The powers of the universe work in crazy ways sometimes. In the case of Korean American rapper/producer/deejay Kero One, those powers definitely worked in his favor.
With just his homemade studio and a personal credit card, the San Francisco native released his first single “Check the Blueprints” in 2003 on his own imprint, Plug Label. Due to a lack of experience with distributing a record, Kero One enlisted a group of friends to help him out.
That’s when the universe stepped in.
One out of the only 50 copies that were distributed around the world somehow made its way to a tiny record store in Tokyo, Japan. A Japanese deejay found that one copy a few weeks later and played it at a club that night. People began asking the deejay about Kero One’s record, including a Japanese label executive who immediately contacted the rapper and asked for 3,000 copies of the record. The record became an underground hip-hop classic almost overnight in Japan and established Kero One’s status of a “mogul in the jazzy hip-hop genre.”
Kero One began performing in different cities around Japan where he was surprised to see the hundreds of fans who were waiting to get his autograph and take pictures with him. Despite the sudden fame, Kero One didn’t let it get to his head. He eventually finished his first album in 2005, Windmills of the Soul, doing everything from playing instruments, rapping, and sound engineering. And without the support of a label or street team, Kero One took it upon himself to handle all the responsibilities of promotion and marketing, manufacturing, finances, graphic layouts and web design. He personally handed out promo fliers to anyone who’d take them.
All of Kero One’s hard work was not in vain. He was able to quit his job as a web designer in 2006 to pursue music full time. Since then Kero One has been awarded the title of Best HipHop Album of 2006 from Remix magazine, topped the iTunes hip-hop charts, received praise from the likes of Emmy award winning producer Will.i.am, and toured all over Asia, Europe, Australia and the U.S.
But despite all his travels, his heart was clearly at home. In Kero One’s newest music video, “On Bended Knee” featuring Sam Ock from Kinetic World, shot and directed by Johnny Le, Kero One sings of his personal experiences traveling around the world and looking for love “in all the wrong places.” Whether you’re a fan of hip-hop, this is a video you’re all gonna wanna watch. (And in case you’re wondering, the girl he’s rapping about in the song said “yes”! They just got married a couple months ago!) Check it out:
Kero One has also shared the stage with artists like KRS 1, Blu + Exile , DJ Cash Money, Dj Kentaro and Epik High (where he participated in arguably the first successful Asian American hip-hop tour). Additionally, Kero One has kept busy collaborating with the likes of renowned acts such as Talib Kweli, Mark Farina, Epik High, and Dynamic Duo.
In 2007, Kero One opened his first office and recording studio in downtown San Francisco to house his fledging hip-hop/dance/funk imprint, Plug Label, releasing more than a dozen records and CDs.
In 2009, Kero One independently released his official sophomore album Early Believers showcasing the talents of some of his favorite vocalists such as UK singer Ben Westbeech, Finland’s Tuomo, and Portland’s Ohmega Watts. A fantastic blend of “soulful jazz tinged tracks to upbeat synth-driven party bangers,” Early Believers is a reflection of Kero One’s growth and maturity as a writer, composer, vocalist and arranger.
In 2010, Kero One released his third solo album entitled Kinetic World which again features some of his favorite artists, including Fashawn, Tablo of Epik High, Dumbfoundead (check out our interview with him!) and Othello. In addition, Kero One’s interest in the YouTube generation has inspired features from young talents such as Esna and Sam Ock.
Visit www.kero1.com for more information on the rapper and his music.