Remember this skilled rapper? Jin Au-Yeung was just 19 years old when this chart topping hit was released and made him a household name. Jin was born in Miami but was most recognized as the first Asian-American rapper to be signed to a major record label. During his outbreak Jin was widely regarded as the next big thing in hip hop and was dubbed the ‘Asian Eminem”.
His debut album “The Rest Is History” peaked at number 12 on the Billboard charts, and the single “Learn Chinese” became one of the most played songs on the radio that year. But after the short stint of success Jin stepped out of the spotlight and left the United States, where he ended up in Hong Kong to become the face of ‘Canto-pop’. Jin made a name for himself in the Asian market releasing several albums over there including an entire Asian rap album.
But 13 years later Jin has returned home to America where he has a new album on the way, an album he said he wished he had released 13 years ago. For Jin’s fans, his rise to fame was almost legendary. A year after moving to New York City with his family in 2001, the 19 year old somehow found his way onto BET’s 106 & Park for the show’s weekly “Freestyle Friday” rap battle competition. There he faced off against reigning champion Hassan, who was well on his way to the show’s Hall of Fame.
Jin’s amazing ability to create rhymes managed him to leave Hassan speechless and also leave him win less. As Hassan threw the towel in with 15 seconds on the clock. A decade later Jin spoke about the battle and about his strategy “I wasn’t 100% sure, but 99.9999% sure, that when I stepped on that stage, he was going to say something about me being Asian,” he said. “There’s this idea that I can kind of soften the blow by acknowledging it first, but it’s all strategy and a risk. If I acknowledge it and he doesn’t say anything about it, then it works against me. People would be like, ‘Man, nobody even cares you’re Chinese. Why are you trying to bring it up?'”.
With Jin’s victory it not only gave him a spot in the Hall Of Fame it also earned him a record contract with the now disbanded Ruff Ryder Records that managed the likes of DMX and Eve. This was what Jin had waited for his entire life, even though his parents greatly disapproved. “I know without a doubt in my mind that their anti-hip hop mentality was just coming from a place of love and concern, they came to this country with a core belief of wanting to work hard so their son could have a better future. In their minds, a better future was not a rap career.” Jin said.
After the success of “Learn Chinese”, Jin and the Ruff Ryders parted ways and the rapper went onto record and produce music independently even going as far as selling his songs on MySpace. With the future now looking dim for the rapper in 2008 he decided to call it quits, “It was out of not only frustration and bitterness, but also out of reality,” he said. “I was approaching my mid-to-late-20s, and I was thinking about my future. I didn’t want to just be this depressed, non-successful rapper for the rest of my life.”
But his move to Hong Kong was what brought birth into his career, he had become a household name in Asia and was offered television and movie roles as well as endorsement deals. He had become a star again in the most unexpected place and even receiving the nickname ‘the Justin Beiber Of Hong Kong’. But whilst in Hong Kong Jin was baptized and decided to follow a religious path that he says changed his life.
In 2012 Jin announced he has headed back to America to raise his new born son Chance with his wife. Now Jin is ready to get back to what he loves, rap music and recently he released his brand new album XIV:LIX which is roman numerals for 14:59, which he says represents the countdown from 15 minutes of fame, something he is to familiar with.
With a new faith, and the same old Jin lyrical talent he embarks on a new journey. A new journey we hope will bring the now 32 year old into the spotlight again. XIV:LIX is available now.
*Image Source: media.npr.org