Feature: Swimcoach

Annette Yoo

When he isn’t taking Instagram videos of his cat or smoking with his friends, John Park (from Koreatown, Los Angeles) is swimcoach, a name that has slowly emerged within the music industry to claim a spot amongst other Asian American artists and rappers. Swimcoach is the alter ego he takes on to become “SWIM,” or “Someone Who Isn’t Me,” an identity he uses to portray various characters within his music, which he hopes will lead him to eventual success. He told Disruptive, “If you wanna become that person you wanna be, you gotta act like that person you want to be until you eventually just make it there.”

Growing up in Koreatown, Los Angeles, John and his friends never wanted a 9-5 job. Always listening to hip-hop and internet rap, they decided to create swimteam, which consists of swimcoach (John), swim (the designer), and another person who shoots the music videos. Now, as he and his team work on swimteam, John explains that they hope to “get viral, get the money, then start a warehouse in LA where all the kids can have a creative incubator for them to make music and be inspired, throw shows, especially for those who don’t have that support, equipment, or housing.”

After the release of his hit song, “u U U U u U did i mfken stutter,” swimcoach has not fallen back, continuing a steady flow of new music, characterized by new stories, beats, and styles. When asked about these different styles, he emphasized his main three: consciousness, trap, and emotion. He began making music for all of these different reasons, for the energy that gets people moving, found in songs like “cambridge,” or for the expression of the more quiet sentimental thoughts, such as “that girl.” Again, the alias swimcoach allows him to embody the different personas that he assumes in these songs.

As he hails from Koreatown and grew up Korean, being Asian-American is tied to his identity, as a person and an artist. He explained how upcoming Asian artists—like Yaeji and 88rising—show that there is potential in the American music industry for Asians to shine. However, he does not feel limited by his identity, that he is simply “that Asian rapper,” as his alter ego swimcoach has allowed him to take on characters that listeners of any background, gender, or ethnicity can relate to and enjoy. When asked about his experience as an Asian American artist trying to make it in this industry, John talked about the common struggle of attempting to assimilate to white culture, while also trying to hold on to his Asian heritage. He says, “I really tried to fit in when I was at UC Davis but then realized that you just have to be comfortable in your own skin, I don’t know… Do you… Be free!” He explained that he always knew Asians would be successful in entertainment since the early YouTube generation, with hit youtubers such as NigaHiga and KevJumba. After the release of Crazy Rich Asians, he believes that we are making even greater breakthroughs as Asian American creatives. Disruptive is excited to follow Swim as he continues this cycle of deconstructing the limitations that have long strained the potential of young minorities.