E1-Ten - CCTV - Seoul Train Remix

Seoul Train on his remix of E1-Ten’s “C.C.T.V.”

When E1-Ten (TrackAddicts, Gotcha, Nicotine, LoveFUNK) recorded his latest album “The LoveFUNK”, I visited him in the studio and ended up playing keys on it. However, the track with the only featuring on the album caught my ear.

That track was “C.C.T.V.” featuring veteran MC Brainpower, with backing vocals by Maikal X, addressing issues like the total loss of our privacy, internet trolling and the constant monitoring by the authorities: ‘Who monitors the monitor man, that monitors the monitor’s monitor man?’ Says it all…

So when Ten and I started talking about remixing I immediately chose “C.C.T.V.” because the track spoke to me and I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with it. I also felt it would be a great send-off and salute to my old MC moniker Shogun, a name that has served me well for so many years but is no longer in line with what I’m doing right now. From now on it will all be Seoul Train, whether it be DJ’ing or MC’ing.

Anyway, after I did the music, the words came almost automatically and so I decided to add a verse and my view on today’s Dystopia: ‘Living in the camera-rich, who’s the perp? The snitch? The victim? The East Wickian witch?’

The UK has the densest network of C.C.T.V. cameras in the world so also from that point of view these are valid concerns. Not even the actual recordings per se, but the ones who have access (as low as Constable level!) and the blanket approach to the recorded data. Bye-bye privacy, hello Big Brother. It might not be the year 1984, but it sure feels like the book. Think about that. Our intellectual property rights, our civil and legal rights, our freedom, our autonomy are all on the chopping block. Are we willingly going to give it all away? The last step is our location data. My GPS is only on when I’m really really lost, I can tell you that.

Show your support by streaming or buying my remix of E1-Ten’s “C.C.T.V.” featuring Brainpower HERE (Wallboomers Music). Walk with us.

For full productions, remixes, collabos, featurings or consultancy please reach out HERE.

Seoul Train: an Asian in Hip-Hop

My life and Hip-Hop are synonymous. We were both born in 1978 for instance. We both experienced a ‘Golden Era’ at the same time. We both found ways to remain relevant in the present. And so much more.

How does anyone relate to Hip-Hop? Through similar struggles as narrated by the artists? Through a similar lifestyle? Through these ‘mean’ streets? Or is it through similar cultural values, knowledge of the world and its many inhabitants and finding those with a similar vibe? A combination maybe?

For me it was instant love. The rhythm. The swag. The bravado, the pain, the hope, the narratives of universal struggle and overcoming. Especially the struggle and overcoming. Some things are meant to be related to literally, others are not so easy to define.

So my influences range wildly. From Rakim to KRS, NWA to UGK and Goodie Mob, from Jay-Z, Biggie, Jada and Nas to Pac, Snoop, Too Short and YG. From MC Lyte to Rapsody. And these are just some of the more well-known names.

Like Guru once said “It’s mostly the voice that gets you up” and this is very true for me. I was into G-Unit because they were very much about that voice. They all had different vocal tones that matched really well and this is no coincidence. Their members were chosen because of it, I’m sure of it.

When I started MC’ing myself I very much gravitated towards East Coast styles. People reacted strangely to my voice, with most of them saying it sounded like Eminem. No clue why, but that is what they felt like. But when they would actually see me, initially I would get reactions like “Yo, I thought you were black” and “What’s wrong with your eyes?” to people throwing things on stage when I was performing. This ended very quickly when it became apparent that I could actually do it (well) and that is when it all finally changed to respect.

When I started touring as a keyboardist I got very similar initial reactions that eventually changed to respect as well, but this still had me asking myself why. Why is it so strange that an Asian artist participates in and contributes to the culture?

Since the beginning Asians and Latinos have played a role in what is universally accepted as a Black culture. But we have often been accused of cultural appropriation. Even Bruno Mars of all people went through it, in my view for no good reason. Yet, when Nicki Minaj did it, we got flak for speaking up against it. That is unfair. Why? Because in many cases, like Bruno Mars, we pay homage to the culture that we owe our existence to as artists, like is common in many arts circles around the world.

I am aware of more recent instances where Asian artists have said and done questionable, ignorant and sometimes outright racist things (like the blackface images) that have nothing to do with cultural appropriation so I am obviously not talking about those. I will save that for another post. However, I will say this: I am mentioning these things to get them out of the way. So they will not cloud any judgments.

Back to what I was saying: Why is it that when Psy broke the internet with ‘Gangnam Style’ the so-called ‘Hip-Hop’ memes made fun of him and Asians as a whole? One might not consider the song a Hip-Hop song off the bat and it surely is far from my top 10 Hip-Hop songs of all time. However, think about this: the song is actually looking at society critically and it features an artist rapping (it’s definitely not singing!). Two critical ingredients that have defined Hip-Hop music through the decades. The music has always reflected certain vibes to go with the lyrics, going from sampled breaks to live instrumentation to the EDM-style arrangements and drops of today. So when Lil Jon decided to use his Nord Lead as his sound source it was ground breaking. But when Psy goes on an EDM / Pop track all of a sudden it’s a joke? Something is not right.

This is a subject that I wrote about during my studies at SOAS (an MMUS in Ethnomusicology) because in Jazz it is a very similar story. It is sad, really.

In the US, there is a binary culture where predominantly Black and White exist and, already at the fringes, Asians and Latinos are silenced, barred or both. Look at Jin for example. Highly skilled, signed by Ruff Ryders in their prime, but not as successful as he should have been. And more recently, Aziatix, a Korean group who were signed by YMCMB. Not many people even know about them outside of Korea and the Koreatowns around the world. Were they signed to keep them in line? So they could be sidetracked before they would blow up too much? I wonder…

Fortunately it is artists like Jay Park and Dok2 who are now at the point where they no longer have to depend on Western media and this binary culture to enjoy successes outside Asia. It is artists like this who propel global Hip-Hop culture forward. Because it is about time to show the world that outside of America, there is no longer a thing as binary culture.

Where does that leave me? I take pride in being one of Europe’s pioneers, being the first Asian artist in Europe to play B’estival, one of the biggest festivals. And I may be a veteran of the Hip-Hop scene, I still have many years of music ahead of me.

Watch this space.

What IS a Seoul Train??

A Seoul Train is a row of beer glasses with another row of Soju shot glasses on top. When the shot glasses are toppled, the last soju glass is dumped in the remaining beer glass. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Seoul Train.

When I first came across this phenomenon, I knew I found my new name.

As a Korean adoptee, one of more than 150.000 ‘exported’ babies, I felt an unexplainably strong bond for a country I never set foot in. When I went through the inevitable identity crisis in my twenties, I started my journey to rediscover my roots. Being a musician, the most logical step was to start with the music. I was in luck; the global K-Wave had just started to take off and groups like Big Bang were releasing their first albums. Soon after I dove into Korean Hip-Hop and R&B and discovered Dok2 and Jay Park when they debuted. But as I delved deeper in the history of ‘my’ country, I discovered so much more: even richer musical traditions like P’ungmul and its younger offspring Samulnori. There was also something else. Korean. Drinking. Culture.

Like most, I would be forgiven to think that the Russians would rank the highest when it comes to alcohol consumption. I was wrong. It is actually the Koreans who consume the most alcohol in the world, at problematic levels even. Their main drink of choice? Soju. Soju is a colorless distilled alcoholic drink. It tastes like a lighter, distant cousin of vodka. And very quickly it became one of my favorite drinks. I first encountered the drink at a Sake (!) bar in New York City and drank it with a chaser, but I actually prefer it the way it is supposed to be drunk: straight, from a shot glass.

In 2010 I was reunited with my Korean family. What followed was a joyful two weeks that went by in a Soju-filled haze. Almost every evening we ate dinner with different members of my family (which turns out to be pretty large) and drinking Soju was a big part of the bonding process. Especially my brother and I shared many bottles of Soju (and the bottle of Hennessy that I bought at the airport).

And that is where we come back to my name, because toppling a shot glass of Soju in a glass of beer creates the Soju bomb, or SoMaek as it is called in Korean. So when I found out that the Koreans in LA dubbed a row of Soju bombs a ‘Seoul Train’, it was a wrap. And because it caught on, I decided to make it my MC name too.

A meaningful name is so important for a brand, but for artists the person is the brand. So to me, this name represents so much: the culture I am rediscovering, the city I am from, my favorite drink and the many memories that come with it and also a cultural phenomenon that is connected to but started outside of Korea. Seoul Train out. 🙂

A few words from Seoul Train about his new track “Yellow Peril”

The corona virus has caused racism and xenophobia aimed at (East) Asians to spike, but make no mistake, I have been dealing with this all my life. Like all of us. Not most of us, all of us.

For years I have been trying to put these micro-aggressions aside but now I am again completely fed up.

Long before the days of the China Exclusion Act, Asians have been associated in the West as dirty, submissive, docile, meek, small, ‘exotic’, spineless and the list goes on and on. This ends here and now.

The thing is: now that we are finally speaking up, all of a sudden people want to act like they are the victims. Like all those remarks were a ‘joke’, or we should not take everything ‘so serious’. Well I have news for them: it was never okay. They just thought they could get away with it. Sometimes maybe they did; that still does not make it okay.

But I remember one fateful day in high school. Some older kids were spraying Swastikas on the wall and hurling the usual racist remarks at me when I happened to walk by. I do not know exactly what they were thinking but here is what I was thinking: “I am not putting up with this any longer. I am going put an end to this once and for all!” So I picked up a metal pipe and threw it at them with all the pent-up frustration and cold rage. It flew straight and true. Fortunately for both of us it missed one of the kids by a hair. Literally.

I want to say that I snapped. I want to say that my eyes became blood shot red and that I was not in my right mind. But I can not; I was fully aware of my actions. I deliberately threw the pipe with the intention to do harm. It was calculated. Simply because at that point, I decided I had to fight back. Nobody was going to help me, I was on my own. And I figured if I was going down, I was going to take at least one of them down with me. After that, I was finally left alone but it was too late. Something had already died in me that day. Of course I regret my actions,

Even today, the way I felt inside that day scares me. It was a warm day, but I was ice cold. And every now and then, a situation arises that takes me back. I always try and tell myself how people are still as ignorant as ever, but wounds like this never get a chance to heal. How can they when they are ripped open time and time again? How did it even get to that point? All I can say is that I never ever wanted to feel that way. All I wanted was to be left in peace, to just live my life and do my thing. That has not changed. Sadly, the world has not changed much either. Because we still find ourselves in a similar spot.

The corona virus is scary for all of us. It does not discriminate. Anybody can get it. But here is the thing: people are so scared, but how many people died outside of China? Of course any life lost is one too many. However, my point is nobody cares about the death toll in China, but once people start dying on their soil all of a sudden people start to panic and lash out at all Asians? At Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese? That is not a spur of the moment thing. That is latent racism, something that was waiting for an excuse to rear its ugly head. Any excuse.

So I am sorry, not sorry. Asia has a long and rich history that has been tainted by invasion from the West. The British in India, Myanmar, Singapore and China, the French in Vietnam and Cambodia, the Americans in Korea (waaaay before the Korean War I might add) and also Vietnam for example. And this is not up for debate. These are facts. And what about bringing diabetes and obesity to Asia? We were doing fine without fast food chains from the West, thank you very much. And radiation diseases and generations of mutant babies from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And cancers caused by Agent Orange in Vietnam? Again, facts. How is that supposed to make us feel?

The most interesting thing about all this is that a number of times they actually do try to tell me how I am supposed to feel. I am supposed to shut up and turn the other cheek. And apparently I am supposed to abide by their little rulebook based on lies, prejudice and stereotypes. Some people try and convince me to take some sketchy opinion pieces for facts and tell me stories about how they are being treated when they go out to the ‘Orient.’ Well, boo-hoo-hoo. Now they catch a tiny glimpse of how life is on the other side. And then all of a sudden it is an outrage and people yell bloody murder. Nah fam. I am not saying we should stoop to their level, but expect no sympathy from me either.

So here it is. This is why, at this moment, I am not snapping. I am not throwing metal pipes. Today, I am channeling all this negativity around me and in the news into something that will hopefully make a difference. Today my words are my weapon, my sword. And with it, I want to eradicate ignorance with knowledge and awareness. Enter “Yellow Peril”, my new single out 1/3/20.