Laboring over his latest album, “DFD,” for the past year to the point of “want[ing] out,” Dumbfoundead has come far from the days of battling and scribbling lyrics with dreams to make music more than just a lifestyle. Years of grinding before technology, could have been thrown out the window, had he known that his future boiled down to making the right moves in the past two years on a little site you may know as Youtube, or as Dumb calls it, “Asian Hollywood.” Being that I’m somewhat of a geek and this opportunity is too good to resist a quote from Spiderman, Dumb arrived at a point where, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” He’s grateful for his success thus far, but despite the Atlas sized weight bearing down on his shoulders from the growing Asian American community crying out for a trailblazer, and a self burdened goal to alleviate his family’s 9-5 working class lifestyle, he’s obviously trying, and trying his best to live up to expectations.
Before I continue, I want clarify that he’s a rapper, who happens to be Asian, who’s trying to make it in the predominately African American and Caucasian music industry. You’ve read features about Dumbfoundead on Asian American blogs, and he’s toured Asia before, but let’s get real here. Even with Jin having broken out into mainstream hip hop, few publications, Dumb has found, have gone out of their way to offer exposure to a talented Asian artist. Even Jin, an artist Dumb has great respect for, has taken to Youtube to jump start a laggard career after falling off of the mainstream train.
I have to admit that he is one of few artists I listened to on Youtube back in the day, but more importantly, he, as corny as it sounds, inspired me to pursue what I’m doing today. I was lucky enough to get even 15 minutes with Dumbfoundead, who was working day and night on his album, evidenced by the rescheduling of the interview a few times and more toward the later part of the day. But I had the pleasure of chatting with this street smart musician who, I can’t help but have the utmost confidence for. He’s surrounded himself with intelligent marketers, partnered himself with successful artists, and he’s driven. Even though he may not have attended university, the stereotypical Asian in him glows.
“DFD” drops on 11.11.11.
You can listen to Musebox’s interview with Dumbfoundead (I apologize in advance – the recording quality isn’t great):
You can read the interview’s transcript after the jump:
Musebox: You’re such a heavy proponent for Asian Americans and you’re found on practically all the Asian blogs so I have to ask, because there are so few major Asian American artists that are topping the Billboard charts, what you’re really working toward in your career. Are you trying to exemplify the potential of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry or are you a guy who’s trying to make it in the music industry, that happens to be Asian?
Dumbfoundead: I’m definitely, you know, trying to make it in the American music industry. I just happen to be Asian. And as far as being featured on all the Asian blogs and things like that, it’s pretty much the few outlets we have for us for sure that we’ll get coverage on. You know what I mean? Like the other stuff, there hasn’t been many Asians getting coverage in the music scene in general in mainstream media so that’s something I would like to have. It’s just that I don’t yet on a regular basis. You know? So it’s definitely something I’m working toward and it’s something I feel like as far as, you know, me? I’m Asian. I already represent the community by default, you know what I mean, and I feel like I won’t be representing my people to the fullest potential until I really cross over and do that on the other side of things, you know, and so…
MB: How do you feel about the change in expectations from when you started out scribbling lyrics on notepads to ease away the stuff that went on in your life until today, where fans are really expecting you to finish projects and obviously you’re on a deadline, and they expect you to come out with new material on a daily basis.
Dumbfoundead: Oh yea, it’s definitely, it’s definitely a lot of pressure. I mean, it is crazy. I remember just being a kid who freestyles in parking lots, drinking a 40 ounce and just freestyling and have fun battling and things like that, and now, now that I have this fan base, and like you said, even in the Asian community, there’s a lot of pressure there where they feel like oh, they want you to really really succeed and kind of be their representative, and that’s a lot of pressure on a person, you know? And it can really fuck with you creatively as well. As far as the material you put out and what you say, you know. I never wanted to be the dude who’s careful about what I say, but you kind of have to have that a little bit as well, you know.
MB: Oh I see.
Dumbfoundead: And yea, it’s definitely a lot of pressure. It’s definitely a job now. It’s a career but it’s like the best job in the world really. You know, so.
MB: You’re doing what you love, pretty much. So what’s your philosophy on life? Do you prefer to live a short and fast life or visa versa?
Dumbfoundead: I mean money wise, I definitely, I feel like… I dunno, I’m definitely, I’m trying to make money and make, make a lot of money. I mean I have a really hippie mentality, like I’m… I’m already happy. I’m living my dream and I’m making money, I get to do music all day. The only reason my motivation to make more and more money is so I can kinda take my family on this journey with me. You know what I mean? So that like my main motivation to make a lot of money is to take care of the people around me. Because I’m taking care of myself and I’m definitely living the life where you have to travel and do what I love, but my family is still doing the same shit. My mom works 9-5, my sister works 9-5, my dad does too; everybody does, you know? So my main motivation is to just to take care of the people around me and that’s, that’s why I’m grinding, you know, really hard. I could have been the same dude, king of the parking lot, killing the freestyles, the battles and shit, so.
MB: And, kind of off topic, what was it like working with Jin, and do you have any more collaborations in the future?
Dumbfoundead: Yea, Jin was… it was dope working with Jin because we have the similar history, coming from the battle world, there hasn’t been many Asians who really made an impact in that community and I felt like, when I came along and started battling a lot of people compared me to Jin because Jin is like the original Asian battler you know. So that was pretty awesome actually. I gotta say, I don’t think people really really knew how much I was honored to do music with him because he definitely was a big, played a big role. I mean just watching that dude on TV and shit was like, “Oh shit,” like he was killing it on BET on all those battles and just watchin gthose was like, “Goddamn,” like you know he was really good, like undeniably good battling, you know so it was, it was definitely an honor and meeting him was a trip. It kind of taught me a lot of things too, like just seeing his journey and learning from his… the right things he did and the wrong things he did. He was one of the few Asian rappers, I think, that actually had a, created a blueprint. There isn’t really a blueprint for us to follow, but he was one of the dudes who had something, and FM, so.
MB: On that note, Jin posted a Youtube video that I guess quote, unquote, “was dissing Asian Youtube stars,” and you were mentioned. He said, “Dumbfoundead, you insensitive prick, don’t think I’m scared of you, or your roundhouse kick.” And obviously, you know, that was just a joke.
Dumbfoundead: Yea, it’s cool. It’s cool that how Jin is kind of, you know, acknowledging the Asian presence on Youtube, and definitely trying to get involved with that community as well, which I mean, really you should because it’s, it’s really, Youtube is like Asian Hollywood, you know what I mean? It’s been one of the few places that Asians can really really shine and do their thing So I don’t blame Jin for really trying to get involved with that and trying to get attention on Youtube and stuff. Like, he needs to do that. You know what I’m saying? Like he, he was a dude in mainstream media, and kind of got involved in some fucked up deals and bad deals and stuff, and it didn’t really work out for him there so, and he has a good career now doing it, but he definitely, it will be a good time for him to get involved, because all these young Asian dudes have respect for Jin, you know, and are willing to help him out and build him up on the Internet presence, so. Yea, it was just fun. That was a fun thing, and Jin, you can tell just watching that, Jin is still a great writer, and storyteller, and freestyler and all that. He was just very entertaining from the beginning to the end, you know, so. That’s just like a testimony to somebody who’s very skilled and who’s been doing this, and mastering his craft for a long time, you know.
MB: Do you have anything quick that you’d like to throw back at him?
Dumbfoundead: [Laughs] Jin? Nah, I don’t think, yea, I mean, you know I’m sure mad people would love to see us battle each other but, nah, nah, I have nothing against Jin doing his thing. Jin, I can’t even attack Jin no more. I know he’s a born again Christian type dude now, and like, you know, and obviously that’s not really my religious views. I would say me and Jin are completely different people, where we’re at right now in our lives, our beliefs. That’s one thing, but we have respect for each other on a different level besides obviously, I don’t have the same spiritual beliefs as him and I don’t probably have the same moral beliefs as him, but you know, we respect each other on the level of what we do – our crafts, you know?
MB: So what should we be really looking forward to with your album, “DFD”?
Dumbfoundead: I would say, just uh, it’s a lot of, there’s some darkness to it; it’s weird. There’s like there’s no middle thing. It’s like it’s either or like hype and happy songs. And i think that has to do a lot with my personality. I’ve never been the middle dude. I either hate something or love something, so. And I’ve never been that like mutual middle ground type dude, so I would say there’s a lot of fun things like melodies, a lot of us – my friends – involved in it. It actually has a good amount of features of my friends singing and stuff on it, so, you can expect a lot of singing and just a little bit more definitely grown than my first album, and uh, yea I mean, I just… it’s a lot of stuff that I’ve been working on for a while now that I just put together and I just want out because I’ve been hearing, I’ve been listening to these songs for a long time, but the world hasn’t heard it so… it should be fun man. A lot of serious stuff from my videos too, like “Are We There Yet” is on there. Things like that, so.
MB: I imagine a lot of people are looking forward to it. Do you find that it’s better for the musician to have a larger volume of fans or more of a dedicated fan base?
Dumbfoundead: Oh definitely dedicated. I mean, that’s just like when I would go to concerts and I’d go to these huge festivals where like huge acts were playing, and you know, I can tell the performers didn’t put as much into it. You know sometimes when you go to the intimate shows, they put a lot more into it, and that’s because they know at the intimate shows that all their hardcore fans are there. You know? So. Yea, [laughs] I’m definitely into having more dedicated fans than a large number of fans. There’s a lot of bullshit ass fans that I’ve seen and I’ve talked to, and they’ve come at me like, like they know my music and stuff, but it was kind of like a front, they kind of just hopped on because everybody else was kind of hopping on. Yea, I think I can tell too online, and the people who reach out to me who are my dedicated fans and things they tell me compared to the general fans is a lot deeper, and there’s a lot deeper connection there so.
MB: And this is more about technology, but how do you feel about all the music discovery technology out there like Last.fm or, Pandora or even the Facebook and Spotify partnership? Do you actually use Facebook Music and listen to what your friends are listening to? Dumbfoundead: Oh I love the online music technology like Pandora, and all that. I mean it’s, definitely right now, it’s crazy because the music industry is completely changing and there is no blueprint at all. Like literally everybody is doing something different and with their little movement and camps. You know what I mean. Like my team is coming up with things that are probably way more advanced than a major label. You know what I’m say? And more forward thinking. And I would say, all these individuals on Youtube, and all these kids are more forward thinking than all these major labels, honestly. I mean, it’s incredible. I mean my career literally… I’ve been rapping for about ten years now since I was like 15 years old, and I did so many shows, and my career only started taking off like two years ago when I made a Youtube account. That was the defining factor in my career that changed my whole career. So I owe a lot to just the technology online and I love it. It’s all about thinking forward because you have people who many complain about music being bootlegged online and how sales have gone down, but you gotta keep, you gotta think of other ways to get your music, sell your music, and that’s by, that’s by… it’s become harder as a musician. You gotta work harder actually now, and you gotta give out more free music to sell those albums later on, so. You know, I think it’s actually a good thing. It makes musicians work a lot harder and you know put together a better product. So.
MB: Two more quick questions. On the topic of discovery, are there any unknown or undiscovered musicians that you’re listening to or liking at the moment?
Dumbfoundead: A lot of my undiscovered musicians are just like friends of mine. Breezy Lovejoy, he’s featured on my album, and people are going to know him after I drop my album because he’s an amazing singer. He’s also the drummer in my band. He’s amazing and people are going to get to know who he is. So I would say, tell people to look out for him. Wax is my friend. You already know, but Wax is now signed to Def Jam. A lot of mainstream America don’t know about him, but they will, because the stuff he’s putting together right now is amazing. I think there’s tons of undiscovered cats. The thing about it is is it’s not about… there’s so much talent you know. As far as my crew and just Los Angeles music alone, I know so many talented people. What sucks is that they don’t, they don’t really utilize the technology or they don’t care to, you know what I mean? And that’s the problem. So it goes beyond just being talented. There’s so much talent out there. You gotta want it at a different level, you know. So.
MB: And so I guess you’re kind of a model for what people should or might want to follow.
Dumbfoundead: Yea, I mean, you know it’s, it’s tough because a lot of my friends are still on the grind where they still sell their CDs for five dollars on Venice Beach trying to sell it to people walking by. A lot of their mentality is, you know, they hate on the online shit and because there’s so many whack people on there too. One thing about the dudes online too, like some of their work ethic is undeniable, you know. Their work ethic is amazing. These kids put out a video a week, or a bunch of free downloads all the time. Things like that. Some of the talented people, who are naturally talented, are some of the laziest, because they feel like, “Oh, I’m talented. It just comes to me instead of chasing it.”
MB: That’s an interesting perspective. So final question, do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Dumbfoundead: Oh yea, I definitely would say work on your craft and think about the business later you know? What I know now a days is like every kid and stuff have a manager now a days, which is important definitely, but I think you’re going to get caught up, even if you get buzz and all that stuff later on, you can be put on the spot with your skill and your talent, and you might just bomb. You gotta be prepared. I think by being prepared, you just gotta go through what everybody has been going through for years and years, which is just training and honing your craft. I think that is something that, you know, is still isn’t lost and you still have to do that. Even the biggest stars – Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, all of them – they have been honing their craft, you know. Justin Bieber has been doing it since like he was three years old. Lady Gaga has been doing it for years, songwriting. The reason they got to that level that they are, is because they had an opportunity, and when they did, they were prepared. A lot of the people who are one hit wonders, and just buzzing for a quick minute, their fifteen minutes runs out quicker because they’re not prepared. So it’s all about honing your craft. I still… I’m a firm believer in that so, if you’re a rapper, specifically, go through all the open mics, battles, freestyles, the songwriting in your home, recording – all that. And then when you’re ready, you know, do your thing, and then you’ll come out of the gates way faster and just kill it you know?