Fighting Against Adversity;Following A Dream

Fighting Against Adversity;Following A Dream

Andy Tai's journey to success as a rap artist.
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In this week’s interview for Odyssey. While I enjoy writing about videogames and bands, I decided to do something a little different for a change. Throughout my career as a music journalist, I often come across a music artist or band that truly inspires me. This interview was no different. Though I am proud to say I have been friends with Andy or as some may know him as rap artist in Capitals Crew now for quite some time, you never know how much you know a person until you actually sit with them and speak to them about the things they are passionate about. What really drives us to do the things we want to pursue to reach a bigger cause?

This is what I love about music journalism. We get to tell stories about people in the music world that often go unnoticed in a world that is filled with political banter or where we fall in the social hierarchy in the world. With a band or an artist it’s always a different story. One that can either inspire or for what it’s worth just be a good read. In any case, my kind of journalism often takes people to a place where we get to know a person through their talents. Nothing makes me happier then when an artist or band gives me a chance to tell their story whether they are well known or not. Before I knew about Andy's musical talents, he was always one of the first friends I made when I started at Stockton University over four years ago. Though how we met was through a very sad experience.

I first met Andy through a public university vigil hosted by a club I was in Asian Student Alliance. It was for a very gifted and friendly student named Henry Lee, who had passed away some time ago. It feels like only yesterday this happened. Though I didn’t know him for very long, I can say that he was a very caring guy that went above and beyond to make people feel special and included, myself included. But at this vigil it was Andy’s speech about Henry that really spoke to me as a person. The way he cared so much for his friend really hit me emotionally. I wanted to talk to and get to know him more after that but was lacking the confidence to do so.

I paced back and forth, trying to figure out the best way to talk to him without sounding like a total doofus. When I felt it was best to just give up and leave, something or I like to believe someone stopped me that day from leaving that room that day. I don’t know what it was, but in that moment I made my way over to him across the room and got this small boost of confidence to go and talk to him. There was no reason to be afraid of trying to make new friends. Even if the conversation hadn’t ended well, at least I put forth the effort in trying, something that was always hard for me to do since I never really had friends before attending my community college and making a few. We did talk for a good hour, we said our goodbyes and the rest was history.

Call it what you will, but I often think back to this time and know that it was Henry that brought us together that day, giving me that confidence to talk to a friend that I am proud to say is still one of my best friends today. Though how we met wasn’t exactly the best of times, in the end something beautiful and amazing came out of it. A great friendship. So I am proud that I am interviewing Andy now not just as a journalist but as a friend that came out knowing a lot more about a guy that is truly passionate about his craft. Happy Listening.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

  • I’m Taiwanese but I was born and raised in South Jersey. Since a young age, I’ve always been involved with music. I started out playing piano at the age of 7 and moved on to other instruments such as the drums and guitar in the future. As a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with the piano. I would love to play the songs but I hated the process of learning it. I have the piano to thank for all of my music that I produce nowadays though. Piano taught me the art of patience and it helped develop myself as artist.

What genre do you consider your work to be ?

  • Definitely Hip Hop but I’m open to experiment with other genres.

Who are your major influences musically?

  • I have so many influences in music that it would be hard to list them all. My major influences however would be my piano mentor Mrs. Wu, my longtime friend Kassem Kamara, and a dear friend of mine Henry Lee (May he rest in peace).

What made you want to pursue a career in music?

  • I can honestly tell you that as a kid, I always knew I was going to do something with music. There was this feeling that would always tug at me. I had a feeling I was going to do something big in music. I did not know what it was until I was 15 when I wrote my first verse on the way to school. After that, it was a wrap.

Where have you performed? Do you have a favorite place where you have performed including in Shanghai?

  • I have performed at a number of places. I started out with my first show at the Boneyard in AC. I also performed at the Noyes Art Museum in AC. I opened up for a couple of big artists at GameChangerWorld up in central Jersey. I then went out to Philly and performed at Club Bleu.
    This fall, I got a taste of what it’s like to perform up in the big leagues when I opened up for a couple of well-known DJ’s at the legendary venue called “Arkham” in Shanghai. I also played weekly shows every Wednesday at this small venue called “Arcade” (which I would say is my favorite) while I was in Shanghai.

What can fans expect from you this time as a solo artist that you have not done on previously in other projects?

  • Well as a solo artist, I’m doing more producing then I am rapping. I want to focus more on making my own beats so that everything will be original.

When it comes to writing music, what do you like to write about the most?

  • I write about a lot of things. But what I like to write about the most is about my upbringing. I feel as though a lot of Asian-American kids go through similar things as me. I was brought up by strict Asian Parents, I worked at family owned Chinese restaurant for most of my life, and I was told that my dreams were too big to be accomplished. I like to write about things that will inspire not only Asian-Americans, but people from all different cultures who are going through the same things as me. I want them to be inspired to chase their dreams and to break down the barriers that are holding them back from achieving greatness.

When it comes to making a new record or song, what is the process like for that?

  • It all starts out with the vibe of beat. It has to speak to me. The people that I work with have to be on the same frequency as me. I make sure I’m comfortable first, then I start to think about what topic would fit with the song. After that, I just let the words come to me naturally and everything starts to take form from there.

How has your music changed since you first started?

  • My music has changed dramatically since I started. At first, I was still uncomfortable about rapping because I was insecure. But now that I’m older, I found my comfort zone. My music now expresses more energy and it’s more real because of the experiences I went through to get to where I am today.

Where do you see yourself musically within the next few years?

  • I see myself doing big things out in Asia. That’s where I learned the most about myself as a artist. I feel like there is more to be done out there for me.

What is the hardest challenge you had to face in your career? If resolved, how did you get past it?

  • The hardest challenge is balancing school, social life, work, and music all together. I wouldn’t say I resolved it yet because its ongoing but I’m graduating soon so hopefully things will be easier to balance when I get out.

How can fans to be gain access to your music?

  • As of right now, my music is best reached through my rap groups Soundcloud (Capitals Crew). We are in the process of revamping everything so that it will be more professional. New music will be released in the very near future so stay tuned.

Is there anyone you would personally like to thank for supporting your over the years?

  • I would like to thank my friends Keith Baskerville and Xavier Baskerville for introducing me into the game early on. They were the ones that brought out the artist that was within me. They taught me a lot about originality and creativity when I was just a sophomore in College. I would also like to thank my longtime friend Kassem Kamara, who built this team up from the ground with me and for supporting and sharing the same dream as me.

How is the music game different or the same in America compared to Shanghai’s music scene?

  • The music game is completely different in Shanghai compared to America. In Shanghai, the music scene is still developing. But don’t get me wrong, the hip hop scene has always been there and it’s going strong. A lot of artists out in Shanghai support each other and have been working with each for a long time. I consider myself blessed to have been able to work with legendary artists out there. The music in America is definitely developed but I would say that you have to watch your back at all times over here. I feel as though it’s really competitive in the states and everyone wants to be the next big thing. I’m born and raised in the states, I’m used to looking out for myself as an artist but I’m lucky to have talented artists that are on my team who want to prosper together.
Cover Image Credit: Andy Tai

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Poetry On The Odyssey: It's a Girl

An ode to the little girl raised to be insecure.

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They raise little girls to be insecure

Little girls grow to be big girls

People always ask big girls why they're so insecure

Big girls aren't quite sure

Day after day the big girl can't keep up

She's exhausted

Her soul feels worn

The big girl learns to grow hard

In a way, she's a bit stronger

People call her a bitch

Bitch

What is that?

How can she let that affect her

It's simply the only way to be her

She mourns that little girl

Hoping that one day

She'll be strong


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