Rapper hopes to make a difference through his music on SoundCloud

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Rapper hopes to make a difference through his music on SoundCloud

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“Return of the Jedi,

I’m the force to be reckoned with,

The source of the syndicate is more than delirious,

The thought does it benefit,

My story be an intricate plot,

All I got is my intellect,

Innocent rot,

About to pop like a Mentos mint,

A mentalist mind when I spit,

That’s the end of it,

Intimate bond with the beat,

I’m a lyricist.”

These are part of the lyrics to “No Messages,” a track by Zin Tun, an El Camino student who started his SoundCloud channel recently under the name ViiZion. Zin only has 459 followers on his channel but he has managed to gain listens on his tracks. “No Messages” has nearly 1,600 listens in the course of two months since its release.

Zin started rapping with his producer Brandon Cruz, who produces the beats, about a year and half ago. They have been recording in Brandon’s bedroom closet and perfecting the beats and rap lyrics.

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“It doesn’t sound like we record in a closet,” Zin says. “It is because (Brandon) is very good at what he does.

Zin says that the happiest moment of his life is when he reached 1,000 plays on SoundCloud. He now has three tracks total uploaded onto his ViiZion channel, one of which is titled “Straight to the Dome,” which is about peer pressure.

As of now Brandon and Zin are working on expanding their networking through social media. They have recently created an Instagram account which is in progress.

Malik Diamond, a director of Hip-Hop for Change, an organization created for artists who speak their mind politically and socially in the Bay area, says that many young people want to make it in the hip-hop industry but they don’t do their research.

“It’s a fantasy for a lot of people, you have to think about your audience and what you are trying to translate. Also, whose attention are you trying to get?,” Diamond says.

Diamond, who also raps, says that one of his songs on SoundCloud channel gained 900 listens in the course of four years. He says it’s very difficult for an upcoming artist to gain that many listens unless their circle of friends is that large.

Zin and Brandon met at North High School in their senior year during the fall semester. Zin found Brandon with an “Illmatic” record and approached him and the two made a meaningful connection that changed their lives.

Zin, 19, music major at EC immigrated into the United States at the age of six. He recalls little details of his life in Myanmar, a country also known as Burma in Southeast Asia that borders Thailand.

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When Zin is interacting with those he feels comfortable with, a confident, cheery personality pops up. He says he doesn’t like to smile a lot, but there are moments that allow him to be at his happiest.

His life however was not always as pleasant as it is now.

Living in a one-bedroom apartment in Inglewood were Zin, his parents, and two brothers who are now 14 and 17 years of age. Zin says that the five members of his family shared the same room as he was growing up.

While living in Inglewood, Zin’s father was working at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) as a general shift manager.

Before getting to where he is at now Zin had to endure through years of bullying throughout elementary and middle school. He got bullied because he was a “geek.” He was obsessed with comic books and he would spend his time in the library just reading about the universe, history and science.

Even though he has tanned skin and doesn’t appear to Asian, Zin was bullied when he lived in Inglewood mostly because of his ethnicity. He says that most of the kids he attended school with were African-Americans and of Latino descent. He was one of the few Asians at his school.

In the summer before high school Zin met a girl who changed his perspective on love but she broke his heart.

He thought he was in love with her but didn’t know how to react to the situation.

When she broke up with him he started writing poetry which eventually turned into rap. Zin says he had a dream with one of his rap idols named Nas. In his dream Nas appeared to him telling him he should write.

“Just write. Just write,” that’s all Zin remembers hearing from Nas.

Although Zin loves music he also enjoys acting and hopes to make a career as an actor someday. He also says he loves to make people laugh. Music is not his only passion.

Before being interested in hip-hop Zin was into rock and punk music. It wasn’t until seventh grade when he started liking hip-hop because of his friend Tosh. He says he remembers listening a song by Eminem and it got him hooked into that style of music.

Before Brandon met Zin, he already had started establishing his mark. He started being a DJ somewhere between the ages of 12 – 13. From the 7th grade until about his sophomore year in high school, Brandon would do mostly gigs at house parties.

Brandon says he stopped doing gigs because he wanted to focus solely on producing beats and sampling from other artists; something he learned from watching YouTube videos.

It wasn’t until his freshman year in high school when he started listening to hip-hop and immersing himself in that world. Some of Zin’s inspirations are: Nas, Andre 3000, J-Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and other artists which are both new and old school rappers.

“I never thought I was going to be a rapper, I was just a fan like everyone else,” Zin says.

Zin says he would like to perform at the Madison Square Garden one day and at the House of Blues although he says that he knows there is still a long way to go for him to accomplish those dreams.

During his senior year of high school Zin says he didn’t know if he was going to graduate due to failing the majority of his classes. He started focusing too much on his music and that deviated his attention from his studies. Zin had to go to adult school prior to graduation and turned in assignments days before his commencement.

“I still don’t know if that was the stupidest decision or the smartest one I ever made,” Zin says. “In life, if you really want something you have to sacrifice something. You can’t get everything you want.”

Zin says he is an extrovert although his style of clothing is basic. His boisterous personality is not something that is apparent through his clothing. He is not your typical “sagging pants and large t-shirts” kind of guy. Zin wears a thermal long sleeve shirt, an army patterned bandana, and dark blue jeans as he heads to the recording studio to meet with his mentor and producer Brandon Cruz, 19.

Zin walks through a garage into a two story townhouse in Torrance and up the stairs into a rather small bedroom with a bed, a desk with a laptop, and a closet which holds only the instruments needed to record.

The townhouse is tucked between others just like it. From the outside view it is not obvious what goes on in that bedroom. The closet in the bedroom is used as a recording studio. In there, there is a microphone, an amplifier and a few Christmas lights.

“What makes Zin different is the fact that he is dedicated and is willing to keep learning,” Brandon says.

Brandon sometimes wants to take a break from recording but Zin pushes him to keep recording. Brandon is a self-taught producer who got into DJ-ing and producing beats because of the game DJ hero.

“Got adrenaline rushing through,

Like a motor oil running on the last tank,

I’m stunting,

A bad plan is coming.

A mad man,

A killer,

A backhand,

The finger,

I’m in the back Villa to start evicting you bitches.”

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This ia also part of his “No Messages” track which is a song that is not supposed to have any messages while at the same time having them embedded throughout.

“My goal right now is to be locally known…from there I want to spread out from city to city and then counties and so forth,” Zin says. ” I feel like there should be steps (to grow in this industry).”

Both Zin and Brandon said that their style of music is a blend between boom bap, a specific style of hip-hop that stands out because of the hard bass drum and snapping snare that is often mixed into the forefront of the beat, and old school hip-hop with slight electronic mixed in.

Zin says that if they could label their style of music they would call it “boom track.”

Brandon has been teaching how to sharpen his rapping skills and how to broaden up his horizons. He would make Zin listen to different types of music ranging from Jazz to records from music from the 50’s and 60’s.

Zin told Brandon that he made beats and Brandon told him he was into producing music. The two hit it off and started working together to make music but there was still a lot of work that needed to be done.

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One day they both decided to work together and for a year and a half they tried to find a style that fit both of them.Even though the two now have a solid relationship it wasn’t always like that. There were a lot issues when they would misunderstand each others’ terms.

It took them a while to be on the same page Brandon says.

“Combust into ashes, like a gathering of a fire nation with a match to lit.

I’m the master bitches.

No need for the titled crown.

Gonna rhyme ’til the day I die yo.

I’m signing out.

Never waiting last minute yo, my time is now.”

These are the ending lyrics of “No Messages.”

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