Interview with Taiwan's Warren Fox
Posted Feb 2 2010
In terms of MCs, have you noticed noticeable improvement over the years?
I know Hotdog is legendary.
(Sighing) You know, I gotta work against a lot of different types of bad images. I’m not saying that Hotdog’s a bad image, but he doesn’t say a lot of positive things. He’s an exact translation of a lot of bad things that we see going on in the United States and I do my best to work against that. If I get a minute to get on the mic about what the meaning of hip hop is…but I see a lot of improvement.
Skill-wise or content?
I see an underground developing in Taiwan, much like there’s an underground in the States. You have these guys who are really loud, who are really famous, who do their shows, but the guys who practice it, who do it for fun, those people are more and more. I’m listening to some of these kids in high school who are just rapping in the hallways and I’m like “that kid actually has some flow.” I think what I want to do is kinda give it a kick start and make sure that they rush in the right direction.
Besides you, what non-Taiwanese are strong on the scene? Either MCing, or overall?
I’d have to say that there’s not really enough of a scene here yet to really say that they have a scene. Taiwan is still trying to identify itself as a country. Because of that, they haven’t really identified what they want in their country. So music now, it doesn’t matter if you’re famous or not, Even the most famous people in Taiwan are not too famous, even in China. They kinda need to do a little house work and cleaning of their stuff and they really restrict foreigners from becoming.
When you say clean up their stuff, what do you mean?
For me to be here, technically I can only teach English. As a foreigner, unless I was sent from my company in America, the only job I can legally have here is to teach English or be a student. They don’t allow visas for other networks. They don’t really allow visas for other industries because they’re afraid the foreigners will end up stealing all their jobs, even if it’s completely unrelated to something that they’d be doing. So as far as entertainment goes, I’ve had a lot of people hustle to get me an entertainment visa, but they couldn’t get through that red tape. If you’re married to a Taiwanese girl you can kind of do what you want. But if you’re not, well, they do everything they can to keep you from making a business out of it.
What about Taiwanese locals that people should look out for?
There’s a guy, I think his name is Little David. I can’t remember. I remember their Chinese names. He’s one of the guys kinda competing back and forth with MC Hotdog. I actually think he had some real flows. I don’t know man, I haven’t really heard anybody I can say that…it’s such a young market. My opinion is lot more particular about what I consider to be hip hop so I won’t just listen to anything. It’s gotta really be good and the language is not an excuse because if you’re saying something dope, you’re saying something dope. So I’ve been waiting. I’ve seen some of my students in the high school who are actually more entertaining than these cats you heard on the radio. As far as hip hop goes here, I still feel that it’s pretty weak. The dance scene though, is a lot stronger. I’d day the dance scene is much stronger here than the actual rapping so far.
How about any producers? Any one producing anything worth checking out?
There’s a guy named B Jack. I’ve worked with him before and he’s pretty talented. We worked on some songs together. There’s another guy I work with. His name is Show Me. He works for Warner Records. We haven’t worked on a project directly yet, but I always help him out with his other artists. Yeah, but Show Me has definitely been good too.
I know martial arts if more of your focus, but do you plan on doing something hip-hop related here?
Definitely. Right now I’m working on a new Taiwanese demo. One time I came and busted like the best freestyle I ever had in my life.
Yeah, it was in English. It was just dope. It just made the world shift in rotation. No one responded and I realized no one understood what I was saying. So I had to make a decision that no matter what I had to do it in Chinese in order for them to get it. I’ve been working on it. In the beginning it was cute and then it was funny, then it was cool and now I think I’ve actually got it. I’m going to do a demo here and show it the record companies I’m working with and see what happens. If you have something that you can do, then you have to do it. Even if you yourself don’t think you’re that good at it, you still have to do it because your pretty good is what they wish they could do.
I haven't really been able to find the vehicle that I need to do it just yet. I have some connections in LA. A producer that I know I, D-Nice One, is starting a new company with new artists and I am probably going to work with him in the near future. For now, I am working on some new Chinese songs then I am going to get in touch with Warner, the same company that I worked with for two other albums. I also worked with a group called MODS. If you type in my name and the name of the group you should be able to find some of my work. But I think it is really low quality in comparison to the real music I haven't released yet.
You talk about being particular about your hip hop. What’s a turnoff?
If there’s not an actual purpose in your song. You can have purpose with fun. You could be like, “let’s party, ain’t gonna hurt nobody, let’s just jam.” But, right now, it’s like music has lost such a sense of purpose. It’s all about how this person looks, how this person acts, what his background is. I think in almost all the genres right now, it’s all completely based on image. It’s just like a waste of time.
I think about the same thing when I DJ. A lot of things I want to play, I can’t play at a large club so I’d rather do a small bar or lounge with people and play music that’s good. Even with Latin music, I’m stuck in the 60s and ‘70s because the new stuff is just too synthetic for me. It doesn’t necessarily have to be positive. I mean, I’m at the club. I don’t need to hear a lecture, but I don’t need negativity…
They just need to put the two of them together and make positive music more fun. It doesn’t have to be, like you said, a lecture. I don’t want a guilt trip when I’m going out to the club, but there’s no reason I can’t be deep and jam on it.
Yeah, have some skills, have some talent. That’s the other thing. From my end, DJs are a dime a dozen, especially since I’m in the Bay. It’s technology. Anyone can get themselves some CDs and all of a sudden they’re a DJ. They don’t mix, they can’t read a crowd…I’m not even talking about scratching and beat-juggling. The thing is, they don’t have to because it’s top 40. You just play the hits on the radio. But even when I DJed here, I switched formats and I just didn’t enjoy it. People were like, “man, you’re a genius.” I just played top 40 hits. They could’ve just turned the radio on.
It’s almost worse here in that aspect. There’s a lot of DJs that come out here. If you have a reputation people will jam out no matter what. If you’re Jazzy Jeff, they’ll jam out no matter what you’re doing. But if you’re not, they basically want to hear their same 20 songs. And every year they take out a song and add a song. In the five years that I’ve been here, the music in the club is basically the same five songs that they rotate, rotate, rotate all week long so it gets old really quick, especially when you work there. I’m an MC, so I gotta hype up these same boring-ass songs I’ve been hearing. It’s not like they were boring at first, but after you hear anything twenty times..
Once I went somewhere and someone was like, “don’t you feel like you’re in San Francisco?” I was like, “why would I come to Taipei to feel like I was in San Francisco” I could’ve just stayed in San Francisco!” This isn’t just Taipei, this is everywhere I’ve gone. I meet people, and they’re trying so hard to be New York. I’m like, you’re never going to be New York, you’re never going to be Miami...you’re going to have the influence, but what’s the local influence? I try to find the Taiwanese artist who has talent, not just that you’re rhyming in Taiwanese. If it’s wack, so I can’t really promote that either. So there are all these different angles that I’m curious about. I’m seriously tired of hearing “California Love” every time I come to Taiwan. But on another note, as a DJ you have to adapt to the crowd. You’re trying to take them someplace, but it’s not always about you. There’ve been times I’ve been booked to play techno or house—that’s what the promoter wants—but if I’m DJing, I can tell that people aren’t feeling this. They want Michael Jackson or Prince and maybe I can bring it back, but right now…I’ve seen so many DJs who can’t adjust. “I only play underground hip hop.” You could’ve stayed in your bedroom and did that because your job is to get people moving.
It’s like if you’re going to be an artist, you have to be able to expand into different areas within your self and to what people want to in order to be a effective. Otherwise, you’re just doing it for yourself. Somebody said that to me before. If you want to do music that inspires you, you can just do that at home. But if you want to go out there and touch people then you gotta be able to understand what they’re going through too, and actually listen. I think in a lot of senses the managers really detach themselves from that because they want the safe money bet. This has been working the last five years. That’s exactly why it’s not going to work now, because people change over time. We need changes over time so you gotta go with the flow or be swept up in the dust.
Having said all this, I feel like Taiwan’s wide-open, like there’s this bubbling scene here. People are curious and want something new.
Taiwan is a hot spot right now. There are so many areas here that have not been tapped into that have so much potential. It’s kind of a trick though, to get through certain obstacles. You kind of have to get through those barriers of what they think they want or what they think they wouldn’t like because the people who are in control are a lot older. They’re kind of like, “this is my club” and “we don’t have that kind of need here.” But if you talk to the younger people, that’s all they want so it’s a matter of convincing that person or finding a way to put yourself in a position to show people what you want to show them. It’s gold here.