Who remembers the good old ‘MySpace’ days and even as far back as Xanga or AsianAvenue? Then along came YouTube, founded in 2005, and the world opened up for kids all around the world that wanted to share their silly skits, rants, vlogs, and music. To me, growing up as an Asian-American, I never really saw ‘cool’ Asian characters on TV or in music videos. Asian girls in particular were usually portrayed as submissive and easy sexual targets. Asian guys usually played the push-over or ‘geeky’ characters. Of course, those roles are still shown in the media today. But I think tools like YouTube and other social media devices collectively opened up new platforms for kids like me to be heard, and has allowed us to show our various characters - Timothy Delaghetto, Dumbfoundead, AJ Rafael, J.R. Aquino, NigaHiga etc.
With that said, one day I was on ‘YouNow,’ a live broadcasting web application that allows users to run their own live video broadcasts...when I met a young lady that goes by the name Ca$aNoVa. She saw that I rapped, we conversed about music, and even had a dual ‘jam session’ through YouNow, while many viewers watched. (The internet can be an amazing place sometimes.) It’s been about a year since then and Ca$aNoVa and I have kept in touch via social media. Ca$aNoVa is an aspiring singer/rapper from the island of Guam; she is currently back on Guam after living in Arizona briefly. As a fan of all musical genres, Ca$aNoVa brings heavy elements of pop and techno, along with hip hop/rap influences into her songs. Her lyrics are deep and personal, but also share stories of love and other topics. This week’s “Track Tuesday” segment features Ca$aNoVa’s newest track “Rewind.”
Produced by FlipTunesMusic, “Rewind” is a love song based on a true experience that happened to Ca$aNoVa. Pop and R&B are the primary elements on the track, but features rap-styled verses by Ca$aNoVa and Rezzo. “The song talks about meeting someone for the first time and not knowing when you will see them again, so you want to take it back to the moment you met,” said Ca$aNoVa. Ca$aNoVa is still at the very beginning of her musical journey, but this artist has already accomplished so much personally, having recently competed in the 2016 Mission Underground Live Cypher draft. Mission Underground is a Team Backpack event, that was held in Brooklyn, New York.
It’s amazing how the internet and music enables artists to connect regardless of physical locations. It’s also cool to see my fellow Asian people like myself and Ca$aNoVa get recognition for our talent and swagger, which we should’ve been getting all along. Lol. Check out more of Ca$aNoVa’s music on her Soundcloud.
Many might agree that today’s Hip Hop is “not the same” as when it first started. There are many artists and Hip Hop fans that would say that the Hip Hop of today, with all the “mumble” rappers and “trap” rappers, is not true Hip Hop. But what is true Hip Hop? Is Hip Hop a specific sound? Is it even music anymore? Whatever the case may be, as a Hip Hop Artist and fan myself, I think that anyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Here at OTDHipHop, I give you folks my all, whether you agree or disagree. I also believe that Hip Hop can mean different things to different people. I’ve met artists who’ve used music as a way to overcome depression and destructive behavior like drug and alcohol abuse, artists who’ve felt disconnected from their own families who found community in Hip Hop, and even artists/listeners who simply love the music and culture. With that said, I had the pleasure of interviewing Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD), for this week’s Friday Feature segment. While he is an artist/rapper, his authentic love for Hip Hop/Rap music and culture truly sets him apart.
Born Damion Davis, Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD) is a 24-year-old Hip Hop Artist/Rapper from Glendale, Arizona. His name may sound a little “out there,” but SSD explained the meaning behind his rap name. “I came up with the name Soul Sergeant D-Man, by the help of my dad because he made believe that I can put my heart and soul into anything I do. My name is Soul Sergeant D-man, meaning I got soul like The Godfather of Soul. As a sergeant, I'm somewhat like the roughest and toughest, and in my own little world I’m just D-man,” said SSD.
Growing up, SSD was always a fan of Hip Hop and was exposed to rapping on his own as a preteen. SSD stated that one day, his older cousin Deshawn was writing with a pen and pad in the dining room, but Deshawn was already brilliant freestyler. “I told Deshawn that he makes want to rap but I didn’t think I would be good at it. But Deshawn believed in me and told me that I could get better with a lot more practice,” said SSD. He went on to say that, “Deshawn helped me write my first rhyme, and picked out 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." instrumental to rap to. I messed up plenty of times until he made sure I was on beat with the flow and lyrics.” Since that time, SSD has been writing his own lyrics, first as a hobby that gradually progressed over time, until he was able to record at the GrayRoom Recording Studio for the first time at age 16.
SSD has a number of supporters via social media, largely due to his accomplishments and the network he has grown from participating in contests like Team Backpack’s (TBP) Mission Underground auditions. TBP is a platform committed to showcasing the best in underground Hip Hop, and serves as the initial catapult into stardom for many up and coming artists. “In 2015, I decided to go for broke and do my online audition. After uploading it on YouTube, I was getting nothing but good positive feedback from the other emcees that was also competing, just wishing each other good luck. At first I felt like I wasn't going to get my invitation so I did another online audition to prove I'm in it to win, and after that I got my invitation email from TBP! It felt like I won the lottery,” said SSD. While in California for Mission Undergound Los Angeles (MULA), SSD met many gifted and talented local like emcees like Gio Martin, Naim Def, D'vision Kurosaki, Nasty Nelo, Mr. E, Mizznekol, $arcast, Sean Curtis, Terry Davis aka Freeze, and much much more. “I even met and talked to almost all the famous Teambackpack Heavy Hitters in the game. I seen street cyphers, merchandise, food truck, interviews, and everything there. Overall, I felt really blessed to see Hip Hop music, artists, and culture all come together to bring positive but also competitive vibes all around. Even though I didn’t win anything or make the Top 12, it was great to be part of the Team Backpack movement,” said SSD.
Going forward, SSD is more than just another local rapper. He is a strong supporter of the variety of talent in Hip Hop, and consistently promotes other artists via social media. In an age where everyone seems to want to always “one up” each other, SSD chooses to uplift, and I believe that says more about an artist than anything else. “What hip-hop communities need is a savior and that savior is yourself and it's all on you. If you don't care or even try to do something about it then the more degrading the hip-hop community will be. It's all about pushing the culture,” stated SSD.
For more information on Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD), visit his Youtube channel and/or follow him on Facebook.
It’s 10 a.m. on the island of Maui and my friends and I pull up to the back of a quiet shopping center, surrounded by the lush trees and air of Haiku, Maui. I had been conversing with Jahsun, a fellow Hip Hop artist and host of his own podcast, “Real Talk Hip Hop Hawaii” for a number of weeks beforehand and we had just confirmed an interview a few days before. Jah gave us a tour of the InsideOut Universe studio, of which he is a co-founder and co-owner. The whole InsideOut Universe studio crew had a relaxed and fun atmosphere while remaining professional.
At first, Jah might look like a typical “haole” guy turned local. But there’s definitely more than meets the eye. Although I was being interviewed on his show, we got to talking a lot about his journey as a long-time music lover turned artist, and now a young entrepreneur. Originally from Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, the rapper has solid roots in the islands. However, his family moved to Oregon, primarily staying in the Portland and Salem areas. By the time Jah was a teenager, he was a skater and tagger, and integrated himself into Hip Hop music, culture, and art; stating that he used to have 100s of Wu-Tang, E-40, Ice Cube, and other classic rap CDs stacked in his house and car, and he digged keeping his collection in order. “I remember being in about 4th grade and hearing Run D.M.C.’s “Walk This Way.” I used to listen to a lot of rock & hip hop collaborations and suddenly started vibing to more Hip Hop music. I think it was the rhyme and lyricism that got me. That was also around the time I started practicing at writing lyrics so I’d write a lot of remixes to both rock and rap songs,” said Jah.
All throughout high school, Jah would freestyle for fun and created a crew with his friends, who soon got more known for making some songs. It wasn’t until Jah moved back to Hawaii at age 22, when he started to take music a little more seriously after getting positive reviews from for his spoken word poetry and rap songs. He linked up with an old friend from middle school who had moved to Maui, named Ra Sol. The two whom rapped together for many years as kids, were now doing some shows around the island of Maui and opening up for acts like The Grouch.
“Moving to Maui, I wanted to search my roots and get more connected with where I was from. I was called to come back. I’m not Hawaiian but I have roots from all parts of the world- Native American, Mexican, Irish, and French Canadian. I relate with the suffering and gentrification of all indigenous peoples of the world. I don’t identify with any race because I am mixed so I feel a universal relationship with all people. That def has an influence on my music.” It surely does! Check out some of the clips of Jah’s music on this blog. He doesn’t just talk the culture, he really is a part of the Hip Hop community and lifestyle. The essence of Hip Hop has roots in principles of positivity, art, and intellect, and Jah shows it in his diversity as an artist; just look at his solo music videos, “Unsung Mighty Few” projects, along with old battle footage, “Real Talk Hip Hop Hawaii” podcast, and the newly produced “Hawaii Hip Hop Cyphers Elements.”
Jahsun continues to co-create various music projects through InsideOut Universe studios, is a proud father of his only daughter, and continues his grind in achieving his personal goals. His collaboration track/music with $Bags has even earned more than 20,000 views is on WorldstarHipHop and 6000+ views on Youtube. Jah seems to know what he's doing and I'm personally eager to see more of his projects both individually and collectively in the near future.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.