In celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival, I had a brief chat with rapper and producer, Chow Mane, to understand the deeper meaning behind his new single ‘Mooncakes,’ and how his Chinese-American identity has shaped who he is as an artist.
“I’ve been planning to release an EP for a while now but I settled on the Mooncakes idea about 4 months ago… just in time to coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival.”
The Festival is celebrated by both Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, so through the narrative of ‘Mooncake’, he connects both sides of his identity, and gives us a glimpse into his childhood and family life.
He jumps right into the imagery with the hook:
Aye, moon cake red bean in the bread roll.
多谢奶奶爷爷 (translation: thank you grandma/grandpa) for the red envelopes.
“The idea for this track arose because I felt like I wanted to share a bit more about my experience growing up in the US, and my family’s experience here. I know my family has had an interesting experience establishing themselves after being refugees from the Vietnam war.”
My dad came from the struggle, they lost it all in the war.
The government took the house and they raided out all the drawers.
And every one of em looked at the sky, asked why lord.
I asked Chow whether he was concerned his songs ‘Dumpling’ ‘China Town’ and now ‘Moon Cakes’ would come off too gimmicky, or listeners would feel like he was feeding stereotypes to the public.
“You often hear references to Chinese restaurants and the common jokes from non-Asian artists (like that skit on Fugees’ the score) and I wanted to talk about the other side. A lot of Asian-American artists avoid talking about being Asian because they feel like it’s a gimmick and they can prove themselves as good artists regardless of highlighting their race. I don’t see it exactly the same way – my identity is a central part of who I am and I want my music to reflect it. Dumplings, for instance, is a fun, upbeat, and exciting song because that’s exactly what I’m feeling when I’m about to eat dumplings. Again, the idea being that I want to not only make something that other Asian-Americans can relate to from their experience but also foster understanding from other groups. I want to ultimately show that there’s no singular Asian or Asian American experience; through my songs, I’m kind of just touching on the different facets of my own and I know that others may or may not feel the same way.”
All the beats on Chow’s upcoming EP are self-produced except for ‘Dumplings.’ In fact, for ‘Mooncakes’ Chow Mane sampled a song from Chinese artist Jiang Xiao Qing to give it an authentic, ethnic sound.
After a decade of rapping, Chow is comfortable with who he is and he’s ready to share his stories with the world.
Listen to the song and check out his EP. Read the lyrics below.