Bambu - Sharpest Tool in the Shed (Cover Artwork)


Sharpest Tool in the Shed (2020)


Bambu has been rapping about the same stuff for a long time now. But instead of sounding like a broken record or some batty old coot, his message becomes more imperative (and his delivery sharper) with each release as the political discussion slowly catches up with him. Released on the eve of the US presidential election and at the height of a pandemic, Bam’s latest EP, “Sharpest Tool in the Shed”, couldn’t have come at a better (or is it worse?) time.

The EP blasts off with the baritone beat of “We Got Guns”. Bam (with the help of the insanely talented Rocky Rivera) proves that he is more verbose than ever and that his veteran status hasn’t softened his blow. The track sets the tone for the rest of the EP, attacking racists, fascists, homophobes, police, and their ilk, but also taking special care to target liberals and their performative actions and reactionary politics. It also an absolute banger.

Bam’s music has always been so compelling because his perspective is so truly unique and nuanced; he has been a gang member, served in the US military, worked as a community organizer, and has been a tireless advocate for preserving and documenting Filipino culture and history in the United States. On “Twenty Skinny”, Bam gets real with his thoughts as a Filipino man growing up I’m the heart of the American Empire: “I served in combat / but fuck all that / I feel nothin towards that flag / That’s cuz in my America it ain’t all grand / It ain’t fair here for a young brown man / It ain’t fair here if you’re queer or trans.”

“Dittybop” is a “who’s who” of the west coast Pinoy hip-hop scene, with Bambu being joined by Kiwi Illafonte, Rocky G, and the sublime Ruby Ibarra. Each rapper takes turns tying together the different threads of life during a pandemic and under increased police repression of marginalized peoples. After a few listens, you’ll probably catch yourself reciting catchy lines like “Wear fuckin’ mask when you ditty bop / fuck a county sheriff / fuck a fed / fuck a city cop”.

The most surprising track on “Sharpest Tool” is a spoken word piece, "Signing Off". Laying down a gentle beat over his closing remarks from a Zoom panel, Bam maps out his core values and driving principles. He’s been saying all of this for a long time, but as the cracks in modern capitalist society become more and more evident, his message has only gotten more important. “Dismantle the state. Fuck the law. Abolish the police. Educate the masses. Organize the hood. Keep a sharp tool and a lot of bullets.”

If you are looking for a political record to fan your flames during this exciting and troubling times, this is it.