Ambitionz Az A Ridah: Exclusive HeeSun Lee Interview - Book Two

In Part 2 of the conversation with Heesun Lee, the lyricist takes us deeper into her mind. She talks to us about dealing with stereotypes as an artist, what keeps her grounded, The state of HHH, and what motivates her.
Malachi: But do you feel added pressure because you are these three things? You know being Asian, and female and a Christian artist?

Heesun: Yea I do. It’s a motivation tool. Like these people will stereotype and think a certain thing, but it will motivate me to show them that I’m going to break that stereotype. But at the same time, I feel like I have to take another step because I am that. You know that people are going to automatically think about certain things. And it’s not fair but that’s how life is. You just accept it. At the end of the day, I just want to change people’s mindsets on culture, gender, and hip hop. You know just trying to change people's thought patterns.

Malachi: One song I really love from your album, and you touched on this song, is "Pray For ‘Em", which deals with foster kids and adoption. Is any of that inspired by your own personal life?

Heesun: Oh Yea I think everything in my life centers around that. It’s a very big issue, you know just growing up and finding myself and who I am. Even aside from the music, just who you are as a person. A lot of times it can be hard because it’s pretty evident in this world people base who you are on their culture. You identify a lot with your culture. And the fact that I didn’t have that made it hard for me to understand who I am as a person. That’s why it was a big revelation for me when I did become Christian because that became my identity. I think more people need to focus on that, on Christ as far as who you are. It’s Ok to take pride in your race but never use that as a reason to seclude yourself from other people. Like if your black, you don’t want to chill with a white person because you have nothing in common. I realize though Hip Hop and doing these shows that because I’m Asian, that doesn’t mean anything. I relate to a black girl or to a Spanish girl. I think music is that powerful, Christian music especially because it brings different cultures together. They can unite. I don’t know if I’m going off-topic (laughs )

Malachi: No, you’re good.

Heesun: I mean It has affected me in a good way, where it made me come out and let people know I deal with the identity issues, I don’t have a lot of the stuff other people have, but I can still relate to you. We still have similar struggles. I don’t look like you or have the same skin color but we can still be sisters. You know what I’m saying, sisters in Christ, and we can still be cool, and we can still understand each other.
Malachi: Yeah, I'm definitely feeling that, and I think GOD brings people though things to make you stronger and wiser. Like Moses, I feel GOD sent him though Egypt to help develop him and mold him into the leader that he was.

Heesun: Definitely, I agree.

Malachi: I hear you got a new mixtape drop’n. What’s up with that?

Heesun: Yeah Rock and me. I’m actually working on it with another artist that’s under Rocks label JahRock'n Productions, named SeDa.

Malachi: Oh ok. What’s the name of the mixtape?

Heesun: It’s called “The Lost Mixtape.” We’re trying to get it out by the beginning of July and it will be available for free download. Have you ever seen the T.V. show “Lost?”

Malachi: Yeah I had seen it a few times.

Heesun: Oh Ok, well we're all big fans of the show. We’re like fanatics. They have all these underlining meanings about predestining and father issues and stuff like that. It’s a very deep show so we’re correlating that into our Christian lives and who we are as Christians. It’s called “The Lost Mixtape” because we're basing it off of the show but we’re using it in a Christian way. It will be interesting. You will get it when you hear the whole thing.
Malachi: You’re a humble artist. Where does that come from? Was it just how you were raised or…

Heesun: Well yea I mean its how I was raised but I feel we’re all on the same level and no one is better than anyone else. I see it a lot with certain artists. I'm not saying anyone specifically feels that way because of their talent, they are one step ahead of everyone else. But you know what. I might be musically talented but another person is talented in another area. But you know were all Christians, we're all people and the whole point of being a Christian artist is that you’re going on stage to help people. It’s not about you. Of course, you want to make the money, and you want to make a living out of it but if you really want the fame then why aren’t you a secular artist. You should never forget why you’re doing it. And because all of the issues you been though you should be humble. You don’t have the power to give things to someone or take things away. You’re not in control of that. Don’t act like you can do what you want to do because it doesn’t work like that, you know. You should always remember that you should be selfless in what you doing because the whole point of being an artist is to give back to people and help them.

Malachi: Well your flow is far from humble. It’s powerful and it’s like you attract the track. There’s a lot of fire in your spit game. You have songs like “From the Top” that show that. But then you have so much substance and depth in your bars where did you get your influence?

Heesun: Well this is taking it back, and a lot of people really liked this guy but I always been a die-hard Tupac fan. It's not even because I admired his lifestyle. I looked at his internal struggles, what he was dealing with. He just spits out his life on his tracks. He was so passionate it just blew me away. A lot of artists are just rapping to rap, but this guy Tupac, his heart was in everything he wrote. And I know he was confused, he was hypocritical but I’m not looking at that because I’m not influenced in that way. I don’t feel like I need to go out and sell drugs or nothing. I was just looking at him as an artist and how he wrote and how he expressed himself. I just thought to have that passion that’s what it’s about. I just here artists nowadays and there’s no emotion in what they are saying. People always tell me “you sound one way when I’m talking to you then when you’re on stage you sound totally different,” but I really don’t know where it comes from, it just comes out when I’m on stage and when I’m in the studio. I guess its GOD. That’s how you know GOD is real because there are things you can’t explain.

Malachi: Oh no doubt. There are secular artists that I’m feeling too. So I feel what you're saying, I don’t like what they say, I like how they say it. I’ve always liked Eminem he has a lot of problems and issues, but like I said I don’t listen to what he says but the poetic way he puts things. And the same thing with Tupac. I’m from L.A. so I always been into Tupac and his passion and his work ethic. People would look at me and wonder how do you do it, how do you go the way you go? And he’s one of the reasons I work how I work.

Heesun: Wow that’s hot.

Malachi: Yeah, he had so much material because he was always going.

Heesun: Exactly he never stopped.

Malachi: I remember when I first got into Christian Hip Hop, it was like I was forcing it on myself but I really didn’t like what I was listening to because I felt it was garbage. I think its slowly growing and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to holla at you because I feel your one of those emcees that people need to get to know because you spit with such passion and purpose. What do you think about Christian Hip Hop and what direction do you see it going in?

Heesun: I think like you said, it’s growing. There’s a lot of great artists out there and I'm hearing a lot of stuff and I'm blown away by it. Like you said you have your rappers back in the day and because your Christian you feel like you have to listen to Christian hip hop. Even if Christian hip hop is not good you feel guilty about listening to secular because you are Christian. But I want to listen to Christian artists more now because there’s better music out there. I still think that a lot of Christian rap is boxed in. A lot of Christian artists are rapping about the same thing over and over again. Like there’s no diversity in the track. I don’t feel like every song you have has to be like “praise GOD, praise GOD.” You know like talking about life and issues that people can understand and relate to rather they’re Christian or not. If your Christian how will unsaved people relate to you if you’re preaching all the time? Sometimes with Christian artist, they have just a one-track mind like just because I'm Christian I have to save people and I have to do this and that and it just comes to the point where every album you're hearing the same stuff, and that’s why with the album Re: Defined I wanted to talk about different subject matters. At the end of the day, you going to know this is a Christian album and I'm fine with that, but I never want people to say I have no subjects in my songs or I'm not rapping about something. I want to touch on different subjects all the time and just be diverse like that where people will respect you rather than your Christian or not. I just feel more Christians need to think out of the box more.

Malachi: I feel you, its like church almost. The church focuses on getting people saved and getting Jesus into them, but what happens after that? When people realize you are not touching on the issues that people deal with on a daily basis, they will find somewhere else to go.

What is the vision God has given you?

Heesun: Well I know GOD has called me to do this. I’m not going to say he called me to be this big-time Christian artist where I have millions of fans. I feel GOD placed in my heart, and this is one of the main reasons I want to do music, I want to reach out to all the foster kids and youth who need a positive message in their life. You know coming out of bad neighborhoods and not knowing their parents or just knowing one parent and they just had a rough childhood. That’s who I want to reach. I’m working with this lady from my church. She goes out to these random homes helping young teenage girls with their issues and their self-esteem and whatever they’re going through. So I'm going to start doing that with her. Because whether or not I see a million copies, and don’t get me wrong I would love to make a living off of my music and just say this is what I do for a living, but to just sneak away to these places, that’s the calling God has placed on my heart. You know just knowing my testimony and where I come from, I deal with abandonment issues so to be able to relate to these people I know that God has made that happen in my life for a reason. To give back. And that always correlates to the music, being able to express myself through the music, but my first and foremost thing is to really reach out to those types of kids. That’s what I want to continue doing in the future, going all over the country going on missions and stuff like that.

Malachi: You’re a very gifted writer and normally gifted writers love to read.

Heesun: Ohhhh Yea, yea

Malachi: So what type of books do you like? What’s in your Library

Heesun: Well I have to admit, Lately I haven’t been up on my reading. I Actually just read the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, you know that movie…

Malachi: Oh yeah you read the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald..

Heesun: I loved it, it was insane. I didn’t get to watch the movie. I think I got discouraged when I heard it was three hours long. But the story is not that long. I just loved the concept of reverse aging. And then I recently read the Alchemist, it’s not a Christian book but it can relate in a Christian way. It deals with your calling and your purpose. A fellow poet referred it to me and I read it and I loved it. So those are the two most recent books that I read. I’m always up on the Christian books and keeping my spiritual life on point but I don’t read as much as I should be reading. If you have any books that you would recommend, let me know and I would definitely read it.

Malachi: Oh no doubt, people that know me best will tell you I have no shortage of books going on at my house. I have this ridiculous Library, I'm always loaning out books, so you know I got you.

Heesun: Wow that’s perfect, you need to give me anything that you think I would like. Actually this book, its bout adoption and its called Single Square Picture,” and it's about this adoptee and she’s facing all these troubles and she trying to find her birth parents. That’s one of my favorite books. It’s called The Single Square Picture because when this girl was a baby she was put up for adoption and all she was given was a “single square picture of her mother. And that’s all she had as she was trying to discover her background and her history.

Malachi: So tell me this, what drives you? What motivates you the most?

Heesun: Ummm, well when you’re living and you just see certain stuff going on T.V. even things that are happening in your life, you want to write about it. You want people to know this is an issue and I want to express it. I can be on a bus or in a coffee shop if anything comes to my head or if I see things going on around me, it will inspire me to write something. Like a perfect example is when one time my mom came into my room and she gave me this newspaper article about this guy in China who killed himself because he didn’t have money to go to school. It was his life long dream to go to school and get an education but he didn’t have any money so he took his life. My mom was crying because she was like how do people go to this measure where they just feel there’s no point in living and we’re so blessed here. We can go to college and do a lot of things other people can’t do. So as soon as I seen that and how it made my mom cry I was like I need to write a song on this and I just started writing it, but that wasn’t the main part. I just wrote about how we’re so privileged and blessed to be where we are in life but we take it for granted.

So its just situations that I see, or what I'm feeling that’s what motivates me to continue going and to give people info that they didn’t have the day before.

Malachi: So you work full time and you’re a full time Emcee. How do you make time for friends and family and just relaxing?

Heesun: It’s hard because I'm working the 9 to 5 but sometimes when I need to record I’ll write while I'm at work. Most of my shows are at night and on the weekends so when I get off at like 5:30 I go home and then I go and perform. It’s hard because I don’t see my friends. I try to make time for my family so if they have a big celebration then I can’t perform because I have to spend time with my family. And even dating wise, my fiancé is very supportive and he comes to a lot of my shows. He’s a cop so he has a really crazy schedule too so most of the time we only see each other during my shows. We don’t get to go out as much because you know most of the time I'm performing on the weekends and then I have to work during the weekdays. After work, I try to relax when I can and not let anyone bother me.

Malachi: So what’s next for you? What are you working on right now?

Heesun: Well the mix-tape of course, and we’re working on a video for a song from my album “Open Your Eyes.” Where trying to have that done by the end of June but I don’t know if that’s going to happen (laughs). And then after that, I’m going to start working on my second album, but that’s not coming out anytime soon. I want to start recording it and maybe even start putting out singles.

Malachi: You know we were talking about Tupac and how he always recorded. In fact, he never stopped. So that’s why when he died he had leftover 400 hours of unreleased material. He recorded even if he didn’t have an album due. But then people like Big Pun only recorded when it was time to drop an album so that’s why they have to keep re-releasing the same music. What’s your recording method.

Heesun: Well, I would love to do that. The only reason why I don’t do that is because you have to pay for the studio. But I think if I could afford it, Rock would probably turn me away and be like ok stop coming. But like I said I'm always writing even if I can’t record.

So what artist are you feeling now? Who’s in your iPod?

Heesun: Well I don’t know, is Mos Def’s new one out yet?

Malachi: I don’t think that dropped yet.

Heesun: Well that I have been anticipating because I read some good reviews on it. There’s my friend SaDa, I’m listening to his album, and umm, do you know who D-Moab is?

Malachi: Oh yeah

Heesun: Yeah his album Urban Legend is repeatedly in my CD changer. And I love Braille. I just downloaded his album The IV

Malachi: Yo if you don’t have that new Tedashii album, it's nuts

Heesun: Oh is it?

Malachi: Yeah, It’s Niiiiice.

Heesun: Wow ok. I was in Tennessee last month so I seen him perform it but I really didn’t get a chance to hear the songs.

Malachi: What influences your sound because you're from New York but your I would not say you have an east coast flava. So what is it?

Heesun: (laughs) I don’t know what it is.

Malachi: It’s just whateva huh?

Heesun: I don’t know because when I do features with another artist from the Midwest or from the south me and Rock always talk about how you can tell I'm not from there. But he talks about how it's good there are distinctions, the verses but I don’t know what I sound like. Because I'm not like raw hardcore east coast, I don’t know, I don’t think I’m old school, I don’t know what I am. My stuff is just all Hip Hop. You know it’s a lot of spoken word I guess it’s just wherever the wind takes me.

Malachi: So tell me what Christianity is to you.

Heesun: well don’t know if you heard the saying “ it’s about a relationship not are a religion.”

Malachi: Yeah I say that all the time.

Hesun: That’s what I totally live by. I think a lot of people will stick to laws and structure and I feel like as a Christian it’s a relationship with GOD so you can know who he is on a personal level, being consistent with your spiritual walk, always praying, always studying, going to church and most importantly it's having people there to be accountable for you. You know by your side so they can pray for you. It’s an emotional thing for me. Like you said its more than just rules and laws. It’s about a relationship with people who understand your vision and your goals and are there to pray for you. People have this whole idea of what Christianity is and that’s why people that are not saved don’t want to come to Jesus. But when you’re at church and you’re in your zone and your worshiping GOD it isn’t even about the religion. I feel people aren’t focusing on that as much.

Heesun: When you go to some churches and they don’t embrace Hip Hop as a way to minister just because of their tradition and they are afraid to move with the times or you're saying its Hip Hop, it's of the devil and it has no place in the church that’s what I hate about Christianity and that’s what I don’t feel Christianity is about. Like I said it’s about your own personal relationship with GOD and if this is how you worship GOD through hip hop why should it matter.

Malachi: I feel you. I always say we have modern-day Scribes and Pharisees. And you know the Pharisees all had laws and rules but no relationship with GOD so when GOD himself was standing right in front of them and they didn’t even recognize him. They said in order to be a follower of GOD you must do this, that and the other and these were man-made rules.

So flipping it, what is Hip to you?

Heesun: Oh Hip Hop is life, it’s a culture. You know like they say Hip Hop is the culture, rap is the music, so you know it’s a lifestyle, its how you live. Hip Hop is not what you hear on the radio. It’s not about dancing and clubbing and getting drunk and getting a bunch of women. It’s not about that but I feel that’s what people are trying to make it. I wasn’t always into Hip Hop but when I got into it I studied its history because I feel if you going to be apart of something you know you should learn about it. You know I feel Hip Hop saved my life. It helps me with my struggles. I still struggle but it gives me a way to express myself.

Malachi: Wow, I want to thank you for such a great interview. And I want to tell you it’s a blessing and an honor to be exposed to an artist like you.

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