Reporting from Taiwan: An Interview with Hip Hop Artist LEO37

LEO37

rainy days are the best for interviews…and good lighting

Under the moniker LEO37, Leo Shia has firmly established himself in the international hip hop scene, from his hometown in Toronto to Taipei, where he moved three years ago to pursue his passion for music and design. Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and now based in Taipei, Shia wears multiple hats as an artist, from organizing hip hop and live music events to overseeing the label PPF House with his brothers to producing with creative collective the BLAST. In this interview, Shia shares his thoughts on the rising interest towards hip hop in Taiwan and how family is at the heart of his work as an artist.

*This will be the first in a series of interviews conducted by hardboiled staffer Sam Lai during her time in Taipei this summer. A little bit from Sam: I first came across LEO37 on Angry Asian Man when the Fanfare music video was posted. What struck me the most was seeing a Taiwanese face not only rapping, but also rapping in a way that stood out from the hypermasculine Asian American hip hop artists I had seen. At the time, I had no idea that I would end up meeting both Phil Yu the Angry Asian Man and LEO37 in the next three years. PERKS OF BEING ASIAN AND A WRITER WOOT.

So you’ve been in Taiwan for eight years? [edit: Shia has been in the hip hop game for eight years. Sam needs to do better research.]

No no, three years. I did a tour around Asia with my good friends MAGNOLIUS (Toronto-based Hip-Hop group), back in ‘06, and that was the first time I’d been back as an adult: last time I was back I was 11. I was able to experience a lot, since a lot had changed. Back home, for independent Asian rappers, we were doing okay, had day jobs, but you start to see a roof. When I began to see some of my more favored counterparts and colleagues get deals, some major label, but see them struggle, I thought I’d give it a shot out here. I started going back and forth for several years, and three years ago finally made the move [to Taipei].

What’s a regular day for LEO37 look like?

As an independent artist, there’s nothing regular. Nowadays, independent artists, they have hands in everything. They have to multi-task and be a lot more business minded. Pseudo-entrepreneurs if you will. My day-to-day, it depends. I do a lot of graphic design work, promotion: me and my two brothers (Howie and Tim) run PPF in Toronto and I have the Blast (Serpico, Poppa Baer and Oohchild) out here in Taipei. So it’s different depending on the day. Obviously I’d like to be writing a lot more considering that’s my technical job description and I have three different projects in three different countries that need finishing, but unfortunately, I can’t be in the studio every day.

What’s your approach to writing like?

My brother Howie, he did the videos for “FANFARE,” “YOU & THE NITE,” produced for my first two albums, did all the artwork for all my physical and digital releases, and he’s a songwriter as well. He’s worked harder at his craft than anyone I know. He’s the reason I know how to do graphic design and he’s the reason why I approach writing the way I do now. When he started working professionally, he told me there was no time to wait for inspiration, you have to treat it like a job. So when I have time I force myself to write. When inspiration comes, I do write faster, in comparison to when I really have to sit down and force myself to write. But the key is to treat it like a job. You can’t really wait for inspiration anymore when this is your living. You have to be able to work under pressure. I used to carry a notepad everywhere, but now I have my iPhone where I’m constantly writing things down, so when I go to work, I can always refer to these pages and pages of random notes, lines and words to get me started.

This past March you hosted Raekwon and Ghostface Killah [of Wu-Tang Clan], how was that?

Members of Wu-Tang Clan Raekwon (L) and Ghostface Killah (R) perform at the ATT Showbox in Taipei on March 19, 2014.

Members of Wu-Tang Clan Raekwon (L) and Ghostface Killah (R) perform at the ATT Showbox in Taipei on March 19, 2014.
PC: the BLAST

So the company I have out here is the BLAST [started in 2011, based in Taipei], we started it with the idea to go big right away, like “Let’s make a mark on the scene.” We wanted to get Ludacris and thought, How much could he be, he couldn’t be more than 10,000 US [dollars]. We hear back and his fee is like $100,000, including 7 or 8 flights, so okay, we’re nowhere near that. So we started to focus on community and culture-driven projects to really build and contribute to the scene. Eventually we started getting a lot of great offers from artists on legacy runs but none of them ever seemed like the right fit. So when we got word from Ghostface and Raekwon, it was the right offer at the right time so we jumped at it. Contrary to what I had heard from other promoters, they were both real cool. Hell, Rae even taught us some new ways to play pool as he trash talked us at the table. It was surreal.

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The New SAT Stands for Suicide And Trouble

For all the students who have graduated or will have graduated by 2016 – there’s really nothing we can do about the new SAT, which will not be given until 2016, except to remain in utter disbelief. On March 5, College Board announced major changes in SAT, the standardized test that most, if not all, students dread in high school.

The modifications in the SAT format are drastic. The essay section, which many deem as the SAT score killer, will be optional, thus reverting the SAT back to its old 1600-point based scoring system. Arcane vocabularies that seem to be absolutely useless in real life will no longer appear on the reading section, as the vocabularies will concentrate on words that college students are more likely to come across. The math section will only cover proportions, functions, and linear equations, and the penalty for wrong guesses will be eliminated. Although students preparing to take the test starting in 2016 may wholeheartedly embrace these new adjustments, the new policies may be more detrimental, if not suicidal, than beneficial.

For one, the lowered difficult of SAT makes it more meaningless. SATs are based on the Item Discrimination Analysis. Questions with a high discrimination Index are usually the ones that contribute the most to the test’s ability to predict college success. Ironically, they are also the ones to be eliminated in the new SAT. While that means overall SAT scores will experience a reasonable increase (due to obvious reasons), wouldn’t colleges also alter their admission criteria to focus more on, say, schoolwork and extracurricular activities if SAT performance becomes more homogeneous among students? How useful would SAT be in determining a student’s capability of handling college level coursework then?

These questions directly challenge the goals behind the new SAT. David Coleman, the president of College Board, claims that the new SAT would provide more chances for students to enroll in colleges. The noble intention encompasses the vision to promote “social justice” by boosting equal educational opportunities for the “underrepresented minority.” On the one hand, the poor and minority students who would look better on the new SAT score reports than they would on the older version may get into more selective colleges. But does that imply the new SAT can better prepare them for college? I think not. If the goal is to raise the level of education across the board, it is more practical to improve K-12 preparation. Changing the SAT format is not only futile, but also tangential to SAT’s primary goal of interpreting and predicting college academic success.

The reason for such extreme claim is that the redesigned SAT is essentially a different test, not an improved one. All the changes seem to match the policy for the ACT, the other major admissions test.  From eliminating the SAT’s guessing penalty to eradicating aligning test materials closer to high school course work, the new SAT doesn’t enhance the exam’s assessment quality for college admissions at all. High school grades, including AP and IB test scores, may eventually be the better predictors of undergraduate academic performance.

The College Board may believe that it is creating more equal opportunities for students to pursue higher education, but its bold move may backfire after full implementation in 2016. Whether the reconstructed SAT stands for “Suicide And Trouble” is still a variable, albeit a likely one. In the mean time, do well in class and maintain your GPA!

SASC Benefit Concert: Together We _________

Who? The Southeast Asian Student Coalition at UC Berkeley

What? SASC Benefit Concert is a fundraiser and community event for Summer Institute (SI), an annual 5-day cultural and educational mentorship for high school student. The mentorship is completely free for all the students. Benefit Concert will not only raise money for the mentorship through auctions, raffles and donations, but bring the community together and enjoy one another’s presence and culture. There will be different cultural performances to show the diverse cultural community they have.

Where? Multicultural Community Center, UC Berkeley

When? Saturday, April 26, 1:00pm – 4:00pm

 

Please RSVP to attend this concert OR perform: tinyurl.com/benefitconcert2014

For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/821381554542932/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

HSAB’s 6th Annual Pursuit of Higher Education

The Hmong Student Association at Berkeley (HSAB) is a student-initiated service group established in 2008 with the mission to promote higher education and cultural understanding of the Hmong community. To amplify the Hmong voice in higher education, HSAB initiated the Pursuit of Higher Education (PoHE) in 2008. PoHE is a three-day, two-night educational program located at the University of California, Berkeley. This academic school year, PoHE will take place from April 18th until April 20th, 2014. The program caters towards Hmong high school students specifically from the northern and central regions of California. Selected participants will get the opportunity to participate in academic and cultural workshops, develop leadership skills through peer-bonding activities, and learn more about the Hmong history and culture.

This year’s theme for PoHE is “KnoW Potential”. As students who have been through high school and are currently pursuing higher education through the college route, we realize that an important factor to staying motivated, creating goals, and having dreams for yourself is understanding that you have the potential to achieve whatever it is that you want. Many times, we see the lack of determination because many may think that they have nothing to contribute when in reality, everyone has something to contribute. Not knowing you have potential is in some ways the same as believing that you have no potential; and so acknowledging your strengths and abilities allows you to do more with what you can, instead of dwelling on things that you believe you can’t. Success starts with building onto the qualities and abilities that each individual has. Whether this be academically, socially, culturally, or religiously, knowing you have the potential to reach your goals and dreams will always lead you further than believing that you do not have the abilities to achieve what you want. Through this program, we hope to ignite and open up opportunities for students to be able to explore and build upon those qualities in order for them to turn  that “no” into “KnoW”.

If you have any questions in regards to PoHE, please contact: pohe.outreach@gmail.com

*If you would like to volunteer at this program, please fill out this form: tinyurl.com/pohe2014volunteer

*If you would like to help us raise funds for PoHE 2014, please click here

 

Theatre Rice Spring Showcase

TR has a show on April 19th!
Who: Theatre Rice
What: We are having our Spring Showcase, also our final show for the semester, where we will perform Stand up comedy, One Acts, and a scripted piece
Where: 100 GPB, UC Berkeley
When: Saturday, April 19th
For more information,
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theatrerice
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1479975355551851/

Hari Kondabolu: Waiting for 2042

Hari Kondabolu is a Brooklyn-based, Queens-raised comedian. He has done stand-up on Conan , Jimmy Kimmel LiveLive at Gotham and John Oliver’s New York Standup Show. Kondabolu is an alumnus of Townsend Harris High School (GO HAWKS!) and graduated from Bowdoin College with a Bachelors’ Degree in Comparative Politics in 2004. He earned a Masters in Human Rights at the London School of Economics– I guess you can assume he’s a funny AND socially-conscious guy.

Kondabolu recently released a new album, “Waiting for 2042,” earlier in March. The album alludes to the year 2042– the year that whites are predicted to be minorities in the United States. He was recently on David Letterman to promote his album– check it out here.

See more of his work on his YouTube page!

DIS/ORIENT/ED Comedy: This Saturday!

ABOUT DIS/ORIENT/ED COMEDY
In cities throughout the country, Dis/o­rient/ed Comedy creates a unique lineup of nationally-touring talent with local, up-and-coming Asian American and Pacific Islander female comics. While the tour’s focus is on showcasing Asian Pacific female comics, Dis/orient/ed Comedy’s productions often features other diverse and unique perspectives not often seen on mainstream comedy club stages. The sold-out tour has taken the fresh voices of Asian Pacific female comics to colleges and universities such as Pomona College and Loyola Marymount University, and standing-room only shows in Seattle, Washington, San Francisco, California, and the Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, California.

WHEN:

TWO SHOWS: 7PM & 9:30PM
Saturday, April 5th, 2014

FIRST SHOW: 7:00 PM – 8:45PM
SECOND SHOW: 9:30PM – 11:00PM

WHERE:
Oakland Asian Cultural Center*
Oakland Chinatown, California (GOOGLE MAP)

TICKETS:
*$20 Regular Price Tickets (Tickets to Each Show Sold Separately)*
No food or drink min / Pre-show refreshments 30 minutes before each show

Website: http://disorientedcomedy.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/getdisoriented
Facebook: http://facebook.com/disorientedcomedy
Email: info@disorientedcomedy.com

*****THE COMICS*****

7PM SHOW

+ DHAYA LAKSHMINARAYANAN – BRIDGETOWN COMEDY FESTIVAL, COMEDY CENTRAL ASIA
+ IRENE TU – CHICAGO WOMEN’S FUNNY FESTIVAL, LAUGH FACTORY
+ D’LO – HBO’S LOOKING, INTERNATIONALLY TOURING TRANSGENDER PERFORMER
+ ATSUKO OKATSUKA – PRETTY FUNNY WOMEN, DIS/ORIENT/ED COMEDY
+ JENNY YANG – BUZZFEED VIDEO, SHOWTIME’S “WHY WE LAUGH: FUNNY WOMEN”, DIS/ORIENT/ED COMEDY
+ FEATURING SPECIAL GUEST: STEVE LEE – SF SKETCHFEST, SAN JOSE IMPROV, SF PUNCHLINE

9:30PM SHOW
+ SHANTI CHARAN – SF WEEKLY BEST OF 2012
+ PRIYA PRASAD – FIVE FUNNY FEMALES COMEDY, BAY AREA BLACK COMEDY

COMPETITION
+ MOLLY SOKHOM – MOSO COMEDY, SAN JOSE IMPROV
+ D’LO – HBO’S LOOKING, INTERNATIONALLY TOURING PERFORMER
+ ATSUKO OKATSUKA – PRETTY FUNNY WOMEN, DIS/ORIENT/ED COMEDY
+ JENNY YANG – SHOWTIME’S “WHY WE LAUGH: FUNNY WOMEN”, DIS/ORIENT/ED COMEDY