News / Arts & Entertainment

    Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

    Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Strugglesi
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    August 21, 2014 12:43 PM
    A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California, home to the largest Cambodian community outside that country.

    A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America.  Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s.  Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years.

    At 36 years old, Chanthy Sok, known to his fans as “CS,” has experienced more than most people in a lifetime.  The hip hop artist tells his story of pain and redemption through his music.

    “My struggle was coming from a war-torn country, raised by a single mother who's probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, raising six kids living in somebody else’s living room.  That struggle was real," he explains.

    From Cambodia to California

    CS's mother brought the family to Long Beach, California, where he experienced poverty, bullying and prejudice. 

    "It was basically the simple rules: go to school, stay away from trouble, if somebody hurt you look the other way, and get home," he says. "Those are the rules.  But when you leave the household, it’s a different story.  Those rules don’t apply.  You can’t run from the bullies forever.  You can’t run from racial slurs forever."

    Without support from home or his mother, CS joined a gang, was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

    "Ain't nobody love me at home so I felt like I’m going to go out whatever pain inflicted on me was going to be easy for me to inflict on other people, because my mama... that’s my life," he said tearfully, "though but I’m just glad that I got out of prison not the criminal not the tainted background not the tainted individual."

    Wake up call

    While in prison, CS says he had time to think and finally understood his mother’s struggles.  He also found a way to give voice to his pain through rap music.  More than a year after he was released, CS continued to work on his music, and ended up on the cover of an arts and entertainment newspaper in Los Angeles.

    CS is one of a growing number of Cambodian Americans using hip hop to express themselves because it is the music of the urban communities where they grew up.

    “We’re not saying we’re the best representation for Cambodians.  We’re not.  I think that I’m the best representation for the people who went through the struggle like me for the people who didn’t have a voice like me," CS says.

    “A lot of these artists do their music as if it’s a sense of duty, as if this is their way to pay respect to the survivors to the victims of the genocide," says Seak Smith, who produced Cambodian Music Festival in Los Angeles this month, bringing together artists from around the United States.

    "This is their piece of the voice that they can project to the world," she notes.

    Mixed support

    Smith says, as with any music of the younger generation, hip hop is not embraced by everyone in the community.

    "There are older generation Cambodians here in the U.S. as well as in Cambodia who really don’t like the representation of Cambodian hip hop, feeling like it brings some kind of negative vibe to the culture and losing its tradition," she says.

    In his songs, beyond talking about his own struggles, CS is working on infusing traditional Cambodian music into his work.  According to Smith, many artists not only want to get in touch with their roots but are trying to connect with musicians in the Cambodian Diaspora locally and around the world so the artists can have a voice again after surviving the horrors of genocide.  

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs