The title says it all! Check out what 25-year-old Shaun Tai, a.ka. Emcee T, is all about!The title says it all! Check out what 25-year-old Shaun Tai, a.ka. Emcee T, is all about!
ASIANCE: How did you get into hip-hop/rap? What was it about hip-hop that attracted you to it?
Emcee T: Hip-hop one way or the other will touch anyone who grows up in the Bay Area. Southern California had a “FU*K THE POLICE” approach to rap – “ I would call it gangsta rap. Northern California had a real-life, what’s happening on the street type rap – a different, mobb style of rap music. For me personally, hip-hop was an escape from reality. In the mid 90’s, Bay Area rap was based upon story telling. My dad passed away when I was 2 months old so I grew up without a father figure and I was confused on how to “be a man.” It wasn’t that hip-hop / rap made me a man, but it definitely made me rough edged and conscious of my surroundings. The Bay Area is interesting; on one block, you can have a straight ghetto and on the next street over, it can be butterflies and sunshine. I experienced this first hand – “ in some places, I would get called a “chink” with kids making their eyes slanted while pointing at me. In others, being Chinese-American was the norm, in areas such as Oakland or San Francisco. I think racism confused me and hip-hop / rap exclusivity and its harsh reality attracted me. I became a rebel during my teens: hanging around with the wrong crowd, going against the grain (getting in trouble), and eventually expressing myself through writing lyrics. At first my writing was unstructured; more like ramblings. It eventually progressed into structured songs with verses and hooks. My songs started out more personal but now days I write songs about having a good time. I would love to say I still write solely for myself (self-expression), but hey, I need to pay the bills too.
ASIANCE: For those who don’t know, explain what the “Hyphy’ movement is and what it means to you.
Emcee T: I can’t lie – at first it was hard for me to accept the “Hyphy’ style of Bay Area rap. Not because I felt left out, but because most “Hyphy’ artists and fans, don’t respect the foundation of Bay Area rap, which in my opinion was during the early to mid 90’s. I always make it a point to respect the OG’s of Bay Area rap such as Too $hort, E-40 (during his earlier years), RBL Posse, Rappin’ 4-Tay, Ray Luv, etc. Current rappers seem to forget what got them in this position for “commercial’ success. The Bay Area had little or no money put into it by major music labels; it was all about the independent hustle. That being said, I feel “Hyphy’ is necessary. Just like my personal music progression, the Bay Area needed a rebirth and in 2006 (commercially), it came in the form of fast tempo music and a creative, hyperactive lifestyle. Hyphy music is similar to crunk but we have our own, unique style of dance, i.e. shakin’ dreads, goin’ dumb, etc. Its more for the youth – “ you won’t see the older folks “goin’ dumb’ and you definitely won’t see me doin’ it; I don’t have hair. The cool thing about “Hyphy’ is that it’s not just a Black thing, you see just as many White folks getting’ stupid (that proves “Hyphy’ is commercial).
ASIANCE: Besides being from the Bay area, what is it about bay music that makes you love it so much?
Emcee T: Two words: creativity and relevance. No matter what people say, past and present Bay Area music is consistently “Bay” – “ we have our own sound and style. Relevant in the sense that no matter what time period, Bay rap has a place in the rap game as a whole. From Too $hort’s infamous introduction of the word “b*tch”, to E-40’s unique rap style, to Souls of Mischief with the conscious / backpacker movement, to 2Pac’s life experiences learned in Oakland, the Bay is here to stay. Besides Bay rap, I love listening to old school slow jams: the Keith Sweats, Jodeci, etc. To me, slow jams complement the harsh instruments and sound of rap. And besides, who doesn’t like to get close to someone every now and then.
ASIANCE: You’re working on your album, UNDERESTIMATED; can you talk a little about the making of it?
Emcee T: UNDERESTIMATED will be my first official album. I had a mixtape out in stores a few years back that showed my earlier work. This new album is on an entire different level. Not only did I produce the majority of the album, but I was blessed to have some heavy hitters (artists), that I personally grew up listening to, featured on it. It’s hard to put an exact release date because every time I think it’s almost done, I get better at what I do – “ whether it’s networking with new artists / producers or purchasing new equipment; I am a perfectionist. The track that I am currently working on is produced by Calvin Miller – “ the producer of “Pop, Lock and Drop It” – “ a billboard, chart topping single. Every move I make transcends the previous…
ASIANCE: How was it to work with the Bay area rap legends, like Ray Luv and Rappin’ 4-Tay, especially since you grew up listening to them? How did you get to work with them?
Emcee T: Working with Ray Luv and Rappin’ 4-Tay was an honor. Besides the fact that both artists are legends to the Bay Area rap game, they have experienced things that I could not imagine – “ both in the rap game and in life. Another crazy thing is both were very close to the greatest of all time, Tupac Shakur. Ray lived with 2Pac in Marin City and even ghost wrote a number of 2Pac’s earlier songs. Rappin’ 4-Tay went on tour with 2Pac and was featured on Pac’s 10x platinum album All Eyez On Me on the track “Only God Can Judge Me.” Ray and 4-Tay both also worked with and knew Mac Dre, a Bay Area legend and father of the “Hyphy’ movement. To top it all off, they recorded at my studio, T’z Studio – “ so I was able to ask them questions and get their input on a number on a number of things. How did I get to work with them? It was meant to be.
ASIANCE: Besides working on your album, you fund a television show called “Pushin’ the Bay.” Can you talk about your involvement with that project, the show itself, when it will premiere, and why you think having shows like “Pushin’ the Bay” is important to have aired?
Emcee T: I always felt that major artists in the Bay Area do little to reach out to those that are starvin’ and trying to make it. I decided to change that by funding a concert / showcase for Bay Area independent artists called Pushin’ the Bay. I took care of all expenses and didn’t even charge the artists to perform. It was great to see so many independent artists, of all skin colors and backgrounds, under one roof for the cause of good music and unity. I felt this was important for me to do, especially as an Asian American because most non-Asian people see Asians as clannish and sticking to themselves. Hopefully I broke the stereotype… Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to host my very own 30 minute show that would air all over the Bay. I decided to name it Pushin’ the Bay because no matter what, the purpose of the show would be pushing the bay, or seeing the bay area advance as far as music is concerned. I submitted the first episode and I’m waiting on an air date. The only way to make positive change is for more people to put into the community and offer an outlet for those that do not have an opportunity or means of expressing themselves.
ASIANCE: You’ve been producing and rapping since 1995. Do you see yourself doing this for a very long time?
Emcee T: I’ve been rapping since 1995 and producing for less than 2 years now. I see myself in the music industry for a long time, not necessarily as a rapper. The music that I do put out will be aimed for commercial success. UNDERESTIMATED for example will have mainly club bangers; music that people can dance to and for the record, I love club music. The only person that complains about music that plays on the radio or at the clubs is flat out broke… and I refuse to be a whiner or a loser. God willing, I will be into producing and rapping at least as a hobby, till I can’t any more.
ASIANCE: What are some of your professional and personal goals in the next few years?
Emcee T: I believe anybody who raps as a main profession, without a few backup plans is a dummy. I’m proud to have 3 degrees: a BA in Graphic Design, a BS in Advertising and a MA in Architectural Design. I have multiple grinds and a number of avenues that I would go for or get into. As far as professional and personal goals for the next few years – “ I’ll leave that in Gods hand; I take it day by day.
ASIANCE: Do you have a girfriend?
Emcee T: Of course. Don’t you have a girl friend? haha!
ASIANCE: What type of girl do you like?
Emcee T: I don’t want a girl. I want an independent woman! Just playing, I like girls that have direction, a good head on her shoulders and most importantly, a cute smile.
ASIANCE: Who is the ultimate girl you’d like to be with?
Emcee T: Generic answer = Jessica Alba… but yeah, Jessica Alba. Is it just me or does she look mixed with some islander blood??? When I saw her supporting the Warriors at the playoffs this year, I jumped like a little boy (lol).
ASIANCE: Describe some characteristics of girls you like.
Emcee T: Balanced and well-rounded (pun intended). Also, low key, simple and plain, like this answer. Last but not least, hard working like my mom.
ASIANCE: What are your thoughts about the increasing number of Asians and Asian-Americans in mainstream, American entertainment?
Emcee T: Unfortunately, Asians and especially Asian-Americans in the mainstream look the same. As an Asian American, it hurts, but I hate to say that they act the same, play the same roles and to me, “we” aren’t cutting it yet. Why is it that the majority of “all Asian” shows / channels fail??? I’ve seen at least 4 shows in the past year that catered to Asian-Americans that have failed. The shows have clean-cut, nerdy looking hosts who are submissive and plain ole boring. Why don’t you see an Asian male hosting as a news anchor???
We can’t afford to stay the same and hope to advance… what I mean by this is, “we” need to act as individuals and not robots or gimmicks. Asian Americans in the mainstream need to generate interest. In my diss to Rosie O Donnell called “Suck My Dong” (on YouTube) – “ my main point was to let people know that not all Asians will apologize for what we do, or say “its okay” when we are racially attacked. I refuse to go quietly like the mainstream expects… hopefully Asian-American entertainers will do the same.
ASIANCE: What is some advice you can give to those who want to pursue the same kind of career pathway you are?
Emcee T: If you want to get into music, don’t rap for free and it’s important to be confident. You got to learn to play the game of life to succeed in the rap game. Have a plan A, B, C, D, and plan E. Don’t be afraid to go for the impossible… and like my mom says, “Good is never enough.” Oh yeah, and before you get 24’s on the ride, get a house.
Feel free to hit me up with a message at www.myspace.com/emceet – I always reply to messages and I love the criticism. Peace & Bay luv.