- Can you give us a brief Bio of yourself.
Born and raised in Chicago. I go by the name Jon Ty. Jon is shorten from my birth-given name Johnny. Ty comes from the word "community" "unity" "loyalty" in which I strongly believes in. A Khmer descendant American who was once caught up in the gang-banging lifestyle, is now devoted to making a more liberating lifestyle for all people.
- At what point in life when you decided that this is ( music) your calling?
I was around 17 years old (23 now) when I was conscious enough to realize that music is my way of life. During that time, I was at the edge of bangin. Dealing with the struggle of living in the US: racism, poverty, and uncertainty of identity; due to parents not being around because of working hard to make ends meet; led me to embed myself with a very destructive personality. I spoke with an attitude, rude to people, trust nobody, and only care about myself. This added to violent behavior for self-gain, destroying family and friends along the way.
To create a hardcore image I banged with the gang, representing our set by causing havoc and terrorizing the neighborhood to wear off other gang. This lifestyle led to the lose of many love ones within a short period of time. All the incident piled up and just made me realize I wanted out. I kept away from the gang by staying in a less hostile environment and it faded from there on.
Throughout the whole time, I listened to a lot of rap, 2pac, Biggie, and Nas to be exact. Rap back then captured the struggle of the people;struggles with racism, poverty, discrimination. In order to get through the day I would bump these tracks and rap along. When ever i didn't have a radio or cassette player (I used to rock them old school brick-sized media player) I would recite these rhymes but also try to write my own. One day I start putting in my own life into rhyming and it allowed me to be able to feel at ease from all the agonizing pain and suffering. It helped me get through traumatizing memories and liberated me from a disturbing past.
- What is your take on the current music scene and sound ?
Mainstream media (what we see on tv and hear on the radio) mostly focus on what sells. It has commercialized music as a market for profit and not as an essence of culture. Even though there are few that have sparkle throughout mainstream and still keep music at its essence, the general public are more captivated by what is portrayed as what is "In". This take away for what music really is and is strip from its culture. This causes audience to neglect music for what it is. That may be the case, but real music at its truest form should motives the mind and body towards liberation while captivating culture. That can only be done through educating and empowering through exploring culture, whether it's hip hop, classical, traditional, rock, r&b, pop, etc.
- What do you consider your proud accomplishment as far in life?
At the moment it is being able to overcome the obstacle that came upon being where I stand today. All the banging, destroying of family, identity crisis,
internal struggle; nearly destroyed me. Who knows what would have happen if I had not stop that path of destruction. Because I changed my ways I am now more conscious and aware of the struggle people have to go through just to simply live life. Not to be so modest, the people is whom who benefit from all this. Now the community has an individual who is willing to do what it takes to allow people the opportunity to live more at ease.
- Whats your take on our current economy ?
Economy sucks. Straight up. People is hungry. People need shelter to keep warm from the cold. But that hows its always been way before the 2000s recession. America just didn't realize it until it hit hard. All I'm ma say is, appreciate everybody providing services and goods, especially those who have to work the jobs no one wants to do. Their work will never be recognized and compensating because of how demeaning it is. A lot is sacrifice: from pride, time with family, back breaking labors just to allow us to live comfortable lives.
- Who inspire you in life ?
My inspiration comes from people who overcome the hardship and labor in life, in particular my people, Khmer people. An infamous hardship having to live through the horror of the Khmer Rouge Regime. Family, friends, love ones were slain, rapped, murdered, and culture was nearly erased to merely nothing. All people effected by it still suffer the lost but yet is still able to keep the culture alive and continuing living their life. It takes a strong spirit to move forward to prosperity and this motivates me serve the people in any way I can.
- Who do you think is the most over rated Asian Rapper/ musician and the most under rated ?
speak it real, I have no stand on this at the moment.
- If you can work with any one in the music business right now who would it be and why?
One brother who I admire for his work and craft is Prach Ly. His work progressed and evolved greatly through out the years. If to look back at when he first started releasing tracks for North Star Resurrection, back in late 90s into 2000 I believe, with tracks like "Shout and Turn", that "gon khmer" khmer rap, or the remix to Dre's and Snoop "Next Episode" reppin Long Beach they really captured struggle and lifestyle of Khmer American living in the states. Then he went on to the Dalama saga speaking about history and the horror Khmer people went through. This sparks up curiosity among nation locally and globally, empowering minds to speak out about their own struggle and also aim towards changes. A huge movement and it was done through art and music, something that I've always been passionate about. Prach is now going to communities all over, promoting awareness for freedom of expression and also educating the people that we can not forget what happened during the Khmer Rouge Regime. This shows that it's more than just music and he is really passionate about makings changes by liberating mind and body but also serve the people.
- What is your current project, and where can we find your older projects?
I am currently working on a showcase promoting Asian Pacific Island American Hip Hop artist in Chicago. It will be happening on April 23, 2010 Friday 5pm to 9pm at DePaul University Cultural Center 2250 N. Sheffield Chicago, IL.
To see images of my previous work like the Khmer American New Year Celebration or local open mics you can find it in my blogs, photo albums, and playlist at www.myspace.com/jontyonline or videos at www.youtube.com/chicityuptownstyle.
- Where do you see yourself or want to see your self at 10 years from now?
I am current in the process of going to school for Business in Art, so I see myself CEO of a corporation that promotes and support artist and musicians of all walk of life. Media only shows what it is today because corporation allows it. What if there is a corporation who does believe in the art, maybe then mainstream will support what is real and not be all in it for the money. By breaking through mainstream media maybe then changes can be done through a global scale.
- What is your movement and why should we support you?
One relates to my current project, the Asian Pacific Island America Hip Hop Summit in Chicago. Chicago is a huge city, very diverse, many concentrated area of Asian, but yet there isn't a scene to support APIA artist. Because Chicago is a lot of a party city, Chicagoans only wants to play club banger or what the media advertises and not look at music as art or empowering entities. True artist are now being neglected for their talent and passion because they aren't "big" or on tv or radio. On top of that Asian American struggles with discrimination with mainstream because media only portrays us through bias and stereo types, like kung-fu master, chopsticks getting people, laundry mat owners, etc. and not as musician or artist, let alone supporters of Hip Hop. The summit is to break through bias and stereotypes and to support APIA musician and artist; acknowledge the art, not skin color.
In relevance to my community, the Khmer community, I would like to utilize Hip Hop as a tool to give identity to Khmer American youth. It can be hard growing up in America with family traumatized from our horrific past. Parents always working leaving children to roam the street on their own, expose to a society that doesn't accept the different, doesn't accept immigrants, doesn't accept culture, and now having to identify who they are on their own with no guidance. Hip Hop allows an artistic outlet, liberating the mind and body through expression of individual thoughts and ideas. I would like to share that with future generations to come.
- 7 words to best describe yourself?
COMMUNITY. UNITY. LOYALTY. LOVE. PEOPLE. PROSPERITY. TY. (for "Thank You" because I appreciate all people in my life)
- 7 thing you would put in your time capsule?
A memoir handwritten for originality that captivate the life of an individual who believes in living in peace and solidarity. A legacy imprinted in fine ink to acknowledge the existence of human as compassionate being who can be loving, soulful, and civilize being.
- Any last words ?
Live life. Enjoy living life. No matter how bad we think we have it, someone else is suffering a whole lot worse.