When first listening to his hit single, “Boom Di Boom Di,” you would have never guessed that the song was sung by Jo Seong-jin, a.k.a Skull. Skull, a 28-year-old Korean-born reggae artist, is the second half of the Korean reggae group, Stony Skunk, and recently became a solo artist.
After not having much success in the Korean music market as a solo artist and with his single, “Boom Di Boom Di,” mostly due to a lack of Koreans knowing about reggae music, Skull redid the song with a Jamaican patois to cater to the U.S. market. Here in the U.S., the reggae-loving musician spent much time promoting himself and his music, and all of that hard work has paid off. He has been a featured Myspace artist, he’s been the opening act for Reggae icon, Buju Banton, and he’s gotten a lot of media attention from Billboard, Allhiphop.com, Ballerstatus.com, Vibe, and TheSource.com. What’s even more amazing about this artist is his single, “Boom Di Boom Di,” has ranked high on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hiphop Singles sales chart and has even climbed rapidly on the Top 100 Singles sales chart, which has made a name for himself in music history. Currently, Skull’s manager here in the U.S. is Morgan Carey, the brother of diva sensation, Mariah Carey. Moreover, he’s a musical soul who is passionate about music and very down-to-earth.
With his mandatory Korean military service currently being his priority before the release of his debut album, some are wondering if this will hinder his career just when Skull was achieving success. Asiance got a chance to interview Skull to talk about his music, his career, his debut album, and his thoughts on whether his military service will really obstruct his chances of becoming a solid success here in the U.S.
ASIANCE: I’ve read from previous interviews that you got interested in reggae when you got a hold of a Bob Marley bootleg CD. What was it about reggae music that drew you in?
Skull: Reggae had this vibration that just grabbed my soul, it felt very real and honest to me.
ASIANCE: You are progressively becoming a popular Asian icon for Asians and Asian-Americans – “ and, of course, non-Asians, alike. How do you feel about that?
Skull: Asians and Asian Americans are still not well represented in American pop culture. If you don’t do kung fu, make fun of yourself with comedy, be a sexy girl, own a Laundromat, a fruit stand or be a math geek, you don’t exist as a part of American pop culture. I am grateful to have the opportunity to break that stereotype.
ASIANCE: In a few words, how would you describe your music?
Skull: Honest, passionate, and from my heart.
ASIANCE: What significance does music, in general, hold for you?
Skull: It is an opportunity to speak directly to many people all over the world and hopefully bring them together as one.
ASIANCE: Can you talk a little bit about your debut album?
Skull: Well, it’s looking like it may not come out for a while, but I’ve finished five songs that are pretty strong, and am writing more every day. With so much happening in my life and the world around me, there should be plenty of inspiration. It will be a mix of Roots and Dancehall, with something for everybody and I am hoping to be finished by Christmas.
ASIANCE: Some people believe you become successful after you’ve sold “x” amount of albums or have reached a certain level of popularity with listeners and fans. How do you measure success as a recording artist?
Skull: For me success is something which you measure everyday. It’s not, “Hey my record went platinum..I’m a success”. It’s more like, “How does your life work in it’s totalness? Are you making the music you want to make? Do you have a good team? Are you a good human? Do you handle the pressure and responsibility well? Do you stay in touch with your family and friends? Do you give something back?” A successful artist gives something back to the world more than just music…he or she makes a difference…contributes something to mankind.
ASIANCE: With growing success, how do you stay grounded? How do you handle the pressure of staying on top of your game?
Skull: I meditate, pray, spend quality time with my friends and family, and get very good guidance from my manager, Morgan Carey.
ASIANCE: I read that you are about to serve your mandatory Korean military service and it seems that some people may worry whether this will hinder your debut here in the States. How do you feel about that?
Skull: Every Korean man must serve, and yes, I am sad that I will lose this opportunity to develop my career in America. On a personal level, the haircut is bleak, and I am particularly sad because I was starting to make headway in Jamaica and that is the home of Reggae music. I would have liked to perform at some of the festivals there. As a Korean, I am unhappy because I must say with all humility that I believe me being in the States was helping to break down the barriers and stereotypes, showing a different face of Koreans and Asians, and in some small way, also mend fences between Korean-Americans and African-Americans. I would have liked to have had more time to have done that, but I was also very much looking forward to touring for my first solo album. But I have to say that I am very grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to share my music in the first place.
ASIANCE: Where do you see yourself in the next few years, in terms of your career?
Skull: I just take things one day at a time, none of us have any guarantees, but I will always make music and strive to be a better human being.
ASIANCE: What advice would you give to those who are aspiring musicians like yourself?
Skull: Pray, work hard, surround yourself with good people, be honest with yourself and others, follow your dream, don’t believe the hype, and always give thanks to the Creator.
Thanks to Skull for a great interview! You can check out his music at www.myspace.com/skullriddim.