Bad Rap: Asian-American Hip Hop, Esperanto: The Dream Of A Universal Language

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With so many languages in the world, one sought to unite all speakers, with a language that is easy to learn and can be used across nations. We find out why an effort to create a universal language– Esperanto– ultimately failed. We also get a peek inside of the Asian-American hip hop scene.

Featured in this Show

  • Documentary Highlights The Asian-American Hip-Hop Scene

    We hear from the co-producers of Bad Rap, a documentary film that follows the careers of four Asian-American rappers as they try to break into a music industry that often views them as outsiders.

  • Esperanto And The Dream Of A Universal Language

    Even though the idea of a universal language never really caught on, the creation of the Esperanto langauge stands out as one of the more intriguing experiments in human history. An author examines the history of Esperanto, the utopian ideas behind it, and why the language still retains a dedicated following of speakers today.

  • Documentary Highlights The Asian-American Hip-Hop Scene, Confronts Stereotypes

    A new documentary film is challenging hip-hop music’s stereotypes by profiling Asian-American rappers and the struggles surrounding making music in a genre that is historically rooted in black culture.

    The film, “Bad Rap,” is co-produced by Jaeki Cho and Salima Koroma, both of whom have covered the hip-hop music scene for a variety of magazines and online outlets. It follows the careers of four Asian-American rappers — Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy and Lyricks — as they try to break into a music industry that often views them as outsiders.

    “Doing a story about Asian Americans in hip-hop is something that we haven’t really seen people do before,” Koroma said. “And we just thought that that was so important to tell that story and to give a voice to that.”

    As far as the overall hip-hop scene goes, Cho said there aren’t all that many Asian-American rappers breaking through. And for the ones that do, it’s their ethnicity — not necessarily their art form — that too often dominates their identity.

    “The reality is Asian Americans constitute a small population in America and the artists are going to continuously carry that banner that they are Asian-American rappers,” Cho said. “I think the artists themselves, they understand that, and they embrace the fact that they are Asian American. However, the fact is that they just don’t want to be pigeonholed into that one particular category.”

    Koroma said Asian-American rappers often have to be extra talented to make it into the mainstream.

    “You have to be great and there has to be something other than their ‘Asianess’ that people are going to be attracted to,” she said. “That’s something that they always have to think about.”

    Koroma added what might be holding Asian-American rappers back are the many stereotypes that surround them, including the myth that they’re all well behaved, weak and passive — characteristics that aren’t exactly in lockstep with hip-hop.

    “So how do you become an Asian rapper in the mainstream if your very existence is stereotypically the anthesis of hip hop? This is what we’re trying to explore in ‘Bad Rap,’” she said.

    The documentary screens Friday in Madison as part of the “Madison Asian-American Media Spotlight.”

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Chris Malina Producer
  • Jaeki Cho Guest
  • Salima Koroma Guest
  • Esther Schor Guest

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