“We came to the States through Mexico. We were from Buenos Aires—there was a huge influx of Koreans at that time. We moved to 4th and Mariposa, right in the center of it all. My dad got a job working in the jewelry business near Santee Alley downtown. I remember the ’92 riots when I was a kid; the [heavily looted] California Market at 5th and Western was a couple of blocks from our house. We saw the dudes on the roof who were protecting the business as looters were heading in that direction. Koreans ran the liquor stores. The area is in transition—outside businesses are coming in.
“Today the area is growing like crazy. There are still a lot of Korean businesses that haven’t been overrun by corporate franchises. There’s more interaction between blacks and Asians—there’s actually a lot of similarities in our experiences. My parents were so busy working all day with the immigrant hustle, they weren’t able to keep track of what I was doing. I liked rapping, I liked indie rock, but Koreatown lacked live-music venues. When I was 15, some friends and I would go to an open mic at the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance, at 8th and Hobart. I was hitting three or four open mics a week, including Project Blowed [an influential South L.A. freestyle rap showcase] on Thursdays. First, I was booed off, but then there was one night where I killed it. After that, they respected me. Asian kids were coming up to me, like, “Yo, keep representin.’ Keep it up for us.” Now Koreans are the leaders in pop culture. The neighborhood still lacks live-music venues, but I think those will come soon. I would like to be a part of bringing that to Koreatown.”
Here are a few of Dumbfoundead’s favorite neighborhood places:
“They never close— not for holidays or nothing—all year long. After drinking until 2 a.m., that’s where everyone goes to eat.”
“It’s the Cheers of Koreatown. All the Asian entertainers show up here.”
“A Colombian and Korean fusion restaurant. Will.I.Am comes here; a lot of people from the hip-hop scene stop by.”
“Drinking culture is really big in Los Angeles and K-Town, and Toe Bang is a great place to drink.”