by John Norris
That women in hop-hop have generally had a tougher road to travel than their male counterparts is not news. But add to the challenges of forging a career in the most XY-dominated genre of music the added pressure of being Korean-American—not exactly a community known for its embrace of “edge,” particularly among its females—and you’ve got a daunting task.
Shin-B believes she is up to it. In fact, she’s been at it for the better part of a decade; she’s fashioned not only a burgeoning career as an MC in her native Los Angeles, but also a parallel name as a K-pop star in the land of her ancestry, and she’s worked as a counselor and teacher of hip-hop to LA kids. Shin’s just released her latest album, 3 Choices, on iTunes, and it was preceded a few months back by “Get Up and Go,” a single with an especially inventive music video. Next up for Shin: a new single, “Buzzkillin’,” about a guy who talked a good game, and possible projects in development at Fuse and MTV.
ON HER NEW ALBUM 3 CHOICES: The difference is night and day. I’ve been doing this close to ten years now, and my previous records were kind of like the old school, boom back, golden era hip-hop. Whereas now with 3 Choices it’s totally an evolution of my sound. I’m incorporating a lot of different genres, dubstep, electronica, and infusing a lot more songwriting too. I wrote all the choruses and bridges myself, so it’s really showcasing a different Shin-B.
ON A MORE “POP” DIRECTION: For instance, with the single “Get Up and Go” it fuses singing, and a little bit of pop rap. It’s just a sound I’ve been developing for many years, and I feel like I do have that confidence and the ability to really showcase it.
ON HER HIGH-TECH MUSIC VIDEO: “Get Up and Go” came out in the summer, and basically we wanted to do something really different. So it uses the QR barcode system, which we’re seeing more and more of—from the airport, where you don’t even need a ticket anymore, to other places. So basically we said, “how can we do an interesting hip hop/pop video using this?” So, we made a storyline, a mini-movie out of it. And it’s the world’s first interactive music video, so where if you have a bar code scanner, a free app in every smart phone, you just pause and scan the codes throughout the video, and if you happen to land the right one, you are eligible to win prizes. We’ve given away clothing, an iPhone, a Mac, and it’s ongoing. Because the director made it in a way where you can constantly make changes and put in new codes without making a new video.
ON THE SHADY GUY BEHIND HER NEW SINGLE “BUZZKILLIN”’: It’s very comedy-based, but I was dating this guy for a short period and he was bragging on and on that he’s loaded, he’s doing this and that, and he’s just got tons of money coming in, and he can offer me this and that. But ultimately I find out it’s all been a lie, and he really lives at home with his mom, and he doesn’t have a penny. And basically he takes me out on this date in what was probably a rented car, and so it’s all kind of based on that. It’s the ultimate buzzkill song. And the funny thing is, after I had ended all ties with him, I’m going out with my girlfriend, and after I go to pick her up, we’re driving off and I get rear-ended, and it just happens to be that same guy.
ON THE DEMAND FOR WOMEN IN POP AND HIP-HOP TO “LOOK CRAZY”: It’s definitely there, the need to get attention, to have some kind of “shock factor.” But for me the problem is when they really use just that to make it, rather than focusing on their talent. If you’re super-talented and you’re working on honing your craft, but also developing this outlandish image, then I’m all for that. But first focus on the music.
ON BEING A KOREAN-AMERICAN FEMALE IN RAP: I still, to this day, don’t get a hundred per cent support from my parents. My father is an immigrant from Korea, so he is very traditional-minded, very conservative, he goes to church every single Sunday. And he has this idea that is his daughter is in hip-hop, a rapper, he thinks of all the negative things he’s seen in the media, violence, misogyny, drugs. He sees all of that paired with me and he hates hearing from the elders at church or in the community, people asking “Why is you daughter a rapper”? He doesn’t understand that it’s not just what he’s seen in the media. He wonders, “Who is going to want to marry my daughter in the future, and have a rapper as an in-law?” He’s very concerned about all of that. He wanted me to go into teaching. My mom is a principal at a really well known school in Los Angeles, and his father was a principal at a school in Korea. And all my aunts are in education, and my sister is a teacher. And, me, I’m the black sheep.
ON HER CAREER IN KOREA: I like to keep my Korean releases separate. When I go to Korea—and I spent a whole year there in ’06—I release music over there and play shows in all Korean and when I come back here it’s all the American releases and all in English. My Korean material is a lot more sugar-coated pop, more for the tweens, very singsong kind of stuff. I have a new EP coming out there in December, all Korean.
ON THE RECEPTION SHE GETS THERE: Well, they know I am Korean-American, and some people there fascinated by it, and they try to hang out with you and learn English, and they want to know more about American culture. But others, the more traditional Koreans with a native mentality, they think of it almost as like betrayal, and not really “pureblood.” So they’ll kind of treat you as an outcast.
ON HER MUSICAL IDOLS GROWING UP: It was a combination, I looked to the female artists more as something that I eventually wanted to become. But also, I was a tomboy, my close friends were guys, and as far as honing my skills, my lyrics, my flow, all of that, I would look to the male artists. Tupac, Dre, everyone from the ’90s, even Coolio, “Gangsta’s Paradise.” And among women, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, even the female pioneer Roxanne Shante. Seeing how much they had to overcome to fit it and be accepted was very inspirational to me.
SHIN-B’S ALBUM 3 CHOICES IS AVAILABLE NOW ON ITUNES, AND WILL ARRIVE AT OTHER RETAIL OUTLETS ON OCTOBER 31. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, VISIT HER WEBSITE.