Media X student takes virtual stage at Joy Ruckus Club
Nathan Kim ‘21 always wanted to make his own music, but it was not until his freshmen year at University of the Pacific that he built the confidence to start a career as a rapper under the artist name Yen Won. This February, he was invited by Joy Ruckus Club, an online concert series led by artists of Asian descent, to perform at their third virtual online festival celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year. The festival hosted nine virtual stages over six days and featured 180 artists of Asian descent from all around the world.
“It was a really fascinating experience, as I'd done live shows before, but it was my first virtual concert experience,” said Kim. “I performed six different songs, which were a blend of my upcoming EP and previously released fan favorites. I started with "Change the World" which is the first track off my debut album and is what I consider to be my 'theme song'."
Kim gets his inspiration from many kinds of artists and genres such as Soul, jazz music, the 90s and modern-day hip hop, “I've been trying to find the perfect fusion of the old style with a new wave. I take a lot of inspiration from the artists around me, from people who make underground music which is very low key but it's something really unique. That's what I try to strive for, I love the underground sound.”
At first, Kim was only focused on free-styling and “doing his own thing” but he quickly realized that his music could inspire others by making a difference in people’s lives. His lyrics talk about the world around him, societal issues and global issues such as the environment and climate change.
“I just see so much happening around me that I kind of want to spread the message out to tell people to do better,” commented Kim. “That's a big thing for me, self-improvement, you know, being good to others, being a good influence on the community and giving back to the people around you.”
But being a successful musician involves a lot of work not only in a recording studio or on stage, but also doing your own marketing. As his music career started taking off, Kim realized that he needs to hone his skills in marketing, content creation and video. When he came to Pacific, Kim was originally going to study computer science and business, but he changed his major once he found the Media X Program, which helped elevate his advertising and marketing skills.
“When I joined Media X, I really liked the freedom to design my own courses, you can plot out your path based on your interest,” said Kim. “Marketing is a lot of fun for me so that’s what I focused my curriculum on: social media, marketing classes, graphic design, video editing. Those were skills I came into the school with but I needed a little bit more polish. I learned a lot of cool stuff about using Photoshop. All the little side features that Photoshop comes with that I wouldn't have even known existed until I took some of my classes. Media X has been really great in that way.”
His professors appreciate Kim’s enthusiasm and support his passion for a rap career. Dr. Graham Carpenter, assistant professor of communications, reflected on his experience teaching Kim:
“He is a remarkable student who I could see was well on his way as soon as he started our branding campaign assignments in my Strategic Communication course. He had well thought-out plans and expectations for the Yen Won brand and was able to execute his marketing campaign at a professional level even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nathan’s drive and passion for his music, coupled with the production quality of his content, makes his brand shine. I fully believe we’ll all be hearing much more from Yen Won.”
Once the pandemic is over, Kim hopes to go back to rapping live on stage. Even though his performance at Joy Ruckus Club Festival was an exciting international experience, interacting with live audiences is what he really misses.
“All I know is that I have to just put 110%," said Kim. "You can feed off the energy of the room. There's no feeling like that and I miss it so much.”
From his own experience, Kim realizes that starting a career in the music industry can be challenging. His long-term goal is to create an organization to support young upcoming artists, “I think it's really important to give back to people who are like me when I started. I want to be able to give to people who have potential, but just don't have the pieces to follow their dream quite yet. That's the end goal for me.