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Meet…Jamez Chang: The Last Ancients (Part V of VI)

October 14, 2013

I once printed “No Blood For Oil” stickers and commandeered the P.A. system in…

Image

“15 Years” can be heard on YouTube and is available on SoundCloud for free. Cover Design Art by Ezra Letra

high school to sing a protest song (okay, it was Health Class, 5th period). Wrote a tune called “Black Man Singing in a White Man’s World” when I was fifteen. Took my guitar into a classroom, middle of the day, to sing an “I’m So Sorry” song to a girl I . . . Rocking the love ballad, no shame.

In college, I fused traditional Korean folk music with hip hop to promote an Asian-American aesthetic and expose the younger generation to their roots. I spoke at other colleges (Yale, Harvard, SUNY Buffalo), providing a kind of cultural literacy amid western cultural hegemony (I’m not shy about academics). Wrote songs for the release of Mumia Abu Jammal; performed at clubs, parties, street fairs; launched my debut album on 10.14.98 in Japan to support the re-unification of North & South Korea. And then I quit.

Daily News 1998

I quit because my wife was expecting our first child, “Ace,” and it was time to grow up and be a man. Father.

I spent nearly 12 years regretting that decision. See, I quit hip hop and music-making officially in 2000. I released my one and only album, Z-Bonics, back in ’98. October 14, 1998, to be exact. And in between, I would enter the ranks of the lowly audio assistant in the biggest recording studios in New York City. Fetching stuff for Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Fred Durst; run to the store for ice tea, chess pieces, coffee sweetened, double-fucking-cheesburger deluxe. I was the hip-hop version of The Devil Wears Prada, only Asian. And shorter.

When the music industry was king, and the Twin Towers were in Hell’s Kitchen (Sony Music Studios & Hit Factory), I saw the best and worst in those control rooms. The talent, the vice, the politics, the shame. My heroes. Even spent a month in the same room (12-hour sessions) with Depeche Mode. Audio G.A. Downton Slave.

But who knew that the Roman Empire would crumble the way it did (SMS & Hit Factory are now, sadly, condominiums!); that us plebeians would be sent adrift without a rudder. I got out just in time, before the whole industry sank. The music industry couldn’t see past it’s own hubris, during the late 90’s/early 2000s, as something digital this way came. I was in the trenches, trying to work my way up the engineering food chain, when I started to see where the real power resided: with the suits. VPs, A&R, attorneys. 

So I quit again and decided to go to law school. Second worst decision of my life.

But that’s another post.

The Last Ancients - Jamez Chang

15 Years” Jamez Chang. Produced by Beatsmith Medore. Artwork by Ezra Letra

Today, I’m making my musical comeback. I never thought I’d get back to this day, since the bitterness & regret had all but consumed me, Close proximity to greatness, but not being great, can only be described as stifling. And it happened to my voice.

In 2012 I started to get that voice back. I joined up with the Writers Studio and learned a new craft, wrote out my thoughts, created poems and prose.

Then one thing led to another, and I wrote 49 pieces (prose & poetry), of which 47 got published in the next 8 months. Last summer, I became Editor of Flash Fiction at Counterexample Poetics in these tales of reconstruction. And I reclaimed my voice, my confidence, enough to start trusting other artists again; I started to collaborate.

And during this run of renewed creativity, I got introduced to The Last Ancients, a crew of poets, MCs, producers, artists, and writers who kept saying something catchy that has finally sunk in: “We are Renaissance.” Look it up:

Ren·ais·sance

[ren-uh-sahns, -zahns, -sahns, ren-uh-sahns, -zahns, -sahns)

noun

1.

the activity, spirit, or time of the great revival of art, literature,and learning in Europe beginning in the 14th century and extending to the 17th century, marking the transition from the medieval to the modern world.
2.

the forms and treatments in art used during this period.
3.

( sometimes lowercase ) any similar revival in the world of art and learning.
4.

( lowercase ) a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth;revival: a moral renaissance.
That’s me today. I didn’t waste those 15 years by any stretch. I raised three beautiful daughters, one who has taken to filming and editing her own movies (a trial-by-fire music video too). I have spent my time well. And in many ways, I realize how I needed those years of nurturing—someone other than myself, to understand the real value of art.
That it always comes first. In how we live each day.
And I suppose now I can finally answer that question which serves as visual motif on the Cover Art: If a tree falls down in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Inhale. Exhale. You ask back: What do you mean by a sound?

Publication Notes: To my family: Thanks to my daughters Ace, Alicia, and Abbie, my brothers Richard and Henry, and my mother and father. Eternal gratitude to my wife Erie Chang for keeping me alive long the past 15 yearsTo my other fam: Thanks to The Last Ancients. Deep gratitude goes out to Producer/DJ Beatsmith Medore for creating the track. One. Sublime art design with the cover by Ezra Letra. Much respect to TLA brothers Isaac Kirkman & Cliff Brooks for their friendship and support. Love & respect goes out to Rae Joyce for lending her voice, the sample that makes the track! And thanks to Ancient Allies near, far for early listens and support: Pamela Hill, Rocco Buffalino, Shane Spaulding, Nicolle Elizabeth, Max Hahn, Sakinah Hofler, Yvel Clovis, Meg Tuite, Robert Vaughan, Katherine Lopez, and our #1 fan—Roberto Giminez Chaques . And Mr. John Pursch…you’re up next!

"15 Years" can be heard on YouTube and is available on SoundCloud for free. Cover Design Art by Ezra Letra

“15 Years” can be heard on YouTube and is available on SoundCloud for free. Cover Design Art by Ezra Letra

COMING SOON: Meet…Ezra Letra: The Last Ancients (Part VI of VI)

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5 Comments
  1. Really moving post, Jamez. Inspiring, actually. And thank you for the credit there.

    • It was a sleep-deprived post. Running on fumes. Sometimes there’s a third gear we reach in those states. Thanks for reading it through! Happy to credit you always (when I can remember!).

  2. Roberto Giménez permalink

    Very interesting, Jamez

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. “Circling the Flame” by Meg Tuite (Produced by Jamez Chang)—11.11.13 | jamez chang

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