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  • - [switch clicks] - [electric razor buzzing]

  • SOPHIA CHANG: If you ask Asians in the creatie

  • if their parents can describe what they do,

  • no.

  • What does that mean to manage a?

  • The gift that hip-hop gave me ws

  • expressing myself in a way that was... raw.

  • Wu-Tang helped give voice to my.

  • [crowd shouting]

  • I am now an author.

  • I wrote a book.

  • My story speaks to the world.

  • ALL: Woo!

  • SOPHIA: But the people that I most wanna impact

  • are women of color.

  • What I am doing with any of thes that I'm telling my story

  • is cracking open the world's imn

  • on what an Asian woman can be,

  • what a single mother can be,

  • what a middle-aged woman can be.

  • My daily existence is an act of.

  • CARLOS WATSON: The most extraordinary lives

  • follow undefined paths.

  • To find your voice,

  • you may need to journey into the unknown.

  • I'm Carlos Watson, editor of OZY,

  • and these are "Defining Moments"

  • instrumental music

  • - Hey.

  • Do I get a hug or a shake?

  • SOPHIA: [laughs] You get a hug.

  • - Nice to meet you. - Hello, Mr. Watson.

  • Nice to meet you too. - Thank you for having me in yo.

  • - Thank you for coming. - Yeah.

  • - This is an Asian household, so you have to take off your sh.

  • I don't, though. - Oh, you don't but I do?

  • - Yeah, kind of, that's how it ,

  • because mine are clean, and I'm, and I get to keep my shoes on.

  • - You know what, your house, yo-

  • - Thank you. My rules. I apprec.

  • - That's great.

  • Hi. Thank you for having me her.

  • - I'm so excited that you're he.

  • - Um... you're not a New Yorker.

  • - I'm not. I'm, I'm from Vancour

  • but smash cut into New York.

  • Hip-hop was kinda my first introduction to it.

  • CARLOS: What would have happened if you had not gone into hip-ho?

  • SOPHIA: Oh, I don't think I woue the same woman I am today.

  • If it wasn't for Wu-Tang, I wouldn't have the kids I have.

  • I simply don't know what my life would have looked like

  • had I not gone into hip-hop.

  • I was born and raised in Vancou.

  • Child of Korean immigrants.

  • My mother escaped North Korea.

  • She left behind siblings and he. She never saw them again.

  • And she met my father at the University of Seoul.

  • They got married, and they came to Vancouver

  • probably in '64, and I was born.

  • Where I grew up was almost exclusively white,

  • so I faced lots of overt racism.

  • I got called chink, I got calle,

  • I got called gook.

  • HEESOK CHANG: My sister put a lot of energies

  • into wanting to be assimilated,

  • especially I think in the high school years.

  • SOPHIA: Every image I see of bey and power and sex appeal

  • is whiteness.

  • I was ashamed of being Asian fot just a little bit, but for a lo.

  • When I had to talk about my parents' names,

  • that was embarrassing.

  • Listening to my parents talk with heavy accents was embarras.

  • When people came over and they smelled our food,

  • it was embarrassing.

  • HEESOK: There was a period when she, uh,

  • I think was kind of reacting against family traditions,

  • sitting down at, uh, the table ,

  • which was very important for myy and eating Korean food.

  • Sometimes my sister would see what my mom had cooked

  • and she would make herself a grilled cheese sandwich.

  • It created a lot of tension bet,

  • her and my father.

  • SOPHIA: I was always defiant.

  • I was angry.

  • And hip-hop showed me

  • how to fine-tune that anger and.

  • The first time I heard Grandmaster Flash and the Furio,

  • the first time I heard The Mess,

  • it was such a light bulb moment.

  • - ♪ It's like a jungle sometime

  • It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

  • - In retrospect, I believe

  • that the reason that it resonatd with me so deeply

  • is because... it was

  • people of color taking control of their own narrative.

  • CARLOS: How old were you? - I was 17.

  • - I do remember her being very d

  • when she first discovered hip-h,

  • and I could tell that it was moe than the music.

  • SOPHIA: If you're the child of , most of us were raised

  • to take safe jobs.

  • My father, God rest his soul, a math professor.

  • My mother, a librarian.

  • My brother is now a tenured English professor at Vassar.

  • There's no doubt that I was supposed to be an academic.

  • There was nothing academic that really stimulated me.

  • Hip-hop just opened my eyes, like, oh my God.

  • I was so anxious to get to New k that I skipped

  • my graduation from University.

  • University of British Columbia is where my father taught,

  • it's where my mother worked, it's where my brother graduated.

  • And then their daughter's like, nyeh, I'm just gonna go.

  • That was probably really disappointing for my par.

  • CARLOS: Unhappy with the future her parents prescribed for her,

  • Sophia rejected her native cult,

  • and would forge her own path

  • motivated by the need to create her own identity.

  • hip-hop music

  • HEESOK: My sister lived in a tit right above the subway.

  • - I just fell into the scene, I got ensconced,

  • and it was just

  • this world that was so

  • new and vibrant.

  • - I was in graduate school, and she would make me hip-hop t,

  • and they were, uh, they were fa.

  • Big Daddy Kane, EPMD,

  • Public Enemy, Leaders Of The Ne.

  • SOPHIA: This is a letter that I sent to my brother

  • on June 8th, 1988.

  • "Not much to write, but here are the tapes I promised so long ag.

  • "I started writing a song-by-sos

  • "of the hip-hop tape, but that will take me a while th

  • so it's forthcoming."

  • soft music

  • HEESOK: So I used to visit my sister, uh, fairly often,

  • and she took us to, uh, these cs that were playing hip-hop music.

  • She was in the eye of the storm.

  • SOPHIA: There were these three promoter.

  • They had this brilliant idea to have clubs,

  • and they named them after choco.

  • Payday is the one that I remember the most.

  • There was also 100 Grand Bar. There was Mars Bar, I think.

  • And they would move from spot t.

  • Like, I remember one I'm prettye was at a Ukrainian hall.

  • One was at a deserted Chinese r,

  • and it was just such a sense of.

  • There was no social media.

  • There were no cell phones, so wd just get the flyer and call eac,

  • oh my God, it's gonna be here, it's gonna be there.

  • It was like going on, like, a wild goose chase. It was awes.

  • One of the people that I met in New York was Sean Carasov,

  • this surly Brit who was doing A&R Jive in New York,

  • and he was moving to LA.

  • And he said, "Sophie,

  • [in English accent] I think youd come and interview for my job."

  • [in normal voice] And I was like, "Really? Wow, o"

  • I went and I interviewed with Bs who was the president of Jive,

  • and he told me later, he said, "The minute you walked in the d,

  • I knew that you wouldn't get th"

  • I'm sure Barry had doubts aboute because I'm a woman,

  • I'm Asian, I'm Canadian,

  • but after an hour and a half of, he gave me the job

  • and I asked him recently, I sai, "Barry, why did you give me the"

  • And he said, "Because you were . deeply embedded in the scene

  • that I knew that you would be a good scout."

  • Rico Wade and Ray Murray, two of the guys in Organized No.

  • CeeLo... 40...

  • Gipp, Joe.

  • Historic.

  • MICHAEL OSTIN: I had the good fe of meeting Sophia

  • through some, uh, mutual collea,

  • and I was taken with Sophia imm.

  • She's such a... incredible force of nature.

  • I mean, there's no doubt Sophia was a fish out of water.

  • I mean, hip-hop and that world was misogynist

  • but she just was super-enthusia,

  • uh, very knowledgeable, and she was fearless.

  • - Were you the only Asian--

  • - I was the first. I was the first Asian woman.

  • There were other Asian men and women that came after me

  • but '87,

  • they're not like I was in there and not working.

  • So were there other Asians in the clubs? For sure.

  • But I actually had a formal posn as an A&R person,

  • which was pretty striking.

  • When I was at Jive, I did A&R which means I'm the talent scou,

  • and it means that you're getting a whole bunch of demo tapes

  • and you're listening to them,

  • and a lot of them are garbage.

  • And the Wu-Tang demo, three songs.

  • Protect Ya Neck, Tearz, and Met.

  • I remember putting it on and gog

  • "Wow!

  • What is this?" There were nine .

  • Nine MCs. I mean, that's crazy.

  • That didn't really exist like t.

  • So there's no way Jive would si.

  • Loud ended up signing them, but I was still so excited.

  • I was a Wu evangelist.

  • I was playing that shit for any. I was like, "Listen to this!"

  • I knew that I wanted to meet RZ.

  • I knew that he was the brains b.

  • And I got a meeting with him and it was the summer of '93.

  • He was gangly and taller than I'd expected.

  • He greeted me with--

  • RZA: Hey, Soph.

  • SOPHIA: We went down the streete to Lox Around the Clock for lun.

  • I then grilled him with questios about the Clan.

  • He told me that most of them had met in Staten Island,

  • which they called "Shaolin."

  • RZA had a unique worldview and clear vision for the group.

  • When we parted, I thought,

  • that's one of the smartest mother [no audio] I've ever met.

  • As I walked north on 6th Avenue wondering when we'd next meet,

  • he called out-- RZA: Yo, Soph.

  • SOPHIA: I turned quickly. RZA: Next time, lunch is on me.

  • - And immediately, they take me.

  • You know, "Come here, Soph. You're with us now."

  • I went to the studio and I had met Method Man

  • and he rushes me into the backrm and he says,

  • "Sophie, Sophie, you gotta come. You gotta watch my,

  • "you gotta watch my video.

  • I, I just got back the video for Method Man."

  • And he shows me the video and sitting across from me

  • and watching me is this guy,

  • and when the video's finished, ,

  • "Where are you from?"

  • Now, any person of color can tet

  • that's rarely a question, it's a statement.

  • It's saying

  • who the [no audio] do you think?

  • 'Cause you don't belong here.

  • Before I could answer, Method just flew in between us

  • and he yelled,

  • "That's Sophie Chang, and she's down with Wu-Tang.

  • Never disrespect her again."

  • On the one hand, I'm getting,

  • "You don't belong here. This isn't for you."

  • But the flipside of that is hern

  • saying to him, "This is for her.

  • "This is her home.

  • She is our family."