MIGRANTS: Wan Joon Kim

I’ve spending time with Wan Joon Kim and his son Kirk. Mr. Kim was a gangster rap empresario in Compton, selling records, then cassettes, of the rap pioneers from that town when no one else would, and operating it all out of a stand at an indoor swap meet.

The story began as a piece about indoor swap meets and how in Los Angeles they’ve become an avenue that thousands of Korean immigrants have used to work their way into America, selling whatever anyone would buy. They pioneered the indoor swap meet and most vendors in indoor swap meets are still Korean, though new immigrants find their way into many other businesses nowadays.

Mr. Kim just happened to sign a lease in Compton at a time when it was a hive of DIY rap artists and promoters who had nowhere else to sell their stuff. He didn’t care what he sold so long as it was different and moved. He became “Pops” to an entire generation of young Compton rappers, and had 20 years of great sales, until computer downloads began the decline of the record store. Great story, I think. Very happy I happened on it. Here he is with his son and wife….

9 Comments

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9 Responses to MIGRANTS: Wan Joon Kim

  1. Art

    I’d be interested in reading the rest of the story.

  2. Dawn

    Very good article I think this is a great story. A hard working family that played a important but unnoticed role in the rap music industry.

  3. jag bomb

    Mr Kim and son Kirk have been holding down retail for as long as I’ve been in the business….. If major labels still promoted the kind of hustle that Cycadelic Music employs on a daily basis CD sales would still be as profitable as they were 15 years ago. If Universal, Warner music group and EMI were smart they would cut these guys a check to RUN retail marketing. Much respect for being the last true retailer standing.

  4. JEN

    Wow, so passionated and inspirational story…Koreans are awesome!

  5. Jason

    They’ve been giving back to the hood for years. Supporting the independent music as well as providing a lane for those to get there music heard to the masses.

  6. Jimiquees

    Compton legend. He is a true original.

  7. samquinones

    Sandra — yes, that’s the plan, after I finish a couple other pieces.

  8. Sandra Walsh

    Fascinating topic! Are you going to develop this into a story/article?

  9. Wild! I never would have guessed…

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