Planet Asia [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – In some ways Planet Asia embodies a modern Faust: he’s clearly a seeker of knowledge but has the edge of experience to give depth to his search. He’s been rapping for decades, and while he retains a child-like devotion to his craft he comes hard in his music: lyrically aggressive and unabashedly righteous. The Fresno boy is a strong advocate for the things that form his identity: his town, his crew and his spiritual persuasions. He sees the world in terms of good and evil – a practically defunct paradigm in this day and age – and applies this filter to his music. He’s been around for a minute and has a deep understanding of hip-hop’s ethos, having watched it grow from the ground up in his childhood.
Planet Asia’s rise to notoriety has been fortified by a long line of mixtapes and albums, having collaborated with some of the greatest DJs and MCs the world over: his role in the musically infallible Soul Assassins along with rap superstars like The Rza, The Gza and M1 has long since cemented his place in the game. Disappointing experiences with labels like Interscope led to his own Gold Chain Music, giving autonomy to an independent mind. Asia puts the music first and everything else seems to follow: his lyrics indicate this success, that he “went from being broke to havin’ thangs.” Fresh off the Pain Language mixtape with DJ Muggs, Planet Asia graced HipHopCanada with some pleasant conversation and profound insights.
HipHopCanada: I’d like to talk about how you got started.
Planet Asia: 1985. That era, the Def Jam era. You know? Run DMC, L.L., Whodini, I was actually a little kid getting to see all this shit at once. Not one time but numerous times, so that affected my life heavily. I didn’t plan on being an MC, it’s some shit that just happened. It was a part of my culture like shooting marbles or playing tag, it was a natural progression. Imagine if you could get paid for playing tag . . . that’s what hip-hop is. You get to be a kid and get paid for it because it comes from a childhood passion. If you’re twenty, thirty years old and you’re just starting to rhyme, that’s kind of corny. You’ve got to come from the Bow Wow age, that’s the age I’m from.
HipHopCanada: Are you still in touch with that passion for hip-hop?
Planet Asia: That’s the only way I could do this shit, know what I mean? That’s why I’m still youthful and the kids love me.
HipHopCanada: Can you talk a little about working with DJ Muggs on your Pain Language mixtape?
Planet Asia: DJ Muggs, that’s my homeboy right there and when we get it in we go hard. There’s no beats sent over the Internet, no beat CDs, everything was created in the studio. And it was all raw dog, we did that shit like it was ’94, no labels over us, we didn’t get the deal until after we finished the project. And that’s how music is supposed to be made, not for record labels. You make the music then you find the label.
HipHopCanada: You’ve been around for a while and have had some struggles with labels along the way: you left Interscope . . .
Planet Asia: Yeah, not getting dropped cause I’m like, fuck it, I’ll dump you before you dump me. My own label Gold Chain Military is the camp, that’s the Poisonous Ring, checking for that this year. There’s 6 of us: Sav Killz, Killer Ben, Killa Kali, Turbin, Tristate, and me, Planet Asia. Checkin’ for that: the Chain of Command album coming soon, Post War mixtape out, Poisonous Ring. If there’s any rapping going on after we come out, it better be good, that’s all I got to say. All this frivolous MCing going on, we take that shit serious. I’m being nice to people right now but in a minute, we’ll be walking on stages grabbing mics out of hands.
HipHopCanada: Is your music getting progressively harder?
Planet Asia: I feel like I’m getting progressively more classic, more legendary because it ain’t about nothing else but the music. It’s not about how many videos you have or what label you’re on. That shit doesn’t matter: it didn’t matter to Smokey Robinson or Miles Davis, you think Miles Davis gave a fuck about the record label? He was like, “Yo, just give me the fucking check and let me get the fuck out of here, I don’t even like y’all niggas, y’all don’t even like black people anyway” at that time, so that’s how I look at it, this is about changing the course of shit. When Dr. Dre comes out with his albums, see that’s the flipside of it. He has a lot of money and has time to get back to his roots, so when he comes out with records it’s always changing the game because it’s not about money or how many videos you got. You don’t see Dr. Dre doing blogs or all over the Internet. But when he comes, he comes. I see a lot of groups out there who have a unique look but the music doesn’t match – it’s more unique look than it is good music. At least I can say when De La Soul and Tribe came out their look was unique but their music was the shit! X-Clan had a unique look but their music was dope, it was funky. A gangsta could feel it, a conscious person could feel it, it was undeniable. These other dudes are not making undeniable music, it’s a bunch of average shit.
HipHopCanada: You started talking about race in relation to Miles Davis: traditionally labels have been white and, especially in jazz, the artists African American. Is that changing in hip-hop?
Planet Asia: To keep it real, there’s a lot of white cats that actually saved hip-hop. KRS-One said it back in the day that our future president will be a hip-hop fan. I don’t think this generation is programmed to think like the last generation because hip-hop has desensitized all that shit. I remember the first time I seen Beastie Boys on stage in the 80s and they was getting booed but by the middle of the show they was rocking the show. I seen a change from Public Enemy doing a joint with Anthrax to Run DMC and Aerosmith: all that was monumental shit right there. Those things changed the ties and it got bumped. I’ll keep it real with you: if it wasn’t for hip-hop I probably wouldn’t communicate with that many other races, due to the circumstances of the community that I come from. It was the music that got me travelling around, I’m probably one of the first persons in my families to even touch as many places on the world that I’ve been. The first. Nobody in my family can say they’ve been to Japan, and Europe and Australia and Brazil and Austria and Czech Republic and shit like that. Music is a key figure of what’s going in the world, it’s the axis of the Earth down here. Without music we’d be walking around like savages. Without music, that’s like without women. Imagine if the world had no women? We’d just be running around with beards, stinking, we wouldn’t care, we’d be grumpy and fucked up.
HipHopCanada: What are your feelings about the state of the world today?
Planet Asia: It’s going to get worse on some other shit in a minute because you know, when the world get crummy, motherfuckers start coming out. And it’s going to be a shift of shit going on. Either you a devil, or you a god. Period. I’m sad to say it but I don’t think the old generation of Europeans really want to go that route. I think this next generation know what their forefathers did and what the nature of that was, and that’s all power struggle shit. People around the world are starving because of a certain amount of people that want to be assholes. That’s the bottom line, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the world right. That’s just confusion and shit that the devil puts out there, some shit that’s under the ground. The mythological devil didn’t drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a real living devil created that shit. You feel what I’m saying? So it’s coming to that: you’re either a devil, or you rolling with god and god’s people.
HipHopCanada: Are you from a religious background?
Planet Asia: I just study everything, but at the end of the day you can study everything in the world and it comes down to “are you right?” Are you right in your heart, are you a right person or are you going around spreading mischief and shit? You judge a tree by the fruit that it bears.
HipHopCanada: So tonight you’re performing tonight at Vanquish, a beat battle –
Planet Asia: I love beat battles cause you get to hear the raw dog producers with the hot shit, they be hungry and shit, they’re not all lackadaisical cause they got paid fifty thousand a track. These dudes is hungry so we’re going to see what they got going.
HipHopCanada: So what’s your connection to Vancouver?
Planet Asia: Oh, me and Vancouver go way back. My first time coming here I can’t even remember. All I know is I’ve had a lot of parties, lot of partying, lot of partying, and my favorite time in Vancouver is the summer time. Oh my gosh, there’s nothing like Vancouver in the summertime.
HipHopCanada: Going to be back on some sunny days or what?
Planet Asia: For sure I will be here. Being here is making me remember why I miss the place, it’s so clean and the air is good.
HipHopCanada: What have you noticed about the Vancouver hip-hop scene?
Planet Asia: I feel like it might be a little scattered but I don’t know, it’s the same . . . maybe because it’s on the west side of things, the West Coast of Canada so it’s got a little bit of west politics too. And not only that, you got the underworld here too. You got different aspects of Vancouver. To bring a scene together it takes grassroots movements and motherfuckers that do it for the fun and not for the fame. A lot of times, even if you think somebody’s doing some real shit, they’re not really doing it to be real, they’re doing it for you to think they’re on some real shit. A person that’s on some real shit will do it regardless, no matter what, if they was homeless they’d be doing that shit. It’s going to take people with passion for the music first, nothing else but the music.
HipHopCanada: What have you seen the Internet do to change how hip-hop is being made and being received?
Planet Asia: My perception of the Internet is that it’s weaving out all the bullshit, cause you got people that’s playing themselves and cause he’s showing himself you can see that he’s corny. You got so much dumb shit going on but at the same time you got cats like myself that can put shit out immediately and you be like, “oh wow,” so now it’s quantity versus quality: if you have quality with quantity, you’re great, but if you have bullshit and quantity you going to kill yourself, and there’s a lot of bullshit quantity and I have no pity for it. For me the Internet is great.
HipHopCanada: What’s your Internet presence like?
Planet Asia: I haven’t even started yet, trust me. I’m not playing myself, you’ve got to play everything right, got to be strategic about that, cause like I said, the Internet is a quick way you can play yourself out. You got dudes putting their personal life out there and that ain’t how I get down. I don’t want you to know all that about me, I didn’t know all that about Big Daddy Kane or EPMD, we didn’t know what the hell was going on in their house, you had to think about that type of shit. If you leave nothing to think about, then you not even a superstar no more. Cause a superstar is somebody who’s not average. You can’t be showing average shit.
HipHopCanada: Well thanks man! Really nice talking to you.
Planet Asia: Peace!
Editor’s note: For more Planet Asia check out http://www.myspace.com/planetasia.
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada