“Rapping and Repping Asian: Race, Authenticity, and the Asian American MC.” Alien Encounters : Popular Culture in Asian America. Ed. M. Nguyen, T. Tu. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007: 35-68.
Anthology essay (solicited, refereed).
Discusses the history of Asian American rappers, from the late 1970s and through the early 2000s, paying special attention to the ways in which these artists negotiate the challenge of racial authenticity as non-Black/non-White participants.
Background: My interest in Asian American rappers began in the early 1990s as a matter of personal curiosity. I was Asian American. I was a hip-hop fan. Ergo, when I began to read about Asian Americans making the jump from fan –> performer, I was intrigued. Then, when I began my journalism career in the mid-1990s, writing for both ethnic and music press, it made sense to integrate the two by writing on this emergent wave of Asian American rappers. I followed (as best I could) trends within that community through the early ’00s and graduate school allowed me to bring new sets of critical tools to thinking on and writing about the topic.
This essay was therefore a culmination of many years of thinking about the politics of race, representation and identity amongst Asian American rappers, beginning as early as the late 1970s and bookended in the “present” with the emergence of Jin in the early ’00s. Of course, Asian American rappers have gone onto evolve in myriad ways since then (but that’s another essay awaiting to be written.)