Transcript after the jump.
Hi everyone. It’s Anna coming at you again with the Feministing Five. This week’s interview features San Francisco’s very own Rocky Rivera. She’s a talented emcee who got her start as a hip-hop journalist. You might remember her from MTV’s 2006 reality show competition “I’m from Rolling Stone.” She won the competition and went on to work as a music journalist for some time. She made the leap from an observer to a participant in the hip-hop world with the release of her mixtape “Married to the Hustle” in 2009 and her debut album “Rocky Rivera” in 2010.
With catchy tracks like “GRLZ” and shout-outs to revolutionary women like Angela Davis and Gabriela Silang in her performances, she’s an artist that you can not only appreciate, but dance to on a Friday night.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Rocky Rivera.
AS: Where does the name “Rocky Rivera” come from?
RR: Rocky Rivera is the character from a book that I read in college and she had a similar upbringing as myself. Actually it was in the 70s so it was a reinterpretation of that character, who was a young Filipino woman who grew up in San Francisco and ended up moving to New York, which is also part of my narrative.
AS: Tell me about the transition from hip-hop journalist to hip-hop artist.
RR: I think the time that I became a journalist was a very transitional time. We were moving from print to digital and I felt a lot of resistance from publications. There was still a kind of protocol that you needed to pitch stories. Even though I broke through and was able to be published in different magazines, I wanted to write about what I wanted to write about. Even when I was at Rolling Stone, I would pitch these stories about female emcees and I would pitch these stories about certain artists who were on a local level and they never made it to any of the publications and it was unfortunate. Rolling Stone back in the 60s and 7os to San Francisco is definitely not what it is now.
AS: Was the transition difficult?
RR: It’s crazy because I’ve been performing my whole life. I used to dance with my older sister and I used to be in a dance group so I’m really comfortable in front of the camera or in front of a bunch of people. Sometimes I’m more comfortable in front of a group of people than I am one on one. It’s just really strange like that. Not a lot of writers are like that so when i got casted for the show, we were a bunch of writers, but we were also a bunch of hams. It’s not really that often that they find writers that are comfortable away from the computer screen and in front of other people. It was a pretty natural transition for me because I’d been performing prior to writing. I feel that I’ve been performing for the majority of my life and writing for just a small area. It’s just that I got a large amount of success and exposure from writing that most people know me as a journalist.
AS: What message are you trying to convey with your music?
I don’t think I have a particular singular message that represents me, but I do think that I provide a perspective that hasn’t been seen in hip hop in a long time or ever. There hasn’t been a pinay emcee doing what I do and speaking on issues that are relevant to what I go through. I think the message is that if I could do it, you could do it. I’m really trying to show by example. I do feel at this day and age even in the past 3 years there’s been a lot of young Filipinas that have come up and started rapping, but they have yet to touch on the things that we all go through. I don’t consider one Asian emcee to be a success story for all of us. I don’t like to tokenize who we are and what we go through. I also like to speak on some real shit. I reference Tupac a lot because I feel our styles are very similar in the fact that it’s not just the wordplay or the art of hip hop but using it as a vehicle to take your passions and bring to light things that mean a lot to you and that are good for your community not just bad. I wanted to round out the whole story. My message is just one small message that needed to be heard amongst everything else. I hope to bring some balance to it with me just being there saying what I have to say. I don’t necessarily represent everyone. My music is not for everybody, but it deserves to be heard. It’s so much more fulfilling than trying to fill in the blanks myself. I’m being the artist I wanted to have as a young woman growing up in San Francisco.
AS: What obstacles do we face in the women’s movement?
RR: At this point, I feel like the government is threatening to take away something as women we’ve worked very hard for since the 7os: reproductive rights and just basic rights as a human. The GOP and the Republican party and their whole campaign to take away women’s healthcare and reproductive rights, it feels that we haven’t made any progress at all. Even with civil rights, the sad thing is, I don’t think people understand how this country works. You can’t just have a movement and things will be done for you. You have to continue the work that the people before you have done and even though we are enjoying the things they fought for, what is your legacy going to be? What are you going to pass down to your children? It’s coming to the point where I have a son and I’m really considering having a daughter because unless I make this a better place for her to live, it’s an issue for me to bring her into a world that’s already so hostile to women. The U.S. is supposed to be a superpower and here they are treating women like second class citizens.