It was a pleasant surprise to see an email invite from Super Smack inviting me to the listening party for his next single. It had been a few weeks since I had last seen him but I heard his voice everywhere. “Cute!” and “Grind!” started to show up in rotation through my TikTok For You Page and several of my personal friends would remark hearing the songs in their feeds as well. It was no denying his songs were picking up traction, but what exactly was resonating with the listeners? I finally had the perfect opportunity to find out.
Arriving at his place that evening you’d be hard pressed to think this was an “Industry Event.” Listening parties, I’ve heard, have more of a quiet setting with everyone intently listening to the music, but with Super Smack’s, it felt more like a party. Everyone there came from radically different backgrounds but were incredibly close knit. That closeness came from a love for each other and their respective talents, and tonight was a celebration of Smack’s latest accomplishment, “Orange Chicken!” From a hilarious party game (Bowl of Fun) to the late night discussions of the Fermi Paradox and sci-fi novels, I was able to see how Super Smack not only inspired those around him, but how they inspired his music in turn.
The night carried on long after the song played. “Orange Chicken!” wasn’t just a hit to my own ears, but the rest of the room as well. Everyone I spoke to about the song felt the exact vibes Smack was pushing for and it followed us late into the night. So late that by the time our interview was to start, everyone was pretty tired from the festivities. So, I decided to come over again the next day to catch up and hear his side of the listening party
So, how are you feeling now?
I’m jazzed. I’ve been on a consistent six-week song release cycle for the Booty & The Brain album. “Orange Chicken!” is the third release, and it’s making the biggest splash yet. Someone once told me, “If it happens once it’s an accident; if it happens twice, it’s a coincidence; if it happens three times, that’s a pattern.” So I feel like I’m establishing a true pattern of consistent music releases now. When I hear fans start to say things like “Oh, my God, this is my favorite one yet” or “I’m excited for the next one!” or “What’s the next one gonna be?” — it’s just so cool. It’s almost like training my audience to expect more from me, which is a cool position to be in. My music team and I — we’re ready to deliver.
So prior to Booty & The Brain, how was your release scheduling?
More spread out. There were almost two years in between the Neon Red & Blue EPs. It was fine because I was earlier in my career and still figuring things out. But now I have so much more experience in the production process, and also the marketing process. And I have a team with me now which makes all the difference. They help push and hold me accountable to releasing songs in a frequency that’s consistent with my artistic goals.
Interesting. Yeah. So tell me more about “Orange Chicken.” I got to hear it at the party and I enjoyed it. So tell me a bit more about the creation of it.
My goal with “Orange Chicken!” was to make my boldest song yet. The theme, lyrics, and beat are all very punched-up and in your face. It’s also one of my danciest tracks, which took alot of care to accomplish. To make something truly dancy you have to have the perfect ingredients in production and mixing.
I found an incredible Korean producer named BEATCoin who had a mastery of dance pop and an undertone of funk in his music. He made this beat that was exactly what I was searching for: the heavy syncopation and diverse instrumentation really allowed me to switch between melodic rap to lyrical rap to pop multiple times throughout. Then when we got to the mixing process, my engineer Douglas Widick and I chose to give it the hyperpop treatment. We flipped octaves back and forth, we slammed on the gas, then the brakes, then the gas again. And it ended up being wavy AF, which is exactly what we envisioned.
Yeah, I can tell. It also just feels really catchy and your storytelling is just constantly getting better each single. And the songwriting process for this one went back a couple years, right? You got the idea for this back in 2019?
Yeah, the original song idea came when I was on tour opening for LEX The Lexicon Artist, who is also Asian American. We would need to get a lot of quick food on the road, but we also missed Asian food. So “American Asian” fast food chains like Panda Express became reliable spots we’d hit up multiple times on tour.
A couple months later, I met this white dude who bragged to me that he “knew alot about Asia.” When I mentioned that I ate orange chicken often on tour, he was appalled and tried to put me down for eating food that wasn’t “authentic.” There was an insinuation that I wasn’t Asian enough — which is a sensitive subject for a lot of Asian Americans, because a lot of us have grown up being made to feel like we are neither American enough nor Asian enough. But the truth about Asian Americans is we are both. If you’re Asian American, then you’re Asian enough. You’re American enough. We are complicated, because our diaspora is complicated. The history of orange chicken is complicated. It was invented by Asians who lived in America, and who were finding both their Asianness and Americanness. I relate to that, big time. That became the genesis of this song. And particularly this part:
I don’t care what the people gon’ say /
Bout what I put on my plate
Imma do this my way
Cuz I know that I’m East enough
That I’m West enough
If you don’t like it, then tough
I eat my Orange Chicken
Without a hint of shame
This chicken so dang tangy I don’t care that it’s a chain
I’m actually kinda glad that conversation happened, because it made me reflect on alot of what we go through. The best part is, it’s not just an Asian thing. We all have multiple parts to our identities, and at one point we’ve all asked ourselves, “Am I [blank] enough?” and then we find out that we’re actually the ones who get to decide that answer for ourselves. “Orange Chicken!” is about expressing yourself however you want, without a hint of shame.
So how did you come to feel more comfortable in your own skin?
Honestly, through music, through writing my own stuff and feeling really good about it. I can put what I’m feeling into music and see that it not only has an effect on me but also other people. It creates a positive feedback loop I get to draw from and make more music with. I specifically released it during May, because it’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and it’s a time to celebrate who we are. I see that people from all backgrounds end up vibing with it, and that encourages me to keep writing more songs and sharing them.
How did you like the listening party for “Orange Chicken?” I had a good time.
Glad you did! It was great. This was my first official listening party release party for a single. And I just wanted something festive and a way to celebrate, you know? This album, Booty & The Brain, and the Super Smack project as a whole are increasingly becoming team efforts. Half the people at that party have helped me with one of my projects in some way, so I wanted to thank them and celebrate their work as well.
I also wanted to kick-off Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with an inclusive party, and to invite all my friends (not just the Asian ones) to let them know that they are invited to celebrate as well. That meant a lot to me to show that everyone can celebrate this month. Just have a good time. Rock out to some music, support your friends, meet new people and eat some tangy, crispy, sweet, hot orange chicken.
So now that “Orange Chicken” is out, what are your plans for the next few weeks?
So I’m about to do the photo shoot for the album, which I’m very excited about. It’s gonna be for the next few singles and the album art, which I’ve been planning & producing with my creative director Hanqin Jin, who’s coming in from LA. There’s gonna be a whole crew at the shoot so it’s a whole team effort. So that’s gonna be dope. I’ve also been doing a lot of physical training in preparation for the shoot. Focusing on nutrition, fitness, lifting, cardio with me and my trainer, Anthony Jaroscak. It’s been fun to put myself to that physical test too, to see how good shape I can get myself in for the album shoot, because I want to express that union of body and mind fireworks that the album is all about. Then the rest of May, I’m going to be in Los Angeles for a bunch of AAPI month networking events and music making sessions. After that, next single in another six weeks!
Nice. Yeah. Well, thank you for taking some time to talk of course. I hope you have a great night and get some rest. You’re gonna need it.
Thanks! Always energizing getting to talk with you.