I see you got a big emphasis on remaining authentic and being a rapper’s rapper and a DJ’s DJ. So who are people in the rap game you respect right now? Can you really get big and still remain authentic to yourself in the rap game today?
Dumb: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of cats you know like ASAP Rocky and Odd Future and those kids. I feel like with them, whether you’re into their music or not, I respect them because in an era where everybody is talking about being cool and shit these kids were like fuck that. We’re gonna go into it and talk about crazy shit and weird like dark shit. It’s not necessarily even cool; it’s just like weird. It’s almost like gothic hip-hop. But it’s dope. It’s an era where that’s not even that popular but they went in there and they fucking blew up off of it. Where someone like me, I feel like I could relate to those kids because I don’t do typical hip-hop that’s on the radio. So when I hear kids like that, I feel like there’s hope for someone like me to blow up. You know what I mean. It’s not necessarily about their music. It’s about them being true to themselves. You know what I mean. That’s why I respect a lot of those artists. And you know there’s a lot of great artists in the new school with J.Cole and Drake; I feel like they’re promoting really great music. I think it’s a really great era to come out with original music.
I’ve always seen hip-hop as like the trend-setters of cool, and always chasing the cool, and new street blogs about ‘the impossible cool’ and ‘where is the cool?’ And you’re saying cool is really originality and if it’s weird shit, it’s cool because you’re chasing you, you’re doing you at the end.
Dumb: Oh yeah, by the time you try to emulate what’s cool at the moment, it’s too late. You have to be the innovator of cool. You know what I mean? You know don’t try and sit at the cool table. Be the cool table. You can’t try to be cool. It’s too late. If you try to be cool, it’s really too late. All the dudes who’re considered cool is because they’re the ones who innovated what they do and their style.
Because this is an Asian American magazine and we’re looking forward to hearing what it’s means to be an Asian American rapper out there. I saw you guys did something with Jin, and Jin’s looked at as the OG of Asian American rap, in just being able to put it on TV in the first place. Do you identify as an Asian American rapper? Because I notice now, I see more and more with your singles coming out with stuff about your moms immigrating over here, what it means to have a kind of ethnic experience here in America.
Dumb: Yeah, I think one of the things that got me to where I am is that, actually is the fact that I didn’t preach or use it as a crutch being Asian. I think that’s one thing that has got me to where I am right now. Because if you look 3-4 years ago, there were a lot of Asian American rappers in hip-hop emerging and to me a lot of them weren’t that original. The ironic thing about that is they mentioned a lot about how they were Asian. But the funny thing about it is they weren’t really repping Asians necessarily, because they were preaching that while sounding like so many different artists. You know what I’m sayin? In my opinion, even though I don’t even really talk about what it is being Asian, I almost feel like I represent it more because I feel like I’m defining what it is. As opposed to them, they’re trying to relate their Asian struggles to another culture’s struggle. You know what I’m saying? As opposed to me, I feel like I’m doing me and I am Asian, so I’m representing Asians. You know what I’m sayin? It’s ironic to me how a lot of the rappers then were really, really preaching the Asia American stuff but talking about street hustle shit like of a black dude in the projects, and they weren’t really living that lifestyle. They were just sprinkling the word Asian in there and used it as a crutch. To me, I never used being Asian as a crutch in hip-hop. While they were talking about, “O you think I’m Asian so , blah blah, I can’t spit.” I never felt like that. I always felt like being Asian in hip-hop was an advantage. Because it’s unique, hip-hop’s about being unique, so anytime I stepped into a cipher and I was the only Asian dude, I felt fucking great. I felt like a stood out. So when I spit something people were like shocked and I love that shock value. I love when people attack me in a battle with Asian shit. “O shit.” That challenged me and that made me a better battler. I always thought it was an advantage. I never thought it was a crutch, or Asians have a disadvantage in hip-hop at all. I think while people were complaining about how we can’t get into the industry, I’m more worried about, yo I want to dope enough to be accepted in this industry. To be honest, there’s some of talented Asian Americans out there, but none of us have really super figured out the formula to get in yet in my opinion. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m trying to be better and I’m trying to develop my craft. So I think we need to be more worried about honing our crafts, instead of complaining about how Asians can’t get into the industry.
I agree with that because sometimes people will come to Dumb and be like “Yo, Waddup Dumb, I rap too. I’m Asian, man. Come Check me out. I’m Asian and I rap.” So what. You should work on your craft and if you’re dope, you’re dope.
Dumb: Yeah, I don’t care if an artist says, “I’m Asian, we should stick together.” No. I don’t support Asians. I support dope. You know what I’m saying. I support dopeness. If anything, I’m harder on my own people. You better be fucking dope if you’re Asian. If you’re going to represent me, I always say, if I’m not the one to break through, I’m going to inspire the next kid to breakthrough. You know what I’m sayin? And if that kid breaks through like he better be fucking dope to represent our culture.
I just feel like we, as Asian Americans, sometimes, I think we’re hurting ourselves in a sense that we’re creating our own little comfort zone. We think we’re supporting mad Asian Americans. But in a way, I feel like we’re creating a comfort zone for ourselves. And our own scene is getting so big that Asian artists want to strive to be the biggest Asian rapper, as opposed to being the best rapper. And I’ve seen that a lot lately, and that’s something I don’t promote. I feel like us Asians to really prove, I’m not trying to be the best Asian rapper. I want to prove our people outside of the Asian scene. If you really want to represent our people, do it outside of the Asian scene. That’s real tough. I feel like if you’re an Asian American artist, you’re already representing the Asians. Mofuckas will ride with you. You’re Asian. That’s why I do a lot of Asian shows because they can relate to me and they just book me. It’s not necessarily, “O I’m trying to just do Asian shows.” But I feel the support from the community and that’s awesome, but I think what they really want to seem me do is stuff outside of it.
I know you have a big respect for KOLLABORATION and PK. Do you see that as a comfort zone or do you see PK get these artists out to bigger forums?
Dumb: Well Pk, he’s an originator first of all. He is the originator of that showcase and that Kollaboration movement. I don’t see that as a comfort zone because what Kollaboration does in particular is it’s a talent showcase. So they find upcoming talent that is not big already. They might have special guests or Asian artists that are doing well. But it’s actually a talent show of upcoming talent that hasn’t been exposed yet. What the Asian scene is good for is a foundation. They could start with the Asian scene, but what I’m trying to say is don’t just do that. Let that be a foundation. Let that Asian support be a foundation for greater things.
I just want to ask you about Grindtime. Grindtime itself is trying to offend each other? But for me if anyone said some racial stuff to me, I’d flip a shit. I’d be like “Let’s go.”
Dumb: I think a lot of people have that same response to some of the racial things that’s said in grindtime. Honestly, Asian people hit me up and say, “How could you take that?” But dude, it’s a battle. If I was battling an Asian dude and I wasn’t Asian , I would bust out hella racial shit. It’s a battle you use anything you can to beat your opponent. It’s a sport. Dave Chappelle has a great sketch about this. He said when he saw Kramer when he dropped the N Bomb on stage, he said when he saw him do that like that’s when he knew he was 80% comedian and 20% Black– meaning instead of him being offended, he was more like, “Damn, he’s having a horrible set up there.” You know what I’m saying, which means that dude loves his craft to the point where it’s like he’s thinking beyond the racial thing; he’s thinking more about the craft. I’m thinking more about the craft when I’m in there too. Once you do that you can overcome these little racial sensitivity things. I’ve said shit. Everybody has it bad. It’s not just Asians. Everybody has equal struggles and once we treat those little things, as unimportant. We have way bigger issues than that. When we treat those little things lightly,then I think we can overcome these racial boundaries. The reason we have these racial tensions is because people are way too fucking sensitive over these things. You know what I’m sayin? Think about when you’re with your friends and you say little racial jokes to each other. Think about how cool that is, instead of being in these really tense situations. But it’s a sport. In football, you’re trying to kill each other on the field. What’s the difference between that and words? —Joshua Lee