Rapper Antwon has a new LP called Blasian. In it, he raps, both in and out of verse about the dichotomy of being black and Asian. He gets in touch with his Filipino heritage as much as he raps about his current location in the Bay Area. Blasian is raw, bedroom rap with distinctively old-school ‘90s vibes. Sparse beats and loops highlight Antwon himself as he lends humor and personal history to his clever wordplay.
Antwon riffs before and after many of his verses, giving the impression of a pre and post-workout stretch. Flexing his vocal chops, stretching his mind with a stream of consciousness riffing. The conversational lyrics and interludes make listening to Blasian such a chill and often hilarious experience, /If you ain’t washing the rice twice you need to get a new life/. Antwon blends jokes into flowing rhymes. He revels in his identity while acknowledging the struggles that came with it. /Fuck social studies n****/ he says, listing how much of his cultural makeup is simply omitted from the standard curriculum. And damn if Antwon isn’t right. They don’t really teach us about the Philippines in social studies class and that’s some bullshit.
No song is more chill on Blasian than “I Like to Chill.” It’s got all the elements of chill; some pan pipes, ‘80s Casio keyboard, and those bedroom lo-fi beats. If you ever wished for more audio clips from 2002’s The Count of Monte Cristo in music, then good news! “God Taking a Shower” starts and ends with clips from the classic film as Antwon samples lines from the excellent Luis Guzmán who honestly doesn’t show up enough in the hip-hop world. Plus those lo-fi piano loops keep things real jazzy.
In “Bip” Antwon shows us another, not at all chill, side. He’s loose, having fun, verging on unhinged. Bip plays on the Bay area’s “BIP land” reputation. It’s clever and funny as hell. He growls /I’m from the land of that bip/ we bippin your car/. That humor blended with the serious is a running theme in Blasian. A lot of these lines just hit, /imma say it twice you n****s ain’t shit, ain’t shit/.
Clocking in just over thirty-one minutes, every one of these tracks packs a punch. Antwon says what he wants to say and wraps that shit up. In “Ticon” he manages to squeeze it all into the space of a minute, and it’s right! From the man himself in the last track “OG Anthem”, he riffs, “I’m done with this shit, I can’t give up too much game.” Blasian is tight.
Blasian is a personal record. You rap about your family, your history, struggles with identity. Was it difficult getting that personal? Was it therapeutic?
I Don’t see it being too difficult for me lately being in recovery and doing therapy i feel like my heart has softened a lot to myself. I know it’s difficult to let strangers in my personal life but I hear certain music and it makes me think of things that are so personal id never share with anyone and i cry i had to become my best friend again. I feel like i couldn’t cry before maybe because i wanted to be a character of me and not be me. i feel really free now and the music is very therapeutic to have.
How do you compose your lyrics? Your lyrics say, “I used to wake up with the pen right near me.” What about now, do you like to write things out first?
Lyrics really jus come to me now like ill be hit with inspiration and ill try to express how it made me feel but i always been good at making something simple sound so extra. I think most great writers bring you to a place in your head.
I wrote some lyrics and i punched in some parts. I really just wanted to say things i truly felt at the moment. I really wanted that stream of consciousness.
Do you still get lyrical inspiration from your dreams?
Nah i gather inspiration from being awake more.
You talk a lot about self-improvement in your work: healthy food, eating vegan, keeping those vibrations low. What’s self-improvement mean to you these days?
Many don’t know but in 2018 i was in the hospital for a minute because i was at risk of having a stroke. I was so lucky to find out before anything severe happened. I had hyper tension and high blood pressure for a minute and i was burning the candle at both ends with drinking, doing drugs, smoking weed daily, eating bad, no exercise, touring, not getting good sleep, and i was smoking a ton of cigarettes. So by the time i was in my first year of recovery i was smoking a pack of day drinking coffee jus eating worse. I went to the doctor because i was having chest and arm pains like crazy. They told me if I didn’t check into urgent care i would have a stroke. I found out that i was also diabetic when i was in the hospital.
Things really changed for me after that. I had a life still and I had to start respecting myself and my body. I really got into going into the gym and being vegan really helped me again i feel like eating dead animals can really don’t something to some ones soul. I really try and make an effort to listen to myself and what I need to keep my health intact.
You produced this album. What was that experience like? Were you already comfortable with the recording process, making beats, samples, recording yourself?
Yeah. Hell yeah I was already comfortable with all of it. The beat part was just like not needing anyone honestly I really hate having to rely on anyone when I don’t feel like it’s necessary when I can learn it myself. I really want to be doing more beats for people honestly.
What was the significance of the audio clip from the 2002 film, “The Count of Monte Cristo” in the track “God Taking a Shower?”
That is a fucking great movie. Such a great story. I think it was one of Luis Guzman’s greatest roles. That scene is so powerful to me. The ego will make you do some really wild shit.