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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Mr. Pauer gives a taste of his new ORANGE album and Electrópico sound!

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by Tom Nguyen

What went down:
I got invited to a private BMI and Red Bull LA Vida showcase last week at Los Globos to see Mr. Pauer (pronounced like ‘power’) and didn’t know anything about him other than the invite notes:

A Latin Grammy nominated artist releasing a new album ORANGE, a spontaneous music exploration of his Electrópico signature sound combining 14 vocal collaborations from 5 continents with different cultural and musical backgrounds sang in 4 languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese and Creole).

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IMG_2626Sounded pretty impressive and I had no idea what to expect. Mr. Pauer took to the small stage dominated by his percussion and electric drum setup, with Daniella Bertoldi by his side on keyboard. Wearing a bright flamboyant polka-dot shirt, underneath a screen of bright, mesmerizing tropical visuals, the affable performer proceeded to take us on a sonic journey that I couldn’t stop moving to until the music was over! Continue Reading →

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).

Free Screenings of Contemporary South American Cinema at USC April 5-7

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April 5-7, another set of free film screenings open to the public at the USC School of Cinematic Arts will be showcasing recent cinema from South America. These films aren’t the most recent coming from South America and I’ve seen quite a few of them already, but from dramas to comedies to horror, this series is a good representation of the different genres of quality film and diverse stories coming from South America cinema. You can click on the film titles in the lineup to RSVP. Continue Reading →

El Prieto: powerful hip hop from Venezuela

el prietoMy friend Luis just turned me on to El Prieto, a rapper from Venezuela, whose song “Petare barrio de Pakistan” (Petare hood from Pakistan) about the grim realities of living in one of the roughest barrios in Caracas, known as the world’s most dangerous city, really catapulted him into hip hop consciousness outside of Venezuela. I still can’t find much information about him but his powerful lyrics and stirring videos, like “Fin del Mundo” (End of the World) are powerful social commentary about poverty, war and protest, that’s universally relevant. The archival footage of war, violence and injustice, flashing throughout the video from past to present, begs us to wonder if anything has really changed.
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