The concept and ideology behind Hip Hop have changed throughout the years, but it was originally created out of poverty and is associated with African Americans. Asian Americans faces various obstacles in achieving mainstream success in Hip Hop because of the issue of authenticity. I will be using Blue Scholars as a representative of Asian American Hip Hop groups/ individuals to examine that particular issue they face in the industry. Blue Scholars is a Hip Hop duo formed in Seattle in 2002. The duo consists of DJ Sabzi (Saba Mohajerjasbi) and MC Geologic (George Quibuyen). Their music is politically charged while focusing on struggles between socioeconomic classes, challengingly authority and youth empowerment. Asian Americans racial difference does not meet the standard of black authenticity held by rap fans, and the hegemonic ideology of the model minority contradict the ideas surrounding Hip Hop. The authenticity that I am referring to is street value. With this in mind, there is hypocrisy surrounding Hip Hop. Hip Hop fans and the artists their selves praise authenticity, but most artists emulate a persona and rap about experiences that are not their own. Which begs the question, is the real issue for Blue Scholar breaking into mainstream Hip-Hop an authenticity issue, or is it because of the hegemonic ideologies surrounding them such as the model minority and straightjacket sexuality.
Street value is very important in Hip Hop; it seems that if you aren’t rapping about something street related then your song isn’t a hit. This is a major obstacle for Blue Scholars because of the model minority myth, which constrains them and put them in a box. One wouldn’t associate an Asian American with the hood, which is what listeners of hip-hop tend to want to listen about. Blue scholars attempt to dismantle that myth by breaking apart the concept of foreignness, discipline and technicality to be replaced by cool, passion and creativity of a young musician. 50 Thousand Deep is one song by Blue Scholars that has some street value, but listeners could perceive it to be fake. Some lines from the song are as follow:
They threatened to arrest us, we pushed back and then
A hail of rubber bullets hit teens and old men
I admit, had to split when the first gas canisters hit
Felt it burn in my eyes, nose, and lips
They tried to blame it on the anarchists, garbage
I was there, I’ll tell you right now the pigs started it
But they distort it in the news
Talkin’ bout stompin’ down Niketown wearing their shoes
Someone who is unaware of what the song is actually about might presume that they are talking about something street related, but the song is actually about the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle 15 years ago. Because their songs are so politically charged and everyone isn’t aware of the issues they rap about; it is easy for people to assume that they are trying to portray a life that isn’t their own.
The other obstacle Blue Scholars faces is the straightjacket sexuality ideology that surrounds Asian Americans men. Asian American men are thought to lack something sexually because they do not necessarily fit into the category of hegemonic masculinity. Heterosexual hyper-masculinity is synonymous with hip-hop. But as previously mentioned before there is hypocrisy in Hi Hop. You have an artist like Rick Ross who whole persona and career is focused on representing this heterosexual hyper-masculine male. As everyone is aware now, the experiences and the person he claims to represent isn’t his, and he was actually a correctional officer. A correctional officer is the furthest thing that would represent a hyper-masculine male in hip-hop, yet he is still immensely popular. So, how can hip-hop freeze out Blue Scholars because of the straightjacket sexuality ideology, but accept Rick Ross? In this case, Blue Scholar would be more authentic because they are not claiming to be someone one they aren’t.
I believe that the only way that Blue Scholars can achieve mainstream success in hip-hop is if people start to recognize the hypocrisy surrounding the industry. Blue Scholars is just as good as any hip-hop artist, but yet they face so many obstacles because of their race.