idea that somehow race has been evacuated and sucked out of those things. So people forget that blues comes out of a very specific historical context of African Americans, the same way that jazz does as well. So the danger is that, in terms of, yes, you want to create a space where you can embrace more things, but you don’t want to erase the history and the sense of tradition in that process.”

    My point was not, and never has been, that the POPULARITY of an artform = its deracination. What I was saying is that there exists commonly held histories of blues and jazz that have consciously ERASED their fundamental connections to Blackness and Afro-diasporic traditions.

    Moreover, when you confront these revisionists, they want to cite the multiracial appeal of the artforms as some kind of “proof” that they are no longer intrinsically tied into Blackness. The pretzel logic is astounding. And of course, incredibly problematic.

    This is something you note, something that I also thought was articulated pretty well in the first chapter of Imani Perry’s recent book on race and hip-hop but there’s no real contradiction is describing an artform as both hybrid AND African American. I think there’s been attempts at making the two mutually exclusive as a way to enact some kind of “un-strategic anti-essentialism” (if I may butcher Lipsitz here) that wants to free up different forms of culture without having to acknowledge power relations and history in that process.

  9. Crizuphesia says:

    Hey all,

    This might be a little out of the topic, but I just want to let you all know that there’s a brand new channel on DirecTV called MTV CHI. I watch it religiously because after I moved to the US 3 years ago, I can hardly find any channel that plays primarily Chinese music (Mandarin pop, Canto-pop, K-pop and J-pop).

    If you guys have some down time, be sure to check out its website… http://WWW.MTVCHI.COM … I just discovered that they’re also on (the display name is “mtv chi”), as well as their own Xanga page. We all have to support them cuz they’re doing something great and definitely historical!!!

    Asian power!!!


  10. ronnie brown says:

    I understood what you said…completely. But what i should have been more clear on is what i took issue with; namely, your notion that jazz and blues have been “in some ways deracinated”. I was left with the feeling that you had declared it an ESTABLISHED FACT…rather than what i believe to be a more accurate description of the situation…that there have been ATTEMPTS by certain cultural revisionists to divorce jazz and blues from its Black roots.

    …also, if these revisionists cite “multiracial appeal” as proof, isn’t that just another way of saying “popularity = deracinated”?

    and just because i’m feeling a lil’ naughty this morning, i’mma throw this question at ya: 1. Are YOU looking for an Asian soul phenomenon?…and what would be the qualities that would make them phenomenal?…2. do you think hip-hop from Asia will ever be popular here?… if yes, what audience will make it so?

  11. ronnie brown says:

    Oliver, some of the questions in this interview bothered me on a number of levels…so i’m compelled to offer additional commentary…

    to the question, “Do you think that non-black artists have a harder time becoming rappers?”…you said yes…and then you added, “the question becomes, is that fair?”…so i ask myself, say you flip that question…a black guy wants to take up sumo wrestling; 99.9% of the time he’s not going to respond to any potential resistance or skepticism on the part of the Japanese as a matter of “fairness”. On the contrary, he’s going to expect to judged more strictly because he is an outsider. He knows that there’s going to be a cultural gauntlet he’s gonna have to pass through. Why? because that’s gonna determine whether he seriously respects the art form or is just a carpetbagger lookin’ for a cheap thrill.

    Every ethnic group exercises a reverential “ownership” over their culture. It’s what make us unique among one another. Our food, language, our traditions; it’s our own “holy ground” so to speak. When an American Indian takes offence because a pro sports team uses an element of his culture as a “mascot” it’s his reverential ownership that’s being offended. So no matter how popular Hip-Hop becomes globally the reverential ownership that Black people hold over the art forms we create will forever remain constant.

    If Asians wanna jump into Hip-Hop…great; do ya thing!…Do Asians get a free pass in regard to proving their legitimacy to the BLACK PEOPLE (African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latinos) who created the art form?…nope.

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