19
Sep

Check out my feature on NPR!

They’ve got millions of online subscribers, hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, and sponsorship deals with car companies and mobile networks. These actors, directors, musicians and dancers have roots in L.A., but you won’t find them in Hollywood.

Try Koreatown, L.A.

A handful of Asian-American YouTube stars have been steadily building an audience by putting out content that’s varied, creative, and most of all, relatable to other young Asian Americans. As web-based movies and music continue to draw big numbers online, more digital acts are taking their shows on the road–and finding no shortage of real-life fans.

If you pull up footage from this rapper’s recent world tour, you’ll find a London club crowd ready for Dumbfoundead, orDFD for short. He is a Korean-American rapper named Jonathan Park.

A lot of DFD’s songs are autobiographical. In his biggest hit, “Are We There Yet,” he talks about the risks his mom took in bringing him to America when he was an infant.

“I was only 3 when she brought me to the States, my sister only 1, crossing borders wasn’t safe. What she did was very brave, I think about it every day, from Argentina to Mexico and finally L.A.”

DFD’s been freestyling at house parties since he was 15. Now, more than 10 years later, YouTube gives him a path to any party with an internet connection. Some of his uploads are music videos, but others are behind-the-scenes glimpses of his concerts or messages directly to his fans.

“Thanks to you guys, I get to travel all around the world, you know, have people listen to my music, and I want to thank you all for that opportunity,” he says in a video.

When it comes to having legions of devoted fans, DFD’s not alone. You may not recognize names like Ryan Higa, Kevin Wu or Michelle Phan, but they’re all Asian American, all 25 or younger, and between the three of them, their videos have more than 2 billion views on YouTube….

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