The evolution of Hip Hip is now turning toward E-Hop (Electronic Hop) and Korean American rapper Sang Moon (aka A-Z-atik), says he has caught this wave early as it takes over dance clubs all over the nation. This is all par-for-the-course for a young man whose lot in life has honed his skills to stay one-step ahead.
E-Hop is essentially dance club techno music that DJ’s can “chop up,” add back tracks, and where rap performers can perform lyrics over the beat.
“This is a new genre that is going to take over everything,” said Sang Moon, a 21-year-old producer, composer and rap artist who started his own Indie label, SMIRK Entertainment in 2005. “Hip Hop, with the regular punch lines is fading away pretty fast. Free style battles are fading away and that genre is over. Everything is electronic and not analog anymore. E-Hop is my style because I have to stay original. I need to be one step ahead of the competition.”
E-Hop is the new generation of dance party that Moon learned about from a local promoter. Sang was a slow rapper and never imagined that he would embrace this change, but will go wherever his creative energy takes him. Now he even choreographs with his hype man and background dancers.
“E-Hop allows you to dance while you rap and that is not something rappers are known for,” he said. “Hip hop dancers are also not known for rapping.”
Moon said E-Hop is ideal for the teen to 25 crowd, that by-in-large need the Friday or Saturday night to cut loose and break free from the stress of school or jobs all week. These include the bulk of the Minnesota Asian community that is largely under thirty and Southeast Asian. This crowd is not much for the Gangster rap.
“Nowadays, people want to be in the club to dance and have a good time,” said Moon. “That’s where the air is at right now. They don’t want to see people shoot and fight anymore.”
E-Hop is a genuine innovation of break beats and yet still is one more branch in the Hip Hop tree that stretches back three decades to Harlem where DJ Kool Herc first performed his scratchy album break beats that led to break dancing.
“The way to get the audience is to make sure the club is packed,” said Sang. “You do that when fans know they will feel the beat and the excitement every minute you are on stage. The beats get the people up and dancing even before you take stage and begin the rap.”
To understand Hip Hop, Sang said to think of it as a tree with branches of Break Dancing, DJ, Beatboxing and Rap with its lyrical, competitive styles and hype partners.
Hip Hop differs from other musical genre in that is was born out of competition, said Moon. Though it might seem shocking to someone looking in for the first time, those familiar with this musical culture of competition will appreciate the aggressive lyrics and subject matter as natural and real to the artist’s experience.
“Hip hop is competition,” he said. “It is dance battling about who is the best. If you are not the best, I am going to hit on you because you are the best.
“…How are they going to respect me as an Asian artist?” he added “I know to expect to be hit on more than most. I hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
Gangster rap brought the intimidation and controversy to a deadly level. Artists were shot and killed after enjoying a brief moment on the top of their game. Moon says it has come back before after being overtaken by bubble gum rap, and will likely return again when E-Hop has run its course.
“It started everything,” he added. “Gangster rap is a way of life.”
Moon describes the complexion of rap around the nation as the East Coast with its slow, poetic rapping; the West Coast with its Gangster rap; and the South with its “Chop,” developed. Minnesota is part of the Midwest Twist scene, a “very fast, snap back style,” developed by “Twista”, and “Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony.”
“Many people do not realize what the Minnesota sound is, because they haven’t been taken that seriously,” said Moon. “…I want something new that is not following anybody,” he added. “I am incorporating the Midwest Twisting rap into E-Hop, which already has a fast beat.”
Moon compares rap to a “man’s diary” put to a beat. Traditionally, rap songs deal with all the trappings of a tough life and relationships. His music says that anyone that has lived a hard life should that there is a way out with focus and keeping to their dreams.
As a youth, Moon ran with the rough crowd of hustlers and considered it part-time work for survival. He backed away for good when friends began going to jail. His dreams outweighed a compulsion to choose the wrong path.
“It’s an adventure,” he said. “It’s not just about fame and money, but more about what you learn. Music saved me from when I was down and the bad family life.
“I thought, ‘why am I in this struggle?’ ‘Why am I going through this?’ ‘Why is this happening?’ ‘Why was I chosen for this?’
“God put me there and he gave me hip hop and that is why I am doing this,” he added. “He gave me a gift and that is why I am doing it.”
Moon was born in Seoul, South Korea and was left at a police station by his mother. He was adopted at two months old to a Minneapolis family that had already adopted a Korean girl a year earlier. His financially troubled father worked three jobs and the parents finally divorced when he was 12. Alcoholism and abuse led Moon and his sister to leave their mother and join the their father. His sister would leave for Seattle at age 17, and is now a successful saleswoman.
As a teenager, Moon was troubled with his identity and also in trying to understand why the other adoptees he knew seemed to have nice families and everything they could ever want. He left home at age 18 and was eating crackers and trying to live day to day.
Hip hop helped Moon to find his voice and stop comparing his life to others. He felt at home and energized on the stage and has wanted to do nothing less since his first show in high school. He spent a lot of money on producers and labels. He waited and nothing ever seemed to happen.
The experience paid off, however, as Moon was paying attention to every aspect of the process, from the business and marketing end, to the producing and engineering end and of course, creating and performing. At just age 19, he furnished a home studio and in three-months later, created “From the Seoul” a CD completed and released on his 21st Birthday, Aug. 21, 2007.
The experience inspired Moon to start SMIRK Entertainment and though he prefers to use his precious time on his own work, he will work with other artists.
“If you want to do it – then do it yourself and don’t wait on anybody else,” said Moon. “For so many years, I would wait on other people just to record me, and I had to pay them hourly pay just to get in the studio and I had to buy the beats. Now I make my own beats and I record myself whenever I want to do it. So it is more efficient and things happen quicker. Anyone who wants to do music should do it themselves.
The only disadvantage of going on his own is that without a separate producer and sound engineer, he has less time to focus solely his performance. The bigger the label, the more quality material is handed to the performer and they are free to create.
Moon also works fulltime and is pursuing a music degree in engineering and recording at MCTC. He would like to begin selling is beats and works with artists who can overcome the tendency to give up after encountering obstacles and criticism. They often turn their passion into a hobby and look to another vocation.
“Nothing happens over night and artists have to know they need to do a lot of hard work and to expect a lot of set backs and struggle to get where you need to be,” he said. “I am still young and hopefully I can make it before I am 25.”
Moon still dreams of meeting his birth family, and to do that while performing in South Korea would be a dream come true. Find out more about Sang Moon online at myspace.com/sangmoon.