These days, many Americans take the Constitution for granted or confuse its meanings, from politicians to those people on corners who you pretend to ignore while you walk to class. But one Drexel rapper goes another direction with it, using it to inspire him. Jake Lee, better known as Scamma D, takes his freedom of speech not passively, as most people do, but almost as a challenge by recording and expressing himself as much as he can in the relatively short time he’s been here.
Scamma D was born and raised in the Philippines by Korean and Filipino parents, who never thought he would grow up to be a rapper. In the Philippines, Scamma D never became too rooted to any one culture — he isn’t fluent in either of his parents’ languages and attended an international school with kids from all over the world.
Because of his lack of roots to stick to, he identifies himself with a phrase his principal used for him and his fellow students, “Third Culture Kids.” After graduation, his goal was to attend Temple, but he decided to attend Drexel. He said he loves Temple’s campus and its unique atmosphere that combines many different classes of people into one community, but is content just being nearby. He frequently visits to collaborate and record with other students.
In a way similar to how now-popular Childish Gambino came up with his name, Scamma D found his name through a rap name generator. He eventually decided to keep it because of its lack of deeper meaning, to let his music speak for itself without people’s expectations based upon his name.
One of Scamma D’s favorite things is freedom; freedom from expectations, freedom of speech, freedom to be a musician and freedom from any one culture. Scamma D knows he does not fit the stereotypical rapper image, but he urges listeners never to judge a book by its cover. With freedom from any one culture tying him down and no fear of fitting in, he assimilates very well and has a self-stated mainstream style. Instead of struggling to set himself apart just to be unique, he has made music how he felt he should.
After starting off recording more than 180 songs in his Nokia phone, Scamma D has released four mix tapes. Each one, as he says it, is better than the last. The most recent, “The Effect 4,” was released last July and, along with the first three, is available free online. Currently he is working on his first album.
The Temple News: When did you first get the idea that you would want to become a rapper?
Scamma D: I have a friend, great friend of mine, his name is Giordan Almendras, and it was in ninth grade biology class. I had no idea about rap music. You know, I heard it here and there, but I never really got into it. It was in that time period I felt like, “My God, my whole life I had been obeying.” I felt trapped. You know, iPods were pretty new in the Philippines and he showed me a song, it was by Young Buck and the title of the song was “Get Buck.” And I heard this music and I was like, “God damnit, what the hell is this? It’s so nice. It makes me feel like breaking a wall and feeling like Superman.” And that’s when later on I asked some of my close friends, “Can you see me as a rapper?” Let’s just say it was embarrassing.
TTN: Can you explain “Third Culture Kids?”
SD: TCK came out because I am not an American, and I never will be. My mother has always told me I’m not actually Filipino because it’s not in my culture. I’m nowhere near Korean culturally, but I’m half Korean. One of the most important things people always say is stick to your roots. Well, when you grow up in an international school and you’re not very cultural to your native country, you don’t have roots. My principal told me that we were third culture kids, and that meant the world to me. We assimilate well wherever we go, we have no sense of home. Home is everywhere, but nowhere. That’s TCK. It’s not meant to be a music brand, it’s meant to be an identity. It’s how you live.
TTN: When can we expect your first album do you think, or is it too far in the future at this point still?
SD: It’s pretty far. I mean, I have five songs down, but things change. I’ve never been one to give a date, but here’s what I promise: Don’t anticipate my album, it will come when it comes. Just know that I will always, always put out music when it’s demanded. I have a lot of music ready to be put out when people ask for more. I actually put out music when people ask for it. But the album? I think I would need four to five months for that.
TTN: Why did you name your mixtapes “The Effect”?
SD: “The Effect” comes from my ideologies that I don’t make content, content makes me. My environment is the effect of my music, meaning when I experience things that become music, I interpret it in abstract ways and try to be as creative as I can. I released “The Effect” on the very first few months I arrived in the U.S. and I didn’t know what to name it. A lot of people name it something that adds status, but for me I called it “The Effect” because my surroundings affect me and whatever affects me creates the music, and the creation of the music is the effect of my environment, hence, I don’t make content, content makes me. So that’s where the philosophy of “The Effect” came about.
TTN: You’re kind of like a dealer of experiences. You get it and then ship it off to more people.
SD: Yeah, yeah. I really like to do that. Because, as a musician at this point in my life, I can’t really help people. I’m not doing anything noble, I just make people’s experience more bearable at the very most. And at the very least I make your heads bob.
Josh Levy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.