Tag Archives: rap music

LOS ANGELES: Wan Joon Kim — A Compton Rap Legend Passes

Wan Joon Kim died last night, his son, Kirk, tells me.Wan Joon Kim 002

Mr. Kim, originally from North Korea, was one of the first indoor swap meet vendors in Los Angeles, when he signed a lease to rent a stall at the Compton Fashion Center, once a Sears building, that opened as the region’s first large indoor swap meet in 1985.

At stall Z-7 by the building’s main entrance, he and his wife, Boo Ja, sold women’s products for a while, but then switched to records and cassettes.

As these were years when the first rumblings of gangsta rap were emerging from kids working out in Compton garages, in response to the city’s crack and gang violence nightmare, that’s what he stocked.

He spoke almost no English, and didn’t understand the lyrics — he preferred classical music. But like any microcapitalist, he was willing to stock what sold.¬† Most of the early gangsta rap stars sold their first stuff at his stall, since other record stores refused them. This included records by Eazy E’s Ruthless Records and NWA, and many who’ve since died and others who’ve gone on to other things.

Mr. Kim grew to be loved by customers and rappers alike. He and and his wife were known as Pops and Mama.

I wrote about Mr. Kim last summer. A fascinating fellow straight outta Compton.

NPR’s All Things Considered did an obituary of Mr. Kim that’s worth listening to.

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Filed under California, Culture, Los Angeles, Southern California

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….

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Filed under Migrants, Uncategorized