produced by

Three Months in LA

It’s been three months since I left the Bay and have returned to LA. As 2016 nears its end, I've been doing a lot of reflecting. I'm grateful to keep things moving amid all the lows and highs experienced this year. How is 2016 drawing to a close for you? 

A few things and learnings since I've returned to LA:

  • After all these years growing up relying on my family and friends for rides and relying on public transportation in the Bay, I purchased my first car. It’s an investment in my return to LA as I replant myself here. I also love any opportunity to drive for the sake of bumping music.
  • Through this time of massive transition, I'm grateful to be surrounded by family and friends. Don't forget to tell your loved ones how much you love them. People ask me how it's like to temporarily live back home, often with a tinge of sorrow in their voice. Don't feel sorry for me, I say. It's certainly an adjustment after having lived independently and apart from my family for the past 10 years, but I’m saving money and there's nothing like my mom's cooking. Living back home doesn't deserve the stigma it receives especially given other cultural reasons as to why an individual might live back home. Anyway, as Busdriver sings in "Worlds to Run:" "I can run the world from my mama’s house."
  • My dog Kiwi has been a blessing to be around every day. She has taught me to always show love, be present, take the time to pause and soak in the sunlight. These things are easy to take for granted. I want to start organizing some hikes and walks. Dog therapy is real.
  • I’m reconnecting even more deeply with some great people I’ve met over the years but mostly knew through a professional lens when I was working at SoundCloud. Being independent has allowed more room for connection in other ways. Opening up to people can feel scary sometimes, but it also builds bonds of trust. In doing so, I’ve allowed myself to be even more comfortable with who I am and be proud of all my accomplishments up to this point. I've received different signals that have encouraged me to know that the leap I’m making now is the right one for me. Author Bob Goff's tweet is a solid reminder: "Everyone's leap looks different; make yours, not some else's. Comparison is a punk."
  • Good vibes only: If you find those whose company you enjoy, stick with them. I’m grateful for new people I'm continuing to meet too. I've learned something new or interesting that's resonated with me from each new person I've met so far. I'm also meeting more people from the Bay Area than I thought I would, which is exciting because my time up there has shaped me into the person I am today. I do miss my peeps in the Bay (you all know who you are) and look forward to visiting again soon.
  • Daily meditation practice has been transformative. I'm learning a lot about myself and teaching myself the importance of patience and self-love. It’s okay for me to take the time I need in my own pace. It's okay for you to take the time you need in your own pace too because your journey is yours, and my journey is mine. We're all experiencing different things.
  • Writing has been rewarding, challenging, frustrating and therapeutic all at the same time. Ultimately, it feels good to devote my time and energy into my craft. I haven't felt this creative in a while. Being back home has also opened up the memory floodgates. I’ve come across all my old journals, creative stories, newspaper clips and more that serve as reminders that I’ve always been and will be a writer.
  • I’ve been digging into my interviews I’ve conducted over the past few months and published two stories so far on producers D. Sanders and Free P (published this week, see below). It's also fun learning the ropes on audio editing and compiling interview clips. It's a lot of effort to do all this on my own, but it's fulfilling. I have more interviews to sort through, including some from my time in Atlanta, so stay tuned. If you have read or shared my post, or listened to the interview clips, thank you for your support.

Produced By: Free P
Channeling compassion and empathy into beats

I interviewed Free P on his journey so far as a creator. Check out the tracks he’s produced for artists like The Game, Wiz Khalifa, Lorine Chia, Isaiah Rashad, Michael da Vinci, Tut, Two-9 and more. 

From my writer's note I'll be including in my stories moving forward:

I was first introduced to Free P through rapper Rikki Blu whom I first met at SXSW in 2014. Free and I instantly connected about our shared sense of self-awareness and the journey of trusting the process, a major theme that’s come up especially this year and is the inspiration behind my pursuit of stories in music.

Free is also a good friend of D. Sanders whom I first profiled in this series, and they’re part of the same creative community that’s been bubbling up out of Tennessee, home to one of my favorite artists Isaiah Rashad.

In fact, Isaiah was a key motivator for me to write about producers since I’ve been as much a fan of his writing and rapping as his production; the story of his come-up with his producers has been inspiring to learn so you’ll hear from more of them.

I’ll be continuing to profile more artists with roots in the South and beyond from interviews I’ve collected in the past few months so stay tuned.

Thanks for being a subscriber to my letters and reading this. Reach out if you want to say hey.

More soon,

Not Invisible

My heart still hurts that Donald Trump, someone who has vocally promoted racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamophobia, won this country over.

As I watched the election results with my parents, their story of immigrating to the US from Korea to make a life for our family weighed on me. My dad made it to LA in 1979, and my mom followed in 1981. I’ve heard their stories of shame and guilt around discrimination they experienced and the challenges they faced assimilating in the US. 


One of my favorite photos of my parents. I mean, look at 'em.

One of my favorite photos of my parents. I mean, look at 'em.

Identity is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Who the hell am I? I’m a first generation Korean-American. I carry my Korean heritage and culture proudly. At the same time, I was born here in the US and have been blessed to have incredible friends from all walks of life and be part of diverse communities. I have been afforded amazing opportunities and experiences here that have shaped my life differently from my parents’. 

Now more than ever, it's time for those of us in marginalized communities to use our voices to fight back and rise up. We belong here and deserve to be heard. We also need to stand together and support those especially in need. Here's a list of organizations in particular that need support.

I harbored these thoughts in Vancouver a few weeks ago as well when I was invited to speak at the 20th Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF).

It was the first year they had a music panel to address the challenges and wins that Asians have experienced in this field of entertainment. I was there alongside major music producers and talented singer-songwriters, the owner of a music publishing company and a soprano who had been invited to perform in North Korea. I also met William Yu, the creator of the social campaign #StarringJohnCho that went viral. He Photoshopped John Cho’s face in place of white male lead actors' faces on movie posters in an effort to spread awareness of the lack of diverse lead roles in film.

All the participants of the festival come from different backgrounds and experiences, but we all came together in support of the fact that representation matters.

VAFF’s founder Barbara Lee had stumbled upon my reflection on five years dedicated to supporting SoundCloud's creator and artist community. Putting out that post in the first place was nerve-wracking but ultimately I'm grateful that I did. It gave me more confidence to know that my voice, my experience and my contributions in this world matter.

I never expected the kind of supportive responses the reflection post received–I’ve had strangers reach out and tell me I'm brave; I've received emails from young women trying to enter the music industry asking for advice; and I’ve had the honor to be invited to come up to Vancouver to share my experience at VAFF. 

After having my identity steeped in a brand for so long, to be able to speak from my own voice in front of an audience of aspiring creators and fellow peers in the Asian, Asian-American and Asian-Canadian communities gave me even more courage to fully embrace who I am, celebrate my accomplishments openly and share my stories more boldly.

Assimilating to make others feel more comfortable and trying to fit in has been a challenge I’ve dealt with since I was a child. I can trace back to my first memories when someone made me feel like an “other.” I experienced these feelings intensely over the past few years, particularly working at a place where I’d look around and hardly see anyone who looked like me. With any negative sexist, racist experiences I faced over the years, I felt that I froze and hid more than actually confront them. The silence grew into resentment. Over time, I learned to find my strength and courage to confront those who hurt me and say “That’s not okay.” 

I also acknowledge the privileges I have and will speak up even more in solidarity for those who are hurting and oppressed. Black Lives Matter, Muslim Lives Matter, Indigenous Lives Matter, Immigrant Lives Matter, LGBTQ Lives Matter. We are not invisible.

It's our time to shine and speak up for our communities, because you never know who you’ll empower if you share your voice for others to mobilize and feel like “Hey, I can do that too.”

Let’s continue to share our stories and create art to protect and provide inclusive spaces for our marginalized communities.

Produced By: D. Sanders

On a separate but related note on the topic of finding my voice, I’m excited to be working on a couple things, one of which is a series called Produced By.

It’s a simple name and an important, friendly reminder for artists to acknowledge and list who your producer is in your titles or credits. It’s not something that happens enough.

The aim of Produced By is to share the stories of hip hop producers and spark gratitude and inspiration among creators. There are a lot of great existing features on producers on a variety of music blogs and publications.

I’d like to do my part in contributing and sharing in my own way. The artist’s narrative is important and practicing gratitude is something that means a lot to me. My hope is that this resonates with other people too. 

Yesterday I published a feature on Jackson, TN-raised and LA-based producer, engineer and DJ D. Sanders who has produced for artists Isaiah Rashad, Tut, Michael da Vinci, Ye Ali and more

D. Sanders whose real name is Desmond Sanders and often goes by "Des" is easily one of my favorite producers and has produced some of my favorite Isaiah Rashad tracks. He’s talented, smart and hard-working, so look forward to more heat from him. 

For now I’ve posted Des's story on Medium.  If you enjoyed it, please share it or give it a recommendation if you're on Medium.

I've also edited and compiled a set of interview clips on a range of topics Des spoke about, like the process of working on Isaiah Rashad's latest album The Sun's Tirade, his thoughts on whether producers receive enough visibility, what he's grateful for and more.

Shout out to Jayme Catsouphes who gave me some pointers on audio editing and storytelling. We worked together on a couple of audio projects when we both used to work at SoundCloud, like this one three years ago.  

Anyway, I'd love to know what you think, and I’m open to any feedback. Thank you for all your support.

Much love and hugs,