Fuse is celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Asian and Pacific History before our eyes. Today we're spotlighting Dumbfoundead, the unconventional Korean American rapper who's unafraid to force conversation about Asian American identity.
Born Jonathan Park, the Los Angeles native grew up in the city's Koreatown neighborhood, where an early exposure to hip-hop via random boom boxes quickly blossomed into a passion for freestyling. Honing his skills week after week at South Central's legendary Project Blowed, Park later frequented the West Coast battle circuit that soon led to a prominent web fan base. He dropped his first studio album in November 2011, followed by back-to-back full-length LPs before an extended break. His 2016 album, We Might Die, featured the career-defining single "Safe" that not only established Park as a rising voice for Asian Americans, but also showed the rapper's own growth in addressing self-identity.
Inspired by Chris Rock's 2016 Oscars blunder, "Safe" calls out Hollywood's time-honored tradition of not only excluding Asians from leading roles, but also supporting the very narratives that perpetuate the detrimental "model minority" stereotype. Superimposing his own face on famous film characters' bodies, the music video shows Dumbfoundead flipping the script on Hollywood and sending a powerful message to America: Asian Americans are neither your model minority nor your go-to punching bag. On the single's standout verse, he raps:
"I ain't never heard of none y’all fools / I can do what every one of y’all do / If I never get a chance, you might see the homie show up on the 5 o’ clock news / You ain't never seen a yellow boy wildin', yellow boy shinin’ / Sound the alarm, I got news / Go ahead and profile 'em, I ain't pro-violence / Shhh, silence is how yellow boys move / It's been the same ol’ thang, I swear the game don’t change / What you talkin' about, there ain't no space / Guess I gotta go and make more space"
The 31-year-old gained widespread attention for his unabashed commentary, resonating with a long marginalized group that rarely witnessed one of its own speak out so strongly. In an interview with The Fader last year, Dumbfoundead further explained his motivation for the single:
"I realized that it was a powerful tool for me to talk about certain things and stories that weren’t being told...As an Asian American in this country, a lot of times we become the punching bag of America. It’s always easy for all types of ethnicities to poke fun at Asian Americans because they feel like we don’t speak up for ourselves, or there’s no consequences...And I wanted to come at it very aggressively. I wanted to change the perception of what it is to be Asian in America."
Fresh off the release of his Foreigner EP, Dumbfoundead continues to stir conversation with singles like "Mijangwon" and "Hyung," his latest. Featuring Seoul-based heavy hitters Tiger JK, Simon Dominic and Dok2, "Hyung" serves as Dumbfoundead's debut Korean single, as well as a testament to his ability to bridge Eastern and Western hip-hop. It's "safe" to say (pun intended?) that this international MC is anything but predictable.
Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv everyday for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future Asian and Pacific History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.