Ten-Headed Skeleton is a hip hop artist to watch out for as we enter 2020. With a series of in-your-face videos and music in which the artist released last year, Ten-Headed Skeleton shows no signs of slowing down. There was a war in Vietnam four decades ago. Hundreds of villages were bombed, leaving innocent people without homes, jobs, or food for themselves – let alone their children. Thousands of these children, many of whom were born as the result of rape by or prostitution to soldiers from the invading army, were taken in by families in other countries. Ten-Headed Skeleton is one of them. Found abandoned in a basket near the Soc Trang Aka Khanh Hung delta, he was adopted by an American couple and has grown into a powerhouse of a rapper with primal, vivacious beats to accompany his raspy, world-weary voice. He’s on a warpath to put hip hop on a different bearing.
Let's catch up with the musical powerhouse that is Ten-Headed Skeleton, below.
What is the story behind your latest song releases? And what was the inspiration for it?
My latest album “Cannibal” was actually recorded in December 2017. I was inspired to make it when a San Diego Tape label emailed they wanted to release something with me. That very next day I started recording and I finished 99% the album in less than two weeks. When they were ready to start releasing it in the summer of 2018, I was still waiting for a verse from a friend to collaborate on it, so it wasn’t ready. Instead, I started creating a brand new album, “Eating Flesh Off Bones” and they released that via Cassette Tape. It wasn’t until Fall 2019, “Cannibal” would be self-released.
When writing songs in general, what elements did you want to convey in the tracks?
I like to convey serious topics like Racism, say what’s randomly on my mind, or utilize my storytelling skills.
Since I began in 1995, I’ve recorded songs about racism from an Asian-American’s perspective, because we have to face it from teachers to bosses to friends. I want to put a mirror to their face and show them themselves. When I read something that pisses me off, I write about it. I have an unreleased song “Gymnastics” about Michigan state coach, Larry Nassur, who was molesting student athletes and getting away with it for 20 years. Or on “Cannibal” track four “A Deaf Man Finally Finds His Family 25 Years After his kidnapping” is about boy was deaf and didn’t know sign language, getting abducted on the streets. After he finally he escaped, he couldn’t remember where he was from or convey his past. Eventually in his middle age, he sought help from a local paper and they connected him with his family 25 after going missing.
Who are your personal musical influences? What artists made you want to create music for a living?
I was influenced by Wu-Tang Clan and Three Six mafia for the way I write the words. I am influenced by Beastie Boys and punk for the volume of delivery by yelling. A lot of people who have never seen me live, say “This does’t sound like you at all” and I have to explain to them, that’s because I yell when I rap, and you don’t hear me yelling when I talk.
Did you grow up being surrounded by music? At what age did you start to become passionate not only about music, but Hip Hop in general?
I grew up watching MTV in the 80’s, my parents played country and I hated it and still do. I remember vaguely writing a “Jail” song when I was like 9. At that age I was really into Michael Jackson. So, I’d been passionate about music since my early childhood. Hip-hop, I became engulfed in when a friend gave me a Slick Rick and Public Enemy tape in 7th grade. He was popular Football player who happened to live across the street from me. I immediately remember liking the music. We didn’t stay friends for long. He ended up trying unsuccessfully trying to rape me on three separate occasions. Once in the woods, he started taking off pants while we were standing in a path, and grabbed my head and tried to force me to go down on him, but I pushed him and ran away. He tried to do it again in the locker room. And then he another time a little outside school grounds, but each time I got away and stopped associating myself with him. These events and a fourth with a gang later in HS, and my back story about my biological mother make me take stories about sexual assault serious.
Based in Los Angeles, what can you tell outsiders about the music scene in your city? What's the vibe and spirit like?
I go to alot of different spaces, a lot art galleries, to check out music. I even bartend part-time occasionally at “Chewing Foil Gallery”. There’s so many venues that come and go, it’s difficult to stick to one. “The Smell” has consistently been around for over a decade where I used to work the door and snack bar.
Who are the key members who helped to make the record and video visions happen?
I make my beats. In fact, my first gig musically was a as DJ in the 90’s. I wanted to make beats before I wanted to rap. I like strategic alliance. You know how Dr. Dre for the most part makes the beats and has a lot of others contribute vocally? To some degree I follow that formula, except I write my own lyrics and do most of the rapping on my releases. But, the death row model of using your “family” of artists on each other’s albums has been my template. The artists, you hear on my albums, I want to produced solos for them. On on those solos, I want to ask the same artists who collared on my solo to return on my friends solo. For example, I produced and released a 12inch Vinyl for Bizzart, the first artist I signed to my label Gorefest Records. I asked everyone on my album before that, “All Knives On Me” to comeback and do a posse cut on his album. And if/when I do Ohm Aota’s solo, I want to have Bizzart, Big Epoch, K-The-i???, etc to return to do a collaboration on his album. And so forth. I’m trying to build a community of recording artists who genuinely like my production and put out solos for them and have each other collaborate together.
I direct all my videos, I choreograph the moves. I’ve had opportunities to do videos with video production companies who have someone who discovered me and really liked a song they wanted to do a video for. I’ve meetings or video chats about it, and I don’t like their visions so I shut them down. I don’t feel like they get my image. Their ideas to me, undercut my serious tone and punk ethos. I feel like the Rza in the 90’s when Tommy Boy made him do that “I love you Rakeem” video and being compromised . Lucky for me I’m not on a label that makes me do videos I don’t want to.
When people listen to your music, what is the key message that you want them to walk away with?
I hope they get laid.