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A Chinese rapper makes history

The son of Hong Kong immigrants to America, Jin is the first Chinese rapper to break into the American Billboards Top 200, ensuring his place in hip-hop history. Besides the novelty of being a Chinese in an African-American art form, his explosive lyrical wit has triggered his rapid and dramatic rise to the top.

He now faces a new challenge here in Asia before an audience who may treat this young new firebrand with a certain amount of skepticism. The derision that has met with the burgeoning hip-hop culture in this part of the world is well-documented, with J-hop, Korean hip-hop stars and the like being branded as poseurs.

But it’s hard to call Jin a poseur after seeing him on the American music countdown channel 106 and Park’s Freestyle Fridays special. The show involved a weekly MC (Mic Checka) battle where competitors from all over New York try to out-rap their opponents. With America watching, Jin blazed through the show with stunning success, winning 7 weeks in a row.

Upon winning his closing battle in the 7th week, he revealed to the audience his proud new “R” medallion – R for Ruff Ryders – a mark that means he is now part of one of the most elite hip-hop crews in America. A recording contract and even a movie role soon followed, and a rising star, not to mention a hero to the Chinese-American hip-hop community, was born.

So while artistes like Jay Chou and Wilber Pan were just starting to popularise hip-hop in Asia, a certain Jin Au-Yeung was already breaking barriers right in the heartland of hip-hop itself.

Chinaman in a black world
Defying convention
Family planning


With Jin arriving in Singapore for a showcase Nov 9, UW headed down to Coccolatte and found the 22-year-old star looking right at ease in the funky atmosphere of the trendy nightspot.

There are 2 things that strike you when meeting Jin in person. The first thing is his shiny Ruff Ryders medallion hanging around his neck. The second thing that strikes you is that he’s much thinner than he looks on his album photos.

Wolfing down a sandwich during the interview, Jin looks as though he hasn’t had much to eat.

“I was in Hong Kong, then Shanghai, then Taiwan, then Singapore,” said Jin. “[And] I went to London, I went to Australia. Where else did I go? Canada. And of course in the US I’ve been like all over… And then from here I’m going to Japan.” With such a hectic touring schedule, it’s no wonder he’s lost weight.

Chinaman in a black world

While race is a distinguishing feature for him in his genre, it isn’t much of an issue for Jin. He scoffed when the topic was brought up, saying, “Chinese or not, there’re a lot of problems you face in the industry for everybody, just as an artiste trying to make a name for yourself.”

“I think they should look at me as Jin first and then everything else after. And I am Asian, so I never deny it. But just sometimes I feel like they focus so much on the Asian this and Asian that, they lose track of the music.”

But he conceded, “As far as being Chinese [goes], I guess sometimes you have to work extra hard to prove that you deserve to do it. Cause sometimes they just wonder: a Chinese rapper? Like is that even possible? Like he’s not serious, he’s not authentic. So just on that, sometimes you have to prove them wrong.”

Even interracial dating isn’t an issue for him. One might think that being so immersed in African American culture, he might have a preference for Afro-American ladies too. Thankfully for the other ladies of the world, that’s not the case.

“I don’t look at it like that,” said the swinging bachelor. “I prefer the one that attracts me more. And it could be the Chinese one or the black one. Or the white one, or the Russian one or the Spanish one.”

Defying convention

A typical rap song by Eminem or P. Diddy would usually feature violence, suggestive lyrics and other provocative content. But Jin’s scandal-free lyrics are as clean as a whistle. This devout Christian raps a different kind of rhyme.

“You know the whole sex, drugs and violence? I don’t think that goes with hip-hop,” said Jin emphatically. “That goes with a lot of people that represent hip-hop. But that’s not what represents hip-hop. There’re a lot of positive things about it that do exist right now. It’s just that they don’t ever wanna promote it.”

Doesn’t he ever feel the pressure to adopt the fast and furious lifestyle led by rap stars? With a simple answer of “I just be myself,” the young rapper candidly related his fascination with Disney movies.

“I’ve watched all of them,” he said with glee, “…every single one. My favourite one, it kinda always changes. But as of right now, [it’s] Mulan. Maybe it’s because I can relate to the story. Not because she’s a girl and I’m a girl trying to be a guy, but because [of] her fight. I can relate to her fight.”

Jin also readily admitted that he’s quite the bookworm.

“I love to read. A very important thing to being a good MC is to read. The more you know, the better. There’s this one book that I have, it’s called A Thousand Paths to Happiness. It’s not like a story or anything. You just sit and read, and there are all these different quotes. I like them because you can take it, and the quote may have nothing to do with your life, but it’s something you can apply.”

Well, so much for a rapper’s tough guy image!

Jin remarked, "I was in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and Singapore." "And] I traveled to Australia and London.
Jin remarked, “I was in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and Singapore.” “And] I traveled to Australia and London.

Jin appears to have eaten little during the interview, gorging on a sandwich.

Jin remarked, “I was in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and Singapore.” “And] I traveled to Australia and London.

I went somewhere else. Canada. Of course, I’ve traveled throughout the United States. After that, I’m heading to Japan. Given his demanding touring schedule, it makes sense that he would lose weight.

Chinaman in a black world

Although race is a characteristic that sets him apart in his genre, Jin doesn’t really care about it. “Chinese or not, there’re a lot of problems you face in the industry for everybody, just as an artist trying to make a name for yourself,” he mocked when the subject was raised.

“I believe that everything else should come into focus after they see me as Jin. Furthermore, I never deny that I am Asian. But occasionally, I think they lose sight of the music because they are so preoccupied with all things Asian.

However, he did concede, saying, “I guess sometimes you have to work extra hard to prove that you deserve to do it [in terms of being Chinese].”

Because occasionally people merely ponder: a Chinese rapper? Like, is that really feasible? As if he’s not sincere or serious. For that reason alone, you occasionally need to disprove them.

He doesn’t even find interracial relationships problematic. Given his intense immersion in African American culture, one may assume that he also has a preference for Afro-American women. Fortunately, that isn’t the case for all other ladies out there.

“It’s not how I see it,” the sultry bachelor declared. “I like the one that appeals to me the most. Additionally, it can be the black or Chinese one. Or the Spanish, Russian, White, or any combination of these.

Defying convention

Rap songs by P. Diddy or Eminem typically contain explicit lyrics, violence, and other provocative elements. However, Jin’s words are as pure as a whistle, devoid of scandal. This devoted Christian rhymes in a unique way.

Are you aware of all the violence, drugs, and sex? That doesn’t seem appropriate for hip-hop, Jin declared firmly.

That is true of many individuals who embody hip-hop. However, it isn’t what hip-hop is all about. Many good aspects of it are currently true. Simply put, they have no desire ever to promote it.

Is he never under any pressure to live the fast-paced, reckless lifestyle that rappers lead? With a straightforward response of “I just be myself,” the young rapper opened out about his love of Disney films.

With delight, he declared, “I’ve seen them all. Every single one.” My personal favorite, it varies somewhat every time.

But for now, Mulan is the one. Perhaps it’s because I can identify with the narrative. Not because I’m a girl attempting to be a guy, and she’s a girl, but [because of] her fight. I can identify with her struggle.

Jin was also quick to acknowledge that he is an avid reader.

“I’m a huge reader. Reading is a critical component of being a successful MC. It is better to know more.

My book collection consists of one title: A Thousand Paths to Happiness. It’s not narrative-based in any way.

All you have to do is sit down and read the many quotes. They appeal to me because, despite the quote’s lack of relevance to your life, you can still utilize it.

Well, so much for the macho man persona of a rapper!

Family Planning

When Jin was younger, he worked for his parents, who owned and operated a restaurant in Chinatown. Jin, who is reportedly quite the filial son, stated, “My parents always raised me in a very traditional [way] when I was growing up.”

“My favorite thing to do with my spare time is to spend it at home with my parents when I do have it.”

Even though his mother is only 17 years older than he is, they have a tight bond and even share music.

“My mother likes listening to this artist named Jay Chou, for example. She hands me the CD and says, “Listen to this.” The most enjoyable and accepting parents are [my parents].

They were against him rapping, though.

Jin said, “They wanted me to be anything but a rapper.” “No, Rap. No, no.

Thankfully, Jin followed his passion, even if it meant writing his poems under his parents’ backs.

“At school, I did a lot of it. A lot of it in my room, at home, and really anywhere, including at work.

Jin already has a plan for when he wants to settle down and begin his own family.

He said sincerely, “Just so you can write it, I plan on getting married no later than 25.” That implies that I have three years to locate a spouse. 25, I hope to get married, and by 26, I want to start a family.

How? When he’s still in show business, kids at 26?

How? When he’s still in show business, kids at 26?

Jin said, “I want to be around 26 because I don’t want to be one of those really old parents.”

In that manner, he will be about 15 when I’m 40. I can still be a cool father, too. Maybe I can still take him to a strip club when I’m forty-three or such.

He will be taken by someone else if I don’t. So I’d rather accompany him.

Jin, every adolescent boy reading this undoubtedly wishes you were their father now!

Family Planning

Jin’s parents ran a restaurant in Chinatown and he worked for them as a young boy. “My parents, when I was growing up, they always raised me in a very traditional [way],” said Jin, who is apparently quite the filial son. “Number one thing when I do have time, any spare time at all, I’d just like to be at home with my mum and dad.”

He has a close relationship with his mother, who is only 17 years his senior, and they even share music together.

“Like there’s this singer named Jay Chou, you know, and my mum listens to it. So she kinda passes the CD to me, like listen to this. [My parents] are the most fun, open-minded parents.”

Even so, they objected to him rapping.

“They wanted me to be anything else but a rapper,” Jin related. “Rap, no. No. No.”

Fortunately for us, Jin pursued his dream, even if he had to write his rhymes behind his parents’ backs.

“I did a lot of it at school. A lot of it at home, in my room, just anywhere, like even at work.”

As for starting his own family one day, Jin has already had an idea about when he intends to settle down.

“Just so you can write it, I plan on getting married no later than 25,” he said earnestly. “So that means I have 3 years to find a wife. I wanna get married by 25 and then by 26 have kids.”

What?! Kids at 26 when he’s still in showbiz?!

“I don’t want to be one of those really old parents, so 26 or so,” Jin explained. “That way when I’m 40, he’ll be like 15. And I can still be a cool dad. So maybe when I’m 43 or so, I can still take him to a strip club. If I don’t take him, somebody else will. So I rather I go with him.”

Jin, all the teenage boys reading this probably wish you were their dad right now!

Suruchi Lohani
Suruchi Lohani
suruchi lohani is a content editor who love playing with words to make stories come alive. Besides editing the content she loves reading books and writing.


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