Dante Basco: Disney Didn’t Get ‘American Dragon’ Was Hip-Hop

Dante Basco voices Jake Long in American Dragon Jake Long

“Dante Basco, renowned for his role as the voice behind the titular character of the animated series ‘American Dragon: Jake Long,’ provides insight into the creative underpinnings of the show. He shares that the improvisational elements within the series were deeply intertwined with the ’90s hip-hop ethos, a cultural backdrop that held personal significance for him and his colleague Kittie KaBoom, who voiced the character Trixie. In an exclusive interview with The Messenger, Basco reflects on the show’s standing in the cultural zeitgeist, particularly highlighting its profound impact on the Asian American community and its unique status as a somewhat unconventional hip-hop-infused production within the Disney portfolio.

During its original airing from 2005 to 2007, ‘American Dragon: Jake Long’ managed to captivate audiences with its imaginative premise and memorable cast. Familiar voices like Sandra Oh, Nicholas Brendon, and Mae Whitman lent their talents to the show, contributing to its allure. The series revolved around Jake Long, an ordinary-seeming young boy endowed with the extraordinary ability to transform into a powerful dragon, thus enabling him to combat concealed malevolent forces threatening the world. The show’s narrative innovation extended beyond its fantastical core, as it notably broke ground by featuring an Asian American protagonist and incorporating nuanced elements of hip-hop culture.

Basco attributes the infusion of hip-hop influences into the show’s improvisational aspects as a personal endeavor. He recounts how he and KaBoom would riff off each other with ’90s hip-hop references, drawing upon their own backgrounds and experiences. This dynamic collaboration, allowed and encouraged by Disney, contributed to the show’s distinct vibe, setting it apart from more conventional children’s programming. Basco vividly recalls a press conference in which he openly lauded Disney for featuring a hip-hop-oriented show, only to be met with apparent surprise from a high-ranking Disney executive who wasn’t fully aware of the show’s unique cultural positioning.

Hong Kong Nights Full Episode | S1 E16 | American Dragon Jake Long |  @disneychannel - YouTube

The show has experienced a resurgence in popularity since its inclusion on the Disney+ streaming platform. Basco notes that the original audience, who grew up watching Jake Long’s escapades, is now coming of age and showing a renewed interest in the series. This is evidenced by the growing number of Jake Long fans participating in various conventions and events.

Additionally, Basco puts forth an intriguing hypothesis regarding the show’s potential influence on the subsequent convergence of hip-hop and skateboarding culture. He underscores the fact that Jake Long’s character was portrayed as a skater, a detail that seems to have foreshadowed the affinity for skateboarding within certain quarters of the hip-hop community. Contemporary rap artists such as Lil Wayne, Tyler, the Creator, and Wiz Khalifa have openly embraced skateboarding as part of their identity. Basco speculates that the show’s portrayal of Jake’s skater persona may have played an inadvertent role in shaping this cross-cultural connection.

In essence, ‘American Dragon: Jake Long’ emerges as a testament to the power of cultural fusion and the lasting impact of animated series on diverse communities. Dante Basco’s revelations shed light not only on the show’s creative origins but also on its potential to shape and influence cultural narratives beyond its initial run.”

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