I’m writing an auto-biographical. It’s a 333 page letter to my mom.
Here’s page one.
Chapter 1. Page 1.
“Man VS Sky is a good title for a Sci-Fi”
Mom are you alive? Mom do you think I’m alive or dead? Mom do you think I’m in Vietnam still? Mom do you think I know how to ride a bike? Mom do you think I prefer being called Michael or Mike? Mom, did you know I know I changed my rap name to Ten-Headed Skeleton?
I got tired of people mispronouncing Michael Nhat. So, I horrified it up to something I like. I never liked the name Nhat. Not because it was Vietnamese, but because it wasn’t Vietnamese enough. I was raised it was pronounced Nat. It sounded like a weak bug in English and I hated it. If my name was Nguyen I’d be like “fuck yeah” because it’s pronounced WIN.
But, It wasn’t until 2001, when I moved to Los Angeles, that I finally embraced the name Nhat. And I only embraced it for two reasons.
The first was my co-worker, Robert, a Filipino man told me his Vietnamese friend pronounced it NAWT. Not Nat. And that sounded a lot better than Nat to me. At the time, I’d been going by the name Mic Kin and at that present time, Dirty N’ Piss. Dirty because of the sampling. Piss because of the tape hiss from recording on a Tascam Porta 02 multi-track recorder. I became alarmed of using that name when someone asked me, which one are you? Telling me, this person’s first impression of Dirty N’Piss is that it’s a duet. And I don’t want that. So, I started to consider Michael Nhat. I’m 25 and I plan to make music until I die, so I need a mature name that won’t feel silly at 46.
The second reason was, everyone kept saying “oh Asians don’t sell”. So, I was like fuck that. If a non-Asian act like Wu-tang can be successful with an Asian name, an Asian person should be able to be just as successful.
However, year after year I learned the hard way I had the worst formula for pushing my name. I had a rule that I never announced and no one ever noticed, but I never said my name in my songs like everyone else and I should have been. I decided against it because Crass didn’t do that. Bjork didn’t shamelessly say her name 9 times an album. I was bent on not following the hip-hop ethos and starting my own path.
Now the stupid of self-imposing such rule, works against you when your name is new to people who don’t know how to pronounce it.
Upon realizing my own ignorance, and years of fans still saying it wrong, I decided I needed to change it and piss some people off in the process. Them it’s a single layer issue, I whitewashed my name. To me I stopped using a fraudulent name I mistook as Nat my entire childhood too and found something I actually created.
(Fast Forward to 2013 I’ll have a 3rd reason not to use that name Nhat. It was a random name given to me just to get on the plan. It’s not biological mothers name. That name is still unknown).
Mom did you lose me or leave me during the Vietnam War?
For the past 44 years I have assumed you left me, but I saw this documentary on an Asian kid whose father left him for a couple minutes and came back and he was gone. That kid was kidnapped and found his family 32 years later. It then occurred to me, that in a jungle during a war, maybe you didn’t leave me. Maybe you hid me, then left with intent to comeback, and something happened. You got killed. You ran over a mine. You got shot running. You got caught, raped, and killed. You found a way to escape and this was your only chance and you knew if you came back to get me, you’d probably die, so you survived.
I don’t remember Vietnam. I was 1 and a half when I came to the states and you last saw me when I was hours old? Days old? Weeks old?
How long was I left alone, without the warmth and affection of a mother that a newborn needs. Mal-nourished. Dehydrated. Before someone found me. I think this is the beginning of why I’m not affectionate by nature. It’s not instinctual for me, it’s decisional.