One of the most celebrated, enigmatic and gifted legends of the underground battle scene, MC Jin, blessed true fans of hip-hop with his world-class level of rap. For the first twenty days of January, he dropped 17 freestyled bars as a gift for fans and to ease everyone into what is already shaping up to be a tumultuous 2017.
In the aptly titled “Twenty 17s for 2017,” MC Jin would sit in his car, put on a beat, and just spit straight fire as he looked into our eyes through the camera. The variety of beats sampled ranged from hip-hop legends like Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, and Black Star. But he also showed his versatility and musicality with samples from Bruno Mars and, believe it or not, Rick Astley. Through 20 freestyles, we were all blessed with the breadth of his skill and his impeccable and uncanny use of language.
He tackled issues of self-worth, positivity, and on his Day 11 freestyle even addressed the now infamous racial misstep of Steve Harvey. He, of course, didn’t shy away from talking about his past.
From about 2000 to 2007, MC Jin was a staple at rap battles. Back in the early days of YouTube, before the Underground Rap League (URL) and its predecessor SMACK TV were the underground hip-hop juggernauts they are today, and before underground hip-hop became a multi-million dollar industry, Jin would show up at battles and absolutely decimate his competition.
His most notorious success, though, is his seven-battle winning streak on 106 & Park’s “Freestyle Friday,” where every week he’d be pit against freestyle rappers and show a skill and dexterity rarely seen on television from Asian MCs. Not only did his impressive run of victories garner him a much-deserved spot in the “Freestyle Friday” Hall of Fame, he was eventually signed, for a relatively short period of time, to the Ruff Ryders label.
He left battle rapping for good in 2007 and moved to Hong Kong in 2008, where he gained national notoriety, working with world-renowned artist Wang Leehom, Singaporean singer Hanjin Tan, and Far East Movement. In the last decade he’s stretched beyond his rap persona—a brief stint as an actor, working alongside Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in “2 Fast 2 Furious,” trying his hand at stand-up comedy at NYC’s Gotham City Comedy Club and Laughing Buddha Comedy and even hosted a TED talk in 2015.
He’s gotten married and has a child, but he acknowledges that his most profound life experience was when he became a born-again Christian in 2008. On his Day 6 freestyle, he addressed the question, “I read somewhere you found God, gave your life to the cross.” He responds, “Actually, He found me. I was lost in the dark.” While his rhymes are certainly less rough around the edges and free of profanity, they’ve never lost their exacting precision.
He’s been writing and releasing music nonstop—as a true proponent of the elements of hip-hop, he never fell out of touch with the craft. When he took to Twitter to release these 20 magical bars, however, fans were both stunned and elated that the rapper seemed to be announcing a “comeback” of sorts. In his final 17-bar freestyle, however, he proclaims, “Don’t call it a comeback”. So his supposedly sudden reemergence should come as a shock to no one.
On Jan. 20, following his run of 30-second freestyles, he released single “Rhyme Book,” which is available on his Soundcloud page.
At the end of several freestyles and on his Twitter page, he announced he’ll be blessing us with three free albums throughout the year. The first, titled “Nobody’s Listening,” is set for release on Valentine’s Day. The subsequent albums, “Somebody’s Listening” and “Everybody’s Listening” have release dates of Apr. 1 and Jun. 4, respectively. All three albums will be available on his Soundcloud page.
Though 2017 thus far has had more downs than ups, MC Jin has offered some much-needed positivity and has lifted many spirits, giving us optimism for the New Year.