18 year old Caribbean American, Rayon Wright, who was born in Jamaica, West Indies and raised in Brooklyn. Though Rayon grew up surrounded with Jamaican culture and music, he wants more than anything to become a producer of Korean music and entertainment. A lot of non-Asian teenagers like Hello Kitty or Japanese Anime, but Rayon's love for Asian culture goes far beyond that.
WNYC RADIO ROOKIES
HOST INTRODUCTION: Now the third story in this series of Radio Rookies is by 18 year old Caribbean American, Rayon Wright, who was born in Jamaica, West Indies and raised in Brooklyn. Though Rayon grew up surrounded with Jamaican culture and music, he wants more than anything to become a producer of Korean music and entertainment. A lot of non-Asian teenagers like Hello Kitty, or Japanese Anime, but Rayon's love for Asian culture goes far beyond that.
NARRATION: This is a Korean Drama...the way they talk sounds like waves going up and down on the ocean, it soothes me.
NARRATION: Oh by the way I'm black...black like PEPSI!
NARRATION: I live in Canarsie, Brooklyn. But, I go to an international high school called East-West, all the way in Flushing, Queens. I chose it so I can be around Asians. Like my friend Hawa.
HAWA: You should be asian, but God decided "No! you are black!"
NARRATION: I'm happy to be black. I'm just in love with everything Asian.
JAVON: Well, I found it strange at first time, 'cause you're Jamaican.
NARRATION: My cousins Javon and Angela, can without a doubt say that I'm different.
JAVON: Korean Music every single day in the house bumping it loud.
ANGELA: Act Korean, Everything Korean.
JAVON: When I say come play basketball you say no you want to look up some album coming out. You wanna buy it.
ANGELA: Even leaving your voice message on your phone in Korean Language.
(VOICEMAIL: at the tone please record your message, *beep)
NARRATION: It started in Junior High when I found some Korean music videos online. Back then, when I saw Asian people I mostly thought of nail salons and kung fu movies sold by a vendor in a mall. I never thought Koreans had their own Pop music, Korean Pop, K-POP. It sounded like R&B and Hip Hop but they were still true to themselves. Like in music videos when they meet someone older they always bow. I thought it was really cool.
NARRATION: I even started performing KPOP concerts in my shower!
RAYON: I'm so hot, oh yeah baby I'm so fine.
NARRATION: That's when I decided I wanted to bring my talents to the Korean people...I want to be a K-Pop producer, just like my idol JYP! Park Jin-Young! Mm!
NARRATION: In Brooklyn, I'm Rayon.
RAYON: Right now I'm just looking for the perfect sound, like a duun, duun, duuun
NARRATION: But in Korea I could be Gamun-Pyul, Black Star...the Korean name I came up with.
RAYON: Dunun nun nun, like that.
NARRATION: But on the real, for a Jamaican born kid from Brooklyn to win a Korean Music Award seems like a la-la land idea. It's frustrating! Like for the Korean Parade. I asked my barber to trim my Korean name into the back of my head. But when I showed him the Korean words, he was like, "Yo! my man you sure?!" he was worried I didn't have it right.
BARBER1: Listen, my man got a tattoo that's supposed to say Top Dog in Chinese. You know what it says?
BARBER2: Stink Dog!
BARBER1: No, it says wild dog.
NARRATION: Even my dad likes to throw out the precautions.
DAD: How are you're gonna get to Korea? A bicycle or stuff? How you gonna finance yourself?
NARRATION: How you gonna eat sleep drink hmph hmph hmph?
DAD: The world out there is just waiting to just gobble you up.
NARRATION: I know he's thinking what my mom always tells me, "Don't hang your basket where your hand can't reach it or it'll drop down and lick you in your head."
DAD: When it comes down to the Korean culture and Korean language, are you willing to make the sacrifice to know it to the level where you become exceptional and not just mediocre where it is concerned?
COMPUTER: Number 5, Chun chun hee mar he... (Korean Language)
NARRATION: Learning to speak Korean is rough.
COMPUTER: Please speak slowly...(Korean)
RAYON: That phrase please speak slowly um I tend to use that phrase a lot.
NARRATION: My Korean friends don't really help.
HAWA: So you want me to, I'll start talking to you in Korean if you want.
RAYON: Arraso (Speaks in Korean).
HAWA: Okay, not now maybe tomorrow, maybe Monday.
NARRATION: m m m m. The closest I've been to Korea is China. I went there on a school trip.
RAYON: When I was in china I was just stared at chocolate.
MORGAN: Chocolate yeah (laugh)
NARRATION: Morgan Jones -- He's black, just like me.
MORGAN: Yeah they got some over bad jokes about black folks there, they got some pretty tough jokes.
NARRATION: He lived in China for six years and worked in Chinese radio.
MORGAN: Once you live in their culture--you are going through a lot of changes, personally and mentally, emotionally there's going to be a lot of stress and strain.
NARRATION: Morgan gave some great advice, to put myself inside Korean culture before I go there. I'm going to do it!
PASTOR: First I want to welcome a guest here today.
NARRATION: My Korean teacher invited me to her all Korean church.
PASTOR: Rayon can you stand up real quick.
NARRATION: Wow! I'm the only black kid in the building. I'm sticking out like a loaf of bread amongst pigeons.
PASTOR: Let's really welcome him and make him feel at home.
NARRATION: I ended up joining the Praise and Worship team.
GIRL: Rayon what do you want to eat
NARRATION: They found out I'm a beast on the drums.
BOY: You're part of family, there's no getting out.
NARRATION: Now, the person who should really hear my beats and my songs is J-Y-P! My role model, the hottest music producer in Korea.
NARRATION: I went to JYP's American headquarters in Korea-town.
RAYON: Right now I'm at JYP studios America.
NARRATION: My heart was thumping like me playing the drums at 1 million bpm (beats per minute) thump thump thump thump. That's fast...
NARRATION: I GOT TO MEET JYP!
JYP: Hey How you doin?
MAN: That's JY.
JYP: Welcome, come on in.
NARRATION: I GOT TO MEET JYP! He gave my Korean name a green light.
JYP: You got great sense.
NARRATION: AW MAN...I'll never forget this day.
JYP: that can't be a better name for you, it's cool, it's still edgy.
NARRATION: And HE LIKES MY STYLE!
JYP: Perfect name!
NARRATION: **sigh of happiness
JYP: I can't help but to think that this R&B soul thing it grows in pain.
NARRATION: JYP says that black people in the U.S. and Koreans are both drawn to R&B and Soul because it comes out of oppression.
JYP: Korea was always being invaded for the past 500 years. So if you really look at the Korean traditional singing Pansori, it's very soulful it's like almost like ahhhhh ahhhhh. The similarity between soul R&B music and the Korean traditional music is amazing.
RAYON: how does someone like me who comes from a Caribbean American background be able to bring that to the Korean Market, for example you brought the Korean pop culture to the United States?
JYP: The most important thing is being true to yourself. If you try to go to Korea and try to become like Koreans there's no reason for you to exist in Korea. So my advice for you is, bring your Caribbean American flavor.
JAVON: All right bring back that track, let me hear it?
NARRATION: I'm in the living room making my own flavor.