Alexander Ou, a Minnesota native and Cambodian rapper, has been one of the Youtube darlings representing the underground Asian American hip hop scene. He made a name for himself on the interweb, but his big breaks have come after collaborating with the likes of Trapphik, J.Reyez, D-Pryde, JRA and others. You may recognize him as one of the collaborating artist for the remix of Try Songz’s “Say Ahh,” but his original rhyme, collaborations and covers collectively have garnered him over 23 million Youtube upload views.
Musebox sat down with Lil Crazed and chatted about his zeal for poetry, breaking out in the saturated hip hop genre and his essential Youtube strategies for the musicians using Youtube as their platform for self promotion.
Musebox: Why and how did you pursue a music career?
Lil Crazed: To be honest, it was the glitz and glamour. You know, when you’re a kid you’re like wow, famous, wow, stars, lights camera action. That’s what it was when I first started. What I did was, I was writing poetry. I’m more of a poet. What happened was I had a buddy of mine who was doing this music stuff, rapping stuff on a karaoke machine back in the days and I was intrigued by it so I basically went off of that, used my poetry, added a beat to my poems, and now it’s music.
MB: Are you your own producer – do you create your own the beats?
LC: No, I don’t. I wish I was that talented, but I’m not unfortunately. I have a lot of producers that I connected with. DJ-Sin is one of them and Mike Kalombo who is signed to So So Def. Just a bunch of artists online, networking online is basically where I get all the producers.
MB: When did you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue?
LC: I was 13 when I wrote my first poem, 14 when I started doing music. But not until the past couple of years when I was like you know what, this is actually something I wanted to pursue as a career, as life.
MB: Why poetry though? It’s not typically something that most teenagers become attracted to.
LC: Right. I was always intrigued by rhyme and rhythm. Just words connecting together, you being able to express yourself and do it through rhyme and rhythm and people get amazed by that and then the music came along through that and that’s how the music all started.
MB: Why did you choose the name Lil Crazed?
LC: You know everyone asks me that. They always ask me if there’s something behind it, but there’s absolutely not. There’s nothing behind Lil Crazed. I was young, I was looking for a name. I didn’t want to fall into the cliché of Lil Crazy so I just changed the –y into an –ed.
MB: There are fans and haters especially on Youtube. How has the reception been to your music?
LC: Well you will never experience what a fan is if you don’t have a hater. So it all balances out, pros and cons just like anything else in life.
You gonna have fans, you’re gonna have haters
and haters are motivators,
they support you as much as fans do
because you know what
every time they hate on you
you build your feet off of that and it’s fuel to the fire
MB: So how difficult was it to get your name out there amid all the rappers?
LC: Very, very, very difficult. It’s so hard to do especially when everyone else raps nowadays and the other thing is that I’m Asian. But no it’s really hard to do but if you network right, meet the right people, know the right people and just if you’re a people’s person it should be good.
MB: And how much of it was with the help of Youtube considering the number of fans you have on it?
LC: Youtube is, some people label me as a Youtube artist so a lot of it is Youtube. It was working on Myspace and then Myspace died down and I was watching Youtube stuff and was like wow there’s a lot of people getting known on Youtube and a lot of fans so let me try that whole Youtube thing and when I did that it just blew up from there.
MB: On that point of Myspace, do you still use Myspace?
LC: I don’t.
MB: A lot of the musicians that I’ve interviewed have all condemned Myspace.
LC: Myspace is dead to me. What it was, was that there was a bunch of other social sites, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and such. The thing with Myspace was that Myspace didn’t stick to its whole form. Myspace didn’t stick to Myspace. Myspace started to try to be like Facebook and Twitter and Youtube. So what happened was that they’re not used to it anymore and adapted to change. People on the internet are lazy ok, you know what I mean? They go onto the internet to do something real quick and whatever.
That’s Twitter, and Facebook being such a big social network nowadays and then Myspace started changing things on their format that everybody was like I don’t want to learn new things on Myspace because I liked how it was and you’re gonna change‘em. Sorry I’m not going to adapt to it. Then everybody else just felt the same way.
MB: How did you end up collaborating with the likes of D-Pryde, J Reyez, and others?
LC: D-Pryde, J.Reyez, Traphik and all them? Youtube. Youtube is really what it was. You find who you like on Youtube and who you think makes music like you in the same genre of music. You network with each other – Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, all that stuff and you build a bond and you go from there. You just make music together.
MB: Do you get a lot of collaboration requests?
LC: Yes. A crap ton. A lot of it, I don’t know if they’re a fan of my music or anything like that. I think a lot of it nowadays is because everybody is trying to rap. They’re trying to get their name out there. If you do a song with a big artist and they put that song out, you’re going to get your name out there. So I think a lot of it is that people just want to get known.
MB: I’ve listened to the songs and musicians on Youtube expressing their frustrations and a lot of them to my knowledge are Asian. How difficult has it been with the fact that Asian musicians are the minority out there?
LC: There really aren’t many at all really mainstream artists. It’s hard but again there’s a pro and a con to everything in life. The pro is that you’re different so people are gonna wanna hear you out because they’re like woah, who’s this guy? If they’re not going to hear you out, then you bring out your talent and they’re like woah, who’s this guy? So the obstacle is to get them to listen. Once they listen you’re locked in. It’s hard being Asian but at the same time it helps.
MB: How many shows do you perform per month?
LC: Lately it has been 2-3 per month. Coming up in April I’ve got about 6. It’s great and it came from Youtube.
MB: One of the lines in Chiddy Bang’s “Dream Chasin’ ” is, “this thing called success is so strange, you can get notoriety and still ride the train.” How much of this message about fame and money resonates in your own life?
LC: That’s what it really was. The glitz and the glamour. The internet can make you famous and all that. Personally, I’m a broke dude. I got two kids to take care of and things like that. People are like woah, you’re famous, but you don’t have money, you don’t have this and that. No. I do this for the passion and if the money comes along, that’s a bonus.
MB: What resources do you wish you had back then when you were starting out and what’s the most difficult thing you’ve found about being a musician?
LC: What is going on now, the whole social networking stuff. It wasn’t as big back then as it is now.
Being different, being Asian, there are so many stereotypes out there you know? You have to be black to be a rapper. Oh, you’re Asian? What’s two plus two, and I’ll say twenty two and they’ll be like wha? It’s difficult because there are so many stereotypes and people just fall into that.
MB: Is there anything that you’re working on and would like to tell your fans about?
LC: I’m working on a lot of things. I have a mixtape coming out next month. I have a music video, an official music video coming out next month. I have a bunch of videos on Youtube releasing in a couple of weeks to old songs. Kind of something different to the whole Youtube scene.
A lot of people are doing remixes and covers of new songs so I want to throw in a curve ball in there. Yea, right now I’ve got a country remix coming in a little bit. I’ve also got a Justin Timberlake remix, an older song of his coming up in a couple weeks.
Then I’ve got my highly anticipated album, Static coming out. It was supposed to be released three years ago and it’s finally getting put together. I wanted to redo everything, rewrite everything because I wasn’t pleased with the product and I feel I’ve improved so much that I can make better music. So I’ll be releasing this summer – tentative day, July 4th.
MB: How many covers do you perform compared to the number of original songs?
LC: That’s hard. It’s kind of like half and half. The only reason I do remixes is because to build my name out there, because what’s going to happen on Youtube is that – and this is a little tip for all of the people trying to get big – you go on Youtube and you hear the songs about to come out like “Love the Way You Lie.” When that came out, I made a remix right away to it, put the video up right away because as soon as that song comes out and becomes big, mainstream wise, people are going to go on Youtube, search “Love the Way You Lie” and my remix pops up right there. Then they’re going to be like, who’s this Asian guy? Click it, watch it, like it, Bam!
MB: Is that a Youtube strategy?
LC: It’s a Youtube Strategy. That’s a secret out there. I’m charging $50 for it.
MB: Do you have any advice for the struggling musicians out there?
LC: Just network and this sounds cliché but be yourself. Just do what you like to do. Don’t fall into what other people like because right now being different is the trend. Being different, being somebody else, not following other people is going to be a great way to market yourself especially online and things like that.
And use your social networks. Use them because people love that stuff because you get to interact with your fans so much. They love to interact with you because they feel like they know you.
By the way, we at Musefy wish Lil Crazed’s son, Issac, a happy 2nd birthday!