While it’s been less than a week since our collective freakout over winter storms named Hercules and vortexes that are polar in nature, many people in the island nation of the Philippines are struggling to put their lives together in the two months since Typhoon Haiyan (otherwise known as Yolanda). Though it’s far from many people’s minds, some Bushwick community members are doing their best to fund relief efforts. This past Sunday, The Relief, Rebuild, Remember fundraiser at The Paper Box saw a diverse mix of Filipino emcees, spoken word artists, award-winning DJs, and bonafide hip-hop legends.

DJ Kuttin Kandi saw hip-hop as the perfect medium for bringing attention to Typhoon Haiyan victims through the Relief, Rebuild Remember benefit.

For Queens-bred (and now San Diego-based) Filipina, Candice Custodio-Tan, her decades-long experience organizing and rocking the turntables for hip-hop events throughout New York City as DJ Kuttin Kandi was the perfect training for her to do her part for those affected by Haiyan. The Relief, Rebuild, Remember fundraiser was a way for Bushwick to send love and aid those whose lives were ravaged by Haiyan. The storm, which brought rain and 200 mph winds to the central region of Visayas, took more than 6,000 lives, and caused the internal displacement of millions more.

The event, which sent proceeds to the National Association of Filipino Concerns, is all part of what Custodio-Tan sees as hip-hop’s ability to provide “a space for different folks to contribute and raise awareness” around environmental and social justice issues. For Custodio-Tan, one of the most damaging effects of natural disasters like Haiyan is the disruptive role it can play in leading to the sexual abuse and trafficking of women and children who are displaced.

Relief, Rebuild, Remember organizer DJ Kuttin Kandi checks out Pharoahe Monche’s set.

When a determined and passionate activist with an 18-year rolodex of hip-hop connections decides to organize a benefit concert, you end up with an insanely eclectic lineup. The benefit not only featured Filipino-American emcees like Mark Marvel and Hydroponiks, but female rappers and spoken word artists like Sara Kana, Apani B. Fly and Toni Blackman and underground hip-hop stalwarts like Pharaoah Monche, the Arsonists, and the Juggaknots, whose 1996 song “Clear Blue Skies” should be considered one of the most searingly poignant hip-hop songs about bigotry ever made.

The night started with former Black Moon DJ Evil Dee working the turntables and declaring to the crowd: “Tonight, we’re going to un-gentrify the shit out of this neighborhood!” After sets by Evil Dee and DJ Jise, the Staten Island-based emcee Mark Marvel performed, followed by Queens-based Filipino-American rapper Hydroponiks, who managed to adroitly reference the recent white washing of the vaunted 5Pointz graffiti mecca in Long Island City.

Queens-based Filipino-American emcee Hydroponiks was one of the featured acts.

After high-energy sets by battle rapper Sara Kana, Mazzi and Apani B. Fly (whose turn as an innocent girl corrupted by the rapper MF Doom is detailed in another excellent rap song called “Let Me Watch“), the night was turned over to Pharoahe Monche. Noting that it was “a pleasure to be here tonight for a good cause,” and regaling the crowd with a spot-on Busta Rhymes impression, the former member of Organized Konfusion proceeded to make the crowd go absolutely mental, with renditions of classic crowd-pleasers like “Simon Says” and “Oh No.”

Sara Kana (l.) and Apani B (r.) Fly represent for New York’s female hip-hop artists.


Not to be out done, hip-hop raconteurs the Arsonists followed that set with a hard-charging one of their own, mixing songs like “The Session” with anecdotes about how they used to cut classes from their high school in Bushwick to promote hip-hop shows.

All in all, the event was a testament to the power of hip-hop music to bring people together around events that are bigger than one’s self. If you missed the show and want to support the Typhoon Haiyan relief effort, have no fear, for the Paper Box and DJ Kuttin Kandi are hosting another benefit event, Serve the People, Speak Truth to Power, which is going to feature spoken word artists Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Taiyo Na, LA Bruja, and the one and only Flaco Navaja, who might be known to Bushwick Daily readers through the fantastically funny web series East WillyB.