Chinese-born rapper Jin has been through a lot during the first five years of his musical career. He was declared champion on BET’s “Freestyle Friday” contest and catapulted the victory into a label deal with Ruff Ryders. Since then he has gone the indie route with a MySpace only release, I Promise, and his new Cantonese-rap album, ABC Jin. DJBooth.net’s DJ ‘Z’ checks in with Jin to discuss his diss record aimed at Rosie O’Donnell, his path through hip-hop growing up in a conservative household and what millionaire he’d love to see start a record label.
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Jin Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on it’s your boy ‘Z’ doin’ big things on DJBooth.net, and on the phone with me is a man who’s been doin’ big things since his days on BET’s 106 & Park Freestyle Friday and he’s a man who is not a friend to Rosie O’Donnell. Jin how are you doing?
Jin: Yeah, hi everybody what’s up with everybody this is Jin. I wouldn’t say I’m not a friend of hers.
DJ Booth: Nevertheless, you’re not going to be her friend are you?
DJ Booth: I didn’t think so.
Jin: I’ll tell you right now, we going to cut to the chase. It’s not even really about her. I’m tryin’ to say it’s bigger. I don’t want people to thinks it’s like a personal vendetta. It’s just in that particular scenario, it just happened to be her.
DJ Booth: It could have been anybody!
DJ Booth: We’ll get back to her, if need be, let’s now focus on your new album. It’s called ‘ABC’. It drops this February. Talk about it.
Jin: Yeah, this February 20th, which is just two days after Chinese New Year. ABC, that’s actually the name of the album. More than that unofficial term is Chinese born in the United States ‘American Born Chinese. It was something that was determined way back before me. It’s a kind of identity, that some people might be proud of and some are not. I’ll give you an example—somebody that was born in Hong Kong/China might not consider himself or herself ABC. They might look at ABC’s in a different view. They might think ‘Oh—he’s not really Chinese’; and this is what the whole album is about. It’s a young Chinese American tellin’ the story of his childhood growing up, and more importantly showing just how in touch with his roots he really is, that maybe people don’t realize.
DJ Booth: What’s ground breaking about the album is that the majority of it is in Chinese; more specifically, in Cantonese, and I think it speaks volumes about hip-hop. I believe hip-hop is so diverse and doesn’t just stay in one place. It goes everywhere. What angle did you plan on taking when recording this album?
Jin: Yeah, I think what you said Z is perfect. I couldn’t even find a better way to describe it. That’s the core of what’s the most important. Concepts of hip hop are becoming universal; this is one of the ultimate beauties of hip-hop. Maybe to the people who created it, [they] probably didn’t even know that it would be this big; beyond the fact that it’s spreading, becoming such a global factor. It has to have a type of genuineness [authenticity?] to it. I do a little English here and there, but its pretty much all Chinese, probably 98%. There’s a record on there called “It’s Hip Hop”; talkin’ about where hip hop started, in the Bronx, DJ’s, The Block Party, you know House Music. I’m doin’ it in Cantonese so people who have a low opinion about what hip hop should be [can see a different side]. It allows people to understand that their perception of what hip-hop is based on tv and radio…
DJ Booth: Which probably couldn’t be further from the truth, than what it’s really all about…
Jin: Exactly, so now people are going to be sayin’ ‘What’s he doin’. Now he’s runnin’ with the Chinese’, just the same I think it brings a completely new spectrum to Hip Hop.
DJ Booth: It is something most people would not even think about. You mention that growing up in America while staying true to your Chinese heritage is the focus. Did your parents object to hip-hop in their home while you grew up?
Jin: [laughing] I feel like I’m in a Barbara Walters interview right now, except you’re not Barbara Walters, yeah it’s cool though—that’s a good question. When I was first getting’ into rap music, my parents didn’t like it. They can speak English, but when they hear me spit in Chinese, it gives them a whole new perspective. ‘Cause you know when I first started, I was about 15 or 16. As a whole, what they saw as Hip Hop was really negative, and you can’t really blame them, because all they knew of it was what they saw, on the news.
DJ Booth: Exactly.
Jin: They hear about a rap [or singer] getting stabbed, or shot and young rappers gets arrested for using drugs.
DJ Booth: I know what you mean, my parents wouldn’t even let me listen to Maxwell or Ginuwine!
Jin: Man, your parents wouldn’t let you listen to Maxwell? How can you hate on Maxwell…
DJ Booth: Moving on, a single that a lot of people have been buzzing about is “You’re Fired” – talking about Rosie O’Donnell…
Jin: That’s not even a single, but more of a promo and it’s not on the album. That beat is actually a Nas beat. I’m a big fan. That was somethin’ I kind of did at the spur of the moment. A lot of people think [I’m] just trying to get some kind of attention. Everybody’s gonna have something to say after they hear about it. But you know what? I just do the music for the same reason’s why they say ‘Why would you do something like that?’ It just part of my me, this is what I do.
DJ Booth: Okay, two things I need to know about the song. First, since you use the ‘Either’ beat by Ron Browz, I need to know, [after Nas and Jay Z became friends again and are working together], several years from now can we expect you to get along with Rosie?
Jin: Naw, you’re buggin’ Well you know what—I will say—I was channel surfing and saw ‘A League of Their Own’, and changed the channel immediately.
DJ Booth: So that’s not going to happen—that answers that. You mentioned in the song, now I got a big kick out of this line, because lyrically you’ve always been on point, you said you’d rather see Barbara Walters in a thong. Please tell me this is just a line…
Jin: With this type of song, you must be very vivid with descriptions, so I just wanted to pose a ‘what would I rather do,’ instead of toning it down. ‘I’d rather see Barbara Walters in a thong’ is a line that [if heard] pops into every man’s mind, would give it a thought or two.
DJ Booth: They probably would. Do you think you can sign on with Donald Trump to set up this new record company?
Jin: See, now you’re just getting’ me all happy and for no reason—gettin’ my hopes up. I think that would be phenomenal. To this point, that record you were talkin’ about was leaked 2 or 3 weeks ago and hasn’t even reached him yet. If that were to happen it would be right on the agenda, you know icing-on-the-cake.
DJ Booth: I could make some phone calls for you.
Jin: Definitely, when that happens you will be on the set to my first video. You, me and Don.
DJ Booth: Beautiful and will there be a nice shiny rock in my left ear?
Jin: Yes, feel free to write in whatever you want on the deal memo, because I don’t think Don’s gonna have a problem with it. Doesn’t seem like his pockets are hurting right now.
DJ Booth: No not at all. You mentioned earlier in the interview, 5 years ago, you started off, and had some dealin’ with the Ruff Ryders crew. In retrospect, do you think you made the best career decisions and if so, does everything happen for a reason?
Jin: You know what? I’ve always contemplated this, and sometimes it’s easy to get into one of those zones, where you think ‘man imagine if I would have did this or what if I did that?’ You know what I’ve learned from beyond, the fact that it’s my career; on top of that, I’m 5 years older. Eventually and naturally, you start to see things from a much larger perspective. And I think everything happens for a reason, so if I could go back to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t change too much of what I did with the Ruff Ryders, in that situation. It created in me the ability and defines what I need to be as an artist.
DJ Booth: Definitely, a natural evolution. I understand you sold your last album on Myspace, can it still be purchased exclusively on there?
Jin: Yeah, it’s still on there and that album is called ‘I Promise’.
DJ Booth: Go ahead and give out an address for everybody.
Jin: You can actually just got to Jin, space, and press enter. I just got my own domain. You don’t have to mess with slashes, and other marks.
DJ Booth: Yeah, I notice other artists don’t always get it right because of that and often give the wrong address out.
Jin: [laughing] It’s been a good experience. With this album, I got a nice stockade of different producers, found a studio, with facilities. I went and recorded this album. You know what I found most important; along with being an artist is just your fan base, to rock with you. They’re not just rockin’ with you because they see you on the TV or hearing you on the radio. Sometimes that can be even more priceless. I’m not sayin’ I’m against that, but you can put out an album, and sell X amount of copies.
DJ Booth: Yes, it can be lucrative in so many different ways, like you said. It’s huge.
Jin: I don’t think any other words can describe it better than that—you know as far as ‘lucrative.’
DJ Booth: Jin, I wish you nothing but the best of luck the rest of 2007 with this big album that drops on Feb 20th.
Jin: Thank you very much Z. I appreciate it and once again, thank you for your support, and I’m going to try to make it a lucrative year.
DJ Booth:I couldn’t have said it better.
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