Artist Watch: Bambu

Early life: Los Angeles native, hip-hop artist known as Bambu DePistola, had a rough childhood. The artist has been very outspoken about how harmful the gentrification of neighborhoods that are alike to where to where he grew up in, but what was it like living in these neighborhoods?

In an interview with L.ARecord Bambu spoke about living in the "flatlands of Los Angeles" they called them the "flatlands" because there are no hills, no mountains and how he doesn't like to talk about his childhood because they differ from other children that grew up in those same communities. Being of South Asian decent, Bambu claimed that because he was another ethnicity he was very outcasted by his peers this led to him joining and being affiliated with gangs in order to feel a "part" of where he grew up, Bambu spend half of his youth as a member of one of the oldest Filipino gangs in Los Angeles, according to, the streets were not kind to him, and he was robbed of his freedom, safety, independence and the lives of his cousins, but ultimately he said that "gangbangin' helped me carve out a part of L.A" he said. 

Through his young years, he turned the destructive energy he was forced to grew up around and turned it into music. MTV claimed that Bambu's music has been said to be "lauded by his fans and contemporaries for his lyrical storytelling abilities". Bambu appreciates his childhood for this skill. MTV also says Bambu's music is "vividly-detailed, and characterized by an honesty that is equal parts brutal, thought provoking and liberating".

After years of gangbanging, Bambu got arrested for armed robbery, and when he was out of jail he knew it was time to do something different, he wanted to clean up and also make a difference, so he joined the military which ultimately opened his eyes to a lot of things which can contribute to why Bambu is now a political rights activist. Bambu said his exit to "gang life" was joining the Marine Corps, he was relieved of his duties to the country right before September 11th and began his musical career in 2002, he released his first album Self Untitled, that year. 

After the release of his first album, a number of underground musicians took notice, Bambu said in an interview with Vans that the success was accidental, but it did lure him to quit his day job and go full-time in his musical career. After deciding on recording more, he joined with group Native Guns where he joined forces with MC Kiwi and DJ Phatrick, this is when Native Guns was born. 

Native Guns

The group released their debut album Stray Bullets Vol 1, in 2004, and their last album together came right after in 2007, Stray Bullets Vol 2. After his short time with the band, Bambu continued producing and performing music around the world. Bambu shared the stage with artists such as Common, X-Clan, Medusa, Dilated Peoples, Psycho, Realm, Planet Asia, Zion-I, The Blue Scholars, Immortal Technique, The Visionaries and Pac Div. 

Growing up in the era of West Coast and East Coast rap, hip-hop was always a major influence in Bambu's life. He has said that when he was younger he'd rhyme with his friends "I've always been a fan of hip-hop growing up, it was always there" he stated. When he gets more political in his rhymes and more socially conscious than mainstream rap, Bambu mentions that his music is "what rap should be, I tell the whole story, not just the story of drugs and selling drugs there is a whole other side to it that's not being told" he told Vans, criticizing mainstream artist that only rhyme about guns, girls, drugs and selling drugs. 

"I'm a career MC, living on minimum wage" -Bambu DePistola 

Bambu exercises his activism largely by his rhymes. Bambu has addressed everything from workers rights to immigration to the military and prison-industrial complex, police brutality, and gentrification according to From Gangs To Glory. Bambu not only rhymes the conflicts we have in America but he also gets out and helps out. Bambu organizes around issues like Asian youth leadership, community reform and empowerment and offers time and design services to non-profits.  Today, the artist and father strive's to find a balance between performing, recording, and activism he said in an interview with KQED arts. He said something particularly challenging is the social climate of police violence within the communities of color and the active Black Lives Matter movement in Oakland, where his son goes to school.  

Bambu has been very outspoken and involved as an activist, the artist has said that before he debuted one of his most popular albums, Party Worker he was just experimenting with his previous albums, trying to find a place in hip-hop as a Filipino man. Bambu has said that he is fully engulfed in his music now, he has claimed that he used to say that organizing will always be first, but as of lately his music seems to be taking precedent over his organizing, which is bad in his eyes. Bambu believes that it be "dope if MC's were the grassroots in people's organizations".

I'm a dad first, I'm an organizer second, and I happen to be an MC third - Bambu DePistola 

Pop CultureNicole Pujazon