DJ Boogie Brown: "People look to one artist or group to change
things and ‘save hip hop.’ In reality, it’s all on us." Photo by John Liau.
the beat drops to your favorite song at a club or a bar, one of the
first instincts you may have is to look up at the DJ, acknowledging when a beat moves you
or takes you back to a favorite memory. Although hip hop is continuously shifting and evolving, there is a
longevity to the music that is due mostly to the artists and DJs who
stay true to the essence of hip hop: storytelling and survival.
DJ Boogie Brown, a prominent Filipino American DJ in the Bay Area is,
in many senses of the word, a survivor. Born and raised in San
Francisco, music was always an integral part of his life. As the mobile
DJ scene emerged in the Bay Area, especially among Asian Pacific
Islander communities, Boogie Brown was inspired by DJ’s like Shortkut,
Apollo, and Q-Bert. They grew up around his neighborhood and shared the
same cultural backgrounds.
Boogie Brown says, “Let’s face it, the presence of Filipino role
models in the 80s and 90s were pretty scarce." Boogie Brown
was first inspired by a best friend’s older brother who spun records in
his garage. “I was just amazed at how they were blending the songs
seamlessly into one another," he says. He was only in the third or fourth grade
when he became hooked on DJing. “It was pretty magical to me.”
Today, being a DJ does not hold the same elusive position as it did
when Boogie Brown first fell in love with it. He says, “These days, everyone is
a DJ: actors, your cousin, the server at your favorite restaurant, the
guy who pumped your gas this morning, your barista at Starbucks: everyone.”
Whereas in the past it was a matter of standing out amongst an
abundance of talented DJs, Boogie Brown’s artistic survival depends on
sticking out “among the talented and the garbage DJs.”
The issue of visibility is a consistent theme in the Asian Pacific
Islander community. As a Filipino American, Boogie Brown acknowledges
that Asians have always played a role in the different elements of hip
hop. He names DJ crews such as Invisibl Skratch Piklz and The Beat
Junkies to emcees like Bambu and Hopie, to current prominent dance crews
that have helped position the community in the hip hop game. Being
active in his community beyond the music industry is also essential.
Growing up, Boogie Brown’s education included community organizing on
campus. Between putting together high school conferences, participating
in cultural clubs, teaching workshops to students, and throwing on
Filipino film festivals, he deeply explored his own ethnic identity. But
when it comes to music, to Boogie Brown, identity only goes so far. “If
you’re dope. you’re dope; if you’re garbage, you’re garbage: regardless
of ethnicity,” he says.
Boogie Brown lets his music speak for itself. He acknowledges though
that his most important messages may not be heard in a club or a lounge.
“Mixtapes is where I feel that DJ’s get a chance to really express
themselves, a message, or share some music that they’re really feeling
that they don’t get a chance to play at the clubs,” he says. There is, then, the
element that the necessity and survival of hip hop’s most genuine
messages depends not only on the artist, but the audience themselves.
Boogie Brown asserts, "People look to one artist or group to change
things and ‘save hip hop.’ In reality, it’s all on us … I think Mos Def
said it best: ‘Hip hop is going where we’re going.’ It’s our job to find
that good music and support
it.” Whereas important artists in the community, like Boogie Brown,
play their role in creating and surviving in an ever-changing music
industry, we as a community may have to do more than just listen.
According to Boogie Brown, the livelihood and spirit of hip hop depends
What’s a single piece of music/song or artist that encompasses who you are?
I paid a guy to follow me around everywhere I went with a boom box, my
soundtrack while walking down the street would be Outkast’s "SpottieOttieDopaliscious". The horns on that tracks are so fresh.
What is some current hip hop music/artists that you’re excited about?
There’s definitely good music out there. Kendrick Lamar’s Section 80, Dom Kennedy’s From The Westside With Love II, Wiz’s Kush and Orange Juice, and Big KRIT’s Return of 4eva are some of my favorite hip hop albums in the last few years.
Learn more about DJ Boogie Brown:
"Survival" Issue Release Party is on Saturday, February 4 from 9:00 pm to 2:00
am at 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA. Get