DJ EFN Sheds Light On Vietnamese Hip-Hop Culture In New Film
DJ EFN shares his thoughts about his venture to expose Vietnam's hip-hop scene and reflects on his off-camera moments.
Eric F. Narciandi, better known as DJ EFN, immerses himself into the podcast world every time he connects with N.O.R.E. to turn rap royalty into “Drink Champs.” When he’s not taking shots with the best lyricists and producers in the game, EFN and his Crazy Hood crew are on a journey to discover and expose hip-hop’s influence around the world.
In the fourth episode of the series, the Miami legend brings Big Drain, Charles Ribeiro, and graffiti king Trek6 of the STV Crew with him to the far east for a better understanding of the unique hip-hop culture in Southeast Asia. EFN acts as the Anthony Bourdain of hip-hop as he learns more about how the culture impacted Vietnam. The crew travels to several major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Mihn City aka Saigon to link up with the country’s most prominent MCs.
“The beauty of travelling and doing these films, which are strictly focused on hip-hop, is that each country has its own vibe,” EFN tells VIBE. “We get to see how each country has interpreted hip-hop and the culture.”
They expected to run into plenty of b-boys since the commercial popularity of breakdancing is huge in Asia. In the beginning of their trip, EFN and his team were able to find out exactly why it’s so popular. The story goes: when hip-hop first got to the country, no one understood the lyrics so the quickest way they could “interpret hip-hop and live it is the form of dance because they can dance to the beat.”
As the trip continues, they made their way around the country with the guidance of hometown acts like fav Suboi, one of the biggest artists in Vietnam. After establishing the foundation of her career in hip-hop, Suboi has ascended to pop star status in her homeland. Less than two months after EFN and his squad left Vietnam, President Barack Obama took his own trip to Vietnam to become the first sitting president to visit the country after the war. Not only did Suboi get to meet Obama, but she got to rap for him as well.
“That happening really represents what our journey and this film is,” said EFN. “We’re showing you how big hip-hop is to the point where the president of the United States is being greeted by a rapper from Vietnam and that’s how they’re communicating.”
While the documentary shows the best of their educational trip, there were a few key moments that didn’t make the final cut. EFN’s father fought in the Vietnam War which encouraged him to watch numerous documentaries on the country’s history. While walking through the streets of Saigon, the crew had stumbled upon an iconic landmark that EFN knew about all his life because of the documentaries, but had never seen in person.
“I watched so many documentaries about Vietnam that I know about this iconic scene where the last helicopter trying to evacuate people because the North Vietnamese enemy was coming into Saigon. They show this helicopter taking off, and there are people hanging off of it and everything on this rooftop. We’re walking through Saigon and one of the people we were walking with pointed out the building. I’m looking at the building that I’ve seen all my life in these documentaries and thought it was so cool.”
After he had a moment to himself, EFN and his crew continued the tour only to be led into a dark place where no citizens are allowed to go. It was so bad that only a brief clip of their experience made it to the final cut of the film.
“Another thing we didn’t get to put in the film is that we had a translation issue with one of the rappers in Saigon. We don’t speak Vietnamese and they aren’t fluent in English. So he got this idea that we wanted to see their ‘hoods’ and gangster shit. That’s the vibe he got from us, and it was wrong, says EFN.
"We don’t mind going into the hood but we weren’t there just to find yours and you have to show us some crazy shit. They don’t really have hoods like that so he takes us to this building that used to be owned by the U.S Military. It was an apartment building that housed servicemen, but it was abandoned and old. You can tell it used to be nice but now it’s a hot mess. He takes us in and it's mad spooky. There’s a clip that we show but we don’t say where we’re doing. It’s so crazy that there’s a security guard that the government put there purposely to tell people they can’t go in."
This is where things got really sticky for the Miami based production team. The fellas have seen a lot during their years in the 305, but third world countries are a whole different ballgame.
"All the drug addicts and the junkies live there now, and there’s no lights or anything," describes EFN. "Apparently the higher up you go, the more dangerous it is because the people who are more cracked out try to get as high as they can (no pun intended) because no one is going to go up there. We didn’t understand what the security guard was saying so we were just following the rapper. We started going up the stairwell and the rapper’s girl was freaking out. Then when get to the first floor, the security dude ran up another stairwell and tried to get us out. That’s when we found out that it was a haven for drug addicts and criminals. That part didn’t end up in the film but it was definitely interesting.”
With the fourth installment of his docu-series finally making its world debut, the Crazy Hood Film Academy founder has proven to be completely versatile as a lifelong DJ, revered podcaster, and a skilled film director.
Coming Home: Vietnam is now playing on on REVOLT.