Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Chamorro Hip Hop?

After so many months of endless discussion about Chamorro Hip Hop I finally decided to give it a shot. As I've said before, I don't have anything intrinsically against Chamorro Hip Hop, I think its a fine idea, but what does it mean to seek this? Why desire it? Why not just be a Chamorro that makes Hip Hop? Why the need the put Chamorro in front of it? Also, what are the mechanics that would make it so? Language? Content? Musical style?

The problem when people say they are making this is, they assume that because they're Chamorro, what they make will be Chamorro Hip Hop. Sometimes I am very willing to believe this, but other times I like to get into the identity and cultural issues that are being ignored when this takes place.

But to make things clear, there shouldn't be a singular definition anyways. It shouldn't be that only Hip Hop lyrics in Chamorro are really Chamorro Hip Hop, or that only songs which use the belambaotuyan are really Chamorro Hip Hop. Its not my intent to establish a government approved form for deciding this issues, but more so just to open this problem up. Because when someone attends to this questions, when someone decides to reflect for a moment on these issues and then create, that's when I'll say its Chamorro, as opposed to thinking, whatever I create will be Chamorro Hip Hop.

So what was my attempt at making Chamorro Hip Hop? Well, for years my brothers have been trying to get me to freestyle rap. Sometimes I try it, but only when I can find a song that I really like (such as "Watermelon" by Herbie Hancock). While listening to the Samurai Champloo soundtrack last week I came across track 7, "Vagrancy." Okay, that track was incredible. So simple, yet very forceful (with a oldstyle organ in the background, damn!). So I listened to the track a few times, accustomed myself to the beat, and then started freestyling.

I decided to try and freestyle about the last thing a Chamorro Hip Hop artist would probably freestyle about, decolonization. And not just decolonization as in "yo decolonize!" but as in a sustained several minute try. It was really tough, because I could feel myself slamming up against the expectations that I've developed over the years of how this is supposed to sound (which all of us have but usually don't admit to). So I kept stopping myself from slipping into a mindless tirade about how awesome I, and tried to stick to my subject. If you're going to make this "Chamorro" then you'll have to go up against similar expectations about citations. Hip Hop has certain forms, will you yield to them? Will you ignore them?

For example, unless a story is being told, songs tend to go off all over. Broaching any number of topics. Would I do this? Would this make it less Chamorro if I decided to do so, because that's the standard form in other Hip Hop cultures? And thus, if I did go off and broach other topics, would it be because that's the expectations of the form I'm using, or just because I want to? Can you discern something like this? Would I break away from my intented point, because I want to, or because that's what I'm supposed to do?

I tried it in Chamorro, but it became very difficult after a while, because so many of the terms and concepts were political or social (which most Chamorro speakers aren't used to discussing in Chamorro. And when I say this I mean, in-depth discussion, not complaining about politicans and "mafix"), so I kept trying in English.

Was it Chamorro Hip Hop? I have no idea, but it was interesting to say the least.

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