- Filipinos Represent: DJs, Racial Authenticity, and the Hip-Hop Nation by Antonio T. Tiongson Jr
Antonio T. Tiongson Jr.’s Filipinos Represent: DJs, Racial Authenticity, and the Hip-Hop Nation makes an important intervention into a hip-hop scholarship that to date has primarily been focused on cultural origin, authenticity, and belonging. Through insightful interviews and an innovative, composite framework of cultural studies and hip-hop studies, this book provides an up-close look at DJing and Filipino youth in the 1990s and 2000s. The bulk of Tiongson’s work here contests the largely black/white binaries that persist within the field of hip-hop studies. Through his examination of hip-hop’s racialized boundaries and of how Filipino DJs have found success despite doubt and discrimination from fellow DJs and from consumers, Tiongson questions genre paradigms and advocates for an understanding of hip-hop’s particularities and specific histories. Readers of this text will find the discussions of diaspora, appropriation, belonging, and authenticity fascinating, while learning how and why Filipino and Filipina hip-hop DJs in the San Francisco Bay Area negotiated their identities through the music and the performance art they love.
In his introduction, “Claiming Hip-Hop,” Tiongson puts forward “the now commonplace assumption that Filipinos make the best DJs in the world” (xi). The author claims that his focus on the prominence of Filipino DJs reveals how [End Page 224] DJing serves as a strategic locus for debates over narratives of race, migration, and identity (xvi). At the outset of chapter 1, “The African Americanization of Hip-Hop,” Tiongson explains that Filipinos Represent is about “the broader implications for claims of cultural origins, entitlement, and legitimacy” (3). In chapter 2, titled “The Racialization of DJ Culture,” Tiongson focuses on prominent hip-hop groups composed of many if not all Filipino members with a focus on the Invisibl Skratch Piklz (Q-Bert, Mix Master Mike, and DJ Apollo). Tiongson suggests that their innovations in mixing, beat-juggling, and scratching changed the face of DJ competitions indefinitely in terms of not only technique but also the public (racial) image of hip-hop. Moreover, Q-Bert and other Filipino DJs gained the all-important “respect” for “purportedly embodying the ‘true’ essence of hip hop” and bringing back “the original tenets of hip-hop: community, creativity, and above all fun” (31). In chapter 3, “‘The Scratching Is What Got Me Hooked’: Filipino American DJs in the Bay Area,” Tiongson begins his sociological examination of hip-hop culture primarily through interviews with Filipino and Filipina DJs. Tiongson recorded these conversations from 2002 to 2004, and much of the exchanges focus on what drew Filipino youth into DJing and hip-hop in the 1990s and 2000s. Tiongson explains that his respondents “got a taste of the power and influence of DJs in terms of controlling and taking command of a crowd” (37). In chapter 4, titled “‘DJing as a Filipino Thing’: Negotiating Questions of Race,” Tiongson finds a sense among his respondents that “hip-hop may have started out as a black phenomenon, but it has now evolved into something that encompasses the participation and contributions of multiple groups, including Filipinos” (49). In chapter 5, “The Normative Boundaries of Filipinoness,” Tiongson asserts that the involvement of Filipino youth in DJing challenges the prevalent definition of Filipino identity that is “predicated on nostalgia and (re)producing cultural linkages with an idealized homeland” (68). In the concluding section, “Reimagining the Hip-Hop Nation,” Tiongson powerfully asserts that hip-hop “has been unable to extricate itself from problematic aspects of nationalist ideology and discourse through its deployment of nation as an unmarked formation” (99).
Chapter 4 is perhaps the most interesting in terms of the author’s critical positioning and analysis of hip-hop’s racialized nature. Tiongson’s tone regarding Filipino DJ dominance wavers a bit in this chapter, switching from labeling Filipinos as “the best DJs in the world” to stating that Filipino DJs...