THINKIN' OUT LOUD...|
Where the Race Commission
needs to be
Intellectuals talk about it, authors write about it and journalists try
to analyze it, but the subject of race and race relations is something
that has always been hard to come to grips with. Last year, President
Clinton set up an advisory board to talk about the issue, and while John
Hope Franklin, the chairman of the race advisory commission, runs around
the country trying to address the issue, one of the places his board
should go and visit, but wonít go, is the club scene.
On Friday afternoon, I went by the Storyville Jazz Club in the Fillmore
district of San Francisco, and all I could see was a mix of different
races and people partying to the smooth listening sound of the band.
White and Asian couples were at the bar bopping their heads and tapping
their feet to the drum. Groups of blacks were sitting down and talking
about their troubles and plans for the weekend. The thought of race
relations and hostile racial confrontations were the furthest things
from peoplesí minds as they intermingled with each other.
As I sat back and marveled at the scenery, I thought about the common
thing that brought them together. It was the smooth sound of the jazz
music, a black art form, that had the people enjoying themselves. These
people were of different races and occupations, like bankers, lawyers,
construction workers and secretaries. They came from different
neighborhoods and different educational backgrounds, but they all had
one thing in common. They wanted to relax, party and have a good old
The smooth sound of jazz was mellowing, as people talked amongst each
other, but I wanted to feel something that would pick me up. So I left
Storyville and I drove up the street to another Fillmore hangout, the
Justice League, which is a hip hop and dance club. Once there, I was on
hand for the record release party for DJ Honda, a Japanese hip hop DJ
As the deep pounding base of the rap music went out over the speakers, a
large throng of young Asian and white faces danced to the beat, waiting
in anticipation for DJ Honda to appear. Although I wasnít in a club
setting that I normally would have been in, I felt comfortable being one
of the few black faces in the place. I walked behind the stage where I
met DJ Short Kut, a Filipino DJ from San Francisco, on the wheels of
steel (the turntables), playing Biggie Smalls, a black rapper, to the
youthful mixed crowd.
ěI was attracted to the soul of hip hop,î said Short Kut, as he looked
through his record stack.
Short Kut said rap music and its culture of hip hop, which was started
by blacks in New York during the 1970ís, had a major influence on him
growing up. He went from being a b boy (a breakdancer), to being a DJ,
and he said that through the music, he learned to appreciate black
people and other people that he didnít interact with.
At a recent hip hop DJ competition that Short Kut attended in New York,
he was one of the few Asians in a hall filled with black faces. He was
able to meet and interact with some of the early pioneers of rap music
and hip hop culture like DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.
ěThey gave me love,î said Short Kut. ěThey didnít look at me as some
Fillipino kid. They looked at me as a kid who could rock the
I jumped off of the stage and walked through the crowd and I bumped into
Jeff Martinez, a Hispanic man, who was dancing to the music that DJ
Short Kut was providing.
ěThere has always been tension between races, but you donít see that
here,î says Martinez.
Martinez said that music, and especially rap, can break up the racial
animosities that are present in everyday life. As these words left his
mouth, I looked up and I didnít see any tension. People of all hues were
dancing, clowning and having a good time. This friendly atmosphere is a
far different setting than the debilitating and racist setting that
black people often encounter in various other segments of life. This
friendly club setting was a breath of fresh air for me and for many
other people in the club.
ěThis is a beat that everyone can relate to,î said Martinez as he bopped
to the beat. ěItís poetry in a new format with the beat on top of it.î
It was now midnight as the music stopped and DJ Honda appeared on the
stage behind two turntables. The animated crowd began to get quiet as
the place grew silent as they watched the two black MCs, who accompanied
Honda on stage, get the crowd fired up. As the music began to play, the
two MCs jumped up and down and yelled, ěAre any of my niggas in the
I looked around as a young white man yelled ěhell yeah.î
DJ Honda began to play the music off his album as the crowd went crazy.
This is what I call common ground. A Japanese DJ, playing black music to
an mixed crowd.
ěHip hop has no race,î said DJ Short Kut. ěAs long as everyone feels the
funk, itís all good.î
For interview requests, questions or comments call Lee Hubbard at
(415)671-0449 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Look at your nearest
newsstand for his profile on Latrell Sprewell in the premiere issue of
the Source Sports magazine and his profile on Ishmael Reed in the
April/May issue of American Visions Magazine.
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