Did you know that May is Asian American History Month? Probably not.
In lieu of the celebration, Downtown Los Angeles’ world famous Grand Central and City Hall was shutdown for the 2nd annual Identity Festival LA, Saturday May 13th.
Despite the not-so-sunny California weather, over 10,000 people of all ages gathered through the city, where attendees stood an entire day to see headliners Mike Shinoda, of Linkin Park and Seoul, Korea’s star, Jay Park.
If you haven’t heard the name Jay Park before, it’s probably because you’re stuck on the Lil’ Uzi’s and Migos of the Universe. He broke the internet last year when he announced his addition to Jay-Z’s record label, Roc Nation, becoming the first Asian American to do so. If Jay believes in him, you probably should too.
This multi-platinum, Korean singer, songwriter, rapper and producer and a member of the Seattle based B-Boy Crew “Art of Movement” (AOM), didn’t stop there. In addition to his already heavy resumé, he doesn’t just have one, but two record labels. The first is called AOMG, and the second is his most recently created global Hip Hop record label called H1gher Music. With H1gher Music, he hopes to be the platform that brings the community of international artists together.
Defying the odds one stereotype at a time, Jay Park once stated in an interview with
I-D Magazine that,
“I’ve always been sort of rebellious, when someone says:
‘You have to do this,’ it never makes sense for me to do it. Like, why can’t a K-Pop person swear, why can’t they have half-naked ladies in a music video. It’s just a music video, why not? I’m a nice guy when it comes to daily life, but when it comes to society and how people think things should be a certain way, I have to challenge those invisible rules.”
It seems that in doing so, going against the grain has actually paid off for Jay Park. What puts Jay Park in an intriguing category, is that his talent varies from dancing, to singing R&B style music and then seamlessly moving into rap; which he manages to sway his fans to appreciate every bit of it.
This became all too clear during his set at Identity Festival LA, as he took his clothes off towards the end, getting his female K-Pop fans screaming at the top of their lungs while the men are heard rapping along with him.
Who said Asian guys aren’t sexy? Because Jay Park has proven that it can be done!
Mike Shinoda Headlines Identity Festival LA 2018. Photos by Asha Moné.
The event ended with a 45-minute set by legendary, Mike Shinoda. This marked Mike’s first solo weekend show since his fellow Linkin Park member, Chester Bennington’s death. As a Japanese American, Mike has helped break barriers and create a path for others alike, in mainstream music and continues to proudly represent his roots, by wearing a snapback with the lettering “Japanese”.
15 minutes into his set, Mike played a chilling mashup performance of his song “Where’d You Go.”
“I want you to know that it’s a little f*cked up that i’m waiting, at times debating … me and the rest of the family singing, ‘Where’d you go. I miss you so. Seems like it’s been forever, since you’ve been gone. Please come back home.’“
His set came to a close with a dedication for his late friend, Chester Bennington.
Mike tells the crowd:
“It of course would not be right, if we did not acknowledge our friend (Chester Bennington), who we love very much, who is looking down on us right now, who wants each-and-every-one of you to be okay … People used to ask me back when we put out our first album back-in-the-day, ‘Oh your album is so angry. Your album is so angst-y. blah-blah-blah.‘ But what all of us knew, that they didn’t know was that it was about getting the negativity out and coming to a show and being positive. Letting all that bad stuff out so that it didn’t come out in other places.“
The crowd roared with acceptance and appreciation yelling, “Chester!” shining light to the life of his late friend.
Identity Fest LA is monumental. Not only does it help push and support talent of the Asian American community in genre’s that they typically wouldn’t stand out in, but the festival has shined a light on the incredible talent of people we may not have known were Asian but have supported for years. The bigger picture in all of this is that it helps to minimize discrimination in all forms and ultimately bridges the gap.
We live in an era where Asian Americans are stereotypically seen to stand behind a crowd, humbly sitting in peace. But artists like Jay Park and Mike Shinoda have helped create a new mold for the culture.
The annual event promises to be a showcase for the accomplishments of Asian American and Pacific American communities, where others like Traktivist can also help for future artists to come. So let’s hope the tradition continues and only increases in attendee’s, because the caliber of talent within this community is mind-blowing but just needs a little more support.