First appeared on IGGY: December 02, 2010
Mondega grew up gambling in dice games on the streets of Vietnam. The Montagnard people, ever at odds with the Vietnamese, have been entrenched in genocide, persecuting land laws, and general disdain for millennia. Sixteen years ago Mondega’s family got political refuge in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he witnessed a different breed of gang violence and drive-by shootings, all to a hip hop soundtrack. Rap became serene Mondega’s main escape. And after three years of releasing singles (like the Asian battle cry “Rice Up”) and mixtapes to a hungry USA/Montagnard fanbase, Mondega finally dropped his debut album. Music for the People begins with general testifyin’ tracks like “Stand My Ground,” and “Wake Up,” which call for unity among Southeast Asians. The album gets closer to Mondega’s real personality in tunes like “Me And My Girl” and apparently, he’s a romantic: “Some of us want Benz and a condo in Miami/With a Cubana mami screaming out papi in a bed/You can be a star, but don’t ever get lost/….And “I don’t ask for much but to live life right and find my love/Me and my girl.” His 2009 single “Sucka A$$ G**k” (which didn’t make it to Music for the People) airs his grievances toward other Asian people who have judged him by his dark complexion, in the song’s video, they refuse to give him a job. Or, “I try hard to send money back home…my momma bought a crib and my president is black/and Ho Chi Minh told me that I couldn’t do that.” Stay tuned for Mondega’s Food, Clothing, and Love mix tape.
Okay, so the story is fascinating. But is the music good? The answer is yes, if you’re all about 90s-style breakbeats and genuine, Southeast Asian-slanted poetry. Mondega’s raps have the lyrical emphasis of Eminem, with rivaling cleverness.