Sino-American rapper Bohan Phoenix spoke to HipHopDX Asia’s microphone. He has addressed many subjects mainly affecting his career, his life and his cultural identity.
He is a rapper who evolves in a particular register. Because of his Chinese origins and his American life that began at the age of 11, he raps in Mandarin and English. He therefore maintains a fan base in China on the Asian side and on the American continent precisely in the United States. He’s been prone to cultural conflicts deep inside but tries to find the right balance. This research, which has not allowed him for the moment to be exported outside these two communities, has nevertheless enabled him to find a way of life.“Living in America the longest time, you sort of walk that line between black and white – like you’re Asian or anybody else. You have your own narrative, you have your own stories, but you kind of keep that within your community, ”the rapper said from his Los Angeles apartment.
The Covid-19 and its double-edged sword
The coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on Bohan, his perception and his music.
He moved from New York to Los Angeles in California and this is quite understandable when you consider that the pandemic isolated him from the rest of the world due to the fact that he lived in New York, the very epicenter of the pandemic in the country of Uncle Sam. This isolation made him develop another way of seeing things. “You don’t really want to impose it on other people because you’re like, ‘ Oh, you know, this isn’t my place’ or whatever. But now I’m like, shit it all , ”he said to address his change in perception of things.
He’s opened up a bit more and he expresses it better when he says, “ I just thought my identity in this country was insignificant. I was like: it’s me. Why do we have to get into this stuff like, I’m Asian American, I’m Chinese American, people don’t care about me, okay . He allows himself a retro to bring out his old personality a little. ” I wouldn’t allow myself to have that feeling. I was like, “I understand what’s going on, it’s over. I didn’t want to waste my time with it because I felt my time wasn’t worth it. But once I allowed myself to feel hurt, to dwell on myself, to feel and realize that I am not visible, it inspired me with confidence because I realized what I am. and what I have for me, you know, and this is my heritage, my community… ”.
On the musical level, the artist remained a little silent and he wanted it so. “ I didn’t release a lot of music during the pandemic because it was weird, ” he says.
The disadvantages of an artist’s life
Like Doja Cat, Bohan questions his life as an artist. He did things he wouldn’t have wanted to do since he was out of step with his old personality. This was the case, for example, when he released in September 2020, a track called “Unconditional” for EMPIRE Presents: Voices For Change: Vol. 1. He had participated in spite of himself in this project which brought together a collective of artists who wanted to amplify the struggles of their respective communities while defending solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. He sets the scene for this tough but beneficial exercise by saying, “ Sometimes I find it hard to come to terms with the fact that I’m an artist. “. He still looks on the bright side, appreciating the advantage of being a little more open. It is based on the final results. “ What I mean is I really didn’t want to do music on [current events] because I didn’t want to self-promote. You know, even though it’s a song about something going on around me. Even talking about me, like, when I post that, it’s just like, Bohan Phoenix, I love your new song, listen to it ”.
Huge sacrifices to release his album
Since 2018, Bohan has been working on a full album which will be released in 2022. He has made progress in his career for this with JUICE , the hip hop brand of Warner Music China.
He also sacrificed a lot of his time to the point of not being able to see his family mainly in China and his mother living in Boston. He was very busy traveling between cities for shows. He analyzes the entire route and says to himself, “ It’s particularly difficult because I usually see my family at least two to three times a year. And I haven’t really been able to see them since 2019 ”.
The benefits of awareness
Having understood, Bohan is speaking on a track on the title “but I still love you” in May 2021 in collaboration with the non-profit organization Hate Is A Virus. He sets out the realities of hate crimes against the Asian community in the United States. He drew his inspiration in 15 minutes from the brutal attack on Filipino-American Vilma Kari in March and other events as well. “ I had done a few variations of things [on the song]. First they were just angrier, you know? But that wasn’t exactly how I felt. Because there was a lot of anger online ”.
A return to China like a hero
Bohan begins to feel homesick and justifies his need to go back. “ As I get older, I feel more and more at home in China. Maybe I just want to go back and explore it more ” .
He analyzes the Hip-Hop of his country as still having a way and improvements to do. “ It gives me hope that one day, when there are enough good things, people’s taste will rise, ” he says, before adding his vision of a more creative Hip-Hop: “Yes, the Chinese hip-hop market is] restrictive. Of course, you can’t talk about drugs, guns, and violence. Well. To be honest, this culture doesn’t exist in China anyway, why should artists be talking about it? Hip-hop is supposed to be cool, individual, inventive, and all that. It’s meant to be a reflection of your lifestyle. “
Bohan now carries his community and knows that he can make a big contribution to the still young and inexperienced Chinese hip-hop world.