Black Future Month // 2-9-11 // Los Rakas, Emcees

Posted on February 9, 2011

A new acquaintance of mine, who has been keeping up with the Black Future Month series on Thickwit, commented that I know too many talented people. True, true, I think. If it’s possible to reach inspiration over-saturation, I probably have. Still, I feel blessed to be consistently inspired by my ever expanding circle of friends. My companer@s compel me to be my best, as each achieves mastery in her/his own craft. A lot of the folks profiled here are long time friends, but it isn’t just nepotism for nepotism sake. And it isn’t just that I want to put my own homies on your radar, reader. I feel strongly, though, that as technology evolves, so does our capacity to synthesize information. Which means that there’s more space than ever to canonize the works of our contemporaries. No reason to wait for Halls of Fame to fling open their doors. We can do it on our own, and post haste.

I’m interested in giving my friends their roses before they die. I want to thank the people that make me better right now. And ’cause I’m on that hype, who better to profile than two emcees that are slightly younger than me? I don’t mean to son these two grown men, but once upon a time, I facilitated writing workshops that Bay Area based duo, Los Rakas, attended. Both have roots in Panama, and soon lapped me in terms of international exposure and an ever increasing fan-base. I gotta tell you, as fresh as it is to be inspired by your contemporaries, it’s even iller to be moved by those once called students.

Abdull and Rico, aka Dun Dun and Filthy Rich, respectively, made ripples in the Bay Area music scene with their first EP Panabay Twist. Now, folks the world over scream their assumed monikers. They’re seasoned vets on stage, calm in their demeanor with a symbiosis similar to that of a young Dre 3000 and Big Boi. Think Southern Playlistic Cadillac Muzik. But, you know, farther south, and more playa than player. The music is a nuanced, melange of a number of these influences. It’s sometimes hyphy, sometimes roots, always lyrically fortified plus danceable, to boot. Many listeners make the false comparison to Reggaeton, but I’ve often heard Abdull correct interviewers and audience members alike. He says they make real, culturally specific, unadulterated Panamanian Plena music.

As Rico and Abdull grew into accomplished, well travelled musicians, they stayed humble, working as Poet-Mentors for a local literary arts non-profit. Also a mentor, I often went on school visits with them, and watched as middle school students sat dumbfounded, surprised that two phenotypically black men spoke and made art en Espanol. Few in the Bay assume that black folks can also be Latino, and that Central American music is neccessarily African. So the kids were stuck. And I get it. Filthy Rich splits his home life between Central America and San Francisco, so his speaking voice has a whole lotta Bay cadence. Dun Dun immigrated to the states as a young teenager, attended Oakland High, and is comfortable as he code switches between Spanish, Oakland Slang and even a little bit of Jamaican Patois. They consistently remind me (in word and in deed) that #blackfuture is now and always rooted in diaspora. And not in the collegiate, convenient buzz word vaguery that diaspora usually connotes. Nah, blood. Diaspora traditionally deals with the idea of dispersal and displacement, but as Los Rakas practice it, I think, more and more, diaspora is about the overlap of cultural norms of black folks from around the planet. In these streets, if you will.

And if you will, check their latest video Kalle, shot not in The Bay or in Panama, but, appropriately, in New York. Like Pac said, they get around.

As a nod to the past, I’m also including a doc clip featuring Panamanian born Orchestra conductor, Luis Russell. Much, like Dun Dun, he left Panama in his youth. After winning roughly $3k, US, in 1919, he moved to New Orleans — helping to craft their Jazz tradition, and ultimately orchestrated alongside greats like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.

Thickwit celebrates the history of Jazz, as impacted by Luis Russell. We also observe the #blackfuture of musical innovation brought to you by Los Rakas.

2 Replies to "Black Future Month // 2-9-11 // Los Rakas, Emcees"

  • Tim-House
    February 9, 2011 (9:10 pm)

    Nice,well written & informative. Might be the best piece I’ve read on them so far…

    • chinaka
      February 9, 2011 (9:34 pm)

      Thanks. I respect your work so much; glad you’re working with them now. If they ever need someone to write the Los Rakas bio-pic, I wanna be on the short list.

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