Today, San Francisco MC, J Styles, dropped his third mixtape, Yellow Fever Mixtape 2.0, a cleverly-titled project that gives a nod to the rapper's Asian-American background. The new project deviates from his older works, which he describes as “turnt up,” “fun,” “dance music,”and, instead, takes on a more introspective, reflective approach. “With this one, I want to send a better message,” he says. “It's more personal to me. I put a lot more thought behind it.”
To celebrate the release, we hopped on the phone with Styles and talked about what it's like to be an Asian-American rapper and why rapping in both Chinese and English is so important to him.
[jump] In your song, “Rep Your City,” you're obviously repping your city. So, do you have a lot of pride being from SF?
Yeah, totally. I mean, I grew up in the City. San Francisco is a unique city. I've seen a lot of changes go through. And it doesn't matter where you're from — you can be like Asian or whatever — just do you and represent who you are.
A lot of the times your verses are in Chinese but your choruses are in English. Why do you do that?
English is very universal worldwide, so a lot of Asian rappers they also rap in English as well, so that's one of the reasons why I do it. I'm Asian-American, so I just want to kind of have my music reflect that, especially if I'm doing a Chinese rap song.
Is it easier to rap in Chinese or English?
Oh, for sure English. Because English is like my main language.
When you started rapping were there peple who questioned your motives?
Not really. For the most part, a lot of people were really supportive. I was always an artistic guy. I was always into film and music and whatnot. So when I first started rapping, I wasn't that great, but people were pretty encouraging, telling me, 'Jimmy, you've got some pretty good content and stuff.' So, I just kept on doing it. And now, for me, it's kind of a drug. I listen to music every day. I always have lyrics on my mind. I always try to write stuff in my spare time.
Do you feel like you're breaking stereotypes with your music by being an Asian-American rapper?
Oh, yeah, totally. Most of the time when I go to these shows and competitions, I'm the only Asian guy there. So I'm kind of showing people that you can be Asian and rap. This music is part of me and I feel like if I want to be known as a rapper, I've got to be out there, whether or not I'm the only Asian guy out there or not. For the most part, there are a lot of good Asian rappers out there, but they just don't put themselves out there. So I'm trying to set an example and be like, 'Hey, it doesn't matter what race you're from, you can still rap. As long as you have a passion for it, go for it.'