Jin is a Chinese-American MC from New York’s Chinatown. Part of the Ruff Ryders crew, which also includes DMX and Jadakiss, he is in many ways cut from the same mold — lots of blustery gangsta-talk and hypermachismo — but he definitely brings his own Chinese flavor to the mix. (And please, skip the soy sauce jokes.)
Freestyle begins with a blues riff over which a thickly accented voice is singing way off key: “I was born in China/Moved to the USA/Opened up a restaurant/I worked there every day.” The singer then goes on to tell us about his son, Jin, whose rap opens with the story of his father’s exploitation in China and his decision to move to America and make a new life. It’s the quintessential American story, but decidedly not the African-American story — obviously their ancestors didn’t come here in search of a better life — so it’s something new for hip-hop.
Learn Chinese plays a similar game, this time turning on hip-hop’s fascination with kung-fu movies. In the video, two black guys are watching videos and get all excited when Jin’s comes on. At the same time, Jin is outside the house, knocking on the door and trying to deliver an order of Chinese food before giving up in disgust and storming away. The rest of the video, and the song, are given over to the usual hip-hop bragging, but again with an Asian twist as Jin declares that “Y’all gon’ learn Chinese/When the punks come out, y’all gon’ speak Chinese.” The track, too, has some interesting Asian touches, including backing vocals in Chinese.
No, it’s not genius, but it’s definitely interesting. I expect we’ll be seeing more Asian-American pop and hip-hop as time goes on.