1. What is your name and your profession(s)? My name is jason chu - I’m a rapper and activist.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I’m Chinese American, born and raised here - my parents moved here for college, I was born in Chicago and grew up in Delaware.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? Nope!
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. I was very much raised “American”. My parents both spoke fluent English growing up and so I grew up speaking only English as well. I thought this was a normal Asian American upbringing and really didn’t find out how uncommon it was until I went to college and started interacting with other Asian Americans. Other than just speaking English growing up, another way I felt I was really raised American was that my parents encouraged me to pursue my passions and what I believe in and I learned that wasn’t the case for most.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I feel connected to my heritage in the sense that I grew up and it was taught and expected that you contribute to a group, and you help a group, not as an individual or seek out success as an individual. It was really taught that you raise a community up and not just seek personal success. I grew up with this mentality that “We win when we build strong networks that give to the people who need it at the moment”.
A big part of me connecting to my heritage was actually in college. We had to take two years of a language - and if you studied an Asian language there were a ton of fellowships for you to be able to study abroad. So, I chose to study Chinese and got a fellowship that allowed me to study in Beijing for a total of 6 months. Not only did I culturally connect with Chinese heritage that had always been erased or marginalized in the States, but that was where I finally got the opportunity to get super active in an underground rap scene.
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 grew up playing instruments and loved music but never really saw it as a viable future. While I did play at piano recitals or at church a few times, the first time I really performed and performed rap was my junior year talent show - I did “Got Rice” in front of my whole high school.
I went to Yale and started as a biology major but shortly became a philosophy major. During my time there, I got the opportunity to run a recording studio and get some training as an engineer and spent most of my time in the studio. Still I wasn’t pursuing it as a career, it was just how I found peace and joy. Studying philosophy gave me vision for the world and how to help and shift culture, and I realized the most profound influences on me have always been the artists and musicians I was listening to. This was really the shifting moment of me pursuing music as a career. I started hoping that what I had to offer could be powerful and help people.
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? My parents have always encouraged me to pursue my passions and the values I believe in. I’m grateful for their support and understanding that what I do, is for the community.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? It’s been a real highlight to be on the Warrior (HBOMax) soundtrack. CHOPS and I have 4 songs on seasons 1 and 2, including both season finale credits. Bruce Lee was a huge role model of mine growing up, and to be a part of his ongoing legacy was amazing.
Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. The new @facevalue.world project is my favorite music I’ve made - 15 tracks with @alanzmusic and our friends like @ronnychieng @dantebasco @rubyibarra @ajrafael @humblethepoet and more, all touching on Asian American history. It’s the culminating moment of my community work, mentors’ stories, and artistic journey so far.
8. Describe to me your dream project. [unanswered]
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? Asian America constantly faces the erasure of our communal voices, struggle, and history. This is one of the central themes of the “Face Value” album Alan Z and I just released, drawing strength and inspiration from our history to make music highlighting our experiences. We wanted to give voice to that history, which is often ignored or forgotten.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? Shouts to all the homies - CHOPS, my NITEMRKT crew (Lowhi, Sakyboi), my Face Value partner Alan Z, my mentors Beau Sia, Arianna “Lady B” Basco, Bohan Phoenix, Chow Mane, Dane Amar, MC JIN, Mio Soul, AIXI, and the rest of the squad. The whole family eating rn.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? My hope is for our community, and especially our musicians and artists, to find our own voices regardless of who we think might/should listen. If we want representation first we need to know what we’re representing.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Just keep pushing bro you got this. You gonna grow into who you need to be, it just takes time and life experience.
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? Alan Z and I just released Face Value, a hip-hop album and multimedia project that showcases the history of the Asian American community in a unique way. The album looks through the lens of history at many of the issues our community faces today, from immigration to racism and anti-Asian violence. We were really fortunate to have such a great group of collaborators and features on the record, including Ronny Chieng, Dante Basco, Ruby Ibarra, AJ Rafael, Zeda Zhang, and more.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. [unanswered]
14. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? Fear is easy. Hope is real. Be kind to others and do right, even - often - when it’s not the easier way.
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Photo provided by Jason Chu