Ruby Ibarra was born in the Philippines, and her family moved to San Lorenzo, California, when she was young. Where are the Philippines, and where is San Lorenzo, California?
Throughout the song, Ibarra refers to colonization. What is colonization? What is the history of colonization in the Philippines? How has colonization shaped the relationship between the United States and the Philippines?
In the first and second verses, Ibarra refers to her "colonized mind." What does she mean by this? Can a mind be colonized like land? What has shaped her image of herself?
What do you think is the significance of Ibarra rapping in Tagalog in this song?
Born in the Philippines in 1993, Ruby Ibarra moved with her family to San Lorenzo, California, when she was young. Growing up in the San Francisco-bay area she was influenced by the diverse cultures in her neighborhood and became attracted to hip-hop as a vehicle for personal expression. Ibarra studied biochemistry at the University of California, Davis, where she also first became active in the hip-hop scene.
Ruby Ibarra's logo.
"Who I Am" premiered at a performance at UC Davis's Filipino Cultural Night in 2010. The opening of the song features two samples: "Mga Kababayan Ko," performed by Ibarra's initial inspiration, Filipino rapper Francis Magalona (1964–2009), and Apo Hiking Society's "American Junk." The title of Ibarra's song was likely lifted from "American Junk," the chorus of which states, "I have to get back to who I am." Following the samples, strikingly different music is introduced in the solo piano. In her rap, which begins in Tagalog and transitions to English, Ibarra addresses the discrepancy between her actual identity and the identity that she is pressured to portray in the United States. She describes these pressures as a colonization of the mind and laments the silencing of her native tongue and Filipino history. At the end of the rap she retransitions into Tagalog, perhaps an assertion of the validity of her heritage and a protest of the forces that work to erase it.