Tiny Desk Contestant Ruby Ibarra Raps An Ode To Her Immigrant Mother : All Songs Considered Ruby Ibarra describes her art as unfiltered, a quality that shines through in her band's 2019 Tiny Desk submission.
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This Tiny Desk Contestant Rapped A Love Letter To Her Immigrant Mother

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This Tiny Desk Contestant Rapped A Love Letter To Her Immigrant Mother

This Tiny Desk Contestant Rapped A Love Letter To Her Immigrant Mother

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Quinn Christopherson is the winner of this year's 2019 Tiny Desk Contest. But with more than 6,000 entries, we wanted to take some time to feature some standout performances sent into NPR. This is Ruby Ibarra.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEDAY")

RUBY IBARRA: (Rapping) I wrote this album because I want my life to change. Tired of being shortchanged. I'm trying to remain sane. Hopped off the plane, didn't stop all the pain. My father's still in debt, and we've been struggling to pay.

SIMON: Ibarra and her band The Balikbayans are Filipino Americans from the San Francisco Bay area. Their song "Someday" impressed our judges and received hundreds of comments on YouTube.

IBARRA: For me, I feel like when I am on that stage or when I'm, you know, expressing myself through the lyrics that I rap, I feel like that's me in my rawest form.

SIMON: Ibarra was born in Tacloban City in the Philippines. In the 1990s, she and her family immigrated to the U.S. And she says "Someday" is an ode to her mother.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEDAY")

IBARRA: (Rapping) I know it's going to be fine wherever we go because we know you raised this girl to dream and be a hero. What's an ego to an eagle? I free flow when I speak, though. My pipe dreams through a peephole, my skin so Filipino.

She was the matriarch and the patriarch in our household. She was always my example of what it meant to be a Pinay, a woman who carried everything on her own back.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEDAY")

IBARRA: (Rapping) I study my mother, wonder how she holds this family, that minimum salary stretched as much as it can be.

So my mom went to school in the Philippines. She graduated in accounting. She was cum laude in her university. You know, she wanted to come to the U.S., especially, you know, during the '80s and the '90s. Economy wasn't doing so well in the Philippines, and a lot of people really had this mentality that if I go to America, I'm going to have better educated children or a better life, basically.

Upon moving here, I think that's when my mom realized that it wasn't all she expected it to be. She applied to a lot of different jobs. And the very first job she was able to get was as a janitor at McDonald's.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEDAY")

IBARRA: (Rapping) All I ever knew is being me, so all I ever need to say is, I said, Mama, we going to make it there someday. I said, Mama, we going to make it there someday.

Growing up and seeing her as my hero through all those years, making it there someday was for me to get an education out here and to get a job. And I want to reach a point someday that - where I could, you know, look at her in the face and say that we made it.

And I think that that sense of belonging, that sense of hope is a thread that's very common in a lot of immigrant stories. These are the stories of their mothers, their sisters, their fathers in these songs. And that's all I've ever wanted to do with music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "US")

IBARRA: (Rapping) Island woman, rise, walang makakatigil (ph). Brown, brown woman, rise, alamin ang yung ugat (ph). They got nothing on us, nothing on us, nothing on us, nothing on us.

I am what I talk about in my music. I'm Pinay. I'm powerful. I'm fearless. I'm unfiltered. And I'd like to hope that there's young women out there who feel the same way. Or even if they don't feel the same way, I hope to inspire young women out there to want to, you know, use their voice to claim who they are and to embrace their identity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE OTHER SIDE, WELCOME")

IBARRA: (Rapping) The grass is greener on the other side - the other side. Forget your dreams. You down to ride?

SIMON: Ruby Ibarra - her Tiny Desk standout performance song is "Someday."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE OTHER SIDE, WELCOME")

IBARRA: (Rapping) The grass is greener on the other side - other side. But now I'm feeling lesser brown inside.

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