Get To Know “BAD RAP” With Director Salima Koroma And Producer Jaeki Cho [EXCLUSIVE]

Get To Know "BAD RAP" With Director Salima Koroma And Producer Jaeki Cho [EXCLUSIVE]

Get To Know

As Tribeca Film Festival 2016 comes to an end, one of the most highly anticipated films this year is a documentary highlighting the minorities in the world of hip-hop – Asian-Americans.  Director Salima Koroma and Producer Jaeki Cho gathered rappers Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy and Lyricks to help tell their stories and shed light on their talent to raise awareness that there are Asian-American rappers making a name for themselves. “Sharing dynamic live performance footage and revealing interviews, these artists make the most skeptical critics into believers,” Tribeca Film Fest said in a press release. Days before the world premiere of BAD RAP , KpopStarz’s Lai had a chance to talk to Director Salima Koroma and Jaeki Cho on the documentary and the representation of Asian-Americans in the industry.
  Lai: So this one’s going for Salima, since she’s the director. Why did you choose Asian Americans? And why now? Salima: I was actually going to this documentary about K-pop artists and Jaeki and I talked for a very long time. We both love hip-hop. And in terms of just like what hip-hop is and how identity can shift and change the context of hip-hop, I was really interested in that. And Jaeki really explained to me how Asian Americans have been part of this hip-hop history for such a long time, but when you ask people about Asians in hip-hop, they don’t really know anything. And so I thought this was a great topic because it hasn’t really been done.  
  Lai: Jaeki, how did you react when this was actually going through, knowing that you are an Asian-American yourself and you’ve actually worked with Asian-American rappers first-hand?  Jaeki: She just wanted to get in touch, just to kind of pick my brain about the topic. But she didn’t think that I was going through. Like, “Jaeki knows all these rappers? Like, he can call them up?” I don’t think she knew that. That’s when I thought ‘Oh, okay. “BAD RAP” can really happen.’ And now, 2016. Tribeca Film Festival. Tickets almost sold out in less than a day.
  Lai: Take me back to how BAD RAP came about, and how did you guys come up with the name? And what would you consider “bad rap”? Salima:   We had written down names separately and then came and had a meeting and started calling out names. The film, at the very beginning, was gonna be called, “Are We There Yet?” We haven’t told anybody that. Nobody’s ever asked this question. It was called “Are We There Yet?” which is one of the names of Dumbfoundead’s songs And then we were just sorta like, “Eh, okay.” You know. And then, you know, a couple of days later, we were just like, “Dude, Bad Rap is such a great name.”  
  Lai: So Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, and Lyricks, how was it like to work with them?  Salima:  Filming them, shooting them, and and hanging out with them, and going to these places with them and, and you know, it was so amazing. and it was great that they were able to forget that the camera was there. So that was really fun. And I loved – loved working with them. You know – it’s almost bittersweet because I don’t know how I can find another fun documentary to shoot as this one was. It – It’s beyond the best experience of my life. Jaeki: M y relationship with them really started off as a friend –  the young, becoming subject of a film. It was a bit interesting because I have a minor role in the film as well. Some of them who I had thought I’d known well, a lot about them was exposed in the film. So in that sense, I think our relationship has definitely gotten deeper.
  Lai:  What were the highlights of making this documentary?   Salima: Being there is the highlight. You know, being at the show and watching them perform so hard and just how beautiful it looks on camera. And the fact that I was able to just go onstage – it’s something I’d never done before. Jump on stage and shoot them as they’re going crazy and be that person who’s in the middle of all that. That was very thrilling for me as a filmmaker and as somebody who loves hip-hop, and it was so intrigued by the characters. It was just great. Lai: Through this whole experience, what do you think Asian-American rappers or minority hip-hop rappers should do to make themselves known?   Jaeki:  I feel like there isn’t any sort of a gimmick or special marketing technique that is required for any artist to really get recognized, I think.  At the end of the day, as long as you’re nice at your craft, you will be recognized to some degree. As long as you have a great record, you will be recognized. It could be a huge audience, it could be a small audience, but you will be recognized. So I think, it’s a little hard to answer your question because yes, there is a form of difficulty for Asian-Americans or any minority rapper to gain national, or any sort of notice especially coming from America But, I think the focus really has to be on what kind of song or what kind of an album, or what kind of performance, or what kind of content that the artist has to put out. And that’s definitely one of the topics that we discuss on the film. Like, a lot of people have raised opinions or questions like – Hey, is this film about just a group of Asian-American rap artists complaining that they can’t get put on because they’re Asian-Americans?  Nah, that’s really not the case. I mean, the artists in the film are very well, are all – all aware that it’s not. But it’s not them complaining, it’s really them saying, we need to figure out how to get to the next level. Lai: What’s the message you want people to leave with after seeing Bad Rap? Jaeki: I just want people to think that, “Okay, these guys exist.” And these are their stories, and you can’t just paint them with one stroke.They all have different stories, places in their careers, and they are technically, personally, and musically all different. And these types of Asian-Americans exist as well. It’s not just someone that you would stereotypically  castigate on media. Salima:  This movie is about the people and the universal desire to want to be part of something and something that you love and are good at. And for other people to tell you you can’t be part of that is outrageous. It’s heartbreaking. Everybody has that, sort of feeling. Everybody’s had that thing where they felt like they wanted to be part or they wanted to belong to something, and they’re told they can’t be part of that. And so you fight to belong to that area. So I want people to come out of this film rooting for the characters, rooting for that, and relating to that spite. That’s what I want.
  Lai: If you guys were given the chance to show this documentary to a Western hip-hop artist, actually anyone, who would it be and why?   Jaeki:  Well, I would love to have Drake take a look at it. Not only because he’s in it partially, for a very brief moment. He’s also a fan of Dumbfoundead, which he openly admitted. And just because he comes from Toronto, which, from my one-time visit is a very ethnically diverse city. And Drake can sell being a half-Jewish and half-African-American. His crew is a very ethnically diverse crew. I feel like he’s kind of the biggest rap artist of this generation, and I feel like all those factors combined, he could actually watch this film for what it is and watch it, with a side-eye [chuckles] literally, no pun intended, with a side-eye. Like, “what do these Asian kids know about rap?” And so that’s why I feel like he would be a great person to watch the film. And yo, OVO, if they got the check, you know, we’re looking for investors. Salima: You [Jaeki] had my answer – which is Drake. And because I love Drake. But if it’s not Drake, I would say Jay-Z. Because Jay-Z comes from this golden era of hip-hop where hip-hop was very much like New York/California. Hip-hop has changed so much since then, from the who’s participating, what the industry looks like, what the business looks like, and just from when Jay-Z started to now, I would like him to watch this film and be like, “Oh my God.” Things have changed so much. You know?  Jaeki: On top of that, Jay is definitely a businessman. He’s an entrepreneur, and he kind of set the precedent of becoming a rap mogul. –    And him being a hustler, that’s a lot of fiends of hip-hop that you could serve. So, if you’re any savvy businessman right now, and you’re undermining the fact that there’s 1.6 billion people in China that are not getting exposed to hip-hop. You better establish that market ASAP, homie. Follow BAD RAP on social media at @badrapfilm on Instagram and Twitter or visit the website for the trailer and more exclusive info!       Lai Frances  is the night editor and photographer for KpopStarz. She is a music and entertainment multimedia journalist and producer who has worked for Sony Music Entertainment and CBS Radio New York. You can follow her on Twitter @laifrncs for random thoughts on music and pop culture!   

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