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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

No racial lines block rapper Jin's view

By Walter Dawkins
Westchester (N.Y.) Journal News

Jin Auyeung, who appears in "2 Fast, 2 Furious," believes he'll one day be accepted as a rapper — not just as a rapper of Asian ancestry.

Gannett News Service

Just a few months ago, the 21-year-old rapper Jin was burning his own CDs and selling them outside a New York hip-hop store whenever the owner wasn't looking.

But consider how his 2003 has gone so far. He's landed a role in a hit summer movie, "2 Fast, 2 Furious," signed a record deal with the same label that released DMX and Eve, and won an unprecedented seven consecutive MC battles on BET's "Freestyle Fridays."

What's even more amazing about MC Jin's rapid success is that in the predominantly black world of rap, Jin Auyeung is Chinese. And yet the supremely confident MC says even when he was being chased away from Village storefronts, he knew things would work out just this well.

"It was war," says Jin, remembering how hard it was to hawk his CDs outside the record store. "I knew that I would get a record deal. You never know who's watching, and you never know who's listening."

As it turns out, Jin met his manager outside the store. The manager helped book him on BET, where Jin's masterful, biting freestyle skills caught the eye of Ruff Ryders executives. Freestyle battles, brought to national consciousness by the mesmerizing scenes in the Eminem movie "8 Mile," are contests where aspiring hip-hop artists feverishly insult each other in an attempt to make their own name. Jin can size up an opponent and within seconds concoct rhymes that slice to the bone.

"A good freestyle MC is someone that is knowledgeable of everything: what's going on in media, what's going on in entertainment, all types of social issues," Jin said. "... And when it comes to battling, the bottom line is that you have to be a smart-ass. I definitely fall into that category."

And some of his best lines come when adversaries insult him because he is Chinese, as one of his opponents on BET learned the hard way. "If you make one more joke about Chinese food or karate/The NYPD will be searching Chinatown for your body," he battled back.

Jin first discovered his skills as a high-school student in Miami. He was raised in a traditional Chinese household. After making tapes for fun at an amusement park, Jin took a tape of his rhymes to school and bribed the PA broadcaster to play it. Classmates liked it so much that he started entering MC contests in Miami, writing rhymes when he was supposed to be working in his parents' restaurant, and waiting outside recording studios trying to rap for visiting stars such as DMX, in town to make their albums.

Though he received positive feedback, even from DMX, not everyone wanted to accept a Chinese rapper. "A Chinese kid rapping?" and "Why is he trying to be black?" were among the taunts he overheard.

"Being Asian is like a double-edged sword. You'll be the first to get attention, but then you will have to go extra hard to prove yourself," Jin says. "If you go to a battle, before you even get on stage, people are like, 'Oh, wait. He's here for the battle? He's going to rhyme?' "

His parents weren't any more thrilled. "Imagine me going up to my parents and telling them, 'Oh, by the way, I'm not going to college. I'm going to be a rapper.' It has nothing to do with my parents being Asian. All parents want their kids to do something that's more solid, getting an education, being a doctor or lawyer."

But when the family moved to New York's Chinatown to be closer to his grandparents, not long after the 9-11 attacks, Jin started to enter every MC battle he could find. He got into four of them and won them all. He made his own recordings of the battles, burned them on disc, and tried to sell them outside the record store and on street corners.

And when the new manager he met outside the store got him the BET audition, he destroyed the competition week after week. It wasn't long before the labels were calling. Director John Singleton offered him the role in "2 Fast 2 Furious." Jin plays a mechanic and has a freestyle scene with rapper Ludacris, who plays his boss. Jin's album will be released in the fall, and includes guest vocals by Wyclef Jean.

Jin is confident that he will soon be accepted as a rapper, not just a Chinese rapper. But he knows that there is pressure on him as the first prominent Asian hip-hop artist. He hopes he'll be able to open doors for others, and that he might help bring cultures together.

"There's anti-black racism in the Asian community, and in the black community there's anti-Asian racism," says Jin. "There is racism in every culture. However, when you come to one of my shows you see all types of different faces there, and they're ... all having a good time together, all vibing together. It's cool."