Exclusive Interview with MC Jin

By Kevin Young

Jin Au-Yeung, known by his stage name as MC Jin, calls himself an “average joe”; yet, this Miami native and ABC grew up to become the pioneer Asian-American rapper paving the way for others to step into the spotlight. Starting his arduous career after moving to New York City, MC Jin opted out of attending college to focus on his dream of becoming a rap star. MC Jin struggled to prosper as he passed around his mixtape to bustling tourists and performed freestyle verses hoping to be discovered.

Fortuitously, Jin’s perseverance paid off. After performing a freestyle verse, his first manager Kamel Pratt, who discovered MC Jin after walking pass MC Jin at the corner of Broadway and Eighth Street. Pratt then signed him up for an audition with BET’s hit rap program, 106 & Park’s Freestyle Friday segment. Vicious rap battles always embodied this segment as rappers showed no remorse belittling their opponents through free style rhyming. MC Jin proved to be a formidable opponent after being the rap champion for seven weeks in a row. This garnered him credibility and attention, which got him signed to the major American music label Ruff Ryders in 2005. Jin became the first ABC and one of the first Asian-Americans to accomplish this feat. During this time he also starred in the blockbuster hit, 2 Fast 2 Furious. However, his success was short-lived as his initial works flopped. His debut failed to gain recognition within the mainstream market.

MC Jin soon parted ways with Ruff Ryders and focused on new music exclusively in Cantonese. MC Jin’s slick “spitting” talent and fluency in Cantonese prompted Universal Music Group Hong Kong to contact MC Jin in 2008 to perform in Hong Kong. He decided to stay three months performing in a few shows but he unexpectedly gained immense popularity which prolonged his stay to four years. MC Jin’s recognized face was plastered all over billboards at the time demonstrating his popularity. Despite MC Jin’s budding career in Hong Kong, he left to be with his family and newborn son back in the U.S.

He went on to do a few projects in the states, including his EP album, Hypocrite. Since last year, MC Jin has been on a hiatus but will make a monumental comeback with his new album, 14:59, which is set for release on October 19.

During this lull, MC Jin has been active on social media communicating with his fans and has started his own social media campaign at www.pledgemusic.com/projects/mcjin where fans may make pledges to contribute and support MC Jin. Fans may opt to purchase rewards ranging from an autographed deluxe version of 14:59 , merriment cameo in his upcoming music video, to even having traditional Chinese dim sum with MC Jin himself.

Christianity has always been an extensive part of MC Jin’s life. Jin says he has started to more openly utilize gospel themes in his music to become more “authentic” since Hypocrite. While MC Jin was recording 14:59 in LA, he was able to grant us a phone interview (6/17/14) to elaborate on his upbringing, his career, and his highly anticipated upcoming album.

How did you get involved in music?

It started off as a hobby. Some kids had baseball. Some kids had their instruments. I had hip-hop and rap music. Of course I had other things too like comic books. I liked Xmen and G.I. Joe. I liked basketball and riding my bike. But nothing compared to my fondness of hip-hop. It gradually transitioned from liking to listen to it, to actually sitting down writing rhymes and rapping myself. This was like 20 years ago when I was 12 years old.

Who were the artists that you listened to back then?

LL Cool J was one of the main ones I listened to. He’s one rapper, I specifically feel had an impact on influencing me. During middle school I listened to the more traditional rappers you hear about like Tupac and Biggie.

Can you talk about how you felt when you got your first record deal?

Nothing compares to that moment. I got my first record deal when I was 21, and it was an exciting time, but because I was at that stage in my life there was so much going on. I was like “oh I’m a rap star.” I always dreamed of becoming a rap star. While all of these things were going on and ideas going through my head, I feel like I had so much emphasis on the creative aspect of my music opposed to being more authentic, but I still loved it and everything I did was reflective of my life up until that point. But now along with being 32 being a husband and a father in terms of my faith I just have never been more inspired.

How’s your new album 14:59 coming along?

I’m speechless. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s coming along. I’ve been pretty much coming to LA two weeks at a time to record. I wouldn’t say this is the best music that I’ve ever made, but I would say it’s the most authentic, genuine, sincere, and focused music that I’ve ever made. Without a doubt this album is the most like myself. Just to piggyback off of that, the reason this album is unique is that the whole 14:59 concept is that feeling of going through life; All of the different experiences I had to literally go through in order to arrive where I’m at today. It’s life in general. You go through what you go through, and you take some kind of wisdom or something out of each experience. For me 14:59 is the last 12 years of my career, the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Channeling all of that into this album is an amazing process. I have never been more inspired or excited.

Is there a philosophy you live your life by?

It’s not so much a philosophy but where my faith has brought me without a doubt it’s the core of everything I do, say, think, and operate by. It’s not a philosophy but its walking every day. Walking with that faith and living with that conviction that Jesus died for my sins. The gospel can be a very complex thing that people make it out to be but it can also be a very simple thing. Obviously each person has a unique journey, and experience in terms of how they encounter the Christian faith in what it means to them. Some people grow up in it and stray away. Some people don’t grow up in it and come across it.

How does your faith influence your music?

For me I’m at the point where it’s the core and foundation for everything I do. Not every song pertains to the bible, Jesus, and the gospel. But without a doubt I’m thinking about the stuff I’m saying and conveying much more now. I’m like “how does that reflect my identity and how do I represent Christ?” It’s a learning process and it’s a very personal thing. Each person finds their own journey.

You said in multiple interviews that you were a Christian since you were eight years old because of your aunt Kathy.  Is there a reason you didn’t release gospel music during your initial debut?    

I did but here’s the thing, I look back at it now and every time I would reference god, it was actually very shallow.  There was no sincerity.  It wasn’t authentic at all.  To me that’s one of the key things about the Christian faith.  God wants us to be authentic.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect but being honest with ourselves is key.  Being honest is saying, I am a sinner, I need you desperately god to walk me through

and give me strength.   Here’s the thing I didn’t grow up in a church setting.   But because of my Aunt Kathy, I was able to see in small ways what the Christian faith entails.  It’s about being loving, being kind and caring.   As a kid I didn’t know that’s where her nature came from.  But as I got older I see that Aunt Kathy wasn’t perfect but she was loving and disciplined.   I believe it’s rooted in her faith.

Your image now compared to your Ruff Ryders days is a complete contrast. Do you ever feel like you have an identity crisis?

Totally but it’s a combination of part identity crisis and part life.  For me because I’m in the public eye in that sense it’s more visible to the public.  It’s like “Yeah oh wow Jin you’re definitely not like the Jin from your Ruff Ryder days.”  It’s life we all change.   But at the end of the day in some sense we are all going through an identity crisis.  Sometimes we get so tormented with our identity and how people perceive us.  For me the journey is about finding who you are and not how you are perceived by the outside world.

To your fans that prefer your older music what would you like to say to them?

I want to apologize for the most part.  I look back at my older stuff, and in the last 2-3 years the direction of my music has taken a drastic change.   Let’s go back before I went to Hong Kong.  I don’t think it has to do with the fact that Hong Kong changed me but rather my faith came in and restructured my whole mindset.  I would apologize to the fans that liked my older stuff.  I look back at the bulk of my older stuff and for multiple reasons I would apologize.

For one reason it was very shallow.  It wasn’t authentic or genuine.  A lot of music I was making was coming from the idea of wanting to please a certain audience.  The creative process back then was like “Yo I gotta make this type of song to win this person over.”  The music wasn’t coming from an organic place. A lot of the music I was making from that chapter of my life wasn’t the most uplifting.  It wasn’t necessarily healthy for the person listening.  The themes ranged from having a materialistic type of mindset to objectifying women.  Beyond the music, my mind was function differently too. I wrote all of those rhymes because my mindset was like that back then.  I used to think that even if I don’t objectify women, it’s okay to rap like I do objectify women because it’s just rap.  That right there should tell you how insincere it was.  But definitely now between being a husband and father and where I’m at with my faith, there are a lot of things that come into my mind when I’m writing.  I sometimes say to myself, “Wait a minute I can’t convey that message for multiple reasons.”

You’ve been in a few Hong Kong dramas and in the blockbuster film 2 Fast 2 Furious. What got you into acting?

Well initially I just stumbled into it.  Like 2 Fast 2 Furious had more to do with luck more than anything else.  I went to go cast for one of the roles and got the role.  I thought it was fun and cool being in a movie.  I would love to continue acting.  I think the biggest thing I learned from acting is that the reality is you can only do what you have an opportunity to do.  I can’t force directors to put me in movies or dramas.  You can only go cast and try your best.  It always blows my mind whenever someone tweets me or messages me, “Yo Jin why aren’t you in Fast and the Furious 7?“  I’m like it’s because “They don’t want me!  Don’t you think I want to be in it?”  I’m not losing sleep or being bitter about it.  But its life, opportunities are either there or not.  You can try to create them by auditioning and casting for roles but ultimately it’s not in your control.

You had groundbreaking success in Hong Kong. Would you ever go back there?

I never really said definitively that I’m leaving or that I’m coming back.  I think the reality of the situation is that I’m in the states more now because of family.  Between my wife and son I want to be on the home-front more.  Also with 14:59 being where it’s at, recording in LA, and releasing it in October. I’m busy here.  I’m doing this campaign right now on Pledgemusic.  You can actually preorder the album but what’s cool is that you could make a pledge for a signed album or a poster.  Maybe even a used Jin napkin, I don’t know there’s a whole bunch of stuff.  I don’t have a concrete date of when or if I will go back to Hong Kong.  If need be then I will go.  If there’s a job out there or if I’m visiting family out there.  As far as “Jin are you going to go to Hong Kong and be based out there like you were the last couple of years?”  I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

You have a long discography. Which song is the dearest to yourself?

There’s actually one I recorded last night (6/16/14) for the 14:59 album.  It’s called Chinese New Year.  It maybe or maybe not be about the actual Chinese New Year.  It might be about Burger King.   You guys will have to wait until the album is released to find out.

Can you complete this sentence, MC Jin is?, And is there anything else you would like to say regarding your album?

MC Jin is just a regular Joe.   I think what I have to say about the album and myself is the same.  14:59 is a project I want people to give a chance more than any of my other projects ever produced, because I feel like this is the album that I was born to make.  It sounds extreme but I do believe in it.

When it comes to interacting with his fans MC Jin is actively engaged on Facebook often responding publicly to fan messages.  It was a pleasure speaking with MC Jin, a humble yet confident rapper that channels his zealous Christian faith into his music because it’s a part of who he is.   14:59 will be a new side of Jin that many fans can look forward to. Be sure to pledge to his social media campaign and purchase the album when it’s dropped on October 19.

 

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