Tag Archives: Wan Joon Kim

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.

2 Comments

Filed under California, Culture, Los Angeles, Southern California

LOS ANGELES: Wan Joon Kim and gangsta rap in Compton

At long last, a story I worked on months ago, has run.

It’s about Wan Joon Kim, a vendor at an indoor swap meet in Compton, who became an impresario of gangsta rap, a music he didn’t particularly care for nor understand, as it was emerging from the garages of that city.

I got into it while looking for a way to write about indoor swap meets in Los Angeles, which have always intrigued me. I shop at them often and find them fascinating business models for micro-entrepreneurs.

Most, if not all, are owned by Koreans, for whom the indoor swap meet was an important route into the middle class in America.

They provided another view of black-Korean relations than that of the Korean-owned liquor store.

Mr. Kim is pictured here with his wife, Boo Ja, and his son, Kirk, who now runs the stall at Compton Fashion Center.

Hope you like the piece.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under California, Culture, Gangs, Los Angeles, Southern California, Streets