David Yungin Kim
1. What is your name and your profession(s)? My name is David “Yungin” Kim (yungin is a nickname, not my Korean name) and I’m a mix engineer in the music industry.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I’m a Korean-American / US citizen.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? My mother is a self-taught, semi-professional choral member. She and her choral group perform annually at the Walt Disney Hall in Downtown LA.
My father plays 5+ instruments but has never practiced music professionally, for him it's more of a lifelong hobby.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. We immigrated to Los Angeles from Seoul in 1991, on my fourth birthday. My parents brought $600 dollars with them and somehow managed to raise me and my younger brother, eventually purchasing a house.
The 1992 riots occurred in our backyard just as we were getting settled into a new country. Nobody knew the language yet and I credit my parents for sheltering us from the effects of the riots. I do remember certain racial tensions tricking down to our generation from the aftermath, but I feel like we were all able to grow from them.
One thing that did bother me growing up was all the stereotypes that came with being Asian. I wanted to prove to everyone that we aren’t all small, passive, and nerdy.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? Until a couple years ago I was pretty disconnected with the Korean culture. I was so busy trying to be “American” that I lost touch.
Over the last couple years, I’ve been working more and more with Asian artists, both in the States and overseas. I’m also in the process of opening a studio in Korea in the next couple years, along with an academy specifically targeting young producers and engineers.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? I attended the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Los Angeles and graduated with a Certificate in Audio Engineering.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I decided I was going to pursue music professionally the first week of engineering school. It was the first time any type of education clicked with me.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? I got to mix “Racks In The Middle”, which was Nipsey Hussle’s last song he did while he was alive. That song won me my 2nd Grammy.
Another notable project is “King’s Disease” by Nas. He was my first album purchase at 9 yrs old and my introduction to the hip-hop and rap world.
Previous to this album, Nas had 15 Grammy nominations with 0 wins. Hit-Boy and I were able to help him win his 1st.
Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (recording engineer)
DJ Khaled - Father of Asahd, Grateful, Major Key (recording engineer)
Keyshia Cole - 11:11 Reser (recording engineer)
Saweetie - ICY (mix engineer)
Playboi Carti - Playboi Carti (mix engineer)
Anderson Paak - Cut Em In (mix engineer)
Nas - King’s Disease (mix engineer)
Nipsey Hussle - Rack’s In The Middle (mixing engineer)
Tee Grizzley - Built For Whatever (mix engineer)
Ariana Grande - Sweetener (assistant engineer)
Post Malone - Stoney (assistant engineer)
8. Describe to me your dream project. Building my own studio from scratch and educating the next generation of engineers.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? There aren’t any specific instances I feel like I need to share, but there were multiple occasions where I felt like I needed to put in extra work to be noticed as an AAPI in the music industry. These obstacles were my source of motivation.
I have kids dm me thru Instagram all the time, stating how hard it is being AAPI in an industry where we are the clear minority, and the advice I always give them is: don’t let your ethnic background or situation ever discourage you from working hard. Excuses manifest into disadvantages only if you let them.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? Tiger JK from Drunken Tiger is a rapper who grew up in the states and then pioneered the rap genre in Korea. I grew up listening to him and it was relatable to look up to someone who looked like me.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? My hopes for the AAPI music community is to successfully assimilate into mainstream media. I think we’re close, which acts like Dumbfoundead, Stupid Young, and 88 Rising (to name a few) but I feel were about a generation away from being taken seriously as a community.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Trust yourself. Don’t do anything different.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I’m gonna be building a studio in LA and in Korea. That’s all I’ll say, haha! Got a couple big projects in the works right now, but I’d have to wait ‘til they announce release dates before saying anything.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I absolutely love sports. Id’ say I’m more knowledgeable about sports in general than music. I also love the outdoors and I often take vacations with my wife to enjoy some fresh air.
These days golf is my favorite pasttime. I’ve been borderline obsessive. S/o to my wife for letting me pursue my passions.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? I love what you’re doing by spotlighting AAPI musicians. It’s been a long time coming and rather than wishing someone would do it, you actually did. Love that. Thank you.
YouTube: All Up In the Mix
Photo provided by David Yungin Kim (@davidyunginkim)