Being Famous is Asia
Carving your own path
By Mike Reid
His parents named him Ashton James Bishop III, but few people call him Ashton. They call him ‘Famous’. When he started as an entertainer he went by ‘The Kid Famous’. Now in Taiwan, he goes by the title ‘The Party King Famous’. A few more names and he’ll tie a mogul he admires: Sean (Puff/Puffy/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy) Combs.
Famous has led quite the life; from meeting Diddy to partying with Madonna, performing in North America to touring Asia, this is a guy with some stories under his belt.
His road to success has been an unconventional one. As we talk via Skype across a 9 hour time difference, my first questions are: who are you and what is it that you do?
Famous: Bro, I don’t know. I don’t have a specific answer to that. (Haha)
Mike: Okay, then what’s been your journey?
F: Oh man, originally I started in Montreal. I took business and music administration at Trebas. When it came time to intern, one of my teachers submitted my resume to Universal Music on a Thursday, I got a call on Friday, I packed on the weekend and moved to Toronto to be at work on Monday morning.
M: (Haha) What?
F: Yeah, I got a 3 month internship there and made some great connections. After that I got an internship at Sony, who then merged with BMG. I was there interning for 8 months to a year, although they were cool and cut me a little per diem so I could eat. Then from there I interned at [what was then] FLOW 93.5 FM.
M: So you were Captain Intern?
F: Yeah, I went from the music industry to radio and still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I interned at the radio station on the street team, I interned at FLOW for 3 years. When Reza went from the Street Team to O.T.A. Live, I got that position. In time I was promoted to promotions coordinator while working on O.T.A. Live. At that point I thought, “Okay I know radio, I understand the music business, I could be witty with my words, shit rapping ain’t that hard for me. So in 2008 I launched “I rap now!”
F: A year later I’m nominated for a Juno, did the muchmusic awards, performed on MTV; two years after that I’m touring the world. Shit happened so quick, it was the gift and the curse. I realised, none of those things meant success to me, I wasn’t motivated by any of those things.
M: Then what happened, what did you want?
F: I wanted to learn more and to do more. While I was touring in the US, D.O. was doing a tour out in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. He said I should come out to Asia. He put me on the tour, I had an opening spot, and once I did a show in Taiwan I loved it.
M: What was it about Taiwan?
F: The venue in Taiwan was called Brickyard, it’s run by these two dope dudes Ryan and Graham. They’re foreigners too and they’ve been out here for over 10 years. They have a really good grasp of what’s going on out here and the connections. I wanted to bring hip hop out here, ‘cause I saw people were feeling it. I wanted to do parties, I wanted to get things popping out here. They got me a performance visa, I made a ton of connections, I put everything in motion and it just started moving. I was traveling to all these countries in Asia, because travel is easy between countries.
M: So you were a rapper and MC out in Asia.
F: Yeah, I got major clubs a few times, but each subsequent booking got harder. Then I realised that the DJs seemed to be really running t’ings. So I thought, okay I gotta learn how to DJ.
M: (Haha) Of course, always evolving.
F: Yeah, for Christmas in 2014 I got myself a DJ controller. I went back to Toronto, home of some of the greatest DJs in the world. I hit up Ritz, he gave me a whole bunch of music, learnt from him. I checked my man DJ Illegal Alien, got music, learning. JC, got music, learning. DJ James Redi, got music, learning. Everybody was sending me music. I just kept practising.
M: So then what?
F: I get back to Asia and it becomes evident that I’m baking the whole cake. I’m promoting the parties, I’m MC-ing the parties, I’m DJ-ing the party and I’m performing at the party. I’m cutting out every middle man. So I put together a package, ‘The Party King Famous’.
M: How did you get back into radio?
F: I wanted to get more hip hop out in Taiwan, so I contacted the radio stations out here. I connected with them and I got a radio show two years ago, which took me to another level because now I was on Taiwan’s #1 radio station. With my name on the airwaves it was like, okay now he’s one of us in a sense.
M: So are you coming back to North America?
F: I come back home to visit on holidays and stuff, but everything I need is here. Plus, I don’t have to deal with winter which is perfect. Asia is ⅓ of the world’s population, you don’t have the crazy egos or characters out here. I’m loving it. I started learning the language, if I’m going to be here I need to learn Mandarin. I make sure I practice every morning. I practise when I work out, my girl and I text in pinyin. I’m serious with it out here.
F: So to come back to your initial question: if you want to know what I do, I entertain. I want people to leave any engagement with me entertained. Right now my life is dope. I just want to continue being dope. I have no complaints in my life. I have a dope family. I have a dope girl. Things are dope. I’m just here to entertain, I guess that’s where Famous comes from.
M: What’s something you do that has benefited you or your career?
F: I just try to put out positive vibes. I strive to be nice to everybody, I try to say yes to opportunities. You never know when that good energy will come back to you. I have random stories where good energy has resulted in positive outcomes.
M: Do you have an example?
F: I had a meeting once at Universal Music in America. I’m waiting in the lobby, it’s just me and this real big guy in a suit. I strike up a conversation with him, why not. Positive energy. Turns out he does security. I let him know I’m an artist from Toronto. He said, “That’s cool we’re actually doing a concert in Toronto next month”. Turns out he works for Madonna’s camp. I said, you’ve definitely gotta hit me up, I work at the radio station, whatever you need I’ll come pick you up. Boom, we exchange information. The next month, he hits me up, we’re chilling in my little basement apartment with me and my roommates at the time. I was part of the Flow 93.5 fm Live-to-Air at Seven Night Club, I took him out there. He partied with me and my crew. Boom, the next morning he calls me up and says he’s got tickets for us to Madonna’s show that night. Me and my friend pick up the tickets at Will Call, 2nd row from the front. I’m sitting beside [Madonna’s] kids and her mom, legit tickets. After the show we got invited to a get together at the Four Seasons. Me and my boy Clint ended up that night chilling with Madonna and her crew. They leave town, never hear from any of them again. But that night happened because I happen to strike up a conversation with a stranger. And that’s just one of many stories. Just positive energy bro!
M: Have you always been like this?
F: Nah, I haven’t always been like this. Well, I’ve always been extra, I’ve always been loud, grabbing attention. However, I haven’t always been positive. I’ve been a hater. (Haha) Maybe in high school and early college, for real (haha).
M: (Haha) So what changed?
F: Man, just being humbled when I moved out to Toronto on my own. Being on your own will humble the fuck out of you. When you’re in a new city and you have no friends there. Also when I moved to Toronto, I was working at Champ Sports in Scarborough. You gotta remember, I was a suburban kid from Montreal. I grew up around a bunch of Italians, to being in a place where the minorities are the majorities. You have every type of culture and character imaginable in Scarborough. (haha) You get a dose of the world in one place, it puts you in check real quick.
M: I never really purchased a lot of digital music early on. My dad was a DJ in Jamaica, so we always had turntables, records and CDs in my house. But I’m pretty sure one of my first or second songs I purchased online was-
F: Big Man T’ings!
M: (Haha) yup. Actually, yeah, that tune was definitely one of my first digitally purchaced songs.
M: So for me that started the change in my consumption from physical to digital. How have you been influenced by that change as a creator?
F: I’m probably the worst person to ask that question. I don’t really download music, except for maybe Big Sean or friends that I support.
[back stage standing beside girl]
F: But what I do is make sure every piece of music that I make is registered on SOCAN. As an artist, I haven’t really put out new music in maybe three years and my biggest cheques come from placement.
M: What does that mean?
F: Placements on TV, in movies things like that. And that surpasses any income I make from streaming. I found that out when I went to Midem in Cannes and my song ‘Typical Girl’ was chosen as an example during a seminar about how choosing the right song can change the scene of a show or movie. I have three companies that work with my licencing, and if I have any new bits, even if it’s 1 ½ minutes, I send it to them. If it gets a placement, the money is very steady. I’ve had placements on MTV, ABC, etc. and if it’s a show that repeats, that’s a consistent paycheque. Which is much more lucrative than putting together 12 songs and trying to live off the streams of those songs. Which is why I’m not trying to make new albums, ‘cause the old music is still making me a cheque.
M: So as a business model, the industry has changed from ‘I’m a musician’ to ‘I’m an entrepreneur’.
F: Yeah, I think it’s a sad reality. I’d love to focus on just the music, which would be fine if I had a machine behind me, someone doing the video, editing, managing, doing this and that, but I don’t. I had to learn how to do everything.
M: Do you have people who are entertainers in North America or even in Toronto talking to you about now doing something in Asia?
F: Oh bro, you have no idea what my inbox looks like sometimes.
F: I’ve got DJs who have never played a Famous record, didn’t support things I did while in Canada, or even really connected with me, asking if I can get them gigs out here. How does that make sense?
M: Well I guess there’s nothing stopping them from doing it themselves.
F: Yeah, but first you’ve gotta have the balls to just get out there. Like I said, I got up and moved to a different town where I knew nobody. The average person won’t do that. The average person won’t intern for four years, their pride or whatever won’t let them. They won’t do it so they’ve already lost.
M: I guess, most people don’t want to take the risk.
F: Yeah, and I also had the convenience of not being committed to be anywhere. I didn’t have kids or anything. Although, what people don’t realize is that a Canadian passport is like gold. You can go anywhere in the world for 90 days minimum. I’ve also had friends who’ve helped me either stay with them while in New York, or borrow their car for errands. Being able to humble yourself and not need to have luxury things all the time is necessary when you’re working towards a bigger goal.
M: So what’s your next benchmark for success?
F: I’m looking to retire bro.
M: (haha) you’re too young to retire.
F: I’m looking at investments right now. I just want to have a family, travel the world and not work. I just want to make sure the family is happy and I’m good.
M: So what’s the next move for Famous? You’ve gone from intern, to promo team, to rapper, to MC, to DJ, to party entertainer, to radio host-
F: Investments are my next move. At the end of the day I’m an entrepreneur.
M: So I guess to come back to the beginning, you’re Famous and you’re an entrepreneur.
F: That’s it bro. I’m Famous and I’m an entrepreneur. I don’t have a boss, I don’t really have a schedule. I’ve been my own boss and it’s one of the best ways to live.