Today, I’m interviewing talented musician, Jamez Chang. Some of Jamez’s music speaks to the history of racial inequality experienced by Asian-Americans while delivering melodies that are smooth and mellow. A member of the Southern Collective Experience and The Last Ancients, he is teaming up with other musicians, artist, and poets to create music that transcends the norm—music that will change the way we listen and our expectations for lyrics in hip hop forever. Jamez, tell us about your work.
Kind words, Neil, thanks! Inequality. Transcending the norm. Asian Americans. That was sooo 1990s! What I mean is, there is all that, the struggle & politics exist, and I thank you for recognizing, but this go around—15 years later—there’s no manifesto, no political agenda. Because that’s what sort of got me in trouble, motivation-wise, near the tail-end of my musical run in the late 90s. I forgot about the art. The enjoying the music.
So forever means for-my-self in 2013. I’m seeking my own approval, maybe for the first time. Cause it’s all about the music.
I think it is all about the art—in what ever form the artist choses—when we start out. It is so easy to lose sight of that passion and get caught up in other motivations. It’s nice to hear that you’ve come full circle and are creating music for the love of it once again, and it’s obvious in the quality of the music you are creating today. Tell us how it is you became a musician. What was your journey?
It started in earnest in high school. Might’ve written a reggae song called “Black Man Singing in a White Man’s World.” Might’ve brought my guitar to school and in 5th period taken over the classroom P.A. system to protest a war. So the journey had some polemics mixed in.
The journey led me to college where I experimented with fusing Korean folk music with hip hop so as to unearth sounds that had been trivialized as chop-suey gongs, exoticized in neo-fetishized-Orientalism by the popular culture. So the journey at bottom was about changing the world…again at that time.
But after 15 Years, the world changed me—raising three beautiful daughters, finding great friends through The Last Ancients—I finally let the world work its melding upon me, and that was the stolen key.
Funny how becoming a father can change our perspective so dramatically. It has helped me see the world and reality more clearly and forced me to focus on what is truly important in life—family and friends. So what’s in the future? What are you working on now?
Thanks for asking, Neil. I’m working on fusing certain literary techniques I’ve picked up in the last year and a half with hip hop. I want to bridge those two mediums together, because not only is rap music a kind of oral narrative, it’s also highly poetic, literary. So I’m starting to rap again, about my experiences with a lot of the bullshit I see in the Lit. game.
But that’s 10% of it. The politics take a backseat to the positive: sampling poets, editors, writers I respect, who are the up-and-coming or avant garde: Rae Joyce (aka Rachel Fenton), John Pursch, Nicolle Elizabeth, Cliff Brooks, Robert Vaughan. All people I met along the way in this brief Lit Landscape I’ve traversed. Artists I respect. Talent, vibe, heart, those who have incredible presence, enough that I need to sample their voices in a sidearm flask, beaker to speaker.
I’m amped. Totally excited that these brothers gave me the hashtag #ArtFirst . . . 😉
I’ve interviewed Cliff Brooks and Ezra Letra and can say some amazing talent surrounds you. I’m a huge fan of The Last Ancients and expect great things from you guys. Where can we find your music, website, and FB page?
A couple places so far, because we all need more colons in our lives:
Personal Sites: http://jamezchang.wordpress.com/
Jamez, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I had a peek your newest work, Brothers Pi, and am blown away by it. Readers, here is the link, check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l33aUs7obVc#t=17
And a shout-out to The Southern Collective Experience, ’cause my belligerent-ass needs the last word!