Jason Chu // Ep 7 // Rising Chinese American Rapper and Activist
Welcome to Episode 7 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Jason Chu on this week's episode.
We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Jason Chu is a rising Chinese American rapper and activist. His music has appeared in Warrior (HBO/Cinemax), and Wu-Assassins (Netflix). Jason has opened for Snoop Dogg and Bernie Sanders, performed at the Obama White House and the Getty Center, and been presented at Flushing Town Hall and the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. His lyrics and videos have been featured in the Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles.
His latest directorial effort, BE WATER, a documentary about cultural icon Bruce Lee world premiered in competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and will be broadcast on ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.
His work has been covered by the BBC, NBC Asian America, South China Morning Post, NPR Sacramento, and other outlets. He holds a BA (with Distinction) in Philosophy from Yale College and was a contributing writer to the St. James Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Culture.
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Intro: [00:00:00] Hey guys! Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. My name is Bryan. And my name is Maggie. And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: [00:00:24] Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network Podcast. My name is Maggie.
Bryan: [00:00:28] My name is Bryan.
Maggie: [00:00:29] And today we have a very, very special guest with us today. His name is Jason Chu and he is an LA-based hip hop artist, poet, activist. Welcome, Jason, to this show.
Jason: [00:00:42] Yeah it is really nice to see y’all. Thank you for having me.
Maggie: [00:00:46] Yeah, of course.
Yeah, so we love to, you know, go right into the podcast and, you know, I think, you know, one of the questions that we always ask our interviewees is we love to know like what your upbringing was like, you know, what kind of family did you grow up in? You know, was it like a very traditional Asian household?
You know, tell us a little bit about that.
Jason: [00:01:06] Yeah. So, actually, I did not grow up in a very traditional Asian household. I think only actually, as I got older than I realize how much my family is really Asian, you know what I’m saying? Like, okay. So I mean by that is my mom and dad, they’re both immigrants.
They came to the US for college, but, they actually both speak English fluently. We spoke English at home. They speak with no accent. So I always grew up thinking that was like a normal Asian American upbringing. And it was really only once I got into college that I started realizing like, Oh, a lot of my friends actually have very different experiences with their families.
So for me, I actually very much grew up superficially extremely, extremely American. Right. But, like I said, the older I get, the more I realized that there’s a lot of values, a lot of things I’ve been taught, just a lot of, you know, the less superficial things of being Asian that are actually still very deeply ingrained in me.
Maggie: [00:02:09] Wow.
Bryan: [00:02:10] Wow. That’s amazing. Where’d you grow up again?
Jason: [00:02:12] I grew up in Delaware,
Bryan: [00:02:14] Delaware.
Jason: [00:02:14] In suburban Delaware. Yeah. So also not too crazy.
Bryan: [00:02:19] Yeah, man. What was the… you mentioned before, like your parents, you know, they’re well educated, they speak English really well? What was the upbringing like? What, what did, what kind of values did he teach you growing up to be like, Hey Jason, like, we want you to be a doctor, a lawyer to do have this conversation with you, or how did you go about that?
Jason: [00:02:38] Yeah, so I would say, definitely my parents have always wanted me to be stable. And they’ve always wanted me to, you know, to be able to take care of myself. But I think that some of the ways that I always felt more American actually was they actually very, very much encouraged me to do what I was passionate about, right?
So when I was growing up, so my dad is a chemist. He’s, you know, he’s literally worked in the same office my whole life. Essentially since like I’ve been growing up like he still goes to work in the same lab. And you know, he just kept moving up the ranks. But, yeah, but one thing that I have been very fortunate about is they’ve always encouraged me to follow what I believe in. And to me, a lot of that comes down. So they’re pretty religious, their Christian. And I’m, I’m actually also, you know, like fairly religious, but, you know, it’s been really cool because the way that that religion translates itself into their values is that they say, Hey, you know, as long as you’re a positive impact in the community, as long as you’re leaving something, building something for people beyond yourself, beyond just us. They consider that that a positive thing, which, you know, then I’m realizing the way that we approach, you know, family or the way we approach things like money. Kid can be very Asian in terms of, you know like I was definitely raised to never go into debt. Raise, you know, definitely, you know, saw them like pay cash for cars or for, you know, like all kinds of things like that.
But yeah, I would say that definitely the values I was raised with, were this idea of contributing to a unit that’s bigger than the individual, you know what I’m saying?
Maggie: [00:04:18] Yeah. That’s amazing. That’s really refreshing to hear because. No, it seems like your parents were very supportive and you don’t get that a lot in Asian households. You know, they always want you to become a doctor, a lawyer, or something like that. Similar to what Bryan said. And they have that perception because they, a lot of them immigrated here. Right. And they’re not used to going through the route where it’s like unsafe. They want us to like take safe routes and have like studying right.
So I think that’s really refreshing to hear and it’s good to see that perspective. I love to know, like, you know, what you were doing before you became an artist and like, if you were like, what was that transition like? I know you were… talk about like your passion for music and like how you kind of like fell into that and how you found your passion for music?
Bryan: [00:05:04] Where’d you go to college to study more about that? Jason, you know?
Jason: [00:05:13] I love it because you know, I’ve obviously we’ve hung out a couple of times in person, and then we’ve been friends for a little while now. So, so this is really nice. It feels like we’re just hanging out. Yeah. So I. right. So I actually went to Yale University. So, you know, I studied really hard in high school and the irony, the funny thing is, you know, On some, again, superficial levels. My life has very much looked like a model minority kind of stereotype pathway, you know, the study really hard. Was into science and tech. And I actually got some scholarships and got into the Ivy league based on studying bio, like doing research. I was part of this research program at MIT when I was in high school.
All of this really, really great opportunities that were afforded me. Because, you know, I was very much in a family that values, education, values, you know, learning and knowledge and, and those kinds of accolades, you know? But, but you know, going through the question that Maggie asked also, for me, what it really was, was I went to college.
So this is the exact train of thought that it was for me because, you know, I went to college. And like I said already, it was very much drilled into me. We don’t get successful just so that we can have more fun. You know what I’m saying? We get successful. And you know, I think a lot of people, a lot of Asian Americans get this, form of this, when they say, you know, I went to school and I always knew that I had to support my family, but I think for my family, they just expanded the boundaries of that a little bit to say, you know, it’s not just about going to school. And then getting a good job so that I can make my nuclear family very proud, but it was very much saying the bigger community of, you know, Asian American people. Or even bigger than that, you know, just the world, right?
Like I’m not going to school just so that I could have fun or even just my family could do well, but so that we can, we can create something for the world. Right. So I went in and I went in to study bio because I thought, Hey, you know, this is, this is something that, you know, my father’s a chemist, like I said, and he works to create technologies that help support the medical field.
And there was always that sense of, okay, this is something that I could use my intellect, use my education to give back. But when I was at school, you know, like myself as with, I think a lot of young Asian Americans, I struggled a lot with mental health, definitely in high school throughout college, throughout my twenties, depression, mental health, feeling a sense of anxiety or worthlessness was very much part of my everyday struggle. Right. And what I realized was that you know, I have so many friends who are physically doing fine, health-wise, we’re doing fine, but mental health-wise, we’re a wreck. You know what I’m saying? We can be really a mess. And that’s, that’s, you know, there’s a lot of exacerbating factors, but what I realized is there are so many people who are physically healthy. But mentally, spiritually, emotionally not doing well.
And so so that’s what sort of got me moving sort of away from the hard sciences. And I wound up majoring in philosophy because I thought, Hey, you know if so many people are doing well physically, even financially, but spiritually right there, they’re just a wreck. And so I wanted to study philosophy to help those people.
And gradually that brought me to the point of saying, well, okay, I’ve got all these great ideas about the world in my head, but now how do I get them out? Right? Like if I’m a professor, if I study, I’ll get a Ph.D., I teach, I only get to impact, you know, maybe 20, 30, 50 students a year, but I’ve always loved art. I’ve always loved music when I was going through it. My issues, music was always my guiding light. And if I can create music. That helps people get through the day, that helps people not just have these ideas in their head, but really carry it in their body, in their ears. That’s something that could really touch the world right now.
And so that’s how I wound up rolling the dice and going into music full time.
Bryan: [00:09:45] Well, that’s, that’s an amazing story. You know, it really, really resonates with me too. Cause I would say. Mentally, I was a wreck while growing up, the same way, you know, it’s just different pressures. You know, from my pressure, from my parents was I needed to become really successful because our family never had any money. You know, they kept pressuring me to be a doctor or a lawyer. And I became an engineer. it wasn’t really by choice. It was really because of necessity and really supporting my parents. And it wasn’t until I got to a certain point. You know, I was just like, I’m not happy right now. What did I do?
That feeling of wanting to give back to really educate our community, to do more, and to really eliminate some of these negative stereotypes about mental health, you know? Cause we talked about mental health with my parents at least, or any other Asian parents, those brushed off, what are you guys depressed about?
We came to America, you know?
Jason: [00:10:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bryan: [00:10:50] Yeah. It’s powerful that you are using music to make a difference, you know, and everyone has their own strengths for us. It’s really, we love, we love hearing stories. Like we will stop to hear about anyone’s story in anywhere in the world. You know, even we were traveling in Japan. Older Japanese guy was telling us about his story. We stopped what we were doing. Just listened, you know. That’s something that we feel like we could empower the world with is by sharing stories, you know, and the more you share the less racism is out there. The less hate is out there. Cause he comes from a common ground.
And it’s crazy because there is, I was watching YouTube videos too, of this African American guy. He can speak Chinese. And he approached people. The Chinese were kind of scared of him until he spoke in Chinese. They’re all laughing.
Jason: [00:11:47] Okay.
Bryan: [00:11:47] So it comes through the fact that you have to have a common ground with people. It’s so powerful. What you’re doing to you is your music. Cause it’s top and ground, you know, we had an opportunity to listen to your new drops, your new album. We’re super excited to be like talk to you about this.
Maggie: [00:12:02] I feel the same way. I feel like there’s so many different languages in the world. But honestly, music is a universal language. It doesn’t matter what culture you came from, or you know, what language you speak. Music is the universal language. And for you to have that epiphany where like you have so much knowledge you want to share after, you know, going into philosophy, you want to, you know, out for all of this knowledge to other people, music is like the best medium.
Bryan: [00:12:28] Yeah. Tell us about this position though. What was your first concert like? Did you make music on Spotify? Like. How did you feel successful?
Maggie: [00:12:36] And I’d love to know, like, how did you reach out to other artists? Like how did you get your name out there? And like, what did you need to do in order to like, you know, put yourself on a platform, put yourself on a pedestal and be like, Hey, I’m Jason Chu. I’m like trying to get into this industry.
Bryan: [00:12:51] Exactly. Yeah. There is a barrier.
Jason: [00:12:55] Yeah, definitely. I mean that, you know, at this point I’m a little bit into my career, so I always liked, I do really like thinking back about how it started, right. Because it’s, it’s so different. I, so maybe the way to jump into it is exactly like you’re saying Bryan, you know, I love stories.
And I think that it’s really powerful, right? When. So in, in Asian-America right now, we talk a lot about representation. Right. But I actually like to even rewind a little further and talk about existence. And what I mean by that is I think sometimes we get so caught up in being seen, that we work so hard to be seen and to be heard.
And then when we finally get that platform only then do we start asking, shit, now eyes are on me now, what am I actually about? Right. We will be focusing, especially Asian Americans. We can be so invisible, right. Because that’s how racism works against us usually. Right? Like for, you know, right now, black lives matter, right, is really this powerful movement in the world. And I love it. And racism works on black people to make them visible, but to stereotype them. Right. So, so people say, Oh, yo, you know, all my favorite artists are black or like, yo, what about Will Smith? What about Beyonce? Like black people get seen.
Well, black people get seen, but then they get stereotyped. Right. And then the other sexy and cool or strong athletes, but they’re not human. For Asian Americans, it’s the same result, but it’s through a different way. Right? Like instead of being seen and being stereotyped. Were erased and made invisible.
And so what I think a lot about is, you know, what do I have to say? What do I have to share? And that’s really how I got into the music game, was I came out and from day one, my music has always been very, very values-oriented. Our friend, Andrew Chau from Boba guys, Andrew always talks about having a value-oriented brand.
Right. Where my, my brand is actually. And from day one, this has been true. It’s been more about what I’m saying than how I’m looking saying it, you know? And, and so that was really how I got into the business was that I was just making music that tried to say something, I started putting music out on YouTube when YouTube was still really like, you know, viral. And it was very possible to go viral on YouTube.
And the first couple of records that I had that got me starting to tour and starting to get booked on the Asian American college scene was records that were about like you’re saying like a story about what it was like growing up, about, you know, just things I was experiencing in life.
And that’s always been kind of my trademark more than one particular sound, more than one particular image has been, I’m a guy that, you know, if you bring me out to your school or you bring me out to your performance or festival or whatever it is, I’m going to come and I’m going to have a message for you.
You know, I’m going to have something to say about the world and that’s, you know, so, so obviously I’m a very proud member of Asian Hustle Network. One of many, one of very, very many members [inaudible] which is incredible. And I love seeing people who joined in the network doing their little intro and saying like… and that’s really a form of storytelling. Right. And I think everyone’s kind of tapped into that.
But to me, what’s even more powerful than just a story, right, is the idea of through stories you can discover who a person is. And you can tell when somebody is using a story to sell a product versus when somebody is got a product, but that product taps you into a larger story.
You know what I’m saying? Like, I think a lot, a lot, a lot about the idea of are we using, you know, our star, we leveraging the power of a story well told just in order to sell a product? Or is the product just part of this natural, organic lifestyle that we’re building up. And the intros that I see on AHN, that that always strike me closest to the heart or when it seems like somebody really is just giving themselves.
And you know, they might have a thing that they do or a, you know, whatever that they’re trying to put, you know, forget the call to action. You know what I’m saying? It’s 2020. If I am interested in you, if you sound like a really dope person, I can find everything about it. I’ll find your website, I’ll find your Instagram.
And then I understand the funnel and the CTA and the [inaudible]. I understand all of that. But first and foremost, right, there’s like a billion-plus people out there who want me to click on their link.
Maggie: [00:17:56] Right.
Jason: [00:17:57] More than that is, is this a person I want to influence my life? And that’s been kind of my guiding principle with my music. That’s what got me into music. That’s what’s kept me in music. You know, some years I haven’t had a record go big or I haven’t had a campaign that went well, I didn’t get much coverage, but. The heart of it has always been, do I have something to say? And if I don’t have something to say that can really help people out, then I just got to work on me.
You know, I got to figure out what’s going on in the world. And then if I got something that I look out there and I can genuinely say, you know what I think in this in this time in the world, what I have can be powerful and can be used to help people. Then it then, I mean, it’s not like itself, you know, you still gotta be smarter about it.
To me, that was the foundation of what got me into music. And then, you know, certain target audience saying this is something that we’ve already been looking for. Right. We just haven’t found it or this guy is doing it in a little bit of a different way that helps us access it.
And then that’s what really got me on the road. That’s what really, you know, started getting me a couple streams. I’m still, honestly, not even like a streaming heavy artists. I’m like, you know, I’ve got a couple of songs that have done numbers here and there, but even more than that, I think I’m known as somebody who can bring certain perspectives to bear on whatever situations are going on in the world around us.
And that’s, what’s been really cool is to have a fan base that’s evolved and grown over the last several years. And it’s not based on like, yo man, you know, we just really want to hear that one single, you got. It’s more like, Hey, we really enjoy you. And we’re interested in you. And you know, let’s have that relationship.
So that’s kind of, you know, how I got into the music, full time and have been able to sustain it, you know, not not a lot of artists, especially on an independent level that haven’t been able to have that staying power and that I’ve been very fortunate and blessed that, you know, people keep up. Stay tuned in, you know.
Bryan: [00:20:11] Definitely.
Maggie: [00:20:11] That’s amazing. Yeah I one hundred percent agree with you, you know, about the stories I feel like, or I’m sure I can speak for Bryan as well. Like everyone has their own story. Right. And it doesn’t matter what your story is. It’s your own story. And there are certain things that happen in your life that are representative of who you are and no one can change that. Right. And if we are to share our stories no matter like what our culture is, no matter what our religion is, gender identity, whatever it may be. If we share our stories with one and another, we can understand each other’s souls. Right. And if we understand each other’s souls and our stories, then we’re really never that far away from each other.
That’s the underlying, you know, understanding with, within each other where we understanding each other’s stories. And I think that’s the most beautiful thing and about like, you know how you’re saying, you know, if people were to understand who you are. That’s where that passion comes from. If they see that you’re passionate about who you are and they’re they know that you’re passionate about your music, your product, whatever it may be. That’s how they fall in love with you, right?
Same with like businesses promoting their product on age. That like, if I can see that they’re passionate about their music or they’re passionate about their product, then I feel passionate for them. You know, if I can just see that they’re just promoting it, just to promote it then there are so many other businesses out there were like, why do I have to support you if you’re just, you know, doing this onetime promotion. So I honestly feel like I like whatever you said, just now just gave me chills because you can definitely see the difference between like someone who’s just promoting just to like, you know, bring their product out there or if they have a story, that’s the reason why they’re doing the business that they’re doing or the reason why they’re doing what they do.
Bryan: [00:21:53] Yeah, definitely. Do you want to bring it back to your personal identity too, you know? We talked, we touched upon this a little bit earlier, you know, as you’re getting eyes on you, you know, you’re forming your identity, as you said before.
Asians and Asian Americans in general, once you get there, it’s a weird feeling. If I ever had this much attention before, and you feel like this is your opportunity to make a difference. Cause all eyes on you. So how you leverage that that newfound fame to really make the world a better place?
Jason: [00:22:27] Yeah. I, again, I really don’t think I have that much thing. I’ve got friends, you know, I’ve got friends that I’ve got people who listen to me, but yeah, I’ve got a little bit of a track record now. Right. And for me, a lot of it is, building up the people around us. Yeah, no, I think, for me, it’s always been really important to invest in friendships and in relationships and this is something I’m very passionate about is the idea of like mentorship, right.
And pulling other people up around us. So, so for me, you know, whether that’s with my group night market, which is my Chinese American trap crew, whether that’s with night market, whether that’s with a, I’ve got sort of a boutique artist services firm that, that some friends and I founded. The goal has always actually been from, from the day that I jumped out and started in my solo music album.
The goal has always been, let me figure out what could work for me. And then once I’ve found a bit of a template, once I’ve established some best practices . How can I give that to other artists who are doing the same thing? Right. Because I think that this is again, you know, going back to whether that’s with my family values or whether that’s just with, you know, good community building values, the goal has never been to be successful alone. The goal has been to be, to see our community successful. Right. And, and you see this all the time. Some, you know, I think I think it was Meek Mill, or it was, you know, another rapper who said, it’s not about… it might’ve actually been Drake, come to think about it, but who said, you know, it’s not about whether you’re a millionaire or not, which I’m not. But you know, it’s about how many people around you are successful, right? Because if you’re the only successful person in your circle, that probably means that you’re exploiting the people around you to get where you want to go. Right. But if, if you’re successful and you’re surrounded by people who are themselves successful, then that means that that you’re building each other up.
So so for me, a major, major focus of where I’m at now is trying to pass that on to other artists who are values-based artists, who, you know, want to have a message, want to build a platform, wants to know how to connect with those pockets of Asian-America out there and beyond Asian-America. And because that’s what I think a lot of Asian-America lacks, right.
People talk about, Oh, what is it like the three levers of social engagement, right? Or social status and it’s political power and generational wealth and representation. And, you know, we a lot of the Asian American community doesn’t really have any of that. Some Asian Americans may have generational wealth.
But, you know, It’s definitely about this idea of passing things forward and not just keeping it locked away. I very much believe that the world is not a zero-sum game. Right. So the more that I can give to others, the better it reflects on me. And that even extends again, going back to the current moment and black lives matter, and this idea that, you know, Asian Americans.
It’s not know let’s be vocal about anti-Asian racism during COVID-19, which, you know, I know we’re all part of the hate is a virus team, which I know is a movement very near and dear to us. And I love how our friends and that movement instead of saying, Oh, no, we’re only going to talk about anti-Asian racism.
We’ve really said, no, you know, hatred, racism, you know, whatever, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, these are issues for all of us. And you know, I’m not queer personally. I’m not a woman, but these issues are things that I should speak up about. And, and I’m trying to build up my platform, my Asian American platform, not so that I can just speak on our issues or so that we can lend a hand when other communities are facing issues of their own, which again only makes us more credible when we speak up about our issues.
Right. And I think that this idea of the winner takes all. Yo, that’s actually not how any successful community does it? No successful community or individual or movement says, let me get mine and then forget the rest of you. Just show up for me. You know, we win when we build strong networks that give to the people who need it at the moment.
And then, when it’s our turn to come around and say, Hey, I need a favor now. Or Hey, are issues coming to the forefront? Then we can call others in as well.
Bryan: [00:27:15] Definitely that that’s a strong foundation for any strong partnership. You know, they always talk to people too. I think having a give first mentality when you’re working with someone, they always help first without really expecting anything in return, goes a long way. The world goes in full circle, right? As you mentioned before you come from a taking mentality that you’re not going to get anywhere because you just establish yourself as the selfish person, as people, as a guy who is always has a terror to motive, you don’t want to be that guy. You know, this not only pertains to the Asian community, but to any other community too. Yeah, we want during a time when COVID is going off, so is racism against the Asian community. You wanted other communities to speak up on our behalf.
Maggie: [00:28:02] Right.
Bryan: [00:28:03] You know, and is it really hypocritical for us to like not speak up during the black lives movement and expect them to stand up for us during another incident? You know, given that COVID, it’s still very much raging on right now and over the world and it’s really, you really have to come from like the give first mentality first nor to expect change, you know? And that also stems from like an abundance mentality. It’s fine. You have to think from there are so much resources out there. So much money out there that all of us physicsy.
But unfortunately what we see in the Asian community is that people come from a scarcity mindset almost 50% of the time. Now I would say 40% of the declare because you know, we’re first generation, second generation Asians now, they’re very American. You know, they’re very westernized.
So it’s not for us, not about like, Oh yeah, Jason, you and I had to lose. If he started a concert, I can not be an artist. It doesn’t work that way. There’s so much out there and you have to continuously build up people around you because everyone causes unique skill set that if you empower them in the right way, they will make the world a more beautiful place.
Different from yours, but it’s okay. You know, different is great. It’s always good to have an open type of mindset to look at that and be like, hey look, I can make it pretty my way. You can make it pretty your way. Let’s both do it together. You know, it’s super important.
Maggie: [00:29:33] Exactly. Yeah. I think a lot of Asians feel the same way where, you know, if I have this certain idea, I’m not going to share it with others because someone else might take it. Right. But honestly, no one can do it your own way. You know, you have your own style, you have your own certain mentality, you have your own experiences and no one can take that away from you.
Bryan: [00:29:52] And we see that a lot at the very early days of Asian Hustle Network. Some guy would post, like, what would you do if you have $50,000 to invest? The first five were like, I’m not telling you my idea. You’re just going to steal it. I was like, Jesus.
Maggie: [00:30:06] Everyone was like laughing. And they’re like, why are you expecting me to tell you ideas?
Bryan: [00:30:11] Crazy washing group and fall over time. Really? And calculate what we feel like the groups should be, you know, it’s open sharing, helping each other, sharing your story, Jason, even powerful ass story, man. And we want to be sure we have more people listen to your point of view. Cause you know, philosophy major, rapper, you know, activists.
Maggie: [00:30:34] Yeah. So yeah, like mindset, we know you’re an activist and you’ve been in like the founding team for the hate is a virus movement. Tell us a little bit about like, how you were able to use your platform, or if there was like a moment in time where you discover like, Hey, I have this platform and I can make positive social change. Like, was, was there a moment where you were like, I can do something to make a positive change in this community?
Jason: [00:31:01] Yeah, I think I’ve always, I always wanted to make that positive social change. And I think as I’ve seen, like my platform evolve, and as I’ve seen, you know, as I’ve been around a little longer, I remember actually, back in the day, so, so y’all probably know, MC gin, right?
Definitely a pioneering Asian-American hip hop artist and his team, his management team is actually friends of mine. And back in the day, Ray, who, you know, was journeyed with gin for a very long time. What he told me was just keep going, you know, you just keep going. And at a certain point, you get this credibility of having been around, of having spoken on things and actually, his advice was kind of, you know, just stick to your guns, you know, figure out what you believe in, figure out what your core is.
And then you just keep putting that into the world. And you know, obviously I believe in, you know, refinements, like, you know, you don’t just do one thing for 20 years, you know, you gotta, you gotta see what’s working and see what isn’t, but kind of, you know, to the question is I think we can’t make it and then switch up.
We can’t be like, yo, okay. You know, I’m this dope rapper, Oh, I’m this cool dude. You know, listen to me, listen to me. And then when you get big, then you switch over to the like, Oh, yo, you know, listen, you know, let’s care about the world. Like you kind of have tap that baked in from the beginning. If you don’t have that awareness, almost what it is is you’ve gotta set that down as part of your foundation so that when you get big enough, it’s always been there. Right. Because I know that one thing that a lot of people are are kind of wary about is when somebody blows up or gets exposure or build a platform. And then all of a sudden they start caring about things.
Maggie: [00:32:58] It’s like performative activism.
Jason: [00:33:00] Right? Exactly. Exactly, exactly. Right. And then, or, you know, as soon as let’s say black lives matter becomes an issue. As soon as anti-Asian racism becomes an issue, then you start speaking up about it. But by that point, it’s almost too late. By the time that, and we all know this right. By the time that everybody’s talking about something, you know, you look at Bitcoin, right. That everyone’s talking about Bitcoin, that’s the wrong time to the buy into BTC. You know what I’m saying? Like, you gotta, you gotta start when the movement starts. So so you’re asking about, you know, when did I realize, and for me it was early on in my artistry and my movement. I said you know what? These are the things that I care about. I care about racial justice. I care about equality. I care about building up the community and always having that latent in my message. And then it was almost to where, you know, when the world caught up, not necessarily like, yo I was this visionary, but to say, you know, you got to care about the things that that you’re going to care about when no one else cares about it. Because that’s when, you know, when everybody catches up and starts saying, yo, we need to find an Asian dude who can speak about black culture, who can speak about Asian-American arts and who can put the two together, you know, instead of just being like, yo, you know, I’ve had this dope career. Just talking about Asian shit, but Oh, now people care about black shit. So I guess I’m going to, you know, like from day one, I’ve always said, you know, the people who got me into hip hop are, you know, like African American community. You know, from there there are recordings of me, I think from, you know, 2014, 2013 talking about why it’s important for Asian Americans to care about black issues. Why it’s important for people to understand Asian American history. And then now, you know, we’re starting to see people really get into it and really go, yo, you know, we’re having these conversations about race and what’s Asian-Americans place in it to where I can point to, you know, a track record of four or five, six, seven years and say, you know, I’ve been thinking we’ve been doing this movement.
Not, not in a hipstery, like, yeah, I was on this way before in a way, but in a, Hey, you know, if it’s time for these conversations, I’m ready for these conversations, you know.
Bryan: [00:35:19] Honestly, I can sit here and listen to you talk about him. Yeah. Isn’t this a lot of sense. Yeah, you’re right. Everything links to each other. You have to be consistent of who you are since day one.
Maggie: [00:35:32] For sure.
Bryan: [00:35:33] No, that’s really how you sort of capitalize on the opportunities that come your way to really make a difference.
Jason: [00:35:39] You know, also knowing, so a big one that I, Carl Choi, who was also, you know, he was Gin’s manager for a long time.
What Carl told me too was like, you know, you’ve got to know what to say no to also. Yeah. So that’s a big piece of the game too, is knowing which opportunities, right, when opportunities come your way on which ones are the like, yeah, I’m going to do this one. And which ones are the, you know what, I’m going to pass on this one not because it’s not a cool opportunity. You know, in abstract and it’s not the right fit for me.
And I think learning, learning what to say no to was a big step in my evolution of artistry. Like, like you said, Bryan, going from a scarcity mentality, from abundance, right? I’m not going to jump at every single opportunity, every single deal, every single performance I could do, because I know that some of those are actually not in line with the brand I’m trying to build, not in line with the character that I have.
Bryan: [00:36:37] Yeah. That’s super important to me. You know, I think opportunities will come your way. Basically, it’s kinda like a weird mentality because you have a mindset to look for opportunities you’re in a spot easily. It’s even like a casual conversation with someone you just meet, you know, when you spot opportunities that, Hey, like I want to learn more about this or can we possibly collaborate, you know? It really starts with you as a person too, to know what you even want. You know, I always tell people too, like when you come to like a network situation, he doesn’t know you’re lying. You’re not going to get anything out of it. They’re just going to meet people for the hell of it. You know, I’m probably wrong but if you come in knowing what you want to do already, opportunities are everywhere.
And anyone can do it too. It’s not because you’re blessed or anyway, or, you know, you’re rich or so and so it’s because your mentality, it’s straight.
Maggie: [00:37:37] Yeah. And people can see that people see right through you, you know, and if they can see that you know what you want, they will most likely throw themselves.
Bryan: [00:37:45] Law of attraction.
Jason: [00:37:46] Yeah. Also a great story about that. So there’s there’s girl now who is, who’s a good friend of mine. This girl, Zaida Zang. So she was the first Asian-American wrestler signed to, first Asian American woman wrestler signed to WWE and she’s a professional wrestler. She wrestles all around the world. She’s in Taiwan right now. She does all sorts of dope shit. So there was a time when, I, you know, I’d seen her around in media. I was like, yo, this girl is really, really tight. And then there was one day when she posted on ACN, Asian Creative Network. And she was just like, yo, this is who I am. This is what I do. And I’m, you know, I’m trying to do a record. Do a new ring intro theme. And, you know, I’m looking for a Chinese American rapper who can spit in Mandarin, who can do yada yada.
And I didn’t even see it at first, but a couple of my friends or a couple of people, even who knew of me were like, yo, this is the guy for that. And they tagged me in it. And then she, and I just started building and, and now she’s a good friend of mine. We’ve got some, some stuff, some collabs coming out and even more than that we’re just friends.
And, you know, we’re moving in the same circles. Yeah. And that wasn’t an opportunity I think of exactly what you’re talking about to where I’d establish a reputation for being a certain kind of person and doing certain kinds of work. And it was just so natural for us to get together. And instead of coming at her like, Oh, you want to do X, here’s my rates. And, you know, making it very formulaic. It was like, yo, I see where your heart is at. Let me show you where my heart is at. And it became the best form of networking, which was not like, yo, you know, here’s a consult and my rate and whatever. It was just, yo, I see that you have a lot of value and who’s vice versa and we just built and built opportunities for each other right naturally.
Maggie: [00:39:40] Yeah. That’s the best. Those are the very natural relationships, you know? Yeah.
Bryan: [00:39:46] Awesome. So do you have any tours coming up that we can know about? Or do you have online events?
Maggie: [00:39:51] Yeah, let us know what you’re working on right now and in the next, I dunno, six months or so.
Jason: [00:39:57] Yeah. So I’m not sure exactly when this one’s going to come out, but I have my new project Living Room, which is a record that actually exemplifies what we’re talking about because a year and a half ago, I wrote this record with one of my like close artistic collaborators, this young Korean-American producer called Elion beats.
We made this record. It’s very chill. It’s very lofi. It’s very body. And then we shelved it because, you know, 2019, the vibes were just not there. Nobody was trying to stay at home. You know, I always trying to go out and have fun. Yeah. But then at the beginning of quarantine, we revisited it and we were like, yo, this is actually a perfect time to give people an album of music that’s just sort of about, you know, being at home, centering yourself, grounding yourself, reminding yourself that, you know, bringing peace in uncertain times. Right? So we put that out at the beginning of this month and you know, people have been listening.
People have been giving some really good feedback on Instagram, so that’s out and the next single. I don’t know if anybody else knows this. I haven’t really announced it but the next music video mood, my friend Allie Shu, who’s a really, really dope Chinese American film director. She directed a music video over zoom for me. Wow. It was just easy in the home, you know? So that’s actually coming out this week, while we’re taping this it’s coming out. So that should be out. People should be able to find that on my social media and beyond that, I do actually have kind of a secret project that I’m working on to bring that record to people in a way that’s very live that replicates kind of a house concert format. so, so right now we’re looking for funding for that. And if that works out then hopefully, hopefully, what we’re going to do is throw these live house concerts online for small groups of fans, you know, like 10-15 people at a time and really bring people together around music, around conversation, around like therapy and meditation. And just have these experiences that remind people, you know, art can do a lot of things.
Art can, you know, be a festival where, you know, tens of thousands of people get together. Art can also, you know, deepen preexisting relationships. So that’s the goal, but right now the biggest thing is, you know, if, if people are looking for some kind of chilled out music to rest to the quarantine to, you know, destress to there’s a lot of tension in the air, That’s what’s out right now.
Maggie: [00:42:39] Nice. You heard it here first. Lots of big plans.
Bryan: [00:42:44] Even from this project initiative. You tell her from like give first mentality. You sense from current events what’s going on? You’re absolutely right. Like everyone is stressing their own way. You know, there’s so much going on this year. This year is absolutely insane. Yeah. We really appreciate its efforts to, to really give back to people and the fans and community. And these are things that are least talked about to, you know, that is therapeutic. Good for your mental health. You know, what you’re doing is you’re creating projects around who you are, your own identity.
Brand is so important.
Maggie: [00:43:24] Yeah. I think like that’s, in the middle of this pandemic, like we’re all still expected to be at 100% of our productivity. Right. And we’re still expected to work all the time. So we never really talk about like how we’re doing emotionally like you said, Jason. And what you’re doing, it’s, it’s going to touch a lot of people and, you know, it’s something that they didn’t know that they needed, but it’s something that is really much needed.
Bryan: [00:43:48] Yes.
Jason: [00:43:49] Thank you. Yeah, we can throw a, you know, if we get this funding, if we get, you know, whatever supporting backing we need, hopefully, we can throw some living room sessions for the AHN community. Think, you know, bring people together. That’d be really, really, really fun.
Bryan: [00:44:09] That’d be dope, man. Yeah. Totally be supportive of that.
Maggie: [00:44:13] Awesome. All right. So we are almost at the top of the hour. I want to ask this last question for you, Jason. If there was one message that you want to relay back to the community, whether it be like the Asian community or just the entrepreneurial community, what would that message be?
Jason: [00:44:33] Oh, so I’m wearing this, I’m not going to show you my pants right now. Cause that’s weird. It’s written on my pants right now and this is one. So, I have this slogan. And my slogan is “Fear is easy. Hope is real.” And so it’s all pants right now because we did some merch with that and then it’s, but I’m not going to, you know, Put y’all through that.
But what my message from day one has always been that fear is easy and hope is real. Fear is it’s so easy to give into, you know, whether that’s the fear of saying, you know, I, my friend, Simon Tam, from the slants, says this really well. He says, you know, if I make a million dollars, I don’t need a million dollars.
I’m going to reinvest most of that into the community. Right. And I’m going to do that without the fear of saying what if tomorrow I don’t have a million dollars. Right? Cause stuff comes and goes. When we operate, you know, I think another name for a scarcity mentality is a fear mentality, right. Saying, shoot, if I give this away, what if I don’t have enough tomorrow?
And this operates everywhere, right? This operates in relation, right? Shoot. If if I don’t get what I need from you, you know, then that I’m going to feel unfulfilled. It operates in terms of, you know, so many ways. I think when we look at the world around us with fear in our hearts, now we start acting as though the worst is gonna happen and nobody’s going to take care of us.
And I really, really believe that that the winning strategy is to live hopefully right. To live in hopes of what could happen. If I throw myself out there, I think, going to work, but I believe, and I really, really believe. That, you know, if we build strong communities, the community will have our back. So I hope that everybody out there who’s hustling, right? People have got a lot of different hustles. I love all of it. You know, we need real estate agents. Definitely. We need bankers and, you know, CFAs and people who are handling the money. But in the end, are we building up all these things out of fear of not having enough? Or are we building up all these things in the hopes that we’re creating structures?
That will build a brighter future. Yeah. Yeah. So, so that’s, that’s what I’ll give. Yeah.
Bryan: [00:47:04] That’s powerful. I mean, that’s amazing, man. That’s powerful closing statement. I love it.
I mean, yeah. Thank you, Jason, for being on the show, we had a lot of fun, you know, this entire conversation feels very trans like.
It really killed good conversation about who you are and what’s going on, point of views or lessons, who you are, you know, is it any other way that we can help you just reach out anytime, you know? But yeah. How can our listeners find out more about you and reach out to you?
Jason: [00:47:40] Yeah. So, all my social media handles are @jasonchumusic.
So please, if you listen and you know, this spoke to you, hit me on Instagram, hit me on Facebook, hit me, you know, kind of, kind of wherever. And the new album Living Room is available on all streaming services. So wherever you listen to music, I will be out there just search my name, it’ll pop up.
You know, I really hope that that the music speaks to you and that, you know, some part of what I’ve gone through can resonate with something you’re going through.
Bryan: [00:48:14] Definitely put that in the show notes. Jason, thank you.
Maggie: [00:48:19] Thanks for being on the show, Jason.
Outro: [00:48:23] Hey guys, we hope you enjoy this episode. Please subscribe to the show. We like to get to the top 10 on iTunes so be sure to leave us a five-star review. We release an episode every single Wednesday. So, stay tuned.
Thank you, guys, so much.