Planet Asia: Star Wars

Veteran rapper, Planet Asia, burst onto the Hip-Hop scene in ‘90s. Releasing twelve-inch singles such as “Place of Birth” and “Definition of ILL,” the rapper achieved success as a solo artist releasing a solo EP Planet Asia in 1998. Critical acclaim followed when How the West was One was released with Rasco under the name […]

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Veteran rapper, Planet Asia, burst onto the Hip-Hop scene in ‘90s. Releasing twelve-inch singles such as “Place of Birth” and “Definition of ILL,” the rapper achieved success as a solo artist releasing a solo EP Planet Asia in 1998. Critical acclaim followed when How the West was One was released with Rasco under the name Cali Agents. He followed with his first solo effort, The Last Stand. The albums success landed the rapper on Interscope Records where he remained for two years without ever releasing an album. Planet Asia has made a great number of memorable appearances. With Linkin Park on the Re-Animation, his appearance with Mystic on “W,” earned him a Grammy nomination. After years of touring, mixtapes, and grooming his label, Gold Chain Music, Planet Asia returns with a gem in Jewelry Box Sessions: The Album.On the effort, Planet Asia becomes “Medallions,” a moniker that he considers a state of mind. He is reminiscent of the good ol’ days of Hip-Hop, when big gold chains and stadium tours ruled. When quality was more important than quantity. On the new album, Planet Asia, effectively epitomizes the phrase “Do You,” by refusing to conform to one style of rap. Instead, he creates his own style which he terms “street hop.” He finds a middle ground between gangsta and political music, and makes it sound damn good.  “Street Hop” is your term for the happy medium between hardcore rap and what’s considered conscious or backpack rap. How did you reconcile the two?Planet Asia:  I could do that because I am from the streets. There’s a difference between a cat that’s trying to be street, and one who really is. You can still be smart and from the street. Everybody ain’t dumb. I represent the hustler. I didn’t try to be a conscious artist, we’re alive, so we are all conscious anyway. I don’t really try to force the jewels that I drop on my songs; I just sprinkle them in there. I represent regular people. I represent the thinking man, ’cause I got all types of fans.  Do you feel that it’s more outside forces that try to put Hip-Hop into compartments?Planet Asia:  Right, definitely. But, I think we subconsciously fall into that s**t too. We play into it. A lot of times we are getting judged and letting people outside of our community tell us what’s going on with Hip-Hop. It started out as us being poor and needing self-esteem, needing something to do, having something to say.  As it relates to the controversy in Hip-Hop right now, how do you feel about it?Planet Asia:  Kids don’t wanna be hella uptight. A lot of these dudes get of age and then they are like, “Oh, we need to clean up Hip-Hop.” That’s bulls**t, if you are damn near close to 40 of course you gonna say that, but you can’t tell an 18, 19 year old kid to stop saying “n***a.” We ain’t gon stop saying n***a, b***hes, and h**s, because there are still n***as, bi***hes, and h**s. We are still addressing them, when they are gone, we can stop talking to them.  So you think that a lot of the drama that young kids go through that people blame on Hip-Hop are just regular growing pains?Planet Asia:  Hip-Hop kept me out of jail, and it wasn’t no square Hip-Hop. I grew up listening to some gangsta s**t just like everybody else. It was reality. But, it still had the message. Back then, the music had the consequences built in. That’s the difference between then and now. Now they don’t give you the consequence. You get all the glitz and glamour and glorification with no consequences. Like Ice-T when he made “I’m Your Pusher,” it was all good at the beginning but at the end of the video he was laying on the floor with his brains hanging out. That was the consequence. Back then, you were like, “Oh, I don’t want to end up like that.” Hip-Hop taught me that.  Along those same lines, what do you think is missing from Hip-Hop?Planet Asia:  Fun. The fun is missing. Fun and Dancing. [Laughs] Good dancing. Now they are just making up s**t. Remember when you used to go in the club and come out sweaty? That’s what’s missing. Not to say that I’m on some happy-go-lucky s**t, but that’s when Hip-Hop was really fun.  On the flip side, what do you think there is too much of in Hip-Hop?Planet Asia:  There is too much worrying about Soundscan and radio spins. The focus is not on talent anymore. Back in the day, the talent matched the amount of money that an artist earned. Now it’s just about the money. It’s not really about what you are bringing to the game, or what you have to offer.  What about technology?Planet Asia:  Deejaying is missing from Hip-Hop. Real DJs who think they are DJs because they get exclusive freestyles, but real DJs who were music historians. When Hip-Hop was real, there were real DJs in the game. Technology has made DJs somewhat obsolete, and producers have taken their place. That also happened because the prices for samples got too high. So, that took away from the element of crate digging. So original production became a lot more important and deejaying became less so.  What was your motivation in creating this album?Planet Asia:  What inspired me was [that] this was the first time having my own label, Gold Chain Music. That inspired me. I wanted to get it off the ground. So, I put my best into this. This is my favorite album. It didn’t take a long time because all the beats were hardcore. All this is me now, everything that I’m doing is on me.  So, what’s behind the name change? Is it a name change or just an alias?Planet Asia:  Um, it’s both. Medallions, it’s a state of mind I’m in. I’m on that fly s**t. I like fly s**t. I’m probably one of the first underground cats to come in shining. Cats weren’t wearing jewelry on the underground. Everybody was in skater clothes and looking dirty and s**t, [laughs] but after Cali Agents came in with slick haircuts and s**t. Medallions is my frame of mind right now. I grew up in the gold chain era.  You have a lot of cool features on your album. Planet Asia: Yeah, like I said, with my own label, I wanted to showcase my artists, and I wanted to put out the best of the best.  I know you tour overseas a lot. Planet Asia:  I’m overseas more than anything. The thing is they are super into it. They know the words to your songs, but they don’t know English. They can sing your s**t, but they can’t have a conversation with you. I see the States as coming back to real Hip-Hop s**t because it has gotten so oversaturated with wack s**t that when they hear good s**t they are like “Wow!” When you hear really good real Hip-Hop, it’s called different.  Outside of yourself, who is your favorite MC?Planet Asia:  It’s two. If I was to take two rappers and make one rapper, that would be LL and Rakim. LL for the heart and Rakim for the mind.  Wow. What a combination. Okay, so…what’s happening in Fresno right now?Planet Asia:  Fresno has a lot of talent. Fresno is the Staten Island of California. That’s how I look at it. We don’t really get talked about a lot but we got the best lyricist in Cali. We keeping it Hip-Hop out here. You got Diego Redd, you got Fashawn the Phenomenon and he is like a young dude murdering s**t out here now. These dudes really been studying this art. Fresno has a deep Hip-Hop history.  So, what is your prediction on the future of the culture? Planet Asia:  Hip-Hop ain’t gon’ never die, because there is always going to be a thinking kid in the hood with a love for this music and this culture. It could be in the worse part of America, where you wouldn’t think Hip-Hop is at, and it’s there. Because that’s how God works. You get the best where the worse is at. I just came from Germany. All they listen to is Dilla music, if your s**t got that Dilla sound, you’re in. And that’s some hood music, made by n***as who grew up with Black parents. The thing that we love about Hip-Hop is that it comes from things that ain’t so good. Hip-Hop is a mirror; it’s a mirror of what’s going on in society. If you want us to change what we say, you need to change what we see.