“CHOPS” Talks 9-MAN, Hip-Hop Music and Film Scoring
10 Mar, 2015
Dig in Magazine’s Cindy Maram caught up with music producer and film composer Scott “CHOPS” Jung prior to CAAMFest 2015. Being a part of Mountain Brothers, the very first Asian American hip-hop group signed to a major label, he is a pioneer in the hip-hop music scene and industry. “CHOPS” most recent film score was for this year’s CAAMFest film, 9-MAN (A CAAM-funded film), a documentary on the history of the Chinese American sport, directed by Ursula Liang. Read on to learn more about 9-MAN, his hip-hop roots, the major players in the hip-hop world he has collaborated with, such as The Roots and Nicki Minaj, and what “CHOPS” will be doing at CAAMFest’s Directions in Sound this Friday, March 13th.9-Man Dates & Times:
The Great Star
March 13, 2015 6:45 pm
New Parkway Theater
March 22, 2015 7:30 pm
Executive Producer: Ursula Liang, Melanie Riley-Green
Producer: Ursula Liang, Theresa Navarro
Cinematographer: Ursula Liang
Editor: Michelle Chang
Music Composers: Scott “CHOPS” Jung, Adam Rubenstein
Read the interview:
Dig in Magazine: Hi CHOPS, how did you get into hip-hop?
CHOPS: A friend brought a drum machine to school, maybe 8th or 9th grade, and I got to play with it. Hooked instantly. It was a cheap, basic machine but I was fascinated. He let me borrow it, and I didn’t return it for months. I started by copying my favorite beat patterns from different songs, and then making my own. Haven’t stopped since!
Dig: I understand you scored the CAAMFest movie 9-MAN. How did you get involved with Ursula Liang’s film?
CHOPS: Ursula and me have a bunch of mutual friends, I’m surprised we didn’t connect sooner. Our friend Keith Chow was helping spread the word about my recent project Strength In NUMBERS, and I think it reached her through him.
She had asked James Poyser to score 9-Man but he’s super busy performing with the Roots and all these other groups, plus his own studio work. So he suggested me which I’m super glad for, I got a lot out of working on this film. I learned a bunch from Adam Rubenstein who I co-scored 9-Man with, he’s done a ton of film and video work. I’d like to do more with Adam, he’s dope.Dig: What motivated you to want to work on the film?
CHOPS: It’s been a long time since I got to score a full length, and I was mainly just interested in getting that chance. But Ursula let me see a rough cut and I realized there was a whole other motivation, it got me interested in learning more about my own history, Chinese American history… the things my grandparents and parents had to go through for our generation to have the life we do. 9-MAN is about a lot more than just some dudes playing a sport.
Watch the 9-MAN movie trailer below:
Dig: What cultural issues do you believe 9-MAN touches on that provides insight into Asian American history and the community?
CHOPS: One thing that sticks out for me is 9-Man was originally for Chinese American men only, nobody else. The rules have evolved, but there’s still specific exclusions… I’ll let folks watch the movie to learn more. On the face of it, it sounds kind of like a fucked up rule, but Ursula did a great job making it clear that the rule, and the sport itself, grew out of Chinese Americans (specifically the men) being excluded from mainstream American society, but making the best of the situation. Those who carry the torch have this desire to preserve some cultural pride as America becomes more cookie-cutter. 9-Man is very much like hip-hop in that way.Dig: What is your connection to the Roots? And what other prominent hip-hop artists have you worked with?
CHOPS: I’ve worked with folks in and around the Roots, but more than anything I’m a fan. They’re a huge influence on me. I started during a time when everybody in rap was making music based on clips of other peoples’ songs, so they were a big inspiration. I was a little bit of a weirdo for making my own tracks with live instrumentation and not sampling back then, but it pays off creatively. Business-wise too.
I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of people, some of the bigger names being Kanye West, Bun B, Lil Wayne, The Lonely Island, Nicki Minaj, Snoop, E-40, Ice Cube, Talib Kweli, and Raekwon from Wu Tang Clan.
Dig: You were a part of the very first Asian American hip-hop group signed to a major label. What was the driving force behind starting Mountain Brothers?
CHOPS: We just loved hip-hop music. We all went to Penn State and when we weren’t studying (which they were better at) we’d hang out and just listen to records, the radio, go to shows, watch videos, etc… I had a class in electronic music, and there was a little recording studio students could use. We’d go up there at night when there were no classes, and make recordings for fun. Eventually we started performing at different events, and sending our recordings to record labels. As we grew, we got better response at shows and from different labels.
Dig: Do you feel you have a certain responsibility to the Asian American community being one of the first widely known Asian American groups on the hip-hop scene?
CHOPS: For a long time I thought our only responsibility was to not suck. By that I mean when compared to other artists who know and love and excel at the craft of hip-hop, we held our own. We were a hip-hop group that happened to be three Asian American dudes. That by itself made us stand out, and it was enough for me. But it’s been a while since then, a lot more Asian American artists are doing it now, and some of them are kicking ass. That was the reason for the Strength In NUMBERS album, to get the chance to collab with some of my favorite rappers and singers who happen to be Asian American, all in one project. You can hear it here.
Dig: How did you get into scoring films and soundtracks?
CHOPS: My first official film work was for a movie called “Face” by Bertha Pan, starring Treach of Naughty By Nature. Hub from the Roots composed the score, and I rhymed on it. That was a big learning experience for me, getting his advice and guidance. Song placement opportunities in other films came from working on “Face”, working with different artists, and my manager doing a lot of hustling behind the scenes, so things grew over time.
Dig: You are both rapper and producer, what do you prefer and which are you doing more of these days?
CHOPS: I started out as a beatmaker/producer…. With Mountain Brothers I didn’t even rhyme at first. I get the most joy from making the music, putting sounds together, helping a rapper or singer sound their best. Now that I’m getting more chances to do some scoring, that’s a similar thing, helping a scene feel the way it’s supposed to. Scoring has a different set of challenges which is good for me, I like learning. I do get the chance to rhyme on a track now and then, and it’s still fun too!Dig: You’re the emcee for CAAMFest’s Directions in Sound music event this year, what do you think of the line up?
CHOPS: It’s gonna be a fun time, I saw Awkwafina perform here in Philly recently. I was a fan already, but she’s mad funny and has great crowd interaction, her live show is killer. Suboi is the queen of Vietnam hip-hop and she’s making her American debut this Friday at our event. She’s dope, I first heard her on a song with Thai, who’s on Strength In NUMBERS. Vinroc is a dope producer and world champion DJ, he’s from Fifth Platoon, the same crew my group’s DJ (Roli Rho) is from. Kronika is from Soulection they’re a whole collective of artists and DJs known for future bass. DJ Bluz spins future tunes as well and mixes in a little classic hip-hop / r&b. Marky Enriquez (DJ Proof) put it all together, he has really good taste. Personally as a listener I’m looking forward to hearing a ton of great new music!