The LiFTED 5: Chow Mane fuses the Far East with the West Coast
The Bay Area MC is manifesting that Jackie Chan collab
Chinese-American Hip Hop artist Chow Mane is a Bay Area native who has been putting out dope music since 2017. His song ‘ABG’ was featured on Vibe presents: Urban Asian Volume 2, and he’s got a brand new album out now, Sun Up Sundown.
LiFTED caught up to the punchline rapper on the eve of the release to hear about his fusion of West Coast music with Asian culture, his partnership with producer Zuma., and his dream collab with superstar Jackie Chan.
You call Sun Up to Sundown Far East x West Coast fusion. Can you explain what that means in a little more detail?
Sure. I’m from the Bay Area, so I grew up my whole life listening to West Coast music, which is bouncy, groovy, and above all else fun. I wanted to take that vibe and combine it with my cultural background. I’m Chinese and the producer, Zuma., is Japanese, so we incorporated sounds from our backgrounds, such as the Erhu [‘JADE ON ME’], Tokyo Drift aesthetic [‘SUN UP’], melodramatic Joe Hisaishi/Yiruma pianos [‘ANYWHERE U GO’] into each of our songs on this project.
In this way, we kind of recontextualize the music into a blend of Asian and American sounds. We cherish our Asian heritage and traditions, but since we’re American-born, we can only express what we know from our perspective as Asian Americans.
Why did you choose producer Zuma. to do all the beats for Sun Up to Sundown? What is it about his music that speaks to you?
I met Zuma. when he was still in San Diego as part of Dane Amar’s collective. We’ve been working on and off for a few years, but what I liked most was his unique approach to making beats. I think the first song we made was ‘ANYWHERE U GO’ in 2019, where he captured that magical Ghibli-esque feeling. I thought the song was already beautiful without my vocals on it, but he insisted so we ended up trying to make something more poetic and sentimental than our usual stuff. From there, we just continued experimenting with different sounds and working towards the vision.
The Bay Area is known for really supporting its own as well as having its own distinct style of Hip Hop. How has growing up there influenced you as well as your taste in music?
Most of my favorite artists right now are from the Bay or California in general, and that’s influenced my music a lot. When I was growing up, my friends were listening to artists like Spice 1, Woodie, the Mob Figaz, and E-40 while my uncle would play a lot of Gfunk and Stevie B. I liked the music but more influential to me were punchline rappers like Lil Wayne and storytelling artists like Outkast and Mac Miller. I think when I started out it was a combination of Punchline Rap and trying to paint a picture in my verses while using California/Bay Area flows. I like a lot of music outside of Hip Hop, too. Sometimes I try to draw inspiration from Pop, Rock, Folk music, or EDM [you hear this a lot of SUN UP TO SUNDOWN. too].
Comedy is a big part of your music. Who do you look up to in comedy? How do some of your comedic ideas for songs come about?
I don’t know that many comedians but I love Jackie Chan movies. I’ve probably seen them all. Joe Wong is pretty funny, too. A lot of the bigge- name Asian American comedians don’t really accurately or positively portray Asians so I stay away from it for the most part. When it comes to funny stuff in my music, I think that goes back to me starting out as a punchline rapper and sending out back-to-back stupid or funny bars. Whenever I would hear someone like Big Sean or Fabolous say a bar that would make people groan, I would laugh and use it as inspiration for mine. For my videos, most of the time I leave it up to whoever’s directing to go crazy with their idea, and I’ll just ad lib or improv something out of pocket.
Listening to some of your music, you have a very distinct voice. Who do you think are some of the best voices in Hip Hop?
I think having a recognizable voice is one of the most important parts of being a vocalist. Off the top of my head, I would say some of the best voices in hip-hop are Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Messy Marv, Bun B, Tyga, E-40, Curren$y, DB, Kool John. There’s way more than I can name but those are some off top.
Bonus: Are there any Asian Hip Hop artists that you are interested in collab-ing with that you haven’t worked with yet?
I mostly just like making music with the homies, and I feel like the Asian American Hip Hop scene is small enough that even if I don’t know someone then one of my friends probably does and can hook up the connection. I guess if we’re going past the American scene it would be dope to do something with like Jay Chou, Jay Park, or some of the big overseas artists. A song with Jackie Chan would go crazy too because he sings.
Check out Chow Mane's Sun Up to Sundown below.