Five Questions for Pinnacle TheHustler
Born Jason Waller, the Cincinnati native turned hip hop artist, radio host, social commentator and production company founder, now goes by Pinnacle TheHustler. From investigating credit card fraud back home to a rising star in Korea, Pinnacle continues to move forward. Pinnacle and his band, The Antidote, will be in Busan September 24th at Vinyl Underground in Kyungsung.
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to go into the music business? And why Korea? Did you consider or explore other artistic options back home or in other countries?
I realized it the first time I performed on stage. It’s funny because I only wanted to perform because someone in my high school made fun of my rhymes during lunch time. I remember standing behind that big curtain before they called my name; I was so scared that I thought about just dropping my mic and walking home. However, when that curtain opened, something took over my body! It was like I became a different person. The screams from the crowd, the amount of respect that I received from my peers that previously dissed me and just the feeling that I had when I left the stage was all I needed to make the decision to pursue music. I fell in love. I came to Korea mainly because the opportunity presented itself. I did pursue music back in the States, but my primary objective was to graduate college.
Blogger, Chris Backe, described the music of Pinnacle & The Antidote as “a cup of hip-hop, a cup of rock, a couple spoonfuls of jazz, a tablespoon of funk, and a dash of blues.” That brings a lot to the table musically. Was this the original concept or did it evolve as the band developed its unique sound?
Yea, this pretty much was the original concept. When Pinnacle & The Antidote (P&A) had our first rehearsal, it was kind of awkward because everyone had come from different backgrounds; but once we started playing, it was made very apparent that our differences added so much flavor to our music. Even from the beginning, we’ve had a very wide arsenal of musical expression, but we certainly have experienced an abundance of development as musicians along the way.
Are there any particular influences musically or otherwise that have played an important role in your evolution as a musical artist?
Honestly, I can’t say that I have any specific music influences. I just love music. I listen to everything from Hip-hop to Jazz to Rock – even to K-Pop. The biggest influence on my music would have to be life, plain and simple. Now, with that said, I can tell you who I’ve been compared to; I’ve heard that at times I flow like Twista, I’ve heard that my rhyme patterns remind fans of Lupe or Eminem, that I have a stage presence similar to Jay-Z, and voice that reminds some of my fans of Nas. Also, collectively, P&A has been compared to Rage Against The Machine and The Roots.
Unlike some of the people reading this interview, you are not a teacher here in Korea. You are in the country on an entertainment visa. You’ve got your radio show, your production company and your gigs performing around the peninsula. How did you manage to get into the Korean industry? Was this a process you started back home or once you got here?
Well, I’m going to be honest, I’m not called “Pinnacle TheHustler” for nothin’. I started here as a teacher just like most foreigners, but I worked hard (and still do). I hustled, literally, day and night and pulled myself out of a profession that I didn’t really feel a passion for, and I figure out a way to fund my true passion by using my passion. Just to make a long story short (regarding radio), I competed in a competition on a radio show on TBS eFM 101.3 (my current radio station). The producer of that program liked how I sounded on air and hired me to do a weekly guest spot on The Steve Hatherly Show. I worked that guest spot for over a year and made it as strong as I could. During that period, I introduced the producer that hired me to Elliott Ashby (my current co-host). Eventually, Elliott and I were offered a position on a weekend show and we worked hard at making it the best we could. Then eventually, I received a phone call from the same producer that initially hired me, and he was calling to inform me that we’d been taken off of the weekend radio show... and that were going to be on air 7 days a week! This, along with being in Korean music videos, and working with Korean artists, companies and producers has helped me to carve out my small niche in the Korean entertainment industry. I’m pretty anxious to see where it will go from here.
I was fascinated with your Obama theme song, “Yes, We Can.” Here we are three years into the first African American presidency. Could you now pen a rap called, “Yes, We Did?” What are your thoughts on the Obama presidency thus far? Refreshing and new or more of the same? Do you find your take on America in general has changed when viewed from abroad through the media?
Honestly, I don’t see a “Yes, We Did” song coming anytime soon from anybody. Yes, it’s great that we finally have a Black President, but racism is still alive and well; not just in the States, but globally. There are still people that want to see the demise and despair of others for no particular reason at all. There are still Americans that are dying because they can’t afford to take care of themselves. However, thankfully, there are still wonderful people on this Earth fighting to create some kind of balance in this crazy world. I think that Obama is one of these people. He cannot fix America’s problems, really the President can only make suggestions and hope that he has enough influence to sway Congress (of course it’s more complex than that, but this is a music interview, not a political journal right?). Also, yes, my view of America has certainly changed. I’ve gained a better understanding of how and why many people view Americans the way that they do (both in a positive and negative light). However, I will say, that being abroad has certainly given me a strong understanding of myself both as an American and as a black man, and the certainty of who and what I am.
You can check out Pinnacle and The Antidote at Vinyl Underground in Kyungsung September 24th. For more info go here.
Pinnacle was featured in the Korea Herald for his video response to the subway
altercation that made headlines recently.
The Herald also ran a feature on Pinnacle last week.
You can see more SonnySide videos, including Seoul Cypher, here.
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