On the heels of yet another close friend dying at the hands of gang violence, a young Kiwi found himself going through records at a homie’s crib, attempting to make sense of the uncertainty of hood life. That’s when he stumbled across BDP’s “Stop the Violence.” As soon as that bassline shot through the speaker, Kiwi’s course changed forever with the realization that life was worth much more than petty street wars. He wrote his first rap that night.
Kiwi’s journey has gone from escaping gang life to finding self and community, to being politicized, to peeling away layers of colonization and male conditioning. Each of these revelations is documented not just in his songs, but in his work as a writer, educator, and organizer. All of these elements come together to make up Kiwi’s truest identity, as a cultural worker and servant of the people.
But ultimately it all starts on the stage, and for over a decade Kiwi has been a mainstay in the independent hip hop scene, rocking shows from California to New York to Hawaii all the way to the Philippines. From his short-lived stint (with DJ KidWIK) as part of turntablist/emcee duo Vice Versa, to his first solo album Writes of Passage: Portraits of a Son Rising, to his most noted body of work with renowned rap group Native Guns, Kiwi has seen both triumph and tragedy of the independent hustle. He has given and received love not just over beats, but through his workshops, blogs, events, and community work.
Kiwi is working on his upcoming full-length solo album Love & Justice. He is also the lead subject of the documentary Sounds of a New Hope by filmmaker Eric Tandoc. When not on stage or in the studio, Kiwi works locally and nationally organizing for the rights and welfare of Filipinos both in the Philippines and the US. You might also find him mashing around the city on his bicycle, writing love letters, or attempting to perfect another cookie recipe. For more, visit www.illafonte.com.