ARTIST: JEFFREY “JFK” BAUTISTA
Seattle rapper Jeffrey Bautista is slowly gaining notoriety in the underground scene as a raw, gritty artist who raps about those marginalized in the Asian American community.
Having grown up in the troubled parts of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Bautista recalls how gangs influenced his life as an adolescent.
“We thought we would gain respect by joining a gang,” says Bautista. “But this was a false sense of respect, gained by producing fear.”
Besides the gangs, there were positive influences in his life, too.
“My buddy got me listening to DJ Red Alert tapes recorded in New York. Everyone else was listening to mainstream pop music, but I listened to rap. There was lots of profanity, lots of imagery that I had never experienced.”
After receiving ten years probation on a felony charge, Bautista moved to Seattle, where he tried hard to stay out of trouble. Bautista continued listening to hip hop and considered it an outlet through which he could deal with his life issues. In his song “Twelve Years”, Bautista raps about his struggle with the law and subsequent efforts to remain clean.
Regarding his musical influences, Bautista cites old school artists as his inspiration. “My major influences are Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and Rakim. But probably the main influence was Wu-Tang Clan. ‘Liquid Swords’ is one of my favorite Wu-Tang records. When I first started, I tried to emulate Wu-Tang.”
Bautista faced considerable obstacles in his hip hop career. First, it was difficult to establish himself as a Filipino artist in a musical genre dominated by African Americans. In addition, being from Seattle did not help his prospects of signing a record deal. As a city known primarily for its grunge music, Seattle had not yet staked its claim in the hip hop community.
Perhaps the most formidable obstacle Bautista faced was himself.
“The other obstacle was realizing the fact that I actually wanted to do this. I made a lot of sacrifices. There are people who don’t believe in what you want to do. My parents were looking down on my music.”
Fortunately, Bautista states that he has overcome his barriers, including those that were self-imposed. He has signed a record deal with two labels, Rhymesayers and Taxidermy Records. Bautista also has a show coming up on November 21 at 8 p.m. at the Rendezvous Bar. He will be performing songs from his upcoming album “Building Wings on the Way Down”.
ARTIST: SONNY BONOHO
“When I first started, hip hop wasn’t that popular,” says rapper Sonny Bonoho about how he got started in hip hop. “I was more into dancing, especially breakdancing.” After watching his friends rap, however, Bonoho started rapping with them, gradually learning about the fundamentals of rap by freestyling and writing his own material.
Growing up in Tacoma, Bonoho experienced his share of hardships.
“In high school, I was in the street life. Life wasn’t that good. I was always around negativity, including the drug scene and gangs. My life wasn’t very happy.” Fortunately, Bonoho found an outlet in hip hop music, which provided him a way to channel his energies into something more positive.
It was at this point that Bonoho became a Christian. At age twenty-one, Bonoho experienced a crisis. “All of the negativity backfired on me. My cousin asked me to stay at his house. I remember saying a simple prayer. I will never forget it, and it was like a transformation. I confessed from my heart, and I was saved.”
Bonoho’s start as a rapper was not auspicious. ”I remember performing at Café Arizona in Tacoma. It was like a talent show. Right when I started rapping, they started booing me off stage.” Bonoho quit rapping after that. After three months, however, Bonoho wrote a song called “Glitta”, which he performed at Café Arizona again. This time, Bonoho won the talent show, receiving five hundred dollars as a prize.
Bonoho cites old school influences in his music. As an adolescent, he listened to Slick Rick, Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Poor Righteous Teachers, and Digital Underground. “Anything that deals with funny, quirky beats, and makes me laugh, influences me.” Bonoho also says that his parents, who are musicians as well, influenced him to make music. Among contemporary influences, Bonoho states that Ludacris, Ole Dirty Bastard. and KRS 1 inspire him.
Regarding his future plans, Bonoho states, “Every rapper’s dream is to be a superstar. I’d like to touch the world through my music. I feel like the world is hurt, and hope that some of my lyrics will give them light, like the fruit of the spirit that God gave me.” After signing with Blackworld Entertainment, a management company, Bonoho expects his new album “Phonephreak” to be released in the near future. His previous album, “Life of a Backup Singer”, is available on iTunes.