Are you wanting to discover new music? Meet Yen Won, a Korean rapper and musical genius who is absolutely killing the rap game right now. For the past few years, Yen Won has been releasing sick beats including original tracks such as, “Loud Pack,” “Scarface,” “Water Over Blood,” “Bruce Lee Flow,” and “Vanish”. Today, on April 20, 2020, he has finally set the release for his FIRST album, Roof Koreans.
Just recently, Veracious Magazine had the honor to have a chat with him about his musical influences, releasing his first record, collaborating with other artists, and his ultimate dream as a musician.
For our followers who aren’t aware of you yet, could you tell us more about yourself?
This is my first proper interview, so I’m gonna give the full introduction: My name’s Yen Won, I’m a Korean-American rapper from the East Bay Area. I grew up mainly in Milpitas/Fremont, but spent a lot of time hanging around different parts of the Bay as I got older. As for influences, I used to be big on Punk/Metal before I got into the underground rap scene and started listening to $uicideboy$, Denzel Curry, Pouya, and Night Lovell. From there, I got into the Houston and New York rap scene and started listening to artists like Three 6 Mafia, DJ Screw, Maxo Kream, Flatbush Zombies, and A$AP Mob. I’m still heavy on that these days, but I love experimental artists like JPEGMAFIA. When I was kid though, my older cousin would show me 90’s West Coast classics so I’ll always have a place in my heart for that, but I listen to a wide spread of music.
In my life, I always wanted to make music/music videos, but didn’t really have an idea of what genre I wanted to make until I got to college. About the same time I started my Freshman year, Rich Chigga dropped his first couple tracks and went viral. After seeing that, I decided if he could rap and pop off, why shouldn’t I try? I recorded my first track, had a friend help me edit it, and decided to make a music video for it. After I released it, people started telling me I actually had potential and I decided to keep at it. The rest is history.
You’re dropping your first album, “Roof Koreans” today on April 20, can you tell our followers more about your biggest release?
This album’s been a 3 year long journey for me. I wanna say I’ve written at least 40+ songs over the course of working on this project, recorded a good amount, but ultimately ended up trashing a lot of those tracks as I learned more and improved my skills. The tracklist for “Roof Koreans” has changed more times than I can count before I finally had the resources/ team around me to make things the level of quality I wanted to create for my first project. Out of everything I’ve recorded/written over my career, I selected 11 tracks that I felt showcased the different styles/sides of my music and personality for the final release. I wanna give a big shoutout to my co-artist Kai 9 who I collaborated with on some of the best tracks on the Album. I also wanna give thanks to my team in 52fifty Productions and DannyPhxntxm. Couldn’t have made this album without my producers.
As you’re also a student, how do you balance out your academics and musical career?
I spend a lot of my free time writing/practicing songs so that when I manage to snag a free weekend to head back to the bay from school I just spend a whole day at my boy See Sharp’s studio and record as much material as I can so I can have a backlog of tracks while I work on the more serious projects.
Can you explain to us a typical day in the studio for you?
Whenever my producers have free time they’ll hit me up and see if I wanna work on anything and I’ll usually head out midday. First hour is kinda setting up, running over what we wanna do, and getting all the beats we need ready. Once that’s done, we run through each song and get a couple takes and do some rough editing for each one to get an idea for the sound. I usually try and bang out about 4-5 proper tracks in a day at the studio, and after that we usually just work on mastering/ meeting up again to do retakes in case something sounds off or we could do better.
From the songs you have released already, you seem to collaborate with a handful of people. Do you prefer collaborations or solo tracks? Why or why not?
I’m kinda 50/50 on each. Collabs and solo work both got their pros and cons. For me solo work is nice because there’s no one you need to get a recording over to or lyrics so you can take your time and you have a lot more space to write on a beat. On the other hand, collabs are great because you can experiment a lot more and you get ideas you wouldn’t have run into on your own. For me, it’s definitely a nice break from solo tracks because my part is shorter and I can focus more on making that one verse as fire as I can.
What made you decide to release an album rather than an EP?
I chose an album because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to fully show what I got on an EP. I wanted to make my first major release to serve as like my resume. I wanted people to be able to listen to “ROOF KOREANS” and see a proper sample of the different sounds/genres I have in my music.
What makes you stand out from other artists in the music industry?
I wanna say that my inspirations are a really mixed bag and that allows me to set myself apart a bit in the scene. I try to make my flows/sound a mix of the old and new and I like to blend different regional styles/ genres. These days Asian rappers are becoming more of a thing, but I haven’t seen many that go for the underground/trap rap style like I do. I’m tryna make my own wave.
As we are currently dealing with a pandemic, is this affecting you in any way? If so, how are you dealing with it?
I been losing my shit being stuck inside like this I ain’t even gonna lie, can’t go to work either. I been tryna redirect that energy into writing/making more content, since all I got is free time on my hands. I’ve been going out now and then though to kick it with the fam and my girl so it hasn’t been all bad. My sleep schedule is high key off though cause I’ve been sleeping at whack hours so I’m nocturnal at this point. I’ve been alright, but everything that’s been happening definitely has me feeling some type of way.
How do you come up with your visuals on your Instagram, YouTube thumbnail, and cover work on your singles? Do you create them yourself or do you have a visual creator?
I do most of my own photo editing/video editing myself on Photoshop/Premiere Pro since I’ve been editing for a minute now. Recently I’ve been working with @visual_terrorism on IG on some collaborative edits on album covers.
Lastly, what would you like to accomplish musically?
I wanna leave my mark on this decade. My goal is to build up a collective of artists in the Bay Area and eventually form a label, but I wanna get to a point where I can create opportunities for people. I want everyone who’s supported me along the way to be able to come up with me. That’s the dream.
While this is just the beginning for Yen Won, he won’t be stopping until he achieves his goals. Wherever you are, make sure to stream Yen Won on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, Soundcloud and support him on social media. If you also live in the Bay Area, make sure to stop by his local shows!