There was once a time when the only Asian rappers you could listen to were either rapping in a foreign language or creating shoddy MP3 recordings you couldn’t take seriously (Got Rice Bitch?). It might seem silly today, but behind every ‘I heard Redman is part Korean’ rumor it was really just Asian dudes yearning to see an Asian dude rap. Extra points if they could do it without an accent and not on a computer mic.
The Mountain Brothers took our minimal expectations and six-stepped all over them, hitting milestone after milestone along the way.
The group signed to Ruffhouse (before going independent), had their video in rotation on MTV, opened up for legendary acts like A Tribe Called Quest, and their records did the damn thing on college radio. And this was all before YouTube when you had to really put in that grass roots grind. When they dropped their debut album, Self Vol 1, critics praised the trio for their everyman rhymes and sample-less production, two elements prevalent today but seldom seen during that time. For us, not only did the album give us actual physical proof Asians could rap, it was great music, simple as that. 15 years later, fans still remember where they were when they first heard it.
But what about the Mountain Brothers? What do they remember about that album?
For the 15th anniversary of the album (the album dropped in 1999), I somehow managed to get Styles Infinite (Steve Wei), Peril-L (Christopher Wang), and Chops (Scott Jung) in a Facebook chat to run through the album, track by track, and tell me what they could. With limited time, we could only discuss so much and with the format, it gets a little confusing as all chats do (particularly when one member was finishing a thought about the last song even after we moved on to the next). But not to worry fans, the MBs hook it up with stories about alternate versions, the creative process, influences, verses they were particularly proud of (or not so proud of), and just general clowning. So without further ado, here’s a breakdown of Self Vol 1 from the Mountain Brothers themselves.