Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok


If you had to choose, how would you spend your Saturday night? An evening with media commentators pondering whether blogs are actually important, and thinking about drugs but not taking any? Or an evening getting down with a bunch of totally hot Korean guys? Hmm. Tough call.

If you managed to fit both in, you would have found one experience rather lovely, the other merely mindblowing. However, the evening didn't start well - word had got out that Jin, our Chinese hip-hop golden boy, had quit the game. Burnt from the lack of support from his Ruff Ryders label, bowed from carrying the hopes of the US pan-Asian youth communities on his diminutive shoulders, he pours his pride and frustrations into this one-take cri de coeur 'I Quit'. The extended version might make you concerned and maternal in the angry mid-section, then invigorated by the snap-freestyle conclusion. Let's hope that he's just a little bit tired. That he just needs some hot congee like we all do in times of trial, and will be bouncing back to the battlefront soon. He's not even twenty-three yet. Oh Jin, it can't be over! Think of the good times! The glory days!

Words of mourning from Asian America:

he was one of the few positive Asian American figures in the media..." (yellowworld comment)

Thanks for opening up the world for us... And not that I was ever ashamed but you were the first that really made me proud to be asian. (myspace comment)

Could it have been Jin's penchant for Nikes that summoned this US$9000 pair of 'self-doubters' to stomp him down? (Hanzismatter's bust of this new customised Nike design really is beyond belief. It could surely only be the subtle revenge of sweatshop workers.)

A leaky portion of my sorrow will only be assuaged by an all-out splurge on Notorious MSG merchandise. As Hong Kong Fever says: "Much love to our brother Jin - we got to stick together as a people."

Yes, I namecheck a lot of Asian-American sites. Their 'movement' is advanced, yet in some ways they're behind us. Both these things seem due to the fact that their critical mass youth-culture demographic is predominantly American-born. They're confident, savvy and funny, and yet often out to prove that they can be as American as anyone else - that they speak English fluently, without Asian accents. That they aren't 'foreign'. And man, the guys sure can be kind of bitter about being perceived as uncool and not sexy. Of course, if you really were cool, you wouldn't care if people thought you weren't sexy. This isn't so relevant to what's happening in Auckland, where the creative industries are being rinsed-out and recoloured by a generation of 1.5ers and international students from the yellow lands and beyond, who may 'sound foreign' but are undisputably sexy and cool-as-fuck, and not ashamed to draw on their countries of origin for pop-and-street-culture inspiration. Here, Auckland's Asian hip-hop vanguardists Daemang Productions (DMP) rap in fluent Korean, Japanese, and ...uh, Ebonics. This critical mass is changing people's ideas about what Asians do and don't do. Last Saturday they showed, for example, that what Asians do do, if they feel like it, is bust some seriously ruthless shit on the mic.

Chatting later to cool-sexy-sane Josh Jang aka Daemang, DMP-founder and host of Planet FM's Monday night hip-hop show, Esteelo, I asked:

Do you feel proud that for the young Korean kids at your show, you’re providing something here that New Zealand-borns like me couldn’t get before?

That’s our whole motivation, about giving to the second generation. There isn’t much of a second generation of Korean people, we’re all 1.5 generation, so it’s a really good thing to do to show the second generation what could happen for them, an inspiration, motivation for the kids. At the concert on Saturday a lot of parents came with their kids and stayed at the back. Then later they were trying to get my number, like ‘Can you train my boys to be rap stars?’ That’s a really good thing to start off. Parents don’t want them to be just doctors and lawyers anymore, they know what’s right for the era. Media, all those cultural things are the most powerful things for this era - they think these things are really positive now. That’s what we need for the second generation. Someone’s gotta do this kind of thing at some stage, to open this thing up, so I’m proud we’re doing it with DMP. [Pause] Oh shit that’s too cocky! Don’t make me sound like all arrogant... But it’s kind of true though.

It's okay Josh - you can be proud. When you see a kid like Chan from Kelston Boy's High (excuse the blurry photography) get up on stage in an impromptu beat-boxing giveaway contest, and channel Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze, you're awestruck by not only the precocious skill, but the feeling that anything now is possible.

Says Josh:

Maybe people say there’s a lack of opportunities down here… but anything here is going to be like a pioneering thing. Everything we do is the first thing, the first time!

It's a good time for keeping your eyes open.

DMP's album launch packed the SkyCity Theatre with about 500 Korean kids, probably on the strength of the Esteelo following alone. It was Korfro-fever! DMP's Mr Koh (Roskill Represent!) should be officially accredited with the maintenance of the highest national proportion of 'fro to body-weight.

If you remember Aya taking the freestyle crown at the Jin show, she made her debut on Saturday with the DMP crew, stepping up to rap in Japanese and English. Half Japanese, half Pakeha, totally hot.

There was an explosive energy that night that only comes with youth, optimism, and a certain litheness of body. I ain't saying the DMP boys could take on Dawn Raid in a scrum but they sure as hell could outrun them.

Because I had to duck out to The Great Blend, I missed The Dynamic Duo, one of South Korea's biggest hip-hop acts. I don't know, maybe this is why Amanda Wheeler thought I looked 'angry' that evening. Generally, I like to think I'm more of an kind of 'angry'. From Daemang's account, The Dynamic Duo tore up SkyCity - and I don't mean the pokies or the blackjack table.

I'll post more photos in the gallery as soon as DMP sends them to me, and as soon as I figure out how to, like, use the gallery. But for now here's a cute shot of some of the younger DMP boys and friends from outside the afterparty, at... well, where else?

TM: "...and I don't know what the fuck you were saying man, but it was dope shit."
Mr Koh: "Much love!"
TM: "Asian pride!"
Mr Koh: "Asian pride!"