Freestyle: Filipino ‘Funk’ and SXSW

Mar. 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Photographer/promoter/hip-hop DJ and occasional Honolulu Star-Advertiser contributor Riana Stellburg's images are featured in "Empire of Funk." (Courtesy photo)

Photographer/promoter/hip-hop DJ and occasional Honolulu Star-Advertiser contributor Riana Stellburg’s images are featured in “Empire of Funk.” (Courtesy photo)


Filipino hip-hop heads are a force in the culture of hip-hop nationwide — and Hawaii has a part in that.

A new book, “Empire of Funk: Hip Hop and Representation in Filipina/o America” documents the experiences and the contributions of Filipinos within the hip-hop community. The book has a release party at About the Goods in McCully on March 7.


With performances by Add + Plus, Krystilez and Woes

» Where: About the Goods, 930 McCully St., #203
» When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday
» Cost: Free
» Info: (808) 949-9492,

With contributors from across the U.S., and three editors — Mark R. Villegas, Kuttin’ Kandi and Rod Labrador, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa — the book contains a multitude of outspoken viewpoints.

Get it for the history, including photographs, lyrics and first-person explanations from luminaries including DJ Qbert, Neil Armstrong, Hopie Spitshard and Bambu, along with scholarly essays.

“For Filipinos of the American exodus, the funk has come from Hip Hop,” writes California poet, author and filmmaker Villegas, who originated the idea for the book, using the Zulu Nation’s prideful style of capitalizing the genre. “Over heavy bass and crisp snares, Hip Hop invites the blended, contradictory.”

Labrador said, “I wanted to make sure Hawaii was represented.” Creed Chameleon, Aaron “Woes” Martin and Kristylez, among others, will be found in the book’s pages.

Honolulu photographer/promoter/DJ and occasional Honolulu Star-Advertiser contributor Riana Stellburg’s images are featured, reflecting her avid documentation of the hip-hop scene over the past five years. Now 24, Stellburg has been there since her student days at Hawaii Pacific University. She may be the youngest contributor to the book.

“It will help a younger generation relate to hip-hop,” she said. “It’s so smart to bring the actual MC onto the page.

“It’s real stories. It’s cool! They really curated it well.”

Friday’s release party includes music and a book signing, along with food from Madda Vicky’s Kusina (a catering outfit operated by Stellburg’s mom).

Mike Love will represent Hawaii at this year's South by Southwest festival. (Courtesy photo)

Mike Love will represent Hawaii at this year’s South by Southwest festival. (Courtesy photo)

SXSW FOMO: The South by Southwest Interactive, Film and Music Festival begins today with the opening of the Interactive (March 7 through March 11) and Film (March 7 through March 16) streams. A Comedy component takes place March 8-15, and the SXSW Music Festival goes down March 11 through March 16.

I’ll miss being there, after blogging from the sprawling Austin, Texas, extravaganza the past two years. Shout-outs to Hawaii’s official reps at SXSW Music this year — soulful reggae artist Mike Love and buzzworthy electronic/hip-hop music producer Mr. Carmack.

I decided to sit it out this year, but talk about fear of missing out: SXSW has become THE place to learn what’s percolating in interactive media and tech, film and music, and to engage with the people who are making these things happen. That it happens in a great city, one that really values its arts and artists, sweetens the deal; so does the barbecue. Next year, Texas.

It’s not the same as being there, but there are ways to tune in to SXSW news and views. Check out SXSWorld Magazine; preview and review coverage of SXSW events from the Austin Chronicle, the alternative weekly that helped birth and co-sponsors the fest; and check out this 100-song sampler of bands scheduled to play at SXSW, plus live audio and video from the fest, from National Public Radio.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

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