Jin was recently named to the top of our Soompi Top 10 Asian American Rappers of All Time List. The list caused quite a stir and Jin even recorded a song called “The A List” where he shouted out to all the prominent Asian American rappers featured in the article and in the scene.
Jin followed up shortly with his first English mixtape in a few years called, “Say Something” which included a song “Angels” where he bared his soul and spoke about his renewed relationship with God and his new positive message. The music video immediately went viral on the internet and hit a few hundred thousand views, simultaneously gaining him thousands of new fans while re-introducing him to old ones in the process. Check out the exclusive web interview with Jin from Hong Kong.
S: The video for “Angels” off your “Say Something Mixtape” has been getting a lot of views on YouTube, and for some fans has been an re-introduction to your English music. What was your inspiration behind writing the song?
Angels is my personal testimony of what the Lord has been doing in my life in the last 2 years since I’ve been in Hong Kong. Career wise, it has been an incredible ride so far, but even that is nothing compared to what the Lord is doing in my personal life in terms of growth and finding peace.
S: You have a poignant line on the song ‘Angels’ where you say, “All I hear is Jin – ‘what happened to the old you?’ See I could explain but I would rather show you…” Can you expand on that?
It all started with a track I uploaded sometime last year on to my YouTube account. In it, I share with everyone how the Lord has been doing work in my life. Naturally, everyone started responding with their thoughts and feedback. One of the most common was of course, “Jin’s a Christian rapper now!” Along with that, I would get alot of questions in the same vein as, “what happened to the old you?” I guess some folks are use to the battling, aggressive, worldly Jin. I can keep talking about how the Lord is changing me for the better, or I can just show you.
S: You moved to Hong Kong 2 years ago, what has been the most surprising lifestyle change? The most surprising thing in general?
At the moment, I am full work mode. Even when I was in the states, at the peak of my career, I’m talking about first signing with Ruff Ryders, I don’t recall it being so intense in terms of jam packed schedules. Also, in the last 2 years I’ve been able to experience a ton of things I never had the chance to before such as, endorsements, television hosting gigs and exploring more of the acting world. Beyond the career developments, the most rewarding thing has to be my ever growing intimate relationship with God that I never experienced prior to moving to Hong Kong.
S: What has Hong Kong allowed you to do that wasn’t necessarily an option in the U.S.?
Being bilingual and really showcasing the duality of my identity. In Hong Kong, I may be Chinese but they also view me as an American.
S: What do you think about the mini-industry that YouTube has created for Asian artists? It’s amazing that people can support themselves off making videos now.
It is quite a phenomenon. YouTube is the best way for an unknown person to become known and a known person to be even more known. That’s the pro of it. The con is that, everyone and their mom has a YouTube channel. How does one set oneself apart from the rest of the pack?
S: The videos of you on 106th and Park were some of the first viral Internet videos ever before YouTube, you were among the first wave of artists to do exclusive online releases, and now you’ve emerged as an active YouTuber sponsoring contests, mixtapes, and cyphers. Can you tell us about your relationship with social media and the web?
I’m old-school with the web. Asianavenue.com, Xanga.com, Friendster.com, AOL chatrooms…that’s when I first started using the internet to build a following. I think what made it effective even back then was that I was really hands on with all the various platforms.
S: Can you tell us about ‘The A List’ and what it means when you talk about having unity as an Asian rap community? That song was the first of its kind.
First off, that track was totally inspired by an online article that I read. Of course, that list of MCs was composed by one person so it really reflects the thoughts and opinions of that one individual. I was honored to be included on the list and to be at the top of the list was even more humbling. I guess what I really wanted to say in the “A List” track is that, who are the top 10 or top 100 of all time is not so much important as us having unity as a community.
S: In your song, “The A List” you shouted out to quite a few artists who are considered “YouTube Rappers” – do you keep up with who’s hot? Who are some of your favorites?
There are so many dope, young cats doing their thing. I’ve seen the videos they do, Traphik, Lil Crazed and them. The Bedrock Asian Remix, (etc.) That little collective, they’re all doing their thing.
S: Some purists have made the point that YouTube is a bubble and that many internet MC’s (particularly Asian ones) don’t get out enough and participate in the actual hip-hop scene or culture. As someone who is active in both realms, what is your perspective?
Without a doubt, it is important to be well-rounded and have balance on all platforms. However, I also think something to take into consideration is that everyone of these individuals has their own goal they want to accomplish. Depending on what that is, how they decide to operate is totally up to them.
S: Do you have any advice for any Asian-American MC’s trying to make it in the game?
True talent will always shine thru. Just make sure you are passionate about your craft and go from there.
S: What about advice for Asian-Americans wanting to go overseas to their motherland to pursue a career in entertainment and music?
Alot of it all contingent on opportunity. If that door opens up for you, you should definitely explore it.
S: You’re a rare position, having initially blown up in America then moving to Asia. For most artists, they are trying to do the opposite. Many Asian stars have tried, but none have had much success. Do you have any thoughts on how artist can successfully accomplish a crossover to the U.S.?
I don’t think there’s any certified formula that can guarantee a successful transition. My only thought would be as long as the artists is sticking true to their art, good music will crossover any boundary.
S: What is doing hip-hop in China like? You said when you first got there, people would ask you ‘Jin, what is hip-hop?’ What did you tell them?
Hip-hop in China is still at a very budding stage. There are people who know of this thing called “Hip-hop”, but they may not be aware of the culture and rich history that lies behind it. I tell them first and foremost, “Hip-hop is not just saying ‘yo yo yo’ every three seconds..” Which some people may have that misconception.
S: Has the scene changed since you’ve been there?
I’ve only been here about 2 years so I wouldn’t say there’s been any drastic changes or developments. There are a group of young cats doing their thing trying to build the scene, organizing battles, open mics, etc. I just want to clarify that the scene/culture has existed way before I even set foot in Hong Kong. Hopefully, I can add another perspective to the equation.
S: China seems like one of the slower countries in Asia to catch on to hip-hop…why do you think that is? Where do you see it going in the future?
China as a whole is quite huge. In places like Shanghai and Beijing for example, the scene is actually quite healthy and blossoming. As long as everyone continues to push the envelope and promote the culture, it’s going in the right direction.
S: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Do you plan on returning to the states?
In 5 years, I’ll be 33. That’s where I see myself. Older and wiser.. hopefully. In the long run, I definitely plan on settling in the states. At the end of the day, that’s my home.. and most importantly, all my closest family are in the states.
S: Can you give a shout out to Soompi.com and all the fans?
Thank you for taking the time to read my interview. I hope it gave you a clearer insight into the mind and madness of Jin Au-Yeung. See you around! Please check out AyoJin.com for the latest and greatest updates.