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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Moment of Truth: The Cipher, Oliver Wang, and Filipino Turntablists in The Bay

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2015 at 4:19 PM

Got a lot to share witchas this week. Memes converging when our favorite hip-hop podcast, The Cipher, hosted OG hip-hop journalist/critic, Oliver “O-Dub” Wang, to talk about his new book, Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ’s in the San Francisco Bay Area. A mouthful of a title, but it’s the most comprehensive work on the phenomenon of how some of the most important hip-hop and turntablism pioneers, like Qbert, D-Styles, Shortkut, Apollo, etc … are all Filipino American DJ’s from the Bay.

While Wang's research and story centers around our local turntablists, our exposure to the history behind this scene, stems from The Cipher show and all of this is the focus of this week's Moment of Truth:

The Cipher

The Cipher is the brainchild of former Rap Genius Editor-in-Chief, Shawn Setaro. What began as the Outside The Lines with Rap Genius podcast, has budded into the more well-formed and well-produced, The Cipher. From where I’m standing, it’s a quintessential listen for every serious hip-hop fan and with each episode, Setaro provides extremely well-researched interviews with the biggest names in hip-hop, like recent guests Prince Paul, Scarface, RJD2, No Malice, Dj Quik and more...Get it in your rotation.


Oliver Wang

You could think of Oliver “O-Dub” Wang as one of the first underground hip-hop critics...well, at least one of the most prolific. A long time Berkeley resident (before making his way down to the LA area almost 10 years ago), Wang notably chronicled the 90’s-00’s Golden age of hip-hop for Vibe, Oakland Tribune, Wax Poetics, The SF Bay Guardian, LA Times, LA Weekly, URB and more … He was such a polarizing voice in hip-hop, who pioneered music blogging through his epic Soul Sides blog.

Today, Wang is a sociology professor at Long Beach State University and had been working on Legions of Boom for the past 10 years before its completion. The book immediately become the definitive work on the Bay Area turntablism movement and it, along with Wang’s career are discussed in detail on The Cipher.


The Cipher Episode 103 - Oliver Wang

Setaro and Wang embark on a spirited synopsis of Legions of Boom and it’s a compelling crash course on how the Bay Area is responsible for the birth of the turntablism movement. While it’s not a replacement for reading the book, it’s one helluva stoke-session on the rich stories contained within it. 

The episode chronicles the history of a scene that was born from young Filipino American students at local high schools like Balboa and Westmoor, how the “mobile DJ” movement brought young turntablists from garage parties, to rec centers, to clubs and how ONE DJ battle (between Qbert and Jazzy Jim Archer), effectively ushered in turntablism as we know it today. Wang even waxes on some epic hip-hop beef between him and the likes of Jean Grae, People Under The Stairs’ Thes One and Louis Logic.

Peep The Cipher Episode 103 here.

Pick up a copy of Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area by Oliver Wang at 

Check out the archive of all 106 episodes (and counting) of The Cipher here.

And check out a listing of Oliver Wang’s speaking events in the Bay Area here. 
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About The Author

Adrian Spinelli

Adrian Spinelli

Hip hop and sandwiches.


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