I’ve been a longtime fan of Rocky Rivera, SF-native, Oakland-based Filipina American rapper, activist, & mother. Her newest effort entitled “Rocky’s Revenge” came out last week while I was traveling with my family so I put off listening the the album until I was home in the Bay, perhaps taking a drive to the very SF streets that raised her. All symbolic-like. So I waited until I got back. Almost a week after people have been posting, sharing and copping the album. I feel behind.
But, I wanted to honor her work in that way so leave me alone in my symbolism and lateness.
Anyway, I dropped my kids off yesterday and drove my mom-car around the Excelsior and the Mission with it on full blast. And boy did she take me on a ride.
The work was beautiful. Honest and vulnerable. Painful and creative. The textures and tempo of the songs across the album was fascinating. Hooking you into the next track like a page turner. Her cadence and wordplay was on point and as always, the imagery in her concepts and stories were so sharp.
The first song titled after the album was a helluva introduction to Rocky’s newest musical effort. My favorite lines traced lineage of maternal and matriarchal magic connecting a mystical past through the violence of patriarchy and misogyny (past and present) all the way to the Pinay futurity where Rocky claims, “I’m Mother Nature so respect me/You all my sons.” I loved this track because it was infused with a militant maternalism that invoked images of womb, baby carrying, the mystic power of womanhood and motherhood. In this iteration of her artistry, I could hella relate to Rocky as a mother, realizing the universe existing in my many states and potentialities. She echoed what I’ve felt in my bones.
Across the album, Rocky gives me the right mix of gangsta, mama, militancy, Filipiniana and Bay. She sounds authentically Bay Area-bred with roots in the Philippines, music reflective of our Filipino American struggles. It’s a special and unique experience: being raised Filipino in the Bay Area. Wherever I’ve lived in the US, Bay Area Filipinos often find one another and stick together. Often because I think there’s something about it that only applies to us. Rocky sounds like that feeling. She sounds like how it feels to be home in the Bay, be with ya peoples.
It brings me to my favorite song: it has to be the penultimate track “Like You”, an emotional tribute to the late great Bay Area legend, The Jacka. When I first met Rocky, I remember connecting on the Bay Area rap tip. We were in college and because I was raised in the FAR East Bay, I felt a bit out of place in terms of music and FilAm culture in SF. We listened to the likes of RBL Posse, Andre Nickatina and The Jacka where I came from. And Rocky knew exactly who I was talkimbout. She not only listened to Jacka’s music but interviewed him for her journalistic endeavors and befriended him–no, be-familied him. When Jacka passed away from gun violence, I was heart broken so listening to this track, I really felt Rocky as she laid bare the shattered pieces of her heart. J.O.A.L. Or Mr. Vargas to his students, rapper and righteous Westmoor high teacher, noted that the opening line, “I’ll probably never feel the same about the Bay again,” was Rocky’s reflection about losing a beloved friend but it could also be about how the Bay has transformed with gentrification, racialized capitalism, and so much more. As someone who has experienced loss more recently, Rocky’s tribute to Jacka gave me the opportunity to stay in my pain and feel it shamelessly. In this way, her track transcended their relationship, inviting us listeners to take part in grief: hers and our own.
I’m no music journalist. Just a sociologist and a fan of Rocky’s. But if you’re out there reading this blog: do yourself a favor, buy Rocky Rivera’s album. Better yet go to her album release party on Thursday.
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