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Barrel Men

Sabrina Ford
Date Published: 
October 01, 2006

Native Guns’ MCs Bambu and Kiwi didn’t know each other as youths, but both grew up in the Los Angeles Filipino gang culture and went on to become solo rap artists with community-focused messages. The two met when they performed on the same bill at an LA benefit concert.

“We’d both heard of each other and people were telling both of us we should meet. Bambu approached me to be on a song on his solo album. We thought we sounded good together and recorded some more songs. That led to forming a group,” explains Kiwi.

After seeing Native Guns perform live, DJ Phatrick, organizer of the student group UC Berkeley Students for Hip Hop, approached Kiwi and Bambu. “He said, ‘your shows are good but they could be better if you had a DJ,’” recalls Kiwi. The two original members were feeling Phatrick’s skills and his focus on community. “He completed the circle. He is very opinionated and has a lot of good input,” shares Kiwi.

Lucky for us things have a way of falling into place like that. Though a series of coincidences brought them together, it seems to be the chemistry between Bambu, Kiwi and DJ Phatrick that makes Native Guns’ debut Barrel Men a hot album.

The fifteen tracks on Barrel Men fight for control of your booty and your brain, but never fight over the two. Each beat, complete with scratches from DJ Phatrick, is as dance-worthy as anything you’d hear at the club. Not relying on the beats, Kiwi and Bambu’s lyrics are strong enough to stand alone as powerful poetry.

Drowning, a cautionary tale of a young woman of color whose self-hatred leads to drug abuse and a young man tempted by life of crime, is a prime example of Native Guns’ blending of quality rhythm and words. Both Kiwi and Bambu spit effortlessly over a smoothed-out beat with a soulful chorus.
Kiwi’s current favorite, Work It, contemplates the irony of young people of color in the US desiring material goods made under hellish conditions by the hands of young people of color in other countries. Kiwi says of Work It, “I feel like the concept was really clever and I was really excited when we were recording it.”

Barrel Men is overall politically and socially-conscious, taking on complex issues of gang life and the price young men are willing to pay to feel that sense of family or community. However, Bambu & Kiwi do devote time to a topic seemingly (but not actually) more simple—love. Right There is a beautiful love song that celebrates the kind of love that is always “right there”, no matter what is going on between two lovers.

Native Guns’ experience with gangs as young people, their community focus as adults and their ability to discuss love in a grown-ass man kinda way make for a great album that explores a variety of issues and experiences.

Barrel Men
Native Guns