Uzuhan (James Han) is an Atlanta based, independent Christian hip-hop artist. He self-describes his music as mixing the “energy of Aminė, spirituality of Lauryn Hill, and pop-sense of Stevie Wonder”. I would say that it’s groovy music that you feel and find yourself moving to. We would both agree that you’ll probably find yourself telling your friends about him.
In 2017, Uzuhan won the national grand prize at Kollaboration Star (the largest Asian talent showcase in America) which led to a 2018 billing at SXSW. He is one of my absolute favorite musicians and I am thrilled that he graciously agreed to this interview.
Give me three adjectives that best describe your personality.
Funny, Personable, Observant
What is one fun/quirky fact about yourself that only your friends/family know?
I can fall asleep anywhere, within a few minutes. I’m also pretty good at chess.
Imagine for a moment that you are a big Uzuhan fan? How would you describe Uzuhan’s music to your friends?
There are many things that could be said … He’s an artist I didn’t realize I needed. His musings are that of an ordinary person trying to find their place in the world, but in music form. His songs are fun and have a positive message. He’s a lyricist who follows Christ while exploring the nuances of life. He sounds like the golden era of hip-hop embodied in a Korean American, but with a modern twist.
What does a typical day for an independent music artist look like?
I have a day job so a lot of my time is spent working there. I enjoy working a job because it keeps me tethered to the real world and provides a steady revenue stream. I’ve found this allows my music to be pure in passion and, ultimately, allows me to create freely. Nowadays I spend a lot of time offline enjoying my life. Being with my wife. Spending time with friends. Creating hobbies. Playing video games. Reading. And sometimes I record music.
So you find that even with a full time job you have the time you need to put into your music? The idea of putting out music on top of a full time job seems like a lot.
It is, creating music and content happens in sprints for me. If I have an evening free, I could flesh out an idea pretty quickly. Sometimes my work is really slow so even if I can’t record, I could email a producer and be like, “Hey, let’s schedule some time this week”, or I could do admin stuff to prep for that recording or writing session. I’ve found over the years I can condense my time and still have the output that I want… I think I’ve gotten pretty decent over the years to know how much time I really need. And I’m not putting a crazy deadline on myself. I can record a verse tonight and marinate on it over the week. Actually, I usually start with choruses, so I’ll marinate on the chorus for a whole week. I’ll listen to it in the car, or on my breaks or anytime I have free time. Then I’ll go home and edit one line. Instead of spending 8 hour chunks at a time I’ll spend 1-2 blocks at a time.
What’s happening right now career-wise? What projects should your fans be excited about?
I’m releasing a new song on the last Friday of every month in 2021. In order to grow the Uzuhan brand and increase the quality of my work, I’ve been exploring different music styles and trying new things. I’m in the process and have decided to bring my fans along for the ride.
How does your process work to get a song released every month?
I prepped super hard for this in October/November of 2020. So I already had the producers I wanted to work with. I reached out to them, “Hey, send me a beat. I have this idea in mind .” So I already had an idea of what kind of stuff I wanted to do in October of 2020.
How much of your own production do you do as opposed to working with producers?
I actually don’t make beats at all. I’m kinda like Rick Rubin, or like Kanye where we can’t really play instruments like that but we just kinda chase a feeling or chase an idea and get the people who we think can execute the idea.
What’s next for Uzuhan? Where do you see your music career going in the next couple of years?
I plan on crafting a project for 2022. Projects give me space to create at a slower pace with deeper intention, develop narrative, and produce quality work.
As for where I see my career going, I’m not sure anymore. I spent most of my 20’s trying to be the cool-Korean-Christian-rapper guy, fixated on being famous for Jesus. I lived the full-time artist life and portrayed an image like I had it figured out. But when I turned 30 last year, I realized I didn’t resonate with that mindset anymore. For 10+ years I lived that lifestyle and enjoyed the hustle of it all. But now I feel it’s time for a change.
I don’t want music to be my main source of income anymore. I don’t want to pressure myself to produce a high volume of content anymore. I don’t want to project an image of perfection anymore. These expectations stressed me out.
Instead of trying to prove something, now I’m just trying to be.
I’m re-discovering my love for music. I’m asking harder questions. I’m listening more intently, and I’m in search of new dreams for Uzuhan.
Uzuhan and I chatted about his evolving thoughts on fame on our Zoom call. See the video below:
Your music has gained a measure of popularity in the Asian hip-hop dance community. What do you think that says about your music?
Dancers have said that my music has little details that make it fun to choreograph to. Perhaps it’s the sound of my uzubird, random adlibs, special moments in the instrumental, or my not-so-typical rap flows that makes it danceable.
I intentionally craft special moments in the song for people to remember. For example, we’ll put a special effect on the vocals in verse one and never do it again. I like to think my music has lots of moments for dancers to express their musicality.
What advice do you have for young artists who want to pursue a career in music?
Create what you love. Focus on your personal growth. Pour energy into making your product. Educate yourself on branding, marketing, and music business. If you have good taste, work smart, business integrity, lots of money to fund projects, honest teammates, and tons of luck, then you can be a career recording artist.
For better or worse, music streaming is here and it’s here to stay. How has that changed the economics of being an independent artist?
I like streaming because it has become a source of passive income. I’ve learned that adapting and growing is a natural rhythm of life. Streaming did not negatively impact me, in fact, it has helped to build my audience.
In the age of streaming, how can music fans support the artists that they want to hear more music from?
Use our music in your content (tiktok and ig videos), follow our spotify artist profiles, and buy our merch!
In the age of music streaming, how have the roles of singles, EPs and albums changed? Do artists still need to release full-length albums?
How do you feel about the label Christian artist or Christian music?
I don’t mind how people label me anymore. I used to obsess over it until I realized, for most people, music has utility when it entertains, creates an environment, or amplifies their message. Because my music is multifaceted, people will naturally label it however they want to fit their context. If my music happens to resonate with a Christian and they call it Christian music, then, great. If it’s considered as “positive vibes” to someone else, then, cool. I’m just glad people are listening.
As you know, I included you on a list I created of Christians making great music. Who are your top three favorite Christians making music right now? Top three Christian songs?
There are dozens of artists I could name who your audience probably has never heard of, and it pains me to only name 5 of them: Sarah Kang, CASS, Cole McSween, Tragic Hero, Brian Reith.
“Don’t Wait” by Jamie
“814” by Isla Vista Worship, Mark Barlow
“Know Better” by Sam Ock
As a Christian who makes music, how do you define your work on the spectrum of ministry on one side and career on the other? Or do you see them as different at all?
When talking about music, I’m not sure if I would put ministry and career on opposite sides of the same spectrum. I’d probably replace “ministry” with “hobby.” The reason is because ministry can happen anywhere. In my opinion, the opposite of “career” is not “ministry.” I believe what you’re trying to ask me is: does my music have the end goal of being for-profit or non-profit? If so, my music is for-profit.
I know you follow CWCS on Instagram. What are your thoughts on the page and/or website?
Y’all supply my daily dosage of chuckles 😂 and nose puffs 😤. I love how CWCS uses comedy to let people take an honest look at the western church.
Jason is a big fan of a few things: funky music, scenic PNW hikes, quality lattes (usually from PNW roasters), playing sports with friends, big family dinners, his wife Maddie, and what Jesus is doing in his life. Over on Instagram, he manages a page dedicated to helping YOU find fresh new songs for your Spotify playlists – @listenwithjason. You can get in touch with him there. He’d love to hear about music that you’re excited about.