Shing02 on Success and Independence

Written by on February 26, 2020

2020

is a big year for a lot of musicians. For Shing02 and The Chee-Hoos, it means the ten year anniversary of long time collaborator and friend Nujabes’ death. Nujabes was a prolific Japanese hip hop producer that died tragically early on February 26, 2010. Shing02 and his squad have been doing tributes to Nujabes for a little while now, but this 10 year tribute is going to be something special. This year they’ll be in Portland on March 28 at the Wonder Ballroom. I had the privilege of seeing them perform last year, and it was a dream come true. For long time fans of Shing02 and Nujabes alike, the show will be life-affirming. In light of this, I interviewed Shing02 last week about his views on success and “making it” in the music world. 

“Being successful to me means that I don’t answer to anyone but myself.”

Shing02, or Shingo Annen, is a man of many hats. He’s got a long-spanning rap career, an upcoming clothing line, a successful sculpture line, and works tirelessly writing and composing with musicians. Shingo’s visions of success have a lot more to do with independence rather than finances. The first thing he told me was “Being successful to me means that I don’t answer to anyone but myself.” Creating whatever you want, whenever you want, is at the heart of success for Shingo. But the artistic freedom he has now is hard earned, and it wasn’t always this way.

Shingo started along the standard path of going to college and getting a degree, and then getting a job in that field. But he quickly realized that he ultimately wanted to be a professional artist, namely a rapper. He ended up taking a semester off in senior year to save up cash to buy the equipment he needed to pursue music. After that,  “…I finished school and got my diploma, I really didn’t look back at all to my degree and just kept working and then I did whatever it took to fund my goals, which was to make music.”

photo by Yatoo Takashi

Fresh out of college, Shingo took on some freelance jobs. But it was always a stepping stone for him to fund his music. It was at this point that he realized having a boss and working a 9-5 was never in the cards for him.  “I would test software, or even do graphics, design interfaces, logos, or whatever. But I realized when you’re basically at the whim of a client, which is a job for most artists and designers, even the best idea you have can be turned down just because they want to flex and just say no…”

I asked Shingo how to navigate working for others while keeping the integrity of your art. His response is firm: “There is no integrity. It kind of goes out the window…Because you’re not an artist, you’re just a working hand at that point. And there’s no disrespect for people that work like that, but it’s not something that I was ever into. I never had a backup plan, you know. I never told myself ‘If I don’t make it in the next 2-3 years I’ll stop’ or whatever. It never crossed my mind. It wasn’t even about music specifically. I just wanted to be creative. I never wanted to work for someone else.”

His view on independence definitely doesn’t mean that Shingo works alone. On almost every project, he collaborates with friends or brings in new features to add to his work. This shows through not only his music, but his visual art and everything he does. This is where the spirit of Nujabes’ music shines through. Connecting with friends and fellow artists to create something beautiful and spread love.

You can catch Shing02 and the Chee-Hoos (featuring special guest and friend Cise Starr) March 28 at the Wonder Ballroom. It will be a magical night. I’m catching their show in LA a few nights prior and I can’t wait.

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