Published on January 1st, 2015 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson0
The Hype Magazine interviews Dwagie, Taiwan’s Hip-Hop Ambassador
Dwagie is a Taiwanese rapper, songwriter, and TV personality who has become a staple in the local hiphop scene since his first album, Lotus From the Tongue, was released in 2002. Gaining an increasing amount of international media attention, Dwagie (Dog G in English), has been featured in TIME Magazine, Reuters, CNN, BBC, the Discovery Channel, and more.
Dwagie creates lyrics about hardship, evil, triumph, and good, with the belief that hiphop in its purest form should reflect life and the human condition. Wanting always to make dreams become reality, Dwagie is an artist that believes he should give back to help others to achieve their dreams. Dwagie has produced tracks and put on charity concerts for a number of causes and institutions including Typhoon Moracot, the Fukushima earthquake, orphanages, and animal shelters. Dwagie’s second album, People (2011), featured a track with the Dalai Lama. The album received eleven nominations in 2012.
Dwagie released his 3rd album, Refuse to Listen, in 2014 with a track featuring Nas. He plans to release his first English language EP later this year.
2012: Golden Melody Award Best Mandarin Album nominee (People)
2012: Association of Music Workers in Taiwan Best 10 Albums of the Year
2012: Association of Music Workers in Taiwan 1st Annual AMP Award nominee
2012: Association of Music Workers in Taiwan Roots Award
2012: Golden Indie Music Awards Best HipHop Song nominee
2012: Golden Indie Music Awards Best Album of the Year (People)
2012: Golden Indie Music Awards Best HipHop Album (People)
2012: Golden Indie Music Awards Best R&B Song (“Ba Le”)
2014: Golden Melody Awards Best Lyricist nominee
*Only rapper in history to ever feature the Dalai Lama in his work
You are one of the most internationally recognized rappers in major news media like TIME Magazine, CNN, Reuters and the Discovery Channel just to name a few. What does it mean to you to have this large of a voice, not just on behalf of the global hip-hop community, but as an aware human being witnessing the plight of humanity??
First of all, I would like to say thank you for saying that, I’m overwhelmed. Personally I think with greater influence comes with greater responsibility, because a lot of minds and behaviors will be changed because of what you say or do. People with influence should do more to change the world, and make the world a better place.
What did it mean to you to represent Taiwanese Hip-Hop on the global stage during CMJ 2014’s Taiwan Music Express and Taiwan Music Night??
I know CMJ has a long history dating back to the 80’s, and I know it’s one of the biggest music marathon event in the world. I also know that CMJ is like the bridge between mainstream and indie music, which fits my philosophy perfectly. I started out as an indie music artist, and at the same time I want my music to reach out to as many people as possible, so I think this is the perfect stage and opportunity for me. And of course, I love Taiwan, it’s an incredible honor to be representing my country on this global stage.
As you see yourself, from the outside looking in, who is Dwagie?
Looking at Dwagie from the outside, he’s a person that has made a great change in his life. His music was very critical and provocative, but he now raps about love and peace, discusses human rights, to respect life and so on. Pretty much he went from giving the finger to free hugs, the transformation is just incredible. I guess people can’t see my future, but I expect myself to become more influential on a global scale, across language and race barriers.
How did you discover hip-hop and who has been your greatest influence from the genre?
?I fell in love with hip hop when I was watching hip hop music videos on TV as a kid. Gradually I realized this music isn’t just about love and more love, but it also carries messages. It serves as a tunnel to change the society and the world. Since then, I can never separate myself from it. The artists that have the greatest influence on me were Method man, Ghostaface Killa, Talib Kweli, and Nas.
Besides understanding the responsibility of using your thoughts and voice as a tool to bring awareness, what is the biggest inspiration for doing music or being an entertainer??
There is a big portion of my music that’s focusing on stray animals and respect for the livings. In my old days I used to write a lot of songs to get back on someone just to please myself, but later on I come to realize that it would be much more meaningful if I could use my mic to speak up for these furry balls that humans unable or refuse to listen to. That’s why I become a vegetarian and adopted 16 cats.
The biggest inspiration as a music artist for me has been the influence and feedback from my listeners. After releasing the music videos of “The Butchery’s Window” and “The Last Morning,” a lot of people, whether they know me personally or not, have told me that they’ve started becoming a vegetarian or adopting stray animals. These feedbacks really reinforced my belief that what I am doing is right and this is what I want to do for the society.
Everybody wants to know HOW did you recruit the Dalai Lama to appear on your “People” album?
?In fact I didn’t “recruit” the Dalai Lama, it was more like a build-up leading to the collaboration. I’ve been writing a lot of songs supporting human rights and freedom, at the same time I’ve performed at the “Free Tibet” event, so there has always been a good interaction with the Dalai Lama Foundation. Later on when I was writing the song “People,” I thought there is a limit on how far I could reach out, but if I could find a person with the greatest positive influence to the world to feature, it would be much more powerful. So the first thought that came to me was the Dalai Lama, not only is he a leader of a religion, but also Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. From there I started talking to his foundation about this idea. Initially my hope wasn’t high, but they said if this was a positive song, and was meant for the good of the world, then the Dalai Lama would probably agree. It took more than a year of exchanges back and forth to get all the arrangements settled, and of course, it marks the first time the Dalai Lama collaborated with a hip hop artist.
Adding to your legendary status in hip-hop, your 3rd album, “Refuse to Listen” features a track with one of the genre’s icons, Nas, how did that come about?
?Nas has been my idol growing up. I didn’t just listen to his music, I could say he inspired me to do hip hop. Of course in the beginning I didn’t think it was possible, but after working with the Dalai Lama, nothing was impossible to me. So I asked my friend at the Universal Studio New York to introduce my music to Nas, which got his attention, and we made this song “Refuse to Listen” together. It’s a masterpiece, you should all give it a try.
What do you want people to get from your music?
?I hope to bring happiness to people when they are sad, to provide direction when they are lost. I hope my songs could provide positive energy to people when they are down.
If you could collaborate with one artist from any genre living or dead, who would that be and why??
I would choose Jay-Z or Eminem, for ladies I would choose Alicia Keys or Beyonce, because that would mean 2 things: 1) I am recognized by these well-established global figures, and 2) my music and messages would reach out to a much greater audience, and hopefully lead to a greater influence. I also would like to add that I also work with non-musicians, so I would also like to work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Stephen King, or Stephen Hawkins. My experiences working with non-musician artists often brought up more inspirations beyond the scope of music, which I truly enjoy and appreciate.
I enjoy your style, though there is a language barrier, the emotion you present and stylish delivery is universally recognized as official hip-hop. What do you think will be the future of the genre on a global scale?
?Thank you for the nice comments. It’s inevitable that language is a very important aspect of hip hop, so I am working very hard at the moment to convert some of my songs into English versions, hopefully people will like them in the near future. On a global scale, I see the influence of the East in the West, here in the US. I think hip hop will also become a melting pot of all races, and good music will not be barred from race or language barrier. This is one of the reasons why I am actively putting myself into the US, just like how the Asian pitchers work their way in the to major league, the highest palace for baseball.
What’s the best way for our readers to keep up with Dwagie and your movement??
Just search “Dwagie” on Facebook, thank you!
Is there anything YOU would like our readers to know that I failed to ask?
?I really want my listeners to know that even though I grew up with American hip hop, my music is very different from the typical American hip hop. I try to use simple vocabs to make analogy to religious fable and stories, to hopefully bring new inspirations and ideology for my listeners. Also I enjoy merging what conventionally consider as conflicting music genres into hip hop, such as Wen-Hsia the classic Taiwanese folk singer from the 60s, the Dalai Lama’s prayers, and so forth. I really aim to be original and make something that’s unique from the typical hip hop.
Last but not least, The Hype Magazine wants to know…What’s your craziest “Where The Do That At Moment…?!
?Ha, I was BAD in the old days… I don’t think I should bring up the old times in public coverage. I will give you something rated PG13. There was once I had to perform on a Friday and Saturday. I went straight to party right after the show on Friday, and went from there straight back to the gig on Saturday. The fans saw me wearing the same shirt and thought that was my favorite shirt, they didn’t know it was because I was partying so hard I didn’t have time to get change. Ha, the performance that night was crazy as well, I did the same song twice because I was so out of my mind that I didn’t know I had already done it earlier. This was only PG13.