Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve rocked with Alan Z for the longest time. He’s got the perfect blend of socially conscious rhymes and melody. Even on a song where he’s crooning for a sexy lady, the brother comes with more than just face value discussions. When his latest project, aptly titled Face Value, dropped, I wanted to check it out. I expected it to be great because of what Jason Chu and Alan have done thus far for the album, from social media posts highlighting stereotypes and their harmful effects to dropping tracks from it and daring the ignorant masses to say something.
What I didn’t expect was the album, thankfully, being more in-your-face than some would prefer. It’s that semi-abrasiveness about the subject matter that helps this one shine even brighter.
This one’s more important than just highlighting Chu and Alan, though, as Face Value delves into some ugly truths while also highlighting some of the accomplishments that Asian-Americans have given the world. Where the ugly truths come in is where the duo hold a mirror up to the listener and reminds them that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are still minorities that deal with more than their fair share of racially-motivated hate and ignorance.
In a world where Asian-Americans are being targeted because of the idea that, to some, COVID-19 is considered the “China Virus,” this one’s needed. In a society where Asian-Americans are seen as the model minority, this one discusses the flaws in that logic. It also presents a case that AAPI-centric protest music is needed alongside protest music for Black and Brown individuals. The phrase “we’re in this together” comes to mind, and it’s one that Alan and Jason get into pretty deeply here.
What I really love about this LP is that it’s unapologetic as hell. It presents these truths about the AAPI experience, shatters falsehoods and dares people to either come correct or get shut down again and again. It also reminds us that the AAPI experience is one that does overlap with Black and Brown lives more than the ignorant would expect.
I can’t live the life Alan has. My struggles and his struggles, while similar, have also been pretty different. That said, I empathize with his music and what he puts down on Face Value. I also know that, in order to combat ignorance, minorities have to stick together and constantly create opportunities to educate and grow. Unfortunately, it does get tiring at times. As a Black man, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to talk to someone about a microaggression or just blatant ignorance. However, if we don’t talk about it, we’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes ad nauseum. That’s what Face Value does, all while providing dope music that one can get behind even before it gets down and gritty with its education of the masses. It’s probably the best collection that Alan’s dropped yet because it’s not afraid to be what it is and it revels in its revolutionary spirit instead of hiding it away to check a box.
Protest music comes in many forms and Face Value is an example of that. Check out the project above and remember to support dope music in all its forms.