Legions of Boom

Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area

Legions of Boom

Refiguring American Music

More about this series

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 24 illustrations Published: April 2015

Author: Oliver Wang

Asian American Studies, Music > Popular Music, Sociology

Armed with speakers, turntables, light systems, and records, Filipino American mobile DJ crews, such as Ultimate Creations, Spintronix, and Images, Inc., rocked dance floors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. In Legions of Boom noted music and pop culture writer and scholar Oliver Wang chronicles this remarkable scene that eventually became the cradle for turntablism. These crews, which were instrumental in helping to create and unify the Bay Area's Filipino American community, gave young men opportunities to assert their masculinity and gain social status. While crews regularly spun records for school dances, weddings, birthdays, or garage parties, the scene's centerpieces were showcases—or multi-crew performances—which drew crowds of hundreds, or even thousands. By the mid-1990s the scene was in decline, as single DJs became popular, recruitment to crews fell off, and aspiring scratch DJs branched off into their own scene. As the training ground for a generation of DJs, including DJ Q-Bert, Shortkut, and Mix Master Mike, the mobile scene left an indelible mark on its community that eventually grew to have a global impact.


“Wang's account strikes a careful balance between oral history and analysis, grounded in ethnography while also working to interpret and elaborate the significance of the story. … [W]ith an annotated oral history at its core, Legions Of Boom is centred on the words of the scene's participants and Wang's insightful perspectives as a scholar, a journalist and a DJ.” — Wayne Marshall, The Wire

"It's not easy to write a book that works both as an academic text and is readily accessible to the general public, but Wang does an excellent job walking that line with Legions of Boom. His research is great, and he explains things in a way that is very easy to digest. I couldn’t recommend this book enough." — Chi Chi, Scratched Vinyl

"Legions of Boom makes a fascinating contribution to popular music history and to studies of music scenes by sharing the practices behind the mobile DJ crews of the Bay Area." — Brian Fauteux, IASPM@Journal

"This highly readable book significantly advances our understandings of music scenes and their symbiotic relationship with marginalized communities of youth. Since historically Filipino Americans have been excluded from U.S. racial/ethnic discourse, Wang does sociology a tremendous service in shining further light on a key aspect of this important group’s history." — Anthony Kwame Harrison, American Journal of Sociology

"Legions of Boom is a tangible resource for researchers interested in grassroots developments by marginalized communities who adapt mainstream American popular culture as a source of income and social currency." — Bernard Ellorin, Notes

"The greatest strength of Wang’s work, above and beyond providing important historical documentation of a neglected musical scene, is that he offers a sophisticated theoretical analysis that highlights how social class, gender, and ethnicity structure the distribution of various types of capital (symbolic, erotic, cultural, economic) within mobile DJing." — Athena Elafros, Contemporary Sociology

"Wang writes in an accessible style appealing to both scholars and casual readers.... Legions of Boom is a substantial work that shines light on yet another example of a musical genre’s relation to the formation and maintenance of cultural identities."
  — Niel Scobie, Perfect Beat

“The insight and method used in Legions of Boom serves as a model to expand how historians and social analysts can ask new questions to find ethnic identity formation in migrant communities.”

— Raul A. Ramos, Pacific Historical Review

"As a writer and scholar Oliver Wang is relentlessly insightful and compulsively readable. Here it's impossible not to feel his passion for the pleasures and follies of immigrant and second-gen Filipino American youth, as he follows them from their suburban garages into the rapture of flashing lights and rising tempos, and the warm electricity of bodies moving together on a Saturday night. With Legions of Boom, Wang has created something indispensable—a singular document of a forgotten yet influential era in west coast hip-hop and dance music, a rare and rich account of protean Asian American creativity, and a subtle, poetic work of ethnography."
— Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: The Colorizaton of America

"For more than a decade Oliver Wang has produced some of the keener insights on what’s been happening in popular culture and popular music in particular. Legions of Boom is the best evidence of what Wang’s instinctive intellect looks like when allowed to flourish in the long form, and will prove to be indispensable to future analyses of the cultural formations that coalesce around popular expression."
— Mark Anthony Neal, author Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Oliver Wang is Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Long Beach. He is the editor of Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide and has written for NPR, Vibe, Wax Poetics, the Los Angeles Times, the Oakland Tribune, and the Village Voice, amongst others.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Prologue. The Gig  1

Introduction. A Legion of Boom  7

1. Cue it Up: Social Preconditions for the Mobile Scene  29

2. Team Building: Mobile Crew Formations  49

3. Unlimited Creations: The Mobile Scene Takes Off  79

4. Imaginings: Building Community in the Showcase Era  95

5. Take Me Out with the Fader: The Decline of the Mobile Scene  125

Conclusion. Echo Effects  151

Appendix 1. Captians of the Field: San Francisco Drill Teams  163

Appendix 2. Born Versus Sworn: Filipino American Youth Gangs  167

Notes  173

References  203

Index  213
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top