In celebration of Black History Month, the Asian Student Association here at the College of Charleston hosted an event this past Thursday in the Multicultural Center conference room.
The event, Hot Noodles Hot Topics, served up not only deliciously spicy noodles but the riveting discourse on Asian’s roles in hip hop, black culture and cultural appropriation.
For those of you who have not visited MSPS’ conference room, the former historic home is the perfect intimate meeting space to get cozy with a club.
Packed in on Thursday, ASA members and visitors (me) alike crammed in chairs and looked on excitedly to the mounted screen as we watched Vice’s YouTube documentary on 88Rising.
88Rising is an Asian owned and operated collaborative music platform for Asian hip hop artists. This past summer, 88Rising made a name for itself when it hosted Head in the Clouds.
Head in the Clouds is a festival featuring all Asian artists and is intended to be a breeding ground for Asian creativity and culture. Since this festival is a first of its kind it has attracted a lot of attention in the hip hop community.
While many artists who are in the Asian hip hop scene are American, artists like Rich Brian (from Indonesia) and the Higher Brothers (from mainland China) are not. Because these non-American artists did not come up in America, where hip hop was born, many feel like they cannot properly credit their sources and that their art is more appropriative than appreciative.
One of the most egregious examples came from Rich Brian. Rich Brian’s previous stage name was Rich Chigga, a name that was based in a Black slur. As soon as Rich Brian started to get some recognition, people pointed out the more problematic aspects of his name and he quickly addressed the issue.
The issue of Asian artists borrowing from Black music and culture is incredibly nuanced and involves the marginalization of both Asian and Black peoples. However, it is so important that the Asian Student Association is starting this difficult conversations.
As the documentary came to an end, people started to share their opinions. While it did start to get heated, the conversation was diverse and it was so refreshing to hear other people’s opinions.
As I listened on to people’s conversations, I realized that American hip hop is incredibly regionally diverse. From long beach rap, to house music, to DC go go beats, each music scene has its own roots and decorum.
As Asian hip hop moves more into the mainstream, it will be important for it to credit its sources and find its own voice.
Thank you to the Asian Student Association for questioning these complicated racial roles and for serving up hot noodles and hot topics.