Kae Ranoa’s upbringing as a poor Filipina-American is self-described as “arrested, chewed up, and spitted out.” That personal history has led her to working in careers which allow her to bring voices to female rappers underrepresented in hip-hop as her stage persona Hopie Spitshard, and to low-income immigrants as a law firm assistant.
Growing up in Manila, Philippines, and raised in San Francisco, the independent rap artist can be seen in a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, airplane model earrings, violet lipstick and a pair of classic Nike Cortez shoes, or in a dress and heels, performing in front of a crowd.
Political and social issues that impacted Hopie resulted in an interest in law.
“I always wanted to do law,” said Spitshard. “It was something I was interested in when I was in elementary school and my parents would have round table discussions about globalization and (martial law). I kept getting more and more interested as I got older, because I realized how relevant it was to my life. My friends were murdered, I was on probation, my childhood was affected by these things, and rather than be a victim of it, I wanted to know what I was mad about, and know what I was fighting against,” she said.
Hopie graduated from City College of San Francisco with honors while concurrently attending San Francisco State University. She graduated magna cum laude from State in 2006 with a BA in political science. City College political science instructor Suzanne Homer recommended her to study political science at San Francisco State. Although accepted to grad school, she instead prepared for the LSAT standardized test to apply to Hastings. Hopie graduated from Hastings in 2010, with a Juris Doctorate concentrating in public interest law.
Hopie’s rap career began in 2007 when music producer 6Fingers discovered her at a performance in a community center. In 2008, they released their first album “The Diamond Dame.”
“I had no expectations for that album at all,” Spitshard said, “no anticipation that people would listen, and, honestly, was perfectly happy with just knowing that I’d have a collection of my music in one disc to refer to and show my kids.” Spitshard and 6Fingers then produced “Dulce Vita” and “Raw Gems” in 2011.
Hopie has been in URB Magazine’s next 1000 in 2008, and was voted into Thizzler.com’s Bay Area’s Freshmen 10 for 2012. She has also performed at the Paid Dues Independent Hip-Hop Festival.
6Fingers’ turntable and MPC machine places himself outside the standard drum and snare beat. In “Game Over”, 6Fingers incorporates melodies of classic 8-bit video games.
“6Finger’s beats are eclectic. He goes from using organic samples to galactic, futuristic sounds,” says Hopie.
Hopie’s work is about the difficulty of being a poor independent artist to spoken word about empowerment. In “Missing the Bus,” the chorus describes the difficulty of being a poor independent artist.
“So where the next meal coming in from yo?/Turning my verse into income dough/Maybe next time, maybe next rhyme/Until then I’m missing the bus.”
In a one-minute spoken word track recorded at a BART station she sings, “So test the limit/ test the boundaries and seize the fear/ Cease to fear/ the sweet taste of victory is near.”
During live performances, Hopie’s fans rap along to her music while she powerfully dances while rapping. Her music videos, meanwhile, often work with anecdotes. “Space Case” tells a story about aliens using Hopie’s body as a proxy. “Yummy” features a male rapper attempting to steal the spotlight of her performance. “Off Tonight” features a b-boy dance crew performing top-rocks, windmills, and headspins.
Hopie has recorded and performed songs with acclaimed artists Exile, Murs, Native Elements, and her mentor Del the Funky Homosapien.
“I respect her grind. As a lyricist, she’s one of the brighter rappers,” says Patience, a San Francisco emcee who performed with her at City College last year. Meanwhile, DregsOne said, “The thing I like about Hopie’s music is that she incorporates a lot of different themes in her music, like womanhood, her culture, and then just straight hip-hop.”
Hopie’s upcoming release “Sugar Water” will be her next release, though she doesn’t speculate on a date. Another upcoming project is “Emerald City.” Instead of a conventional album, it will be an audiobook. She refrained from giving any further details, only to say that the project will be “crazy.”
“The Diamond Dame”, “Dulce Vita”, and “Raw Gems”, the names of her albums, are tattooed on Hopie Spitshard’s hands and arms. When asked about the future of her music career plan, she answered, “I’m an Aquarius.”
Follow Menez on Twitter: @menezshane