Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chinese-American Rapper MC Jin Brings Asian Messages to Hip Hop

As part of our forth-coming Hip Deep show later this month, Africa in East Asia: Shanghai Jazz to Tokyo Rastafari, we're looking at how African diasporic music has reached into Asia, and created some weird and impressive new styles and artists in the process. One pioneer of this blend is the Hong Kong-American rapper MC Jin who, among other accolades, became the first East Asian to rap on a major American record label.

After ditching his parents' Chinese restaurant in Miami for Flushing, NY, Jin became an underground untouchable, winning freestyles with any competitor and eventually graduating to win a record seven weeks on BET's Freestyle Friday. Since then he's released four albums and a slew of mixtapes, working with producers such as Kanye West and Just Blaze, as well as fellow Asian-American stars Far East Movement.

In addition to being one of the few of his kind to achieve real success in America, Jin is a unique cross over between continents. He now lives in Hong Kong as a minor celebrity, has made an entire album rapping in Cantonese and often collaborates with Chinese-based musicians working to move hip hop into the Asian mainstream.

For all his achievements, it's still hard to view Jin other than how he markets himself: different for being a Chinese rapper. His main lyrical goal centers on challenging both the preconceptions of Asians and what is to be a rapper. The truly amazing part of his story is that the son of Chinese immigrants can find rap, an African-American-created music, in Florida and then take it back to China and find the same fame and relation to fans there. His existence underscores the emerging nature of hip-hop as a worldwide youth culture.

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