Portrayal of Transnational Migration in

Filipino-American Hip-Hop Music

Joshua Ramon Enslin /

What is migration?

Contemporary immigrants can not be characterized as the "uprooted." Many are transmigrants, becoming firmly rooted in their new country but maintaining multiple linkages to their homeland.

Glick-Schiller et al. 1995, 48

Say, migrants are embedded ...

  • in their host society
  • in migrant communities
  • in their home communities
Migrants cannot be understood only in the context of their host society


A little bit of history

Philippines were colonized by the USA (1898-1935)

US-Americans focus on education as a tool of colonization

Filipinos migrated to the USA with relatively little restrictions

  • Restrictions in agriculture: mostly urban population (Baldoz 2004)
  • Filipinos in the US military
  • Emergence of Filipino-American literature (See Cruz 2011)

Main Occupations

  • Military
  • Nurses
  • Service sector

Carlson 1983; Espiritu 2002

Periods of Migration

  • Colonial Era and early post-WW2 Era
  • Migrants after declaration of Martial Law (1972)
  • Later labor migrants (c.f. Parreñas 2001)

Filipino-Americans Today

2.65 million Filipino-Americans in 2010 census (Hoeffel et al. 2012)

Data: United States Census Bureau, accessed

Mostly on the West Coast and Hawai'i

Data: Census 2000; image saved on Wikimedia Commons

Filipino-American Hip-Hop Music

Filipinos in Very Popular Bands

E.g.: apl.de.ap (Black Eyed Peas)

The Black Eyed Peas: The APL Song (2003; Elephunk)

Underground Hip-Hop

Geologic / Blue Scholars

Blue Scholars: Yuri Kochiyama (Live on KEXP; 2011; Cinemetropolis)
(see also: Viola 2006)

Bambu / Native Guns

Prometheus Brown & Bambu: Lookin' Up (2012; Prometheus Brown and Bambu Walk Into A Bar)

Frequent relevant topics in their music

  • Life in the Philippines
  • Life as migrants
  • Political activism
  • Life as Asian-Americans
  • in this specific case: Links to military

Common Denominators


  • References to things deemed Filipino
  • Using Tagalog words
  • Description of poverty in the Philippines
  • Positive depiction of Filipino culture (c.f. Mulder 2013)

Political Artists

  • References to colonial past
  • Links to struggle for human rights in other domains
  • Links with militant struggle

How to Go On From Here?

  • There is more highly relevant literature
  • Extend to more artists
  • Close reading of the lyrics

Thank You!


  • Baldoz, Rick. 2004. “Valorizing Racial Boundaries: Hegemony And Conflict In The Racialization Of Filipino Migrant Labour In The United States”. Ethnic And Racial Studies 27 (6): 969-986. doi:10.1080/0141987042000268558.
  • Espiritu, Yen Le. 2002. “Filipino Navy Stewards And Filipina Health Care Professionals: Immigration, Work And Family Relations”. Asian And Pacific Migration Journal 11 (1): 47-66.
  • Hoeffel, Elizabeth M., Sonya Rastogi, Myoung Ouk Kim, and Hasan Shahid. 2012. “The Asian Population: 2010”. https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-11.pdf.
  • Mulder, Niels. 2013. “Filipino Identity: The Haunting Question”. Journal Of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 32 (1): 55-80. http://journals.sub.uni-hamburg.de/giga/jsaa/article/view/640/638.
  • Schiller, Nina Glick, Linda Basch, and Cristina Szanton Blanc. 1995. “From Immigrant To Transmigrant: Theorizing Transnational Migration”. Anthropological Quarterly 68 (1): 48-63. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317464.
  • Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2001. Servants Of Globalization: Women, Migration And Domestic Work. Stanford University Press/Ateneo de Manila University Press.
  • Carlson, Alvar W. 1983. “The Settling Of Recent Filipino Immigrants In Midwestern Metropolitan Areas”. Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Southeast Asian Studies 1 (1).
  • Viola, Michael. 2006. “Hip-Hop And Critical Revolutionary Pedagogy: Blue Scholarship To Challenge "The Miseducation Of The Filipino"”. Journal For Critical Education Policy Studies 4 (2): 171-194. http://www.jceps.com/archives/525.