Rap Reiplinger

The only records from Hawaii that I ever sought out to collect came from a 1970/80’s comedian called Rap Reiplinger.  I got one of the ‘Best of’ CD’s that was issued a while back, but until I started thinking about it during a visit to Honolulu, I hadn’t realized that he had a few more records out that I had somehow “missed”.

He has a small Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rap_Reiplinger .  I have virtually never seen any LP’s of ‘Hawaiian origin humor’ for sale in Los Angeles.

LP CRAB DREAMS                                         MTN AP            MAC 1007    1979 11 TRKS

LP DO I DARE DISTURB THE UNIVERSE?       PARADISE        PR 2001       1979 16 TRKS

LP POI-DOG                                                   MTN AP            MAS 1002    1978 11 TRKS

LP STRANGE BIRD                                         PARADISE        SLP 2002     1981 11 TRKS

LP TOWED AWAY                                          PARADISE        SLP 2003     1982 10 TRKS

CD POI-DOG WITH CRABS                              MTN AP            MACD 2020  1992 22 TRKS

Mr. Rap was a busy man in his lifetime – he was in a comedy trio in the 70’s called  “The Booga Booga Trio” (I don’t think they ever made records) and he made an Emmy-winning video (or so I read on the internet), “Rap’s Hawaii” (from 1982, which I also couldn’t ever find in Honolulu; supposed on DVD as of ‘03).  You have to have a bit of ‘local knowledge’ to get some of the jokes on this stuff, but the LP’s I have are all slickly produced and genuinely funny.  Do I detect a “Cheech & Chong” influence here?

I was saddened to read of his death in the liner notes of the CD I was given (and again on the internet) – he passed away in 1984, supposedly from drugs.  Comedians and drugs really seem to go together – maybe this is why I never took up either practice?

The 1978 LP “Poi Dog” looks just amazing – he’s dressed up as a half-man / half-woman, making the ‘shaka’ sign while dipping his hand in (presumably) a plastic bowl of poi.  My guess is that the copies of this LP that made their way to California were brought home by happy vacationers…and sold to the used LP store as soon as rent was due.  Back in the late 70’s / early 80’s, it was cool to drop tracks from the “Poi Dog” LP into mix tapes, and wait for the confused reactions to arise!

So, if you’re tired of ‘typical’ (English-language) comedy LP’s, try one of Rap’s on for size.  If you can find one, that is.  It’s in English…but it’s as difficult to understand as some English (or Canadian) comedy.  Hawaii is very much it’s own thing, after all.

Mahalo, Rap Reiplinger!  Aloha, Steve & Danno!  Harry Owens!  Duke’s Hula Pie!

Hawaii Calls!

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2 Responses to Rap Reiplinger

  1. John Book says:

    I was doing a search for Rap Reiplinger when I came across this blog entry, and felt like replying.

    I became aware of his work as a Hawaiian kid living in Honolulu. My grandfather was into Kent Bowman, a caucasian man who became famous for his Hawaiian character, a politician named K.K. Ka’umanua (as in “cow manure”, or basicaly “bulls**t”). However, Reiplinger fit in with kids of my generation, even though he had come from my father’s generation.

    Booga Booga were a group primarily known for their live performances, but they did release one album together. This one was a bit more “adult” (grown up) than what all of them would be known for, and believe it or not, some of the skits originated from them going to Catholic school together. There’s a piece on there called “Confession” where one of them (Ed Ka’ahea) portrays someone who wants to make a confession. Reiplinger portrays a priest, or at least Ka’ahea thinks he’s a priest. The whole piece is about Ka’ahea going out on a date with a classmate and the priest wants to know all about it, in detail. When the priest mentions a certain mole near her navel, Ka’ahea realizes something is wrong. That’s when Ka’ahea realizes the priest is actually his best friend. Parts of the album feature elements of what Reiplinger would do when he left the group.

    From what I remember, Reiplinger always stole the show and people wanted to hear his jokes and skits, arguably more than the others. Some had said it was like watching Monty Python and singling out a personal favorite. People were drawn to Reiplinger, and in time the group changed a bit, even adding a 4th member. In time, Reiplinger left. Ka’ahea and James Grant Benton also did comedy on their own and starred on a number of TV shows, both local and national. Ka’ahea had been in a few Hawai’i Five-O episodes, and eventually Reiplinger starred in one too. While the group split apart, they always showed each other support but people were pushing for Reiplinger to go at it on his own… and he did.

    POI DOG was in many ways revolutionary for a Hawaiian album, because no one had quite done an album like that. The cover was typical Hawaiian humor: the hard working male construction worker and the extroverted “tita”, male or female. He was the true local boy with ‘ukulele nearby and a poi bowl, making a tight shaka with his hand. I remember thinking “does that mean he’s half mahu?”, as in gay? In truth, the cover simply represented some of the characters on the album. Like the content, the cover was very “local”. Even the album credits, with references to “Sticks” Cabang and Sterling Silva were references to the different cultures in Hawai’i. The most explicit things on POI DOG was probably references to Wendall’s “12 inch lau lau” and the word “fricken”, but it was influenced by Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor interms of storytelling, and Monty Python in the way the album was produced and edited.

    The album being found in California may be from tourists, but you also have to keep in mind the many transplanted Hawaiians who have moved to California since the album was released 33 years ago. Because of this, it’s often the first time most people have heard any Hawaiian comedy.

    “Rap’s Hawai’i” was truly his crowning moment, because he was able to visualize many of the skits he did from his first few albums (James Grant Benton from Booga Booga even makes an apperance). He did win an award for it, and at that point it was expected that he would become even bigger than he was, “Hawaiian success” he achieved in abundance, but he could’ve been bigger than Robin Williams.

    After that, the stories tend to be mixed depending on who you hear it from or read. The story I remembered was that he died from a drug overdose, assumed to be cocaine-related, and they found him in or near a ditch close to his home. Again, that’s what I remember hearing on the local news then but that was almost 30 years ago. His death was devastating to everyone because he was “our funny man”, so he affected not only his adult fans who knew him since Booga Booga, but us young kids who knew every word he said in those skits. His work was a mixture of his upbringing in Hawai’i around statehood, celebrating surfing, rock’n’roll, and good times. He had been known as a lover of “good times”, a party guy who loved to celebrate. Then he died sooner than any of us had hoped.

    One of his last projects was actually a very funny children’s book called “How you figgah?”, which you can find used at Amaz0n. He knew he had many kids as fans, so this was clean, “smart alec” humor that wasn’t demeaning or sly, just random short stories or notes about what it meant to be a kid growing up in Honolulu. “How you figgah?” means “how do you figure?”, or “what does that mean?” It’s things that maybe kids were curious about, and Reiplinger explained it in his very humorous way. The book features a dedication from his wife, who said that Rap loved doing the book and hoped his fans would enjoy it. It could have lead to more children’s books, he could’ve been a bigger actor, maybe a screenwriter. It was the hope he offered and the hope everyone had wished for him, and to this day there’s a void that no one in Hawai’i has yet to fill.

    Today, his work represents a part of Hawai’i that still exists but is slowly disappearing. Even when they were recorded, it was already going away. He even made fun of that in the “Rap’s Hawai’i” special (the DVD of which I have). In the show, he portrays all of the main characters, but the one that holds true is the old tutu kane (grandfather) who sticks to his traditions and hopes that by sharing stories, he’ll keep them alive by passing them on to the new.

    He will forever be missed.

  2. ronkanefiles says:

    Thanks for the info, John. I would love to see “Rap’s Hawaii” sometime!

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