Hip Hop History Lesson

DYP tha GoldynchildHistory is almost always told by the side that wins. The stories of the defeated and oppressed are often missing from "classical" texts and it therefore falls to the surviving generations to pass them on. Many of these stories are forever lost in the tides of time. But every so often, generations later, a curious descendent seeks out these forgotten histories and retells them.

Into this tradition enters Dan Park, a.k.a. DYP tha Goldynchild, a twenty-something, East Coast bred and born, Ivy League-educated, Korean-American emcee, who was recently inspired to put on wax the story of the brutal forty-year occupation of Korea by the Japanese. WireTap recently spoke to Dan about his new song "35 Yearz" -- a magnificent attempt to seek redemption for his ancestors.

"35 Yearz"

Sometimes at night/ I stay up and think about
My history, my heritage/ so much to figure out
So many questions/ left unanswered
My homeland/ still being affected by cancers
A century old/ a story rarely told
Goldynchild break tha mold/ as the saga unfolds
For 35 years/ we were victims of oppression
Stripped of our rights, of our lives and our possessions
It's fucked up/ no one even really talks about it
Kids claim Korean pride/ but I'm cynical/ I doubt it
What about our grandparents?/ they lived through it
How soon we all forget/ my generation ignorant
That includes me/ so I quest for wisdom
Share it with my peers as I bless the rhythm
Christians, Buddhists, Confucianists, whatever
This affects all of us/ yo, we're in this together
Now let's take this back/ to 1905
To the day the Japanese Protection Treaty was signed
This gave Japan/ control of our nation
By 1910/ official annexation
Marking the start/ of our darkest hour
The Resident-Governor had absolute power
The first was a wicked man, named Masatake
Who dreamed of Koreans being carbon-copies
Of the Japanese/ he seized our landBleeding hands/ man, woman/ all ages
Raped of their wealth/ forced to work for slave wages
Schools fell victim to this cruel assimilation
In our own nation/ yet we faced discrimination
Kids were made to learn the Japanese language
Korean was forbidden/ All our leaders disbanded
Newspapers shut down/ freedom of speech gone
Raped all our women/ passed the Japanese seed on "Comfort Woman"/
that's what they would call her
These were our beloved mothers, sisters, and daughters
It makes me crazy to think about what they did, yo
Denounced every faith/ and converted it to Shinto
That's the native Japanese religion
They took away our God/ and our power of decision
Filled up the prisons/ with our best politicians
And after all this, they expected us to listen?

Verse Two:
Nine years pass/ now it's 1919
Underground movements springin' up on the scene
Through a decade of struggle/ with great determination
Koreans came together for a peaceful demonstration
To voice their concerns/ to have their say
It would turn out to be one of our bloodiest days
The Japanese responded with naked violence
Beating us down/ we refused to stay silent
Fighting back attacks/ even though it was useless
This became known as The March 1st Movement
15,000 injured/ over 7,000 deaths
Countless lives affected/ 50,000 arrests
Even though we lost the battle/ it galvanized the people
The next 15 years/ we would fight to be equal
Oppression continued/ socio-economically
Pillaging our culture/ no thank-yous or apologies
Sacrificed our people/ for Japanese greed
Humans used as ammunition/ for a cause they never believed
Pearl Harbor and World War II
Through it all please believe our countrymen were used
Years go by/ as the war rages on
August 6th of '45/ Hiroshima is bombed
Japan is defeated/ resources depleted
Korea once united/ is suddenly divided
at the 38th parallel/ a nation is torn
Out of trauma and death/ our country was born
Land of the morning calm...
Named for that day after the bomb...
that freed us...and continues to imprison us to this day...
Forcing us to war with our brothers to the North...
It's all political...
This is dedicated to the people that died on March 1st, 1919 (7500 deaths)
To the people that suffered through 4 decades of oppression (4 decades of oppression)
To the families ripped apart by the 38th parallel (To all the families)
To the mothers and fathers that never saw their children again
Brothers and sisters who became strangers (Tragic)
And to my grandfather...who helped lead the revolution...the original DYP
I'mma make sure my generation never forgets...
what you went through (The legacy lives on)
What they survived...what they fought for...what they represented
The name Korea was given by Japan was Chosen...
Thus, I am the chosen one...the goldynchild...so I'll never forget

Know your history
WT: It’s very rare for emcees to do narrative works, and even more rare for them to tackle a specific historical event retrospectively. What inspired you?

DYP: I had been wanting to do a track about the Japanese occupation of Korea for a while, because I felt that from a cultural standpoint, it was an important story to tell, for better or for worse. But I never found the right beat to inspire me, so I kind of forgot about it for a while, but then when I heard that beat, it all just came together ... My late grandfather, Dong Yup Park [with whom he shares initials], was speaking through me in a way, because of the way the story just came out in one session. So, I would have to say that he was my biggest inspiration ... and also God, of course, for blessing me with the talent to deliver the message.

WT: What are your hopes for this song?

DYP: Honestly, when I was writing "35 Yearz", I wasn’t thinking about all of that ... I just felt that it was something I had to write for myself ... to become more aware of my heritage. But after I finished it, and started discussing the concept with others, I realized that too many people, especially younger Koreans, were unaware of where Korean people have been. So, now, I am just trying to reach as many ears as possible ... and hopefully to inspire other young people to explore their own cultures and just be self-aware.

WT: It’s cliché to say now that hip-hop is global, and whereas the hip-hop scene in Japan is well-documented, other Asian countries are still being "left out of the mix", so to speak, and seemingly invisible as far as the mainstream press and MTV are concerned. How do you feel about this?

DYP: I think the globalization of hip hop has bastardized the culture a little bit, but I understand that’s natural in the progression and growth of a particular type of music ... As far as the press and MTV are concerned, I don’t feel that they represent true hip hop anyways [sic], so I’m not too concerned with what they portray ... But if you’re asking how I feel about Korean "hip-hop" not getting exposure in mainstream America, I think it’s mainly because of the quality and content of the music coming out ... I’ve heard some so-called [continental] Korean hip-hop acts ... and, it’s all manufactured, which is totally contrary to what hip-hop is about ... the way the system is structured there, creativity and artistic control are completely compromised ... the true artists are not allowed to express themselves and the music’s development suffers because of that. Until that changes, I don’t think Korean hip-hop will ever get props.

WT: How do you feel about the lack of an Asian-American presence in the hip-hop mainstream of the United States?

DYP: I don’t stress it too much, because I know that we’re on the rise. Remember, hip-hop was born only 20-30 years ago, so my generation is the first to come up listening to hip-hop. As hip-hop grows, so will its base and internship [sic] ... I’m sure we will see an increasing number of Asians getting into the game within the next ten years or so -- it’s already starting -- Mountain Brothers have been doing their thing for a while now, and they’re laying a lot of the foundation down for what Asians can do in the future ... We’re definitely on the come-up, be prepared!

WT: Do you think that U.S. youth care about "message rap" in 2002? If so, how effective do you think it is as a tool of enlightenment?

DYP: The U.S. youth is pretty much shaped by the media, and what’s force-fed to them ... it’s difficult to get a young person today to care about "message rap" when all they see and hear on television and radio is about excess and materialism. But, things always do go in cycles and once this current phase dies down, I think we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more conscious rap in the mainstream.

WT: What audience are you trying to reach with "35 Yearz"? Do you feel it will be divisive (along ethnic lines)?

DYP: The main audience I was initially targeting was other Korean-Americans. One day, I just realized how little I knew about my motherland’s history and I felt ashamed ... I thought it was odd that something as recent as that [the Japanese occupation of Korea] was already being forgotten among my generation, so I decided to do something about it. My biggest fear was people taking it the wrong way and labeling it as a "hate" song, which any educated listener can clearly see it is not ... I see the whole thing as a tragedy -- there were no winners. Korea suffered, as did Japan ... I think making a song like this and "airing it out" is the first step in mending old wounds.

WT: In addition to your grandfather [a decorated war hero, whom he’s named after], who are your artistic and cultural heroes? How do they influence your work?

DYP: Artistically there are so many influences -- Rakim, Pete Rock & C. L. Smooth, Mountain Brothers, Eminem, Ghostface Killah ... I think I strive hard to maintain my own identity and follow my own course, but there are always those artists that have a lasting effect on you.

WT: In your opinion, what is the place of hip-hop in the fight for global justice?

DYP: Hip-hop is the voice of a significant majority of this generation, and is a viable platform to help shape minds and affect change. The problem is, the media and mainstream don’t accept it as that, and thus it poisons the youth with detrimental images and ideas of what hip-hop is. I think the responsibility then falls on the artist, to not compromise their integrity. and to speak out on issues they feel are important.

WT: How is hip-hop a specific tool of activist youth?

DYP: It’s an effective way to get your message across because you’re speaking to the youth in their own language, on their own terms ... They’re more willing to listen if its packaged in a way they can easily identify with. A lot of people think it’s all about just money and cars and sex, but the truth is there’s so much more to it. Hip-hop could be so much more. It’s unique in a way because while other music genres are more about the feeling and emotion of a song, hip-hop is and always has been about the message of the song. The problem is too many people waste that power rapping about all the wrong things.

Listen to "35 Yearz" and download the MP3.

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