When you think of Asians in Hip-Hop, the first names that usually come to mind are former 106 & Park battle rap champ Jin or more recently the Jabbawockeez dance troupe who took the nation by storm on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. But a Hip-Hop quartet hailing from Koreatown, Los Angeles by the name of the Far East Movement has all of that about to change.
Consisting of three emcees and one DJ from Korean, Chinese and Filipino backgrounds, Far East Movement also known as FM had a break out year in 2009, when the unsigned group scored a number one record on Los Angeles radio with their single “Girls On The Dance Floor”. The explosive club banger was also featured on the Get Him To The Greek Soundtrack and led to several of FM’s records to be featured on major network television shows such as CSI: Miami and Entourage.
With the group’s major label debut, Free Wired, on Cherrytree/Interscope Records in its final stages of production and first single, “Like A G6”, already getting major burn on West Coast radio, FM set to embark on major outings with Kelis and N.E.R.D to spread the word. Before the group headed to yet another airport, VIBE got the jack with FM’s Kevnish and Prohgress to find out how they went from interns to artists, what it was like touring with Lady Gaga and the best thing about the West Coast.
VIBE: First off, congrats on signing with Cherrytree/Interscope where you guys once interned. What was it like rolling back to office knowing that you didn’t have to get coffee for anyone?
Kev: Thank you, man. I still remember when we used to intern at the Santa Monica office which is like five levels—I was down on the third floor actually working for our current publicist, Greg Miller, pretty much just making copies everyday. So, yea going back now as an actual artist signed to the label is pretty surreal. I’d be there for hours, not getting paid just because I wanted to be there and learn.
Your former boss is now you publicist, when did he actually find out you guys rapped?
Kev: For a while I would just try drop hints whenever I could like if he would ask “Why do you look so tired, Kev? I’d answer back with “I was in the studio recording” or “I was out late at a show” until he started realizing what I was doing outside the office. We’ve never been heavy into trying to shove our music down people’s throats to get a deal…
Proh: Yea, I remember just always asking him things about how to write press releases and how to put together press packets. And eventually he found out what our passion was and what we were really trying to do as artists. He’s really been there for us since the beginning, so when it came time to sign with Cherrytree, it wasn’t even a question of who we wanted to have on our team.
For those who aren’t familiar, can you guys formally introduce the Far East Movement?
Kev: We started as the Far East Movement or FM for short There are four of us in the group 3 emcees and one DJ, myself (Kevnish), Prohgress, J-Spliff and DJ Virman. For us our music has been about our lifestyle—we grew up in downtown Los Angeles and you can hear that in our music. We like to call our music Free Wired, it’s meant for you to geek out to, party all night to. Staying connected to our fans is extremely important for us, too. With our music we just want to make sure everyone is having a good time.
Proh: We’re just fans of all different kinds of music and influenced by so many different genres. Learning the way people react to different sounds really helped our live show grow into something incredible.
You guys have a great team and support system behind you, who did you tell first want to tell about the deal?
Proh: It was definitely my dad, we’ve had out shares of ups and downs growing up. It’s not exactly easy for Asian parents to grasp the idea of their son wanting to be a rapper. It definitely took a long time for my pops to accept that fact that I was going to pursue music no matter what. But he’s the person who I felt like shared all the struggles with me up until this point. Now he’s my biggest fan.
Kev: I definitely called my dad first, too. He’s really been supportive of my career, but we also streamed our whole signing party online for our fans, and all our friends were with us including The Stereotypes really helped us get signed.
Last year, your single “Girls on the Dancefloor” hit number 1 on LA radio and recently landed on the Get Him To the Greek soundtrack. How does all this happen for an unsigned group?
Proh: A lot of it was building relationships and meeting the right people—we had to figure what sound was going to work with us. For DJ Felli Fell to play us on his mix show all across Los Angeles was like a childhood dream come true. When the record took off, all the opportunities started rolling in.
That includes being handpicked by Lady Gaga as the opening act on her Japanese tour…
Proh: Yea man, we were just blessed to be a part of that tour. Just being able to watch her prepare and perform was a learning experience. She’s really is a perfectionist and makes sure everything aspect of her live show is the way she wants it. I mean it came to a point where the crowd got so involved that you forgot you were in Japan. The same fans that can’t speak a one of English were singing along word for word.
Since releasing your first mixtape in ’05, FM’s sound progressed from a more traditional style of rap, to a dance/techno style, what motivated you guys to change up the formula?
Kev: I’d have to say touring really opened our ears up. Our core will always be Hip-Hop, but as we started performing at all these clubs around the world… Amsterdam, Japan, and all through the states, we started dropping our old rhymes over more up-tempo, club beats and the same songs that would get just an okay reaction back in the day were now making the club go nuts. We were spitting the same exact lyrics mind you. And now we basically live on the road.
What do you guys miss most about LA when you’re out on tour?
Proh: Definitely, tacos! (laughs) We were born and raised in LA, so we grew up on Mexcian food. Man, there’s just something about the way they make em’ here. Literally, our mouths start watering whenever we get on the plane back to LA. You got to go King Taco/El Taurino.
What about the women, they say Cali has the best looking girls. What kind of females gets the wildest to your records?
Kev: Honestly I don’t notice a difference in race, they all come with the bounciness (laughs) No colorlines! They’re definitely no color lines—girls just love club music as soon as they hit the dance floor they all get wild. With our record “Girls On The Dancefloor”, I’ve seen every type of girl lose their mind when they hear it.
Well than maybe you guys can answer this for me. Why do all my non-Asian friends always ask me to hook them up with an “Asian chick”?
Proh: To tell you the truth I will not complain about the popularity of Asian women. Everybody loves an Asian girl, I’ll just be proud of that. (laughs)
Kev: It’s all about the moment… I’ve experienced different things. We’ve performed in Latino clubs and had Asian dudes asking us to hook them up with a Spanish girl. We all want something different sometimes. (laughs)