It was a slightly uncommon group of people to see at Tokyobeat that night. I’ve been coming around there for the last two years or so and the crowd that showed up for Playdough’s 5th Ultra Rare event was very diverse– which I thought was fantastic. But since I had arrived late, I missed the opening performer: SCRLLICON VALLEY. Somehow I was able to make my way into the sweaty, packed little venue and enjoy the rest of the night . By 2 AM, I was already situated on the couches in front watching everyone walk out– either gathering with their friends making after party plans or deciding to call it a night. That’s when he came up to the girl sitting next to me and introduced himself.
I desperately needed to get out of Orange County (for my sanity), so I looked around to see if there were any events going on in LA that I could go to and just distract myself with good music. To be fair, it was a weekday and with nothing going on, I hit up Choi and asked if he’d be down to sit and talk with RBC. I drive out to his studio in north Hollywood to interview him and the people apart of his crew– which eventually led to a fun, spontaneous get together of people learning a little bit about each other. As soon as I walked in, I was immediately greeted by everyone there– Nate, Tracy, Helen, Dave, etc. Later on we joke that each of them do their part in the group and when I ask what Choi offers he answers me with, “I literally walk into the room, start dancing, doing jumping jacks and they just record it.” Growing up in San Jose and being from the Bay area definitely shows in the music SCRLLICON VALLEY creates, which is not just one person. Each individual involved plays a specific role that is fulfilled with their own unique talents– these people make up SCRLLICON VALLEY. To be honest, before that night, I didn’t know much about this artist or his brand. Now I know Jamo James Choi likes to say he’s a professional male Chippendale stripper, but he is in fact a deejay/producer.
I start to get situated while the boys are playing video games and passing around the joint I offered up after I politely declined the dab hit they offered me earlier on. Since it was such a spur of the moment meet and greet, I didn’t get a chance to prep for this so I start spit balling random questions off the top of my head. The first thing Choi tells me is that he was born in Scotland, (or actually dropped off by aliens.) Apparently he’s quite the jokester as well.
Choi moved from the Bay to Los Angeles when he was 21, but started messing around with music early on in his teenage years. He began seriously deejaying about a year ago.
- “I made a lot shitty beats and sending them to my friends.” (This was around the age of 16.) Apparently they didn’t believe in his music back then, but Choi and his friends were also break dancers as well, which was a pretty important phase in their lives.
- “I wasn’t really serious about it then, just trying to imitate rappers and shit.”
- Can you rap?
- “Nah, but I can imitate them.” (That’s when Nate and them chime in saying he can rap, so naturally I challenge him to a rap battle telling him I’d definitely destroy his rap game.)
We’re all sitting around laughing at random jokes being thrown around and while openly attempting to come up with an interesting question, he asks me what my favorite color is.
- Red. What’s yours?
- “It’s evolving.. Sometimes it’s black sometimes it’s white.”
- Okay, I see you– it depends on your mood.
- “Yeah, that’s cool right?”
- *Jokingly* That’s kind of depressing, but whatever.
He grew up listening to underground hip hop artists like Jedi Mind Tricks, Atmosphere, Living Legends, etc. Choi mentions Nujabes being one of the artists that inspired all of it. On the topic of musical influences, he starts to tell me about DJ Zo, who Choi claims to be an important influence on him. “He [DJ Zo] performed at a couple Ultra Rare shows– that was probably the moment that I realized I want to do this for the rest of my life.” When he’s describing why he feels this way, I can see how much he genuinely admires Zo’s work.
- “He did something to just really level everyone out.. and he just had the most fun.”
- Just putting out good vibes for everyone?
- “He put out something– he inspired and sparked something.”
Speaking on artists these days and in general, I respect Choi’s perspective he has on the type of sounds and style of music that’s around now: “As an artist you got to respect what they do. For example ******, I’m not mad at him now. He’s just different.”
How would you describe your music to people who don’t know you?
- “Fuckin’ Genre-less. It’s confusing–“
- I like that. Is it like people walk in thinking, ”what the fuck is this?”
- He laughs and says, “yes, it’s exactly like that. I’ve made plenty of songs on shrooms with my friends and we’ve turned it into something extremely–” (I interrupt quickly asking if there’s anything I’ve heard yet or if he plans on releasing any new songs soon.)
- “–Well they’re boiling right now, but it doesn’t matter what time. They’re a lot of songs sitting around.”
Changing up the norm, Choi decides it’s his turn to ask me some questions:
- “What’s the first ice cream flavor you remember tasting? ”
- How the hell am I supposed to remember that!? I think vanilla.. Yeah, vanilla.
- “Alright, Trump or Clinton?” (Everybody including myself burst out laughing.)
- Are you serious?! Let’s not get too political here, okay?
- “How many countries have you been to?”
- I’ve been to Vietnam, China.. Hawaii. Man, I fucking hated Hawaii.
Attempting to stay on topic, I ask him if he has any interesting future plans worth mentioning:
- “I plan on having more dogs, more kids.”
- *Laughing* How many kids do you have?
- “Um, about seven. Dwarves.”
- What are their names? Grumpy, Happy?
- ”One, two, three, four, five, *everyone laughing* what are you talking about?”
Choi is definitely just a giant goof ball. Concerning the label and music aspect, he tells me he’s got huge plans coming up. There’s a variety of artists they are working with that are each coming out with EPs: from hip hop to folk music, rock, pop and even trap. He explains to me how everyone he works with has their own style and sound– they all just have fun and vibe together, mix and matching their talents while creating music all at the same time. “I feel like music is not racist, and I love that I see all different races and people at these shows.” (I jump in while he’s saying this and I completely agree. Everyone comes out to these events or shows and you see they’re all just having a good time and enjoying the music. There’s no negativity, just good vibes and good people.)
Watching Nate and Tracy shout at the TV quite intensely, I ask what game they’re playing. Choi tells me it’s called Rocket League and “it takes a lot of anxiety.” I answer, “I have a lot of anxiety, I’m basically made out of anxiety and water.” Sometimes meeting new people can be nerve wracking, but there were no feelings of forced conversation or awkward lulls. I can’t speak for them, but I quickly felt very comfortable around this group.
We walk outside for a cigarette break and start making jokes with each other along with talk about a ton of random subjects that we agreed would be off the record. This was definitely one of the most fun interviews I’ve done so far. They asked me about RBC, showed each other some new music, talked about personal past experiences and future goals. Choi and Nguyen plan to move to New York eventually in the future. He briefly mentions the fashion scene there being one of the reasons to make the move.
- What part of New York were you thinking?
- “Maybe Brooklyn or Manhattan..” -Choi
- Yeah, spread your music around the city?
I tell them how I’d like to move closer to LA because the music scene is definitely there, which we all agreed on. Choi compares Orange County to San Jose and although I was born and raised in OC, I never saw a future life for myself there. It’s very easy to become comfortable in that city, so it’s difficult for a lot of people to progress and grow.
- “If you’re young and single and ambitious to figure shit out, I mean that’s why [we] moved to the Bay and LA.” -Choi
- Exactly, which is what happened to me this year. It’s why I just dived into this whole website without knowing what the fuck I was doing, but I’ve always wanted to do something like this so I said fuck it and just did it.
- “So what is your website?” -Nguyen (Tracy)
While trying to describe RBC to Nguyen and Choi, I explain that the content and articles I’d like to put out there are more personable and intimate. I want to promote the smaller, underground artists, music and events that I believe in, but don’t get enough recognition. I’m still growing and learning with my website. I may not be doing it with the proper, conventional format of writing, I just want my voice in each article I work on and put out for the public. I know tons of huge blogs doing the same thing, except I want the readers who come across my page to be able to see a little deeper into the people I’m writing about instead of what’s above the surface.
In between side conversations, I ask: When did the recognition start happening?
- “I started booking some shows.. And we started throwing our own shows.” -Choi
This group of goofy, laid back and just plain hilarious people take part in the label Waterbomb, which is a charity that focuses on raising awareness in countries that don’t have the luxury to clean, accessible drinking water.
- What’s the concept behind Waterbomb?
- “It’s something my brother [Andrew] started and is still pushing through. So pretty much we raise money by partying — with that money, it goes straight to building wells.”
- You’re very charitable people, that’s awesome.
- “Yeah, well we did it by partying so..”
Through music, art, fashion and other forms of self-expression, Waterbomb teams up with non-profit organizations and with each event they succeed in raising this awareness on a global level. So by throwing their own events and parties (mostly in LA), Choi and his crew were able donate the proceeds to build several wells around the world. In their past events, they had artists such as Anderson Paak, (who performed multiple Ultra Rare events) and Dumbfoundead. They are now coming up on their 5th Waterbomb event.
If you aren’t familiar with their music, I highly recommend giving it a listen. You can find Choi on Soundcloud or Mixcloud.