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The arrival of Dumbfoundead: Koreatown rapper's 'Are We There Yet?' video racks up the views

250416_10150632618755046_81232640045_18795999_2503176_n The media would prefer to explain phenomena for you. We live in a click/view vortex where 24-hour viruses like Kreayshawn (video contains profanity) will always be inherently more marketable than someone like Koreatown's Dumbfoundead. Mickey Mouse ears always give you an advantage, especially when you're a 21-year-old female white rapper bragging about how much swag your ovaries have.

So while you've probably read a half-dozen national think pieces about Oakland's Kreayshawn, a rapper with one song, you've probably never heard of Dumbfoundead. After all, his success came the old-fashioned (read: slow) way. He started rapping like rappers used to. He rapped against rappers to get good at rapping.

So if it took him a decade of to make a viral YouTube smash, that's fine. He used that gestation period to develop a rabid and extensive fan base that even some major label rappers would envy. Nearly 60,000 Facebook friends, YouTube videos that regularly tread well into six figures in viewings, and tour dates all across the globe.

He's been able to amass fans on the Grind Time Battle League circuit, but he's also cultivated a groundswell of support from the local and national Asian American communities, and just regular rap fans. Proudly Korean American but never resorting to cheap flag-waving tactics, he's opted to rely on a slick creative flow and strong storytelling skill. Plus, the Project Blowed pedigree never hurts.

His latest video, "Are We There Yet?" is already something of a smash, racking up roughly 350,000 views in 72 hours. Most striking is the way in which it succeeds. During a moment in which many critics would prefer to champion banal self-help platitudes instead of serious heartfelt narrative, Dumbfoundead weaves a tripartite tale: The first 16 bars are dedicated to his mom and his sister who raised him in L.A. after moving from Korea when he was 3, and how they survived dangerous border crossings from Argentina through Mexico into L.A. The second section breaks down a love affair without maudlin sentiment or patronizing cliche. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Boy isn't ready to handle the pressures that accompany it, but tries his hardest anyway. The third verse recounts Dumbfoundead's rap story -- from open mikes at Project Blowed to a decade of persistent evolution and steady ascent.

It's the rare song that steps outside of itself and thoughtfully considers the artist's station. We're used to hearing underground rappers complain about the life they want, but Dumbfoundead's smart enough to take a breath and realize that by making a living off of his music, he's made it.

It's nice to know that some things are immutable: A rapper can hone his craft in the shadows and rely on old-school qualities and personal anecdotes to create a song that resonates with mass audiences. The next time a major label tries to a force a gifted, formerly underground rapper into some embarrassing trend-hopping Skylar Grey submission, they'd be well served to study a song like this.

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-- Jeff Weiss

 Photo: Dumbfoundead; Credit: Dumbfoundead Facebook

 
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