Interview Taiwan’s Rap Pioneer Dwagie

Article by Kevin Young
Photo credit Xue Liang

Dwagie, a Taiwan’s rap pioneer, songwriter and television personality has been a staple in Taiwan’s hip-hop scene for over 10 years. He finally had the opportunity to perform part of CMJ’s 2014 music festival. He is the only person from Taiwan to be featured in TIME magazine, CNN, Reuters, and the Discovery Channel. Having a successful career winning numerous music awards in Asia, Dwagie is now attempting to try his hand here in the western hemisphere. In 2014 Dwagie collaborated with one of his admired rap idols Nas.

In our interview with Dwagie, he explains his musical style, heritage, and his future plans.

1. How does it feel to be chosen by CMJ to perform here in New York?

It’s very exciting. I know that CMJ has a long history stemming from the 80s. I heard it’s the bridge between mainstream and indie music. It fits my philosophy perfectly because I started off as an indie artist. At the same time I want my music to reach as many people as possible. This CMJ stage is the perfect stage for me. I hope through this stage my music can reach a wider audience.

2. How did you get into Hip-hop?

I used to listen to it a lot. I was thinking I could use my language and rap about my society. I thought it would be more meaningful and interesting. It means a lot to me to perform here as a rapper since hip-hop started in New York. Hip-hop has its roots in New York, so in a way it’s like I’m finding my own musical heritage here.

3. Outside of performing what would you like to see as a tourist?

I’ve actually been here many times. I’ve seen a lot of what New York has to offer. But I want to see the Queens Bridge. That’s where NAS is from, I want to know what inspires him to create his music.

4. What is it about NAS that prompted you to collaborate with him?

His lyrics are really great. They are much different from other popular rappers who only write about cars, girls, and money. NAS is always talking about breaking power and standing united together. He inspires me to do my music.

5. Are there any other rappers that inspire you?

Talib Kweli is a big one for me. Just like NAS he always talks about social justice and human rights. These are more important issues to rap about. I really respect him for that. Eminem is another rapper that I admire. He actually has better rhythm than other mainstream rappers.

6. How did you learn how to rap?

Since I’m a rap pioneer of Taiwanese hip-hop, I didn’t have anyone to teach me. I had to google lyrics and just practice them. I had to teach myself how to let words flow and rhyme.

7. Taiwanese hip-hop is a growing market. Can you elaborate on it?

Yeah it’s definitely getting bigger now. But the problem is that all these rappers talk about money. They copy the mainstream rappers here in America and rap about the same things. There are many aspects of Taiwanese hip-hop. I advise rappers in Taiwan to not only rap about materialistic things but about society too. They should be writing about serious topics too. Subversive lyrics about corruption is what Taiwanese hip-hop needs.

8. For the people watching you perform for the first time, is there a message you want them to take away from your performance?

My music is not only music. My music is more than music. My music is promoting a lot of serious issues. I know most of my lyrics aren’t in English but there will be more English songs coming soon. I’m currently working on this new project. It’s going to be a new English EP coming out next year. I actually collaborated with Talib Kweli on this project too. There’s also going to be one more special collaboration with a female singer. I don’t know who it is yet, but she will be a big star.

9. Is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with?

I would like to work with Alicia Keys and Jay-z. Even Lady Gaga. Pretty much all of the biggest names in the music industry.

10. Do you have a favorite song that you like to perform?

Every song of mine is like a baby to me. I love them all equally. If I had to choose one I would pick Refuse to Listen which features NAS because this song is a story that represents myself. It’s a story about a lot of people telling me how dangerous and how impossible my goal was. People didn’t believe I would make it as a rapper. Yet I kept my faith and kept moving forward.

11. Where do you see your career in 10 years?

I think I will help new artists release their albums. I actually have a studio in Tainan (a city in Taiwan) where I teach students how to rap. No teacher taught me how to rap. I now have the skills and have the money to help future artists. I guess I’m the pioneer of Taiwanese hip-hop. I want to help develop the next generation of hip-hop artists.

12. Any final words?

Yeah keep your faith and refuse to listen to the haters.

Dwagie dons staple hip-hop attire from baggy pants and hoodies to traditional snapback lids and even Jordon’s. Despite his rough and tough image as an artist that raps about raw and realistic issues affecting the world, he’s humble and has respect for all individuals going after a dream. In October 2014 His new music video for Refuse to Listen was released by Complex Magazine. This surely will not be the last time we see or hear Dwagie here in the states. Look forward to Dwagie’s future English music.

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