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Jin - conducted by Phayde  


January 2004

These are the transcripts of an interview with Jin. The interview was conducted by Phayde on January 22nd, 2004.

MVRemix: Happy Chinese New Year!

Jin: Thank you, thank you! Happy Chinese New Year. It’s the year of the monkey.

MVRemix: Did you do anything?

Jin: You know, [the] standard. Went home, had dinner, tried to get some lai see (red envelopes). Trying to get as much lai see as I can. That’s about it.

MVRemix: So how you been? What have you been up to lately?

Jin: Slowly executing my plan for world domination, a day at a time. Nah, you know, finishing the album, staying busy and doing interviews like this. The little, technical stuff that comes prior to an album coming out. That’s about it. Performing. Doing a lot of performing. I was on ESPN this morning. You watch it?

MVRemix: No, I heard you were going to be on though.

Jin: You were probably sleeping. This was at like 7:30 in the morning. But yeah, that’s about it. Staying busy and staying out of trouble.

MVRemix: You moved from your hometown of Miami, Florida, to New York City to pursue hip-hop. How long were you there for before you really started making moves?

Jin: I was born and raised in Miami, so I was there pretty much my whole life. After 9/11 I moved to New York.

MVRemix: Nice timing.

Jin: Yeah, 2001. I was 18 or 19. I moved really for family reasons, but then at the same time it was like, if I’m going to do the music thing, what better place than NY? Prior to that, I had relatives in New York. My grandparents lived in New York, and that’s really the reason why we moved up there. I came up and visited them a lot over the summers as I was growing up, so it wasn’t a complete change of environment. I had an idea of how New York was, and I was accustomed to it. It was just a matter of becoming a resident. I’ve been living here for the last three years.

MVRemix: Don’t mean to make sweeping generalizations, but speaking from personal experience, I know how strict and proper Asian parents can be...

Jin: You can make sweeping generalizations. That would be an accurate generalization though, so I wouldn’t be mad at you. Actually my parents weren’t as strict as I recall a lot of my friends’ or cousins’ relatives being. They were open-minded to an extent, [although] not so much open-minded when I told them I wasn’t going to college and I was going to be a rapper. That wasn’t good news. They definitely weren’t happy about that. I know they weren’t supportive of me at that time, but I knew how bad I wanted it, and that was what I love, so I kept doing it, even if it had to be on the low, without them knowing. Ultimately, as I got older, there are just things as a parent you’ve got to accept. There’s no way you can force your kids to do anything specific. Even if you force them to go to college and pay their tuition, that’s your tuition money going down the drain if they really don’t have the desire in themselves to do well in school. [My parents] eventually saw it for what it is, like, ‘Oh shit, he really enjoys this and people really like him for it too.’”

MVRemix: Can you pinpoint a moment when you really knew that you had their acceptance?

Jin: Probably the real determining factor was when I started going to all these battles. I was winning them, and there’d be cash prizes. Like thousand-dollar cash prizes. I’d be coming home with, like, a wad of $20s. A thousand dollars [worth]! Like what the hell! Then I had footage and I’d be showing them footage. They speak English, but not to the extent where they can understand what I’m saying in a rhyme. I would explain to them how it works, translate it to them – loosely – what I said to them, what they said to me, and they were like, ‘Oh shit, you’re good! Wow, this really requires some sort of talent,’ you know? That was the determining point, I think, where they were like, ‘Okay, there might be some light in this. This might not be a bad idea.’ They’re supportive; they’re my biggest fans.

MVRemix: Being Asian-American, do you ever feel that you are not fully accepted by the Asian culture?

Jin: I think, in reality, the most slack I get is from the Asian community. I won’t say all of them, because I think for the most part, in general, the Asian community has been real supportive. I get a lot of love for the most part, but the hating that I do get, the criticism and what not, at the same time, a lot of it comes from the Asian community too.

MVRemix: Yeah, about a year ago you were quoted as saying “It’s our own people who want to hold me back.”

Jin: Yeah, really. I encounter all types of different ethnicities – you know, Latinos, African American, white – who for the most part are like, ‘Yo Jin, you killed it on 106 and Park. I’m feelin’ what you’re doing,’ and when I do encounter the negative, it be other Asians! Whatever their reason for them to be that way… Maybe they rap too and maybe they feel that they should be the one in my position. One thing I’ve realized lately is that I don’t think people really realize the position I’m in and really how difficult it is. Not that I’m complaining, but I just think people look at shooting videos, and the glam and the glitz, and think that it’s easy. It is hard. On top of the music industry and rap, and all of that being a hard business to be in, I’ve got to deal with the extra stuff like that criticism and the non-believers. To an extent, I feel like I’m representing for certain individuals who hate me, or don’t want to see me succeed.

MVRemix: It’s just so easy to hate someone when they get success, and especially with the whole Asian thing. People are going to try and ride that.

Jin: Yeah, it is definitely easier to be a hater though. Seems like the “cool” thing to do. At the same time, I know my purpose and I know that there are a lot of people that are supportive. I do it for them.

MVRemix: I have to big you up for the “Learn Chinese” video. It reminds me of the classic Chinese movies, with the gambling, kung-fu, etc.

Jin: Yeah that was an idea between the director of the video – his name is Phenomenon – and Wyclef. You know, the whole “Jin playing two characters” thing. I just wanted to do something different, you know. Not your standard video, like “Okay so we’ll get a bunch of guys and a bunch of girls and have Jin rapping in front of them.” That was in there too, but there was a storyline and so forth.

MVRemix: Did anybody actually “learn Chinese” from the video?

Jin: Yeah, I think so! They have. I’ll be at Footlocker or something and people will say something real random, and I’ll be like, “Oh shit, I forgot I had a song out called ‘Learn Chinese.’” For me, the song “Learn Chinese” is not so much as saying, literally, ‘you’re going to learn Chinese,’ as much as it is a statement in general. Like the first thing I say [in the song] is, “Yeah I’m Chinese. And what!” It is what it is. It serves its purpose.

MVRemix: I know what you mean. Like a lot of people will automatically say “Jin the Chinese emcee” as apposed to just “Jin the emcee.”

Jin: Yeah that’s what they say. I don’t say it like that. That’s sort of like a personal agenda. Hopefully through the music and the album or whatever, I will accomplish more and that label will go away. I know it’s not something that’s going to go away overnight, because that’s the fascination right now, the “yeah, Jin’s a Chinese rapper!” That’s just how media is, so I’m not surprised.

MVRemix: What’s your response to people who accuse you of selling out your culture and playing the race card?

Jin: Wow. There really is no response to that. All I know is, I go to sleep every night knowing I don’t compromise anything, and as long as I’m comfortable with myself and those around me know that what I’m doing is with the right intention, then that’s cool. Whether it be the fans, my mom, my dad, the label, the management – they know the passion that I have for hip-hop. They know the pride that I have in who I am. That’s all it is. There’s no difference with Wyclef, who constantly refers to his Hatian background, but nobody would ever look at him as using it as a crutch. He’s just somebody who’s proud of who he is. It shows in his music, like Big Pun. You can see it definitely influenced his rhymes but nobody every looked at it like, ‘oh he’s a gimmick,’ or ‘he’s just using it as a crutch.’ He was just proud of who he was.

MVRemix: What are your thoughts on the whole Eminem Vs. The Source issue going on right now?

Jin: I don’t know. Magazines, they’re a bunch of jerks anyway. They’ll flip on you so quick. One minute they’ll love you, next minute they won’t. And that’s not just the Source; that’s in general. Media, as far as newspapers and all that, I’ve come to see that they’ll write anything to sell the papers. Everybody has flaws. Real brief, I’m going to spend one minute talking about this: For the things that they’re accusing Eminem of, right… they go and put him on the cover. What is your point then? You put him on the cover so you can sell more magazines. Then you have the CD that supposedly includes the recordings that he did. Now he’s promoting it! For those who haven’t heard it, [they’re] promoting it now. [They’re] selling it for $5.99, or however much that magazine costs. It’s just a fucked up cycle.

MVRemix: What pisses you off about hip-hop nowadays?

Jin: I don’t think it’s one specific thing. There’s nothing that really pisses me off. I don’t think anything’s wrong with it. It needs the balance that it has right now, or maybe it could use a little bit more. People are like, ‘oh these artists like Nelly and down South rappers like Lil Jon; they’re ruining it,’ but it’s like, everything has its path, or fate. You had the gangsta rap era where that was dominant, you had so-and-so that was dominant, all the way as every two or three years go by. If those artists want to make a difference and want to bring something new to the table, if they want to be the dominant ones, then they need to go out and do that. That’s why I like artists like Ludacris, Missy Elliot, Kanye West, etc. Just bringing something new to the table, which I think is the category I fall in. Something refreshing.

MVRemix: If hip-hop was a woman, what would she look like?

Jin: Wow. She’d probably be real sexy. She’d be intellectual. She’d like to party, and at the same time be very conscious, aware of social and political issues. She’d just be a well rounded… she’d be the perfect woman! Well, not the perfect woman, because hip-hop is not perfect, so if it was a woman she wouldn’t be. She’d have her flaws, yeah. She’d probably like a lot of jewelry, name brand clothes, phat cars and stuff. But you’d still have to love her though. Have to love her.

MVRemix: Besides hip-hop, what do you listen to?

Jin: I listen to a lot of R&B. I like to keep it as expanse as I can. Like when the boy band craze was big, I was into that. When N’Sync came out, when Backstreet came out…

MVRemix: [Laughs] Really? You’re getting a little quiet there.

Jin: Nah well I think that would be an influence from my little sister. She would be smuggling the CDs into the house and I would stumble across them and listen to them a little bit and be like, ‘this isn’t half bad.’ Then I watched them perform, and these guys are real performers. Sometimes it’s not even so much about the music you make, but the fact that you can entertain somebody. I watched a little concert footage that they had and they’re good.

MVRemix: So what next?

Jin: Right now, the priority, I guess, is the album. Everybody’s excited about that. Then maybe more acting. I’d like to do more acting. Somebody that doesn’t involve me rapping or me playing somebody that raps.

MVRemix: Or the token Asian in some movie.

Jin: Or the token Asian in some movie, definitely. Let me play the bad guy.

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