Character Concerts: Jason Chu and Alan Z Want Audiences To Take Them at Their ‘Face Value’

With the past year being one of the most difficult for the AAPI community, it’s become increasingly important to educate people on the history and the struggles that Asians have gone through in this country. Armed with a platform and some bars, longtime friends and rappers Jason Chu and Alan Z have teamed up to write a collaborative concept album to help illustrate and educate the public on AAPI history. 

“Whether it’s street violence [or] the government labelling Chinese people or Asian people as dangerous … there’s a long history of all those sentiments,” Chu said, going back to what first inspired the album. “We started talking about [putting] out something that’s not just addressing what’s going on right now but addressing where that comes from.” 

The album, “Face Value,” features a multitude of featured artists coming from all different backgrounds including Ann One, Sirena, Dante Basco, Ruby Ibarra, and Humble the Poet in order to go against the point of view that Asians are monolithic. “We were very intentional about seeking out South, South East and East Asian artists [in order to have] that equity on the album,” Chu explained.

But even though the album was written with the AAPI community in mind, the message still connects with those who are not a part of it. “It doesn’t stop at just the Asian American community,” Z started, referencing non-Asian fans who have resonated with the album. “We’re trying to make sure that anyone who listens will hear the pain.” 

And even with the long and difficult journey Asian Americans have had in their history, there have been triumphs as well that the two rappers are more than happy to celebrate too. “We don’t want to just explore oppression and trauma,” Z said, introducing the final song on the album, “Sandra,” named after Sandra Oh. “We want to be able to … celebrate the contributions, the accolades and how great it is to be a part of this community.” 

Watch the full episode above for a performance of “Model Minority,” “Family Style” and more.