About 10 years ago, MC Jin made America “Learn Chinese.”
But yesterday afternoon in the Bodek Lounge of Houston Hall, about 150 people turned out for a talk with the Asian-American rapper on his career and Hong Kong heritage. The event was hosted by the Hong Kong Students Association and the Chinese Students’ Association.
Born and raised in Miami, Jin grew up listening to rap on MTV and the radio, leaving a big impact on his young mind. “I didn’t have a full grasp on what people rapped about, but it was very powerful,” Jin said.
As he started dedicating more of his time to rapping, his parents were not as enthusiastic. However, Jin’s passion for hip-hop helped him overcome the obstacles of a competitive industry.
“The one thing that kept me motivated through the ups and downs of my career was that I loved doing this,” he said.
Jin’s big moment came in 2002, when after his success on “Freestyle Fridays” on BET, he signed a record deal with Ruff Ryders Entertainment. “To describe it — imagine having something you’ve wanted for so long, not only do you see it in front of you, but you’re able to physically walk up, grab it and hug it,” he recalled.
As the first Asian-American rapper with a major record label deal, Jin basked in the hype that surrounded his signing to the label, including an appearance on ESPN and being featured in Rolling Stone magazine.
In 2004, Jin released his first album, “The Rest is History.” However, both Jin and the label were disappointed after selling only 19,000 copies of his album in the first week.
“That’s when it started going down,” Jin said. He added that he had to battle the stigma of being merely a fluke and “getting lucky.”
In 2005, Jin amicably parted ways with Ruff Ryders and began independently producing music until a Hong Kong label sought him out in 2008. Since then, he has been based predominantly in Hong Kong, releasing a Cantonese album and acting in TV shows and commercials. He recently moved back to the United States, and his first all-English album, “Hypocrite,” is set to be released this summer.
College junior and HKSA President Salina Lee was pleased with the turnout and how the event proceeded. “He kept the crowd really entertained,” she said, referring to his sporadic bouts of rapping during the talk.
“He did a great job. He’s really down to earth,” she added.
College freshman Bryan Hoang, a freshman representative for HKSA, has worked closely with Lee to bring Jin to campus since the beginning of the year. He admitted that he initially didn’t think Lee would “take me seriously.” However, as a big fan of Jin’s, he thought Jin’s story and background would connect well with the Asian-American population on campus.
During the Q&A session that followed the talk, Engineering freshman Akshay Chandrasekhar stepped up to freestyle rap a question to Jin, garnering much applause and laughter. “The thing that resonated with me is to follow your dream,” Chandrasekhar said.
College senior Carson Ley, HKSA Liaison to the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, agreed that Jin’s message applied to many students at Penn struggling with choosing a career path or pursuing something their parents disapproved of.
“He really talked about following your heart and passion,” Ley said. “He’s more in tune with our generation.”