Alan Z // Ep 73 // Shifting the Pop Culture Paradigm
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Alan Z is the Atlanta-based triple-threat: rapper / singer / actor. He is the epitome of resilience and his genre-bending musical styles allows him to be a lover and a fighter. His versatile sounds range from hip-hop to R&B and pop. Alan strongly believes in speaking up for Asian-Americans and fighting against anti-Asian racism, which has fueled his drive and purpose to break down racial barriers and shift the pop culture paradigm.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to 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: (00:00:23) Hi everyone. Welcome. Do the Asian hustle network podcast today, we have a very special guest. His name is Alan Z. Alan Z is the Atlanta based triple threat rappers, singer actor. He is the epitome of resilience and his John Rohde bending musical styles allows him to be the lover and a fighter. His versatile sounds range from hip hop to R and B and pop Alan strongly believes in speaking up for Asian-Americans and fighting against anti-Asian racism, which has field has drive and purpose to break down racial barriers and shift the pop paradigm. Alan, welcome to the show.
Alan: (00:01:03) Thank you. Appreciate that intro.
Bryan: (00:01:05) Definitely. I think that have a unit to show it is perfect. What we’re going through right now, but before we dive deep into that, I want to hear more about your story, man. And where’d you grow up and how’d you get into this career?
Alan: (00:01:16) Yeah, so I would say my childhood was split between, uh, two places. Uh, the first was Carolyn and that was like a black and Latino neighborhood. And then the latter half of my childhood was in Seattle, which was like a predominantly white neighborhood. And, um, when I was living in Maryland, like, um, for like, I guess the earlier part of my life, that’s where I kind of found hip hop. And at that time, like, I just saw like these rappers as like superheroes, you know, like M and M as JC, like to me, they were like, it’s are you putting on a Cape? Like, you know what I mean? You put on like the outfit and like, um, You know, like hash versus ready. It just felt like something empowering that I didn’t have in my life. Especially as a kid, I was getting like bullied and, and uh, discriminated against for my race and whatever. I saw that as like an outlet. So when I moved to Seattle, I was like, am I head in middle school? I’m like, I want to be a rapper. You know? And then that got me ostracized from school because, you know, the white kids were just like, why, why is this Asian kid want to be a rapper? It was like, they’re like, I don’t get it. You know? Um, and then, because I knew that, like, I didn’t have much of a future in music there. I moved to Atlanta for college at Emory. So that was like my journey to, I guess, that led me to become Allen’s D in a sense.
Maggie: (00:02:34) Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. And what was it like, like kind of growing up in your family household? Like, did they have like a, were they like strict Asian parents? And did they have like a plan for you?
Alan: (00:02:49) Well, yeah, like. I think I was fortunate enough to have like really supportive parents, but obviously they didn’t want me to be a rapper in middle school. Cause that’s how with them, I was gonna drop out and they were like, no, you know, I’m doing it. But, uh, I think what things still did in me was, was like discipline and like, um, no to survive, like, you know, in this world it’s like, you just, you can’t be just altruistic and like super impressionable and think, Oh, I’m just gonna make millions of dollars doing arts, you know? So early on, I was like, if I really want to do something, that’s like almost. Unrealistic. I had, I’d had to have my ducks in a row, which is why I was like, I’m gonna make sure I get my bachelor’s. I want to make sure I know how to make money. I go into corporate if I need to, which is why I did, you know, like once I got my degree, you know, I worked like two years at Amazon, like the corporate. So, you know, I was doing, um, like marketing and like, uh, Uh, content creation for them.
Bryan: (00:03:39) Wow. That’s awesome. I mean, I really liked your identity as a rapper. Can you kind of talk me through like your inspiration and how you got, like how you formed your lyrics and partnerships and everything
Maggie: (00:03:51) , when you first started? Like, what did you know that, like, how did you know what you were gonna, you know, rap about?
Alan: (00:04:00) You’re talking about as far as like the beginning stages, like when I was a kid and stuff to now, or?
Bryan: (00:04:06) Um, when you began your professional career.
Alan: (00:04:08) Okay. Okay. Um, well, when I started out, like in terms of like, uh, I’d say when I was 18, I started taking it more seriously. Cause I was in Atlanta. Um, I was actually more leaning towards being a singer than a rapper because at that time I was like, this is the more. Safer path. Like the more Asian, the Asian side of you is like, well, you know, people will accept a singer before rap because I saw like, you know, Asia Rafi out, like Jamie Jeremy patch. And I’m like, okay, this is more like, uh, accessible. Right. But what I had noticed was when I started inserting that route of like pop artists and like major labels are trying to like mold me and packaged me. Like they didn’t know what to do with me. And it frustrating me so much because I’m like one, it was a lot of ignorance. And two, it was like with all these, like, Pop songs. How, how could I stress my frustrations? How do I tell people about what’s going on my community? Because it’s like, I can’t, I can’t do like Michael Jackson’s heal the world, like for 12 tracks in a row. Like I had deeper lyrics, I want it to express. So I consciously made that shift as somebody who was more of a rapper than a singer, because at that time, like most people knew I was, I was a guy that was saying, you know, but I was like, am I like my friend? I made a really good point. He’s uh, Close friend of mine. Um, he, he had said people, if you start out as a rapper, people will believe you can sing. But if you start out as a singer and then you try to rap people, aren’t gonna take you seriously. Like Chris Brown, isn’t a ma like pretty good rapper, but no one cares that you can rap because he started out as a pop singer. Whereas there there’s like childish Gambino. He started out with, um, you know, Charlie’s gonna never, you know, as far as the music career and he would transition to do red bell and people believed it. Cause they’re like, Oh, he’s a rapper. He can sing this cool with Drake. Oh, he’s rapping the same, but like no one cares. If you win singer, that can rap really well because you already pigeonholed yourself as, as the ballot guy. Um, so when it came to like topics, um, a lot of my topics before, just because I’m a competitive rapper was about how I’m a better rapper than everyone else. So it was very, just like I’m a rap about I’m better than you I’m rapping about rapping. And then at some point, um, Which was like, like in the recent years I realized there was this wealth of, um, I guess themes, right? People aren’t touching on, which is our issues, Asian-American issues. And I took that a lot to heart because of just especially with the hate crimes and stuff. And I was like, I’m going to touch on this. I’m going to talk about the history and the experience and how to reframe our narrative as a people, not just about me, but just as a collective. And I think that. Really strengthened my identity as an artist. It’s like, I can’t, I’m not going to take this part away from me. I’m not going to let no label tell me I can’t talk about who I am and who my people are, you know?
Bryan: (00:06:44) Yeah. I really liked that part of your identity for me too. I think we, we talked about this before, um, like an Asian lesson that we’re social hour about, about your, your Asian identity and talking about that. You think you mentioned before that you. There’s a better allyship between you and the black community before, whereas it’s more of a developing relationship with the Asian community later. Can you talk a little more about that?
Alan: (00:07:11) Yeah. So when I was a kid, like, I didn’t really have that many Asian friends cause I was super into hip hop and at that time it wasn’t like. Um, I guess something that people thought was normal, you know, um, especially when I was growing up, at least like if I was in a more diverse neighborhood, I’d say like, it probably would have been like a cool thing to be a part of. So, you know, I would just have more black friends. And then when I went to NYU, I was like, you know, all my friends were black, pretty much like 90% of them, even now, like 90% of my friends are still black, but I think that their transitioning point was. You know, like 20, 20, it was like, I just like, my heart broke every time. Like the news broke about like another Asian crime and it’s like, I’ve noticed like my friends. I don’t want to say didn’t care, but they just weren’t aware enough to like check on me and I’m just like, I’m hurting and they don’t care. Not hard. This sounds terrible. They didn’t reach out. You know what I mean? I’m like the only people I can see talk to you about this are my Asian friends. Like, because we, we know I can, I, you know, I call I’d call my parents every day just to make sure they were okay. And I just noticed that I needed to tap into my community. It’s like, even though I, at that time, I felt like an outsider. There was something. I could do even as an outsider of Asian community to like empower us because it’s like, no matter where I grew up, who I hang out with at the end of the day, my identity is my identity in terms of like my racial, ethnic makeup. And so I think that the transitioning point was one that I’m sure you guys knew when I went viral for that black and Asian unity song that I did with wise Asian people started to like, know who it was. And that really started to, like, I wanted to like. Get involved more, you know, whether it was like to help out with fundraising or like just talking to panels, talking about Asian identity. And I felt like I finally found a sense of belonging, you know, within the Asian community, you know,
Maggie: (00:09:00) Yeah. I love that. I think like what you mentioned earlier is very true. How, like, when we try to reach out to other communities, they don’t know how to help. Right. And that’s probably just because they don’t know how they can resonate with us. They don’t know like how they can be a support to us, but it’s only, it’s like we reached out, we try to like, make that connection. And like you putting out that song for black and Asian unity, I think that helps a lot, you know, because they’re like, Oh, like, you know, I can resonate with this. I can, I can connect with it. Like I know how to help now.
Bryan: (00:09:27) That sounded more tense about allyship to me. Like how can we as a community work with other communities?
Alan: (00:09:32) Yeah. I really think that like, uh, relationship building, shouldn’t just be transactional. It should be something that we do like, um, outside of, um, just. Trauma and pain. So I remember, um, if you guys remember, but the townhouse meeting that, uh, Daniel Day came and Daniel Wu had loopy fiasco spoke and there was something that he said that like really resonated with me. He was like, when it comes to the black and Asian communities, Um, there’s two things that we respond to it’s crisis and commerce. So crisis is like when, um, say like when, when the elderly man got pushed and we respond to it because this is something urgent for us. And it’s like, because this is like, uh, a black and Asian issue. Like we get super worked up about it. And that’s when we start addressing each other. Commerce is when, like, say, um, you know, like anime K-pop, you know, it’s like being consumed by an outside like communities or like Asian people buying like. Hip hop music. You know what I’m saying? Like streaming hip hop, or like getting involved in select urban fashion and did this kind of like transactional, like relationship, but like in order for us to actually have a genuine understanding of each other, it comes down to like, not like, Hey, what can I do for you? But like, how can we love each other? How can we understand each other beyond, um, I guess wanting something from each other, you know? And that’s why for me, I don’t even like the word allyship. Cause it feels transactional. Like it feels like. All right. I did this for you. So now I expect you to not, I don’t, I don’t respect nothing. I don’t, I don’t because I want to do it because I want to help, you know what I’m saying? Because it’s like, I care about you and you should, if you don’t care about me, cool, but you’re not going to do it because I genuinely care. So that’s kind of how I see it. Like relationship building.
Maggie: (00:11:09) Yeah, that’s a, that’s a good point. I feel like, I think like one of the biggest reasons why we’re constantly stuck in this like racism cycle is because it’s always turning back. It’s always like, what are you doing for me? You know, so that I can do some things for you. And like, if we continue to have that mindset, it’s always going to be in that cycle.
Bryan: (00:11:26) When you want to take this podcast back to Alameda. Yeah. I can talk a little more about the industry itself. You know, like, you know, being an Asian rapper is really, it’s a really rare and unorthodox, you know, and I really liked the fact that your parents did support you through this journey. So shout out to your parents, but I mean, how, what was breaking into the industry? Right. You know, what it was the barriers life, what is it? What kind of. The hardship struggles that you faced and, you know, things that worked out for you and we’ll hear more about it.
Maggie: (00:11:59) And did you have any like pushback from certain people that I know, you know, you were surrounded by people who are mostly non-Asians. So talk about that a little bit.
Alan: (00:12:08) Um, I would say like when it came to like, uh, the people I was around, like they were really supportive. The people that weren’t supportive. Or I don’t even wanna say supportive, but where I got the pushback from was within the industry. So like every time I would get like discovered by like I’m a record producer or a manager of some higher up source, um, the issue of race would come into the question. And so I started noticing like how I was free to differently. Like, I’ll give you an example, like, um, I’m not gonna say any names because you know, I’m not, I’m not about to, you know, I’m not trying to start drama with old, uh, you know, people that I had a. Dealings with, but I’ll give you an example. Like had I had a meeting with like this producer and um, this manager at the time and the manager was like, Hey, um, this is how we should strategize. Let’s let’s hide your face. Let’s make it go anonymous, delete all your social media. And you know, you could come out, you know, people just know you for your voice. And then when you actually get big with your music, then they’ll notice they’ll find out you’re Asian. And I’m just like, Dude, this is such a slap in the face to everything I’ve done. You know what I’m saying? Like he’s like, and he’s not the only person I’ve said it to, you know? And I think when he said that it reminded me of the movie, the ha uh, the five heartbeats, you know, so it was about the, um, the R and B group. Um, and like what had happened with their album was, you know, there were five black dudes singing and the album cover is like, Uh, a white family, cause they’re like, no one wants to see, like, you know, at that’s time it was like, that’s what the issue was. It was like, it was like, they’re not ready for you. And I felt, I felt that about my situation. I’m just like, Oh, are you saying that like my face me being who I am, isn’t good enough to like, is that going to be a turnout for people? You know what I mean? I’m just like, dude, I’m better looking than you. I’m like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Um, but that’s just one of, one of them, things just like that. And then like people like constantly. You know, like telling me to wait to like, cause they’re trying to strategize and like, you know, do all these market research like, well, well maybe we should just start you off in China first. Let’s go to like Korea. Oh, you know, K-pop so big. Like all these kinds of like excuses as to not push me in America, which is why like, as you guys probably know, like I just decided to go a more independent route and partner with people as opposed to being under someone, because I realized the structure right now and the industry is very binary. It’s black and white. Yeah. You know, and if you’re not within the black and white structure there, they don’t know what to do with you. So I wanted to do something, um, that I know I have control over so that if I do partner up again with like, I guess more like major label, people don’t know how to handle me because I already have a foundation that I, this is how we’re going to do it.You’re not going to bounce. You’re not about to mess up what I’ve built. You know, I don’t want them to build something that isn’t going to last, you know what I mean?
Maggie: (00:14:54) Yeah. I love that. I think a lot of people who are just like tapping into the industry, they purposely. Like, except those push backs because they want to get into the industry, but you were just like, you knew what you wanted and you knew like, okay, I’m not going to take this. Like I deserve to have a voice and I deserve to have my myself like exposed to two other people. So, you know, I love how you’re just like standing up for yourself.
Bryan: (00:15:18) That’s the way I would need to know technology. I’m pushing back. I’m doing my own thing now. Yeah. And I can see the similarities to me, what your experience was and what Asian hustle is to us. You know, when we started Asian Austin network, we got a lot of pushback from mentors and advisors saying that you guys should not be the face in the community, you know, just stay behind the scenes and let it speak for itself. And I feel like there’s parallels right there because it’s like, I, I’m not sure if like our own culture is conditioning us to not be in front of, and other cultures are now like, Hey, like maybe we don’t know what to do. , you know, so there’s a lot of parallels in that sense already. So I mean, hats off to you for forging your own path, you know? And it’s not easy.
Alan: (00:16:07) Yeah. Like to add to that, um, something interesting that I’d read it in a book was like, I hip hop, like people within like hip hop culture and sums of Asians have always existed. Right? Like, um, so like breakdancers, um, there’s like great DJs producers, right. But it’s almost like there’s that fear of putting the spotlight on an Asian face. You get what I’m saying? It’s like, Oh yeah, you can’t, you can be behind the rapper. You can, you can scratch all you want, you can do the designs, but it’s like, that’s. So when I was younger, I was like, I didn’t like that. I was like, w what is wrong with like, what is wrong with how we look? Why can’t we be the face of something? And it felt like, like you said, is it is a shame, is it this ignorance? Or you feel like we don’t deserve like any kind of attention because of how we look or whatever. So that’s why I’ll always have that pushback. This is like, like, you know, Bad. I take pride in who I am. I can’t let you push me around and make me feel like self-loathing because you don’t have confidence in me, you know?
Bryan: (00:16:59) Absolutely agree. Yeah. And how, I mean, I see that you build a following over all your social media platforms, right? I like Tik TOK and Facebook and all these things like how have you built out these different platforms and what purpose do the service on each platform?
Alan: (00:17:19) Yeah. Um, I would say I started off, uh, building a platform first on YouTube, just like most Asian artists. And then I transitioned into, uh, like building one on Facebook because I noticed, um, even though people say it’s outdated, there’s still a wealth of like abundance of people to tap into, like as far as networking and like, you know, like, uh, spreading awareness about things you’re doing. So I was like, let me, let me figure out a way to be personable. And get people to know me. Cause I’m like, yo like Facebook, like there was so much options to like write posts, to share stories, to share like experiences where, whereas like with something like a YouTube, you can’t really do that unless you’re like a really good blogger. I don’t like logging. So I’m like, let me just write little anecdotes about myself, get people to know who Alan’s he is. Even if they don’t listen to the music. And then I started applying that to like other, other, um, platforms like Instagram, you know, I was like, I’m going to do, um, You know, videos like, like posts, where I talk about myself, you know, stories where I share about myself. And then once you fall in love with the person, I feel like it’s easier for you to accept their products. You know? And I took that. I took cues from that from like, you know, like people like Cardi B, it’s like, you don’t have to know a word of her song, but you know that face and you know, that branding. So you’re like, Oh, okay, I’m going to happen to what she’s doing. So I applied that to like all my social media, like, I want you to. Even if you say, yo, Alan, I’ve never listened to music, but I’m going to follow you because you’re a cool person. Great. I don’t care. Now you’re tapping into my network. You know what I mean?
Maggie: (00:18:45) Yeah, I love that. I think you kind of like set your own identity too, you know, like I, like everyone knows you as that wrapper. And like, I know you as like the one who has the headband all the time and you really know how to like stand out.
Bryan: (00:18:57) You also inspire me to rub my hair.
Maggie: (00:19:03) Brian, to all the listeners who don’t know Brian was Alan Z for Halloween.
Alan: (00:19:10) That’s so awesome. Yeah, thank you for a cosplay. And as me, I was, it was awesome.
Bryan: (00:19:17) It’s also part of reason why my hair is still so dang long, but out of your house, you to man, what was I, what does that breakdown point view like in your, in your career where you’re like, I can do this. I can definitely do this. This is my time to shine and I don’t care what anyone else says to me.
Alan: (00:19:36) Um, I think the first breakthrough moment was 2015 when I did like. The show in Philadelphia. And I started to amass a fan base. Um, and that was like a small breakthrough cause that was like it, that led to like the only like small tourist, my festivals, but it was, for me, it was like, Oh, this is possible. I don’t have to be a bedroom singer no more, you know, like I can actually get money, you know, in different States. But I would say like the, the, the breakthrough that you mentioned where I’m just like, nothing can stop me. Um, I would say that was like 20, 20, you know, like ironically, you know, cause I didn’t get to do any touring, but it was just. Using the power of, um, just, you know, human connection and the internet. Like I think people really started to get to know who I was, you know? Um, and I, I F I felt a certain momentum that I never felt before because, um, instead of me walking with ego, I started walking with purpose like this, this platform I have, isn’t just for me, it’s now an opportunity for me to talk about like, issues. About my, for my community, because I’m like, yo, like if non-Asian celebrities, aren’t going to do it, I’m going to do it because if they’re going to talk about their, she was cool. This is my time to talk about issues concerning us. So I think with that in mind, it drives me more than if I’m just doing it for myself. Like, Oh, I just want, I just want this much attention because it feeds my ego now. Like that’s cool and everything, but at the end of the day, it’s about impact, right?
Maggie: (00:20:56) Yeah. Love, love, love that. Yeah, definitely. I’ve done of days about impact and I think you’ve like really made a really huge impact just. Being able to speak your mind about like crimes against Asians and just like allowing other people to feel like they can talk about it as well. You know, I w I would love to know, like, what is your song that like you are most proud of? I know you have like a couple of viral videos. You have a couple of viral songs, but what is that one song that you are definitely like most proud of?
Alan: (00:21:25) I feel like that’s a hard one. Cause I haven’t like. Put out that the songs I’m most proud of yet. Cause it’s like, you know, it’s, it’s, you know, on a coming soon status, but, uh, um, I could, I could tell you guys, like the three songs that I’m really proud of as like products, you know what I mean? As far as like, like the actual like piece I’m really proud of like the Asian-American history verse that I did, which by the way will be turned into a full song, uh, spoiler alert. But, uh, as far as songs as out like on, on streaming, um, I’d say hip hop wise, um, the chip I’m really proud of that one because I got to show people. Like the stuff I told you guys about like competitive rapping. I just wanted to literally do a song as it’s, it’s an excuse for me to just rap really well. Um, I have a song called blaming on me. Um, that’s like my favorite R and B song that release because it shows like my vocal range and like certain things I’m doing, um, on that end. And then, um, on the pop side I have a song called ride or die, and I’m really proud of it just because I got to show that like fun pop Allen’s East side, that people. Sometimes may not know because like these guys said like, most people now know me as a rapper, whereas like five years ago they only knew me as a singer. So that, that change is kind of weird for me too. But I’m happier that they know me as a rapper because like, I, like, I like branding wise. It’s easier for me to go into certain spaces that way.
Bryan: (00:22:40) Yeah. Yeah. I only know you as a rapper. So you created that personal branding,
Asian health network and came on as a rapper every time you man. And I, out of curiosity, like how’d you learn how to rap. I personally can’t sing to save my life way possible and rapping it’s out of the question. How did you teach yourself how to rap.
Alan: (00:23:10) Um, I think it was trial and error because like, you know, like, I’m sure you guys know, like my favorite rappers Eminem. So I would, uh, I would just study people like that. Huh?
Bryan: (00:23:19) Do you see the similarities?
Alan: (00:23:20) Oh, thanks man. Thank you. Like I started studying like, um, like the technical side. So like, uh, while other kids were like, you know, watching like cartoons and like comic books, I would like. Dig in the crates and use Limewire and download a bunch of old hip hop albums from like the eighties and the nineties. And I would literally do homework on it. Like anyone that like I would go online and like read forums about like, yo, these are the best. Hip hop albums of all time and I’ll be like, okay, Illmatic, I got to study this. Okay. Like, you know, like reasonable doubt by Jay Z, um, me against the world by Tupac’s. So like I would memorize them from front to back and I would, I was study like the rhyme patterns, like the imagery, the, um, the cadences, the, the stage presence, the Mike presence. I would just break it, like break it down by category. I was so nerdy. Like I would break it down by categories of what they’re best at. Rank them by life percentages. And like, it’d be like, what can I pull out of it to make it into my own style? So that was kinda how I learned. Um, and then of course, like my friends that were also rappers, they would like give me pointers about like what, uh, how I can improve my skill set. You know what I mean? So it was really just a lot of studying, which is like super Asian, but like, I’m just, I’m a, I’m a total Rabner, you know, like I could talk to you guys about rap for like hours. That’s just how deep I am into like the actual art of it.
Maggie: (00:24:17) Yeah. Yeah, that takes a lot of dedication,
Bryan: (00:24:40) but I love the passion behind it.You know, I like how you found your passion at such a young age. And it’s something that a lot of us struggle to define, you know, especially in the arts and music industry. It’s like, I think I told my mom once I wanted to act and she just made fun of me the whole time.
Alan: (00:24:56) Oh my God. You know, what’s so funny about that I feel like Asian parents will not accept their children acting for some reason. It’s just so like, yeah. I remember, you know, I remember, uh, cause you know, you guys want to know too, like I’m, I’m trying to like break out as an actor once COVID ends as well. And like I remember, uh, saying that to a family friend and while my mom was around. And that family friend talked behind my back. Like I had a child, his bag and was like, well, yeah, you know, like Alan wants to be an actor. I’m going to 10 years old. And I’m like, and then my mom told me a, yeah, she was talking crap about you. So it was this weird thing. Yeah. Yeah. And then, you know, things like that gives me that chip on my shoulder. Cause I do remember how the Chinese parents like making me like, uh, almost like, like the failure child. So now, like I think my parents are able to kind of like celebrate my accolades. So it’s kind of not to rub it in their faces, but kinda like. Have that redeeming moment. Cause I wanted that for my mom so bad. Cause she had to endure all that kind of like snide, passive aggression from like her friends. You get what I’m saying? It’s like kind of like, Oh, he’s going to be an over rapper. Okay. And then it’s like, here’s my son on Netflix. You know, it’s like, so I think I, I like moments like that where I can like, um, give my parents that redeeming moments.You know,
Bryan: (00:26:06) I love that man. Yeah, I really liked the chip in your shoulder too. And we watched your skin on Tik TOK. Thanks, man. Have you been taking acting classes or like how to, like, how have you been practicing?
Alan: (00:26:19) Um, so yeah, so like, um, I started like, I’d say in high school through like, um, camera work improv and things like that. Like, um, and then I started I, um, my minor in, um, an acting. So we did like seeing work addiction, um, Like, uh, theater acting as well. So that was like my background in terms of like, uh, schooling. Um, and then with the skids, the reason I started to do that was because I know that like, in order for me to like, let my fans know what I want it to do, I can’t just come out and be like, okay guys. So I know you guys know I’m a rapper, but like, I really want to act, I want us to just do it and see what the response was. So, um, I think I started doing skits like 2017, 2018, and like one of the first skits I did like it, it went like semi viral. Um, and then people were just like, Oh no, this is really funny. Like, you know, you can, I didn’t know, you can act. So I did more and more and more like literally every few weeks I’ll put out a skit just to get people prepared, to know like, this is what I wanted to do. Um, and once I started seeing the formula working and then like you guys said, like when tech talk, when I went super viral and Tik TOK and it hit like over 2 million, I’m just like, okay, this solidifies me. Like, I don’t, I don’t have to, you know, get made fun of by that Chinese parent, no more about wanting to act, you know, I’m like, I’m a stamp, my name, like I’m a rapper singer actor, you know, that’s why I always mentioned in rooms. I’m like, I’m not just a rapper. I’m a rapper singer actor.
Maggie: (00:27:39) Yeah. I love that mindset about you. I think like, even if you’re just like starting out on acting, you’re still identifying yourself as an actor. I think that’s, that’s the most important part because as soon as you do that, we’re like, Oh, okay, he’s an actor. You know, like, as, as soon as you like, you know, start identifying yourself as that person, then you know, like you’ve accepted yourself as that person. I really like that
Alan: (00:27:59) . That is so true. That is so true because my friends will call me and be like, Hey, you want no actor, but like you said, identification is such an important part of it because, you know, words, affirmation, like all that stuff ties into like what you really right.
Maggie: (00:28:13) Yeah. Yeah. Because I see like your bio on like other podcasts as well. And you also say, you know, you’re an actor, so I really like that, you know, you’re, you’re putting your foot down. You’re like, you know what, I’m an actor and that’s why I am. Um, so I really like that.
Alan: (00:28:23) Thank you. Thank you. Yeah.
Maggie: (00:28:24) And so like going back to your parents, you know, because you, most of your songs are about like fighting against anti-Asian racism. Did your parents have any reaction to that? Like what did they, what did they think about it? Like, were they more like, you know, like don’t talk about it or were they very supportive of you and like rapping about that?
Alan: (00:28:44) I mean, obviously they will encourage it, you know, they’d rather hear me like, sing about love and stuff. Yeah. I think when you started seeing that news of it, like what was happening and they started to know, I have a way with words that can like unite people and like get people aware. I think they were just like, Oh, okay. Like I see what he’s doing. Like I’m not, I’m not making like super controversial statements.It’s like, it’s like violence against Asian is bad. Like, I don’t know. I can’t see how that can be taken out of context unless you’re like super like. Ridiculously like, like ignorant, you know what I mean? So I think, uh, everything is within context and everything is about intention. So I feel like if my heart is in the right place, you know, like I don’t see how that should be an issue for anyone, you know? And maybe people don’t like the fact that I’m more vocal about, you know, what’s going on with our community. But like, this is why I care about, you know, no,
Bryan: (00:29:36) actually you to be more vocal in our community because the way I see it, it’s like, we’re not vocal enough. And it’s actually really hard for us to speak out on these key things. Cause you’re not, you’re not quote unquote taught or conditioned to do so, or, Oh, Sarah talked to like, I think there’s a word, like medium user train or something saying that if you help someone and actually cause you more harm or something like that.
Alan: (00:30:00) Oh, that’s so Asian. Yeah. I think there’s a tiny too.
Bryan: (00:30:04) Yeah. There’s a Vietnamese term for that too. Yeah, I think that it’s, that it’s like, our parents are always very cautious. Like, are you sure you should be speaking out? Cause he do. He might be the one being, being pointed out and really cute.
Alan: (00:30:18) Yeah. But like, like I’ve, I’ve heard growing up. It’s like, you know, if you speak out, you put a target on your back, but then what I’ve noticed was like, yo, we already have a target on my back. So if I have a target on my back, I’m gonna speak out anyway. Cause you know, you look at me. I was like, damn, you could fuck it. Oh, sorry. I don’t mean to cuss. I’m lagging. I’m sorry. Sorry. Not because this whole time I was like holding back on. Um, yeah. I was like, you know what, screw it. Like, I’m, I’m gonna, um, I’m gonna do it anyway because it’s like, damn, if you do damn, if you don’t at this point, right? Because if you don’t speak out, they’re still gonna attack Asians. If you do speak out, they’re still gonna attack Asians, but at least if we can bring it to mainstream attention, there can be more empathy and more understanding as why this is an ongoing issue. Not just a COVID issue, but like an issue that was. Swept under the rug for so long, you know?
Maggie: (00:31:03) I absolutely agree. Yeah. I think if we, if we don’t say anything about it, I feel like it’s just going to go downhill. And like, I, I, I met like sometimes we posted on Asian house on our Instagram, you know, like, and w w we will get backlash from, you know, other communities from time to time. But I think it’s super important that we do speak up about it so that we raise awareness and at least have help from like the institutional level so that they can know like what’s going on. Right. Cause if we don’t say anything about it, they won’t. They will never know.
Alan: (00:31:28) And I, you know, I think I saw that post man that you made and it actually, the comment ruling made me angry because it’s like, it’s that kind of gaslighting that like we’re so used to. And I think a big part of that is because we haven’t been speaking enough. So people have already framed a certain narrative of who we are. So it’s like when we challenged that it’s almost cognitive dissonance that kicks in, wait, what? No, no, you’re not supposed to do this. This, you know, it’s like, And so it’s like, yeah, we have that. Now it’s our turn to reframe who we are, you know, and like really educate people and like make them aware, you know? And it’s challenging because that was probably one of my biggest fears, um, coming up to was like backlash. But now that I, I get it, like actually get backlash. I’m like, man nephew too. I was like, all right, what do you wanna do? You wanna find me? It was do it. You know, I’m not, I’m not scared no more because it’s like, this is part of what. Being a personal platform comes with, there’s literally no one on the earth who has a platform or fame that doesn’t have haters or doesn’t have backlash. It’s, it’s virtually impossible. You know what I mean?
Bryan: (00:32:27) So we consider that a form of success. If you don’t have haters, it means you’re not successful in that, with that being said too. It’s like, I like your collaboration with other artists. Um, like how do these collaboration talking about you reach out to them. Do you reach out to you? How do you guys brainstorm like these different ideas that you want to perform on?
Alan: (00:32:49) Uh, which, uh, which collaborators are you I’m referring to
Bryan: (00:32:58) as like Jason Shu or even like your, your black, Asian unity viral video wall. Like, I just want to hear more about like, how’d you find her.
Alan: (00:33:02) Yeah. So, um, With wise, like, I mean, you guys probably know him from like my skits. So like we’ve been friends for a super long time. I actually met him on set for this, uh, this TV, um, this web series that we were filming. Um, so he was, I didn’t even know he was like, uh, a rapper at that time because he was, um, he was one of the script supervisors and writers, actually. He was a writer for that web series. So I knew him as a, as a writer. Um, and when that web series kind of got put into like a development help. We just decided to kind of take our, uh, creative ideas into our own hands. And really just, yo let’s just do viral stuff. Like, you know, if we can’t get enough funding for this series, let’s just build up content until we can get like the show off the ground. Um, and then, um, when he was a, Hey man, you know, I do music too. And I started to kind of check his stuff out. And then, um, when this whole like COVID, hate-crime like rise happened and I started complaining to my black friends about it. Why is this one of the people that kind of like was empathetic. And it was just like, yeah, just kinda messed up. He didn’t really understand much of it. So I had to kind of like explain like a hundred it’s 78 years of history of like, within like a 20 minute conversation. So I’ll just kind of like rant it. I don’t know how much he believed or not believable, but from that conversation, I was like, Hey man, it’d be cool if I’m me. And you did something where we kind of like talked about United together because during this time where people are pointing the fingers, it’d be cool to kind of have like, kind of like a truce moments that like. You know, speak about like how we can like find compassion within these times. And that’s how that song came about. Um, and with Jason man, like we we’ve, uh, we’ve been friends for years, but we started to see our, um, Like, um, passions converge through, you know, that Asian identity, because it’s like with him, you guys probably know, like he’s been speaking out for Asian, like issues for the longest time, super tapped into the Asian-American community. And, um, yeah, I’m really excited to actually share with you guys that me and Jason are working on like a full length project together for this year. So I like once, uh, once it’s finished, what would Def I’ll definitely let you guys know. But, um, yeah, so, yeah, so it’s just every, every collaboration that I’ve had, I feel like has been really organic.
Maggie: (00:35:10) Yeah, I love that. It’s awesome. Yeah. I love last year, you mentioned that you were able to, or you are willing to just offer education on like 120 minutes. Some people don’t have that patience to like educate people, you know, and that’s the first step. Like you have to educate other people so that they know like, What we’re dealing with and like why we need support from other communities that
Bryan: (00:35:40) apologies are catering as podcasts, where is activism it’s been on our mind so much. And the fact that we see around the possible often speaking on these issues, it’s like, you understand that also bothers you as well. And we did give you credit where credit’s due. No, thank you for standing up for community speaking up and because each voice matters. You know, like, it doesn’t matter if it’s from us or from other people. Like we just have to speak up in general. And when we looked at people like yourself and Alan and we see inspiration, thank you, man. The people that are are making a difference, then you know, you are inserts Bonnie that quote-unquote activism into your work, into your identity. And that’s great because we feel a lot of other, um, Asian artists, um, recently do that. You know, when you talk to them, when you research them, Not Asian part of them. They’ve been denying it for so long. And I just refused to speak up on it. This is until recently that I feel like credits to the gen Z and millennial generation that even speaking more on these issues than before.
Alan: (00:36:47) Yeah. It’s, it’s weird because I think, um, like when I was a kid, I didn’t even think that was possible because I remembered before I even knew what gaslighting was.I was in Gaslight in school. Cause we had like. Debate class. And then we’ll talk about racism. I talk about Asian racism and every white kid was just like, Oh, it doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t even happen. Like they were just completely like, just not want to hear what I have to say. Right. So I didn’t know that it was possible for us to voice ourselves like that. So what this kind of freedom to. Uh, I guess, gathered attention about our issues. Like this is the time to do it, you know, and maybe like, I think you guys mentioned too, like, even if it’s not an instant gratification type of moment, it’s, it’s a, it’s a work in progress. Like let’s keep, let’s keep the momentum because there’s more and more people that are willing to listen and realize that, uh, our issues are actually important, you know, to the grand scheme of, um, just American like discourse.
Maggie: (00:37:39) Absolutely. Yep. Yep. So what else, what has been like the biggest struggle you’ve had throughout your whole career? You know, I feel like you’ve definitely have like a pretty good reputable name for yourself. You know, you have
Bryan: (00:37:54) yourself in the mirror and you’re like, yeah, yeah.
Alan: (00:37:59) That was like, that was like this morning I was waiting. Uh, yeah. Yeah. So, um, The hardest moments have definitely been, um, the moments I’ve shared with you guys about, um, people in the major label system telling me, I need to like, like hide my face, uh, you know, like way to, you know, put myself out like right for white artists, you know, basically like give them my songs. So these single over it, you know what I’m saying? Um, Like, uh, those types of moments where it feels like I felt almost like I should be ashamed to be who I am, because I wasn’t born into the right race. If that makes sense. Like, those kind of moments were really hard for me. Um, on a more like personal level outside of the, like I’d say, um, the major label system, it was moments where I felt like no one was listening. So from the period of like, um, 2016 to 2018 ish, actually, no 2016, 2019, I felt very, uh, like. Downtown. And a lot of times, because I felt like I was just putting out content without much direction. And I remembered, um, add a few, like, you know, like networks that were interested in me at, uh, at some point for like, you know, to tap into like reality shows and stuff. And when that didn’t go through that, like broke my heart because I felt like that was the only shot I had into getting my word out there. And thank God, thank God. I didn’t end up when I show I’m not gonna say what show it was. It was probably, you know, that’s good that wasn’t on it. Cause it was disaster. But, um, Yeah, those kinds of moments really kind of made me feel like, Oh man, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t have a shot anymore, but now that I’m. You know, like thanks to you guys, thanks to like the community for like, you know, supporting me. I kind of see like, Oh, this is a collective effort, you know? Cause I know right now it’s not about the, Allen’s the show it’s it’s about all of us having a voice, you know? And my voice can’t be the only Asian voice because there’s, there’s certain demographics of Asians that have a very different life from me. So I just want to be able to have that, um, access so we can all allocate those kinds of resources to everyone. I can’t speak for the LGBT community. What I’m saying, I can’t speak for like. Working class Asians. I can’t speak for the Asian dues in gangs. I want all of us to have that, um, that platform, you know what I’m saying? So to kind of like share these, you know? Yeah.
Bryan: (00:40:13) So, Alan, what are your goals for the rest of the year? 2021?
Alan: (00:40:17) Um, so definitely the goal is to, uh, finish that album with Jason that I mentioned. Um, we’re super excited about that. Um, it’s, it’s going to be tough because, uh, we have a very strict deadline. Um, so it is due in like a couple months. They are you, so LA is all virtual, all virtual. Yeah. All virtual. So it’s like, you know, recording, like a lot of zoom, uh, like meetings, you know what I’m saying? Um, coordinating exactly like, like being like, okay, I recorded a minute and 30 seconds in, and then you record at two minute 30 seconds. It’s a lot of like meticulous planning going on here to. To make it work, but, um, it’s going to be good at something for the community. Um, once everything’s more solidified and depress comes out, I’ll, we’ll definitely share more about it, but we’re just really excited to do this. It’s not even for us. This is for a community project pretty much. So that’s going to be the main focus for this year is that album
Maggie: (00:41:11) and Allen. Um, we have one last question for you and that is what, what advice would you give to someone who’s trying to. Break into the music industry. That’s that’s Asian. Um, and just like your tips on like, you know, how to speak up against, um, Mandalay’s Asian race, racism. Yeah.
Alan: (00:40:17) The first tip would be to not listen to everyone, listen to only people you trust because there’s a lot of like snakes and vultures out there that. Want to see you not succeed. You know, there’s, there’s a thing in the industry called like dream killers. Like people that literally will like break you down so that you won’t surpass them. Right. Um, so I think, especially for us, cause you know, we’re, we’re very like, um, I think we, as a whole are like, are built in some modesty and like listening to other inputs, which can, can be toward our detriment because if we don’t walk into certain situations with the utmost confidence, you know, things like that can break us. Right. Like, um, I do believe that like, Sometimes it’s good to listen to your gut over everyone else, because like there there’s like. Great. Like, um, iconic people that probably would not make certain choices if you listen to everyone, if that makes sense. Like the people that take risks, don’t listen to certain people. And I believe in that. So I know certain people that won’t maybe you’ll listen criticism. No, I just listened people. I trust, I don’t listen to everyone because if I did, I’d just literally wouldn’t do anything because people would be like, do this Allen. Okay. No, don’t do that. Do this. Okay. And I just canceled both flight actions out. Uh, the second tip, as far as like speaking out is, uh, definitely to be prepared for the backlash, but in order to do that, um, educate yourself more than the other person, because let’s say if they come at you with a gaslighting tactic, you should know how to think three steps ahead of that person to bring awareness. And if they don’t like it, Effort, but the person reading that kind of will know you’re right. And so, you know, like, like, um, my friend, Jason, he gave me the best tip about like, um, how to win Wars on the internet. This was like three years ago. So basically you don’t fight the person you’re commenting. You’re fighting for the viewership of whoever’s reading your thread. You get what I’m saying? Like you’re not, you’re not fighting to win the opinion over from the troll your way or the hater you’re winning for the, your, your audience or their audience to read and see who’s. Right. You know, so that’s the important thing about. Um, being super knowledgeable about, about your, um, I guess what you’re talking about.
Maggie: (00:43:36) Yeah, that’s so true because the more you fight the person who’s on the other side that they’re not going to believe. They’re not going to see what you see, but if you can influence, you know, other people, your community, your audience, they’ll back you up, you know, educate the person who is on the other side.
Alan: (00:45:53) And if all, if all else fails, blocking him, I always do that. I’ll just be like, you’re stupid luck. I’ll wait, I’ll wait 30 seconds. So the read that I told them, they’re stupid. And then I blocked him.
Maggie: (00:44:04) Love that very good advice. And Alan, how can our listeners find out more about you online and more about your upcoming goals and plans?
Alan: (00:44:12) Yeah. So, um, if you guys want to stay up to date with me, um, um, everywhere at Allens in music, ALA NZ, music tech talk, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Um, and as far as like my music, if you guys want to stream it, it’s on every platform under Alan Z, a L a N, and last initial C at Spotify, Apple music, Pandora title, Amazon.
Maggie: (00:44:04) Awesome. It was awesome. Having you on the show today, Alan. Thank you so much for being on the show
Bryan: (00:44:41) and appreciate all the great work again, not only for your career, but our community as well. Appreciate that so much.
Alan: (00:44:48) Yeah. Thank you for having me.
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