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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.

I went and picked up their “Self Vol. 1” and it quickly became one of my favorite albums. I’d play it for friends and they’d flip: “Nah they can’t be Chinese, they’re dope!” as if race somehow hindered someone’s ability to put words together. It was always that same reaction, maybe because, though they embraced it, they didn’t wear their ethnic identity on their shirt the way Eminem did his trailer park spaghetti stain. But now 10 years later, Asian Americans—as well as everyone across the globe—are increasingly embracing and making hip-hop music, rendering the ignorant “He doesn’t sound [insert race here]!” statement obsolete.

While Asian American rap cats rarely drift mainstream (coincidentally, Chops, former producer/emcee from Mountain Brothers, now produces hits for Young Jeezy, Lil’ Wayne, Bun B and others), they’ve been holding it down on the underground circuit for years, way before I was on my late Friday night channel flip loser steez .

For those who haven’t been following the scene, DJ Phatrick, former DJ for Native Guns, recently dropped the “Asian American Hip Hop for Dummies” mixtape–a compilation of his mixes from Apex Express, a radio show which airs Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 in the Bay Area and streams online at www.kpfa.org. He co-hosts and co-produces The Pretty Buoyant Show segment with Adriel Luis of spoken word group iLL-Literacy, which airs the first Thursday of each month.

(Click-clack the image to see tracklisting.)

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The mix features names most hip-hop heads will instantly recognize: Visionaries, Lyrics Born, Dan the Automator, Typical Cats, and Jin, with whole mixes devoted to Native Guns and Blue Scholars. (If none of these names sound familiar, pick up the mix and write yourself a late pass!) Also on the mix are some lesser-knowns, such as Jupitersciples, an LA-based Korean hip-hop group fashioned in the Project Blowed fast rap style, and Skim, who Phatrick touts as “one of the dopest female emcees, period.”

While Phatrick acknowledges that the mix is a little too West Coast-centric, he plans to put out more volumes “which hopefully represent a broader range of API hip hop, geographically and ethnically,” he says.

School yourself and order the mix at: http://www.myspace.com/djphatrick.

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