Weapons of Mass Creation’s song ‘Hard to Admit’ addresses sexual abuse in our own communities

by Tom Nguyen

In an era where we have a president who got elected despite boasting about “grabbing p*ssy”, it’s been heartening to see at least some powerful men in entertainment and politics finally having to answer for sexual violence as women bravely come forward. I hope the media attention, national dialogue, and women sharing their #MeToo stories results in real policy changes and legal protections in every workplace against people using their powerful positions to sexually exploit others.

Besides the rich and famous though, where is the much needed spotlight and attention on the sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and violence that is happening everyday in our own communities? Julia Franco, of Weapons of Mass Creation, sings poignantly about her own struggles against sexual harassment in their latest video “Hard to Admit”.

Weapons of Mass Creation are outspoken in their music and one of my top local bands to watch — they sing about police violence, racism, and gentrification happening in our marginalized communities. And in “Hard to Admit”, Julia says on top of all the issues she has to contend with as a woman of color, self-care doesn’t mean hugs and kisses in a safe space…it means carrying mace and always being on guard against men in her own communities.

So let’s address and challenge the sexual harassment, misogyny and toxic masculinity that happens everyday in all the spaces we occupy. Women have been doing the work and leading the charge. Men, we need to step up and be accountable for our actions as well as challenging men around us when we see abusive behavior, and not being complicit and silent. Get involved and support the work of these organizations in our communities: Peace Over Violence, Justice For My Sister Collective (Julia’s older sister Hilda Franco is involved with JFMSC), AF3IRM, and TheRealTalkProject, which currently offers a self-paced course on how to be a better male ally.

Weapons of Mass Creation performs tomorrow Saturday, November 11, at Tropicália Music and Taco Festival, and “Hard to Admit” is the first of a series of live performances shot at Sanctuary Sound, a grassroots DIY community and performance space in downtown Santa Ana. Amidst the rapid gentrification of the area, the space is so vital and essential: “Sound is a safe space for dangerous sound. In the state of our communities the main stream considers our arts of expression dangerous. But this is not the reality. Our working class communities find amazing creative and ingenious ways to create expression from our experiences using art, music, dance and the power of power of our words.  Our mission is to give our communities a space to create and build their skills so they may be prepared to benefit from then in the world that is consistently taking from them.” Continue Reading →

So you love Chicano Batman. Here’s 6 more amazing LA indie bands to watch.


by Tom Nguyen

LA’s underground Latin indie and rock scene is the most vibrant and explosive I’ve seen in years. Sure, Chicano Batman put the scene on the map and kudos to them…Coachella twice and 3 back-to-back sold-out shows this September wow! They’re such the hip, in-demand darlings right now, eager fans chased them to their cars after their performance to an over-capacity crowd at One Colorado in Pasadena this summer. I see posts on Facebook like a 60-something white CSULA professor gushing about playing their music to her class and wondering why her Latino students hadn’t heard them yet…so I had to ask her besides the Johnnie Walker commercial she saw, can she name any of the many talented and unique bands with Latino musicians playing amazing music in LA right now? Nope.

So Chicano Batman bandwagoners, take note. It took them nearly a decade of playing before the white mainstream music industry noticed, and LA Weekly recently wrote a great piece about LA’s Latin alternative music continuing to break down barriers, thanks in large part to visionary promoters like Viva Presents and Qvolé Collective. The thriving multicultural scene can be summed up by Qvolé’s motto…The Future is Latin. So in addition to great acts promoted by Qvolé like Buyepongo, Brainstory, Cutty Flam, here are six upcoming independent bands I think you should check out: Earth Arrow, Sin Color, The Altons, Twin Seas, Weapons of Mass Creation, Welfair. Continue Reading →

Review: Princess Nokia, Afro-Nuyorican feminist rapper, defiant and proud at sold out LA show


Story and photos by Mayda del Valle

Armed with a microphone and a stick of sage, Princess Nokia cast a spell on everyone at her sold out LA show at The Echo. After baptizing the audience with a bottle of water and jumping off stage to crowd surf during her first song, the anthem Tomboy, she stood poised at the edge of the stage dressed in a white sports bra and baggy pants, proclaiming “These are the rules of the show: ladies to the front, all you ally brothers get to the back. That’s right, this is a brown queer space. We don’t do none of that misogynist shit.” And with that the crowd cheered in response, and the women present claimed the space we usually have to elbow and shove our way past men at concerts to stand in. It might be this unapologetic claiming of space for marginalized identities that has led to Nokia’s growing popularity on the underground scene, and the sold out European tour she just returned from. Continue Reading →

Top 10 Picks: Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2016

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by Tom Nguyen

The 32nd annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) opens Thursday, April 21, with the world premiere of “The Tiger Hunter”, at Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, and screens a diverse array of 140 films (34 features and 106 short films) through Thursday, April 28, when it closes with “Pali Road”, at Directors Guild of America.

Here are the Top 10 films I’m looking forward to seeing (in order of appearance at the festival): Continue Reading →

Weekly Highlights: Irene Diaz, Parched at Indian Film Festival, and Best Thing Since new hip hop night

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by Tom Nguyen

Thanks to Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza, I attended my first Sofar Sounds event to see them perform. Sofar Sounds hosts these intimate mini-concerts featuring independent artists in people’s living rooms throughout the world. The all-volunteer event was really well run and the crowd attentive and respectful, about 40 of us all sitting on the living room. Kudos to the homeowner for letting a group of strangers into his home to enjoy a great lineup of 3 artists, who each played about 3-4 songs. Here’s a taste of Irene’s captivating performance with Carolyn by her side on ukulele:

IMG_7309 (1)This Saturday, April 16, Irene and Carolyn will have a video premiere party for the new song “This Cannot Be” at downtown’s Civic Center Studios. They’re putting on this all-ages show by themselves with the help of Elefante Collective and want to make it more than just an intimate music show. There will be snacks, a bar, photo booth by Las Fotos Project and information table by Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) — they want to create a welcoming space for all to share, hear and discuss stories about life, love and hardships in the LGBTQ community. Please come out and support!

 

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Buyepongo’s Summer Madness Parties in July ends Thursday July 30 with Hip Hop Showcase!

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by Linda Vanessa “Nuves” Tovar

Every Thursday night of July, La Cita has been set ablaze by the musical stylings of Buyepongo (Buye), new weekly featured guests, and by all the moving bodies on the dance floor. Each show different from the last, Buye has dug deep to provide hot rhythms, and a unique blend of sounds. Hailing from Los Angeles, the Buye Boyz have curated a special live musical experience for everyone to enjoy. The Buye Beat is undeniable. Fusing Afro beats, which include (but are not limited to) merengue, punta, and cumbia together, this band knows how to get a party going! Their charismatic love for music and a good time can be heard and seen at every show. Their last musical installment at La Cita is Thursday, July 30th. So if you like dancing, getting sweaty, and  sharing a smile on the dance floor then do yourself a favor because you don’t want to miss their final showcase featuring hip hop artists Olmeca, SETI X, 2MEX as well as  Artos, Canyon Cody of Subsuelo, Sol Collective and surprise guests!

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Exclusive: La Mala Rodriguez on being True as an Artist, Defying Labels and her Love for FEMEN

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by Tom Nguyen

Iconic Spanish rapper La Mala Rodriguez recently performed in LA at the El Rey Theatre, on the heels of a new song and video Egoista from an as yet untitled upcoming album, and I got the chance to interview her the day before. La Mala’s reputation certainly precedes her, as one of the first Spanish-speaking rappers, emerging in the 90s with her signature defiant hardcore rap and being brutally honest in her lyrics about social issues of her generation. Told I only had 5 minutes talk time and scrambling for a last-minute interpreter, I was both excited and extremely nervous to ask the outspoken rapper her thoughts as an artist and a woman MC in a still very male-dominated industry. What followed was a very honest and candid conversation about what inspires La Mala and her craft. She was extremely down-to-earth and put me immediately at ease, even insisting that she try to answer in English as much as she could, to help me better understand her. Thanks to Kimberly Bautista of Artevista Films for facilitating and translating the conversation and big thanks to La Mala for her time, patience and eagerness to talk about a range of topics, from artists who inspire her to her issues with both women and men in the feminist struggle, and the need to move beyond labels and victimization, a conviction that has inspired her to collaborate soon with feminist group FEMEN.

(Interview has been translated with some Spanish phrases left untranslated because there is no direct translation. The full audio of the interview can be found at the end of this transcript.) Continue Reading →

Twilight in the Garden: Little Tokyo Summer Concerts every Sunday in July at JACCC!

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by Tom Nguyen

If you’ve been to Little Tokyo lately, you’ve no doubt noticed the gleaming new buildings, construction and cranes on San Pedro St. and 2nd St. Easily overlooked just across the street, some steps away is the sprawling, open courtyard of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) and its Aratani Theater. The JACCC has hosted so many great recent events to showcase our diverse communities, like Fandango Obon, the fusion of Japanese, Mexican and African traditional music and dance and the Aratani World Series which drew thousands to an eclectic series of world music and dance performances the past 6 months. Now, they are doing another first: Opening up their beautiful James Irvine Japanese Garden to Twilight in the Garden: Little Tokyo Concert Series! 4 intimate, outdoor Sunday concerts in July, featuring Quartetto Fantastico, Buyepongo, Ethio Cali and Shafiq Husayn & Dove Society along with DubLab DJs! In addition to an amazing lineup of LA’s finest live music, there will be food and special curated summer drinks by Far Bar. This first-time series featuring an eclectic lineup of some of the best musical talent in LA playing in an intimate garden will be a unique musical experience and perfect way to wrap up your summer weekends in July!

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14 Rappers, 14 Countries for UNICEF: Where are the Women MCs?

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by Tom Nguyen

Dear San E and UNICEF,

I was excited to discover your music video #HIPHOPISHIPHOP – Hip Hop for the World bringing together 14 rappers from 14 countries to express the unifying love of hip hop. I love that this video was made in the tradition of the iconic song We Are The World, to bring light on an important global issue: children’s access to education. Except for the venerable KRS-One, I love that I didn’t know any of the rappers. Thanks for giving talented rappers around the world a chance to shine!

Now, I ask…where are the women? I was quickly disappointed to see that out of 14 rappers, there was only one woman, YACKO from Indonesia. Why does this bother me? While every rapper in that video is talented and deserving and I applaud each of them, I have so many reasons for why this gender imbalance in your video upsets me.

Hip hop has historically been a very unfriendly and unfair place for women and it still remains so. Misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are big problems in hip hop songs, lyrics and culture. I’m afraid your video only reinforces the exclusion of women in hip hop. If We Are The World had better inclusion of women in 1985, I’m sure we can do better in 2015.

Since you are using hip hop as a platform for children’s education and your own statistics show that girls suffer greater disadvantage and exclusion from education in so many parts of the world, wouldn’t you have wanted to represent more women as role models? If you had included more women cyphers, I think your message would have been much more powerful and inspiring in your quest for gender equality in education.

After all, you released this video during Women’s History Month and right before International Women’s Day. I think you squandered a very good opportunity to not only address the inequality of access to education, but to also give strength to the message that the ones most affected by that inequality are girls around the world. You could have shown young girls everywhere that they have the same right and ability to succeed in any male-dominated space.

However, I have faith in an organization that is doing so much to achieve gender equality. We’re far from achieving equal human rights and opportunities for one half of the world’s population and it’s critical to keep empowering girls and women worldwide. There are no lack of girls and women on the front lines of society fighting for equality and freedom every day in every part of the world, and hip hop is no exception. In many countries, just being female, queer or trans in male-dominated hip hop is defiant and revolutionary. Below are just 14 of so many countless talented female, queer and trans rappers (in alphabetical order) who are not only rapping but doing so by challenging the status quo and giving voice to marginalized communities around the world. I hope you’ll consider them in a second hip hop video.

Respectfully,
Tom Nguyen

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Mi Color: New Video from Jhomwua and Gula of Flow Mafia in Venezuela


I just saw this new video “Mi Color” posted on El Prieto‘s Facebook page today. The song by Jhomwua and Gula, his compatriots from the Flow Mafia collective, is from their Demasiado Criminal recording. Back in February, I had written about El Prieto’s powerfully raw hip hop from Venezuela and his social commentary on crime, poverty and war. This video is no less stirring and brutal as it takes us back in time to the 1700s and depicts the vicious cruelty and inhuman treatment the African slaves had to endure. As violent as the scenes are, the song’s message is about the strong will of the slaves and their descendents to ultimately overcome injustice and demand to be respected as equals. As Afro-Latino populations are often the most marginalized and poor and their history and contributions not widely acknowledged throughout Latin American societies, the song and video are important reminders of the African roots and values, the struggles the Afro-Latinos have had to endure, and the continuing fight to be treated with dignity today — Respecta Mi Color (Respect My Color).