For any hip-hop fan in the Bay Area, Oliver Wang’s new book Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the Bay Area is an essential history. Chronicling the scenes in Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco and (especially) Daly City in the ’80s and ’90s, Wang paints a fascinating portrait of a tight-knit community—the Filipino DJs who threw parties in community centers, garages, schools and church halls around the Bay Area, playing freestyle, disco, Top 40 and hip-hop for friends and family.
From this organic soil grew a revolution in hip-hop DJing, as covered in the award-winning documentary Scratch. The alumni of the Filipino Mobile DJ scene built upon the basics of mixing records to create a new practice that would come to be called turntablism; in short, they began treating the turntable as an instrument, and using rapid cuts and scratches as building blocks for a new form of composition.
Wang’s thorough book—which explores race and family as much as music—ends roughly on the cusp of this new genre’s birth. Therefore, to bridge the two scenes, here are the Top 5 tracks to have emerged from the innovations in the Bay Area’s Filipino Mobile DJ community.
5. Shortkut & Cut Chemist – ‘Live at the Future Primitive Sound Session’
Recorded in 1997 at Mark Herlihy’s Future Primitive Sound Session, this live recording kicked off a series of highly regarded mixes from the likes of Z-Trip, DJ Shadow and others. Promoter Herlihy, half-Filipino himself, made a conscious decision to give the limelight to scratch DJs, and for his first pairing threw Jurassic 5’s Cut Chemist and the Bay Area’s Shortkut together on stage in a live, unrehearsed improvisation. The result? A meeting of the minds that found the two DJs trading “solos” like jazz musicians over beats by the likes of Afrika Bambaata, Eric B. & Rakim, and an ever-changing array of spoken-word oddities. (Hear the whole thing here.)