EAST SIDE STORY - A SYMBOL OF L.A. CHICANO CULTURE

Before the internet and streaming music services, you could find me glued to the radio everyday doing my best to pick up on the latest tunes circulating the airwaves. On the weekends, when I wasn't listening to The Wake Up Show on Saturday nights, I was tuning into VJs like Xavier the X-Man and Victor Zaragosa, latching on to their personal curations with the "Sunday Night Oldies". I was so enamored by these classics playing from my FM dial that I did not realize that these songs were decades old, or that the groups singing them were not Latino at all (well, most of them anyways). Call it what you would, but being oblivious and juvenile at time had its charm. I just loved the music, and that made it timeless. 

I was happy to know that there are people out there in the world taking it upon themselves to showcase and highlight the hidden, or "forgotten" gems in our recorded audio history. One such person, Melissa Duenas of The East Side Story Project, has been a driving force in spotlighting the sounds emitting from the lowrider culture that sprang from 1970s Los Angeles. Her journey has lead to the notable figures and stories that has made the East Side Story compilations one of the most beloved compilations ever released.

Read more about her journey below in the links. 

L.A. Weekly 
The East Side Story Project
Instagram
 

Final Fantasy 7 - An Oral History

If you were lucky enough to transition from the 16-bit generation into the next generation consoles like the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, you were a part of a magical time for gaming. This was the mid 90's and I was a huge Nintendo connoissuer, especially with the Super NES. I owned a Sega Genesis as well, but even back then I knew what superior sound and graphics meant to a great game. Despite their constant smear campaign with what "NintenDon't", Sega eventually lost out in the decades ahead. But I'm getting sidetracked. We're talking about Final Fantasy 7. 

While Square-Enix's (Squaresoft back then) Final Fantasy 4 (known to the U.S. as Final Fantasy 2) and Final Fantasy 6 (F.F.3)  deepened my love for JRPGs and Nintendo, I felt the encroaching presence of the future looming over my beloved series and system. At the time I read popular gaming publications like GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly for the latest scoop. You know pre-Internet. Each new issue tempted me with the introduction of a new player in the area, Sony's dark horse, the PlayStation. I wasn't too interested in the new system until I heard they had an ace up their sleeve, Final Fantasy 7. How?! Why?! What happened to Nintendo?! 

Peep this VERY thorough piece by the people at Polygon. They interviewed EVERYONE who was involved with this game's success. A game that catapulted Square into the stratosphere as a sleeping giant awakening. 

Read here: FF7: An Oral History

 

The Undefeated - How N.E. Avoided "Heart Break"

In light of the chaos that is our current presidential regime (the Cheddar in Chief), the timing of this in-depth article about New Edition and their docu-film mini-series on BET, couldn't have come at a better time to relieve the tension. 

The Undefeated took on the exhausting task of interviewing all the team players (and Bobby Brown) who made Heart Break the highly praised comeback album that it was. With Brown going solo, Jheryl Busby saw the genius of pairing up Flyte Tyme with the talented band. Peep the interviews below and soak in the RnB knowledge. 90's forever. 

Read here: The Undefeated 
 

Only In Saigon - Liem Barber Shop

My love for my Vietnamese diaspora has helped me find and connect the dots to my own journey here in the states to the countless lives sprawled in the motherland. Listening to Liem's story in modern day Vietnam reminds me of my own path and how it's still hard to prove to your family and your own people that your way of life is not necessarily "bad" or wrong. The paradigm must bend, shift, and break in order for change to make way.

I love what's going on there. I want to meet this dude and his crew. Big ups to media groups like Only In Saigon who help to cover all parts of the motherland's cultural development. 

Tyrus Wong - A Trailblazing Life

If I want to be remembered I want to make sure I was living life as fully as Mr. Wong. At 106 years old he has lived through some of the most turbulent times for immigrants in America. Although this country hasn't been too kind for foreigners of any sort, mavericks like Tyrus Wong paved their own path towards personal success, despite the difficulties of racism and xenophobia in and outside the workplace. There have been some amazing stories shared about this man's life that you might find inspiring for your own journey my people. Peep out the pieces below. Salute. 

KQED: The California Report
New York Times

 

Carrie Fisher - Take Care Leia

This has been a terrible year for losing iconic artists and actors from my childhood. Sadly, we have lost another great creative to the times, and it's especially unfortunate to know she was on an upswing with all her creative endeavors these last few years too. To most she will always be known as Princess Leia of the Star Wars franchise, a roll she has grown to accept over the decades of her career.

When I first caught a glimpse of her I was just a young boy in the 1980s, living somewhere in rural Oklahoma, I was mesmerized not only by her beauty, but how she held herself with the boys. During a time where other 80s films like Revenge of the Nerds and Porky's relegated women as sexual side pieces, or beautiful bodies to be played within slasher flicks, Fisher's Leia was a mercenary leader of a resistance army! Before I even knew what feminism even meant, I was seeing it in action. Though in Return of the Jedi she was forced into a gold bikini set, her character reminded us that you don't get one over Leia that easily. She was an equal to men, Jedi, alien or other. 

Debbie Reynold's, Carrie's mother, died a day after her daughter. I don't know whether it was health issues, but I can only guess it might have been over the grief of losing her daughter. 

Carrie was born a day after my birthday. So seeing that she's a Libra on the cusp of Scorpio, I totally get why she was the kind of person she was. Joking, passionate, sarcastic, and very talented at making people think and feel. See you in the stars lady. 

Jeff Chang - What Comes After Donald Trump

And just like that, any last threads of hope for commonsense to come into play with the electors, have all been cut loose. With rusty scissors. Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States of America. This has been one of the most surreal moments in my young adult life. A cultural miasma has enveloped our nation, and apparently, the rest of the world too. People are in shock and angry about the outcome. While others who have been for his presidency will soon weigh his promises to their worth.

Jeff Chang, prominent historian and author penned this essay recently on FADER, urging the citizens of this world to carry on through the chaos. It is not surprise to most that my political stance leans to the left, but that doesn't mean I wish to be ignorant, nor noninclusive to the rest of this nation's citizenry. I just ask that everyone to take a good look at this lunacy and tell me what's wrong with this picture. Because it's not normal. It's not. Read Jeff's piece here. God speed fam. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates - My President Was Black

Ta-Nehisi Coates is an eloquent voice in today's literary landscape. A well read journalist and author I peeped his latest memoir Between the World and Me earlier this year and was completely floored by the visual language and raw memory conveyed in the text. It was a great companion piece next to Jeff Chang's We Gon' Be Alright. In his recent essay(s) for The Atlantic he summarizes his thoughts on President Obama's two terms and how the climate and circumstances that gave rise to his presidency were also factors that created the mess we live in today. It's a cruel, cold world. We need clarity and intelligence like this to help lead us to solutions . You can read the piece here

Neil Gaiman - The Raven

Neil Gaiman is a literary god. I can't imagine a world without his with and mastery of lore and myth. For crying out loud, he created his own pantheon of gods with The Sandman! With the anticipation of the television adaptation of his best selling novel American Gods on the way Mr. Gaiman's name will definitely be popping up more in the pop pulp pieces (alliteration, hurrah). In support of Worldbuilders reaching their million plus donation goal, Neil broke out his trusty tome of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven and read it in its entirety, enveloped in a haze of darkness and candle light. My kind of holiday cheer. 

 

RBMA - Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis

Flyte Tyme. These two legendary producers have helped to shape the careers of some of pop musics most notable artists. From playing with Prince, with (infamous) bandmate Morris Day, the "Minneapolis Sound" they helped to pioneer resonates within their earlier work with the S.O.S. Band and most famously, Janet Jackson. This is a dope lecture that Jefferson Mao (Chairman Mao) conducted for the Red Bull Music Academy condenses the best from this duo within several hours. If you got some time in your day to listen and learn, play the clip and enjoy. 

THE SAIGON PROJECTS - BACK TO THE HOMETOWN 2016

Most of my life has been a journey to connect with my Vietnamese roots and culture. I would say the internet has helped bridge that gap greatly. I been hipped to a lot of different communities and entities since then, and amazingly made a lot of allies and friends along the way. But what is most exciting for me has been the rise of the street culture in Southeast Asia and seeing crews and collectives emerge from the cities and jungles.

My homie Tung is an artist and creator based out of Saigon. He runs a few things, namely Later -- a lifestyle brand, and The Saigon Projects, a documentary journey through Vietnam from the lens of these writers. TSGP has been pushing out some amazing videos over the years and this recent episode is a great example of the vibrant energy and love that springs from the countryside and their combined energies. I'm homesick. 

 

CAMP LO - PIECE OF THE ACTION/WORLD HEIST

Sonny Cheeba and Geechie Suede are back with a double decker laced video featuring new rhymes and beats for your eardrums. One thing you can be sure about these cats is that their style will always remain fresh. I remember back in middle school, watching CMC, and catching the "Luchini" music video for the first time. Don't mind the fact that these guys dressed like they hopped out of a Marvin Gaye album cover, it was more intriguing to listen to them rap. Their lingo and flows were not what I typically understood to be the norm back in the late 90s. My friends and I would rap along to the catchy tune, just to be down with this duo's style. Almost 20 years later they haven't changed. And that is a good thing.