LA Weekly recently published a story about Bambu, the Filipino American rapper, who aside from spitting out amazing rhymes, is known for his leftist politics in his lyrics, making his rapper peers look like Republicans with their countless first world problems. A striking example is his latest and eighth solo LP, Prey for the Devil, which was released on September 11, 2016. It raised controversy for its racially charged commentary and militant raps:

“At the time that I wrote the album, race was the issue. Race is still the issue. And in the microcosm of the hip-hop industry, I too was kind of witnessing all these things happening around race as well.”

Prey for the Devil has no moderate views. Featuring Killer Mike, Myka 9, Mark de Clive-Lowe and Do Dat from Golden Age, Bambu explains that the devil’s prey are poor young people of color, trapped in what he refers to as the “school-to-prison pipeline system … [or] school-to-military.” The predatory criminal justice system is a slave master, and poor communities are free labor for the prison-industrial complex, or potential soldiers for America’s imperialist endeavors.

Raised in Watts, an inner-city neighborhood in Los Angeles, Bambu was putting down rhymes on paper since the age of 12. He joined a local gang through his cousins. The Santanas, as the gang was known, seemed like a natural progression for a young Filipino kid living in the hood.

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Gangs, he explains, are a subculture of “a greater culture,” which is the American culture. “Whenever there’s a conflict, what does America do? They resolve it with violence.” Considering that the greater culture’s foundation is the exploitation of forced labor, young gang members created their own version of that. “It doesn’t matter if you gotta sell crack to your auntie. You gotta make money. That’s the only source of power in this country.”

By the age of 15, several of his cousins were murdered by the gang life. He spent a stint in juvenile hall and stood trial, where a judge provided leniency and strongly suggested he join the military after his stint in juvie hall. That he did, joining the marines and jumping from one organization to another. To Bambu, he was replacing his strict immigrant parents, gangs and school with the military, which was a seamless transition.

He was stationed in East Timor, where the locals looked like him. One night, while on leave, he returned to base dressed in plain clothes. Guards at the entrance of the base pointed their guns at him and ordered him to get down on the ground. It was a situation that paralleled dealing with police in his LA neighborhood. It was an eye opening experience.

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On the song “Routine,” featuring his son Kahlil, Bam says what today’s favorite rappers won’t say: “Fuck ah cop.” He repeats it like Paul Mooney in Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled. It’s as if there hasn’t been a raw, unscripted moment in hip-hop culture since Kanye said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” From Bam’s perspective, “Fuck Da Police” is more of a mantra than a provocation.

Bambu pulls no punches in his latest work. He says about the impending Trump presidency:

“The positive that I take away from [Trump’s election] is we’re about to see some brilliant, strong, militant activists popping out of this four years.”

To read more, head over to LA Weekly: Filipino Rapper Bambu Has Some Intense Things to Say About Race in America

Bambu’s Prey for the Devil is available now via Bandcamp. Buy it!

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