School of iFunk

iLL-Literacy mixes funk, hip-hop, doo-wop and spoken word into a sound that hooks audiences

IF YOU THINK spoken word artists are all kufi-rocking vegans who sit in circles, slap bongos and spout oversized words, then you haven't met iLL-Literacy.

"People have this idea of spoken word that is so contained," says Adriel Luis, one of three creative forces making up San Francisco Bay Area-based iLL-Literacy, aka iLL-Lit. "The way we approach spoken word is the opposite. We feed off the audience. We move around. The slam/open mie format - one person behind the mie with the crowd seated - didn't work for us."

Asian American Hip-Hop for Dummies

I remember seeing Mountain Brothers' "Galaxies" video on
Yo! MTV Raps (not the OG version, but the short-lived revival) back in '98 or '99.
Three Chinese dudes from Philly walking through a grocery store and playing
mahjong while flipping buttery rhymes ("My mass is critical, raps Invisibl like
Skratch Piklz
and X-Men/ Gettin fem's confessin'/ Expressin’ predilection for
sex and affection when I finesse them") over a laid-back, jazzy groove
that has yet to cease making my head nod. It was one of my first times hearing
Asian Americans rap, and doing it well at that.

Lyrics Born on His New Album, in Stores Today


After 15 years in the hip-hop game, Lyrics Born has yet to hit a creative ceiling. The gravelly-voiced vocalist/producer remains inventive with his latest, "Everywhere At Once," his second solo studio album since 2003's critically acclaimed "Later That Day." As the title suggests, the album is indeed all over the place, blending hip-hop, funk, dance, go-go, R&B and dancehall -- all held together by the eclectic emcee's production skills and vocal animation.

Hyphen caught up with the Tokyo-born, Berkeley-bred emcee to talk about the new album, in stores today on ANTI-.

"Nuke the Turban Head Muslims"

As the nation woke up to live broadcasts of 9/11 memorial services this Tuesday, I was shaken by an angry Indian mother telling me to shave my beard, just like she’s done every year since the tragic event filled Americans with disdain for all persons brown and bearded. She said people might, yikes, mistake me for a Muslim.

I’m brown, proud and too damn lazy to shave. And this seems to only bother other Indians. I just got back from an overseas vacation and to my family and friends’ surprise, I wasn’t hassled, cavity searched or anal probed by security. As much as I’d like to write off my mom’s paranoia as ignorance, it’s been a warranted precautionary measure for all South Asians and Middle Easterners ever since the hate crimes that followed and continue six years later.

We live in fear. We know our country’s history of persecuting its minority citizens. And we know that over-patriotic and under-educated Americans have a hard on for hatred toward us. Just check Craigslist’s Rants and Raves section, where morons engage in dumbass discussions and hurl racist remarks like it was a Klan rally in the 40s.

Here are a few gems from the Bay Area Craigslist:

“I use to be a non-racist person. That is until you ragheaded Islamic freaks had to come to this country and fuck it all up! You fucking Islamic ragheads are the one's responsable for 9/11. All you MotherFuckers are pieces of shit! You fucking stink and you are fucking rude.” – click-clack if you want to read more.

“Fuck Islam. I'm against Bush. Against the war in Iraq, but if you think for a second that I will convert to your Godless ‘religion’ then prepare for me to fight you to the death and take as many of you motherfuckers with me.”

“rememberr 9/11 kill a turban day”

I wonder what's being said in other communities and forums across the nation? And maybe I'll trim my beard just a little, for mom's sake.

Bring 'Em Back Home

Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy is looking like the streets we named after him -- permanently under construction...

Directed by Zia Mohajerjasbi, Blue Scholar's "Back Home," off of the recently released Bayani, is powerful, poignant and necessary. Sure, the video's not terribly original (cemetery setting, weeping widows, kids holding portraits of lost loved ones) but it captures the inevitable suffering and pain that comes with war.

I know I've posted about Blue Scholars before but I'm just geeked off the fact that there are still some rap cats making meaningful music instead of those annoying ass dance songs. If only the masses would start taking note...