Jin tha’ MC: Putting Asia on the Hip-Hop Map

By Hoon Yoo

Jin tha’ MC, born Jin Au-Yeung, is changing the way America looks at the hip-hop genre. The rap industry is known to be dominated by African-Americans, so Jin tha’ MC has caught everyone’s attention by being the first Asian-American to succeed at the ‘rap game’ and by overwhelmingly winning over his critics.

Jin was born in Miami, Florida, and was raised in a middle class neighborhood. When he was twelve years old, he started listening to hip-hop, and began rapping by the age of fourteen. Jin took his music very seriously at a young age and began showcasing his lyrical talents every chance he got.

After the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001, Jin’s family moved to Queens, New York to be closer to their relatives. For Jin, the move gave him a great opportunity to make himself known to more influential people in the music business.

Jin tha' MC • Courtesy of aznraps.com

Finally, Jin’s big break came when he was able to participate in the freestyle-rhyme competition on BET’s show, “106 and Park”. After winning the competition and defending his title of Champion for the next six weeks, Jin became the second person ever to be retired on “106 and Park”.

By then, Jin was becoming well known in the hip-hop community. Countless people would watch “106 and Park” to see if Jin could successfully defend his title against other challengers from New York. The day he was retired, he amazed everyone with the announcement that he had signed with the major rap label, Ruff Ryder Records, becoming the first Asian American to work with a major record label in the States.

Since then, Jin has been busy working on his upcoming album that Ruff Ryders is producing, and filming the upcoming movie “The Fast and the Furious 2”, which he stars in with Paul Walker. Jin insists that his role in the movie is more than a cameo; and he will try to prove that musician can cross over successfully into the movie business.

Jin can also be seen rapping up a storm in clubs across the nation. He certainly had the audience in an uproar on February 7th, at the Hollywood Athletic Club, where I had the chance to meet this rising young rap star and ask him a few questions about his music and his now ever-changing life.

He told me his yet-to-be-titled debut album is set for a release in June 2003. And if the new beats he shared with us at the club were any indication of what is to come – hip-hop fans, you are in for a rapping delight. “The Fast and the Furious 2” is scheduled to be released in June as well. As if that’s not enough, June is also Jin’s 21st birthday. It seems like he will be having a happy -and famous- birthday this year!

Today, it seems like rap lyrics tend to focus on the negative aspects of society such as violence and superficiality. Jin’s style is a nice change from what has become the norm in hip-hop songs. He states that his “music is more light-hearted, and fun stuff [to listen to] because I’m young and I’m having fun in life right now.” But at the same time, “there are times when I do get more personal, more in-depth [with my music], like about my child hood, growing up, and stuff like that.”

On the use profanity in rap today: “the beautiful thing about Hip Hop and MC-ing, is that it is about expressing yourself. If that is how you feel, say it, even if you want to say it fifty times in one verse. On the personal note, I can’t say that I don’t curse, but I don’t do it excessively for pointless reason.”

One of his songs “Hey Jin”, is about a fan that he fondly remembers, while another song, “I Don’t Know”, addresses the critics who think that his accomplishments are flukes. The combination of great background beats and original lyrics make his songs instantaneous hits. His songs are definitely something you would love to dance to while you’re driving or out at a club.

Jin tha' MC became the first Asian American to sign with a major rap label.
Photo courtesy mtv.com

Many compare Jin to Eminem; another rapper who has ascended to the top of the rap charts by winning over many critics, also because his is not African American. “It [the comparison] is an honor. If you look at Eminem and what he’s done, you can see that he’s one of the best. He’s a genius. The way I see it, at the end of the day, the music will speak for itself. People will see that Jin is Jin and Eminem is Eminem. That’s all.”

While gaining much fame in the music industry these last few months, Jin states: “I really appreciate it. I never take it for granted.” He reminds us that his path to stardom was “a lot of hard work. It was definitely not an overnight thing, and there were no hand outs.”

Along with being hip-hop’s next best thing, Jin also deals with being labeled a role model for Asian Americans. “I don’t know if I can be a role model, but I can be Jin. Hopefully that is good enough. Stay in school. That is my whole role model sentiment for the day.”

For now, Jin told me he is concentrating on his music and anxiously waiting for June to roll around. Jin’s website is www.holla-front.com and you can learn even more about this up-and-coming artist who I feel will impact the music industry tremendously.