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How a North Korean Shopkeeper in Compton Helped Bring Gangster Rap to Japan

Kirk Kim, a Korean American business owner in the heart of Compton, California is frequently asked by journalists to make some societal-defining...

Kirk Kim, a Korean American business owner in the heart of Compton, California is frequently asked by journalists to make some societal-defining comment on race relations between Korean shop owners and African-American consumers. The infamous 1992 LA riots are undoubtedly responsible. For Kirk, the reality is less violent and more poetic. His father, Wan Joon, who passed away last month at age 79, was known as the unofficial Godfather of Gangster Rap. After immigrating from North Korea with his wife Boo Ja in the early 80s, he opened a 100-square-foot stall named Cycadelic Records in the Compton Fashion Center swap meet. Cycadelic became an institution for burgeoning and legendary gangster rappers— giving them a chance for their music to be heard when other distributors and shops wouldn’t.

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