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Q&A: KRNFX (Terry Im)

Q&A: KRNFX (Terry Im)

Terry Im, otherwise known as KRNFX, is a world-renowned beatboxing champion. He is well-known for becoming a finalist on “Canada’s Got Talent,” performing on “Ellen,” and collaborating with other musicians on YouTube, as he does in his Beatbaks project. He has also won first place at the Canadian Beatbox Championships twice and place in the Top 6 at the World Beatbox Championships in Berlin, Germany. An enthusiastic UCF crowd welcomed him to APAC Assembly.


What have some of your most memorable collaborations been?

Definitely the one I did with Mike Song, the Dance Box. It’s a piece where I created the sounds and the music for almost like a theatrical piece that my dancer/choreographer tells a story to. We did it on Ellen, we did it on MTV, we did it for Red Bull in Korea, so it was definitely my favorite collaboration out of all the things I’ve done.

Some other memorable, or notable, ones would be the collab [sic] I did with Walk Off the Earth, like a Taylor Swift cover, and it went viral, like Taylor Swift tweeted it. Another cool one would be getting to work with Jay Park on his last album. I’m on one of their songs. It’s called “Limousine,” [I] did like a little beatbox feature on it, which was cool.


You’ve published quite a few covers on YouTube. Are you thinking of branching out into doing original pieces?

Yeah, at some point I would like to do some original music, when the time is right.


How do you come up with the beats you perform? Like do you improvise them or do you have to plan them out?

Some of it’s improvised, some of it is pre-meditated, but [for] the most part, I have all the patterns and rhythms in my head already, and I kind of just pull them out when I feel like doing a certain beat. Kind of like how I have this whole encyclopedia in my head, and I kind of just pull out the different listings. It’s always in my head, it’s just a matter of which one I choose to execute.


Who are your musical influences?

That’s a good question, there’s a lot. When I was younger, Linkin Park. Obviously, Rahzel, who’s the most prominent figure in beatboxing. Ken Muhammad, who’s also a beatboxer. Drake, The Weeknd, anyone from Toronto, actually, ‘cause I’m from Toronto as well. So I have that big hometown kind of spirit/vibe going.


Growing up in Toronto, did the diverse environment (in terms of population) influence you?

Definitely. Toronto’s a very multicultural city, so a lot of diversity, a lot of different walks of life. And that definitely played a role in kind of developing my style. Not just musically, but in general. Very open-minded kind of sense. But at some point, in Toronto, I felt I just needed more inspiration, so that’s when I moved to L.A. and attempted to broaden my horizons and expand my career more.

For the most part, yeah, Toronto’s a great city. There is a lot of inspiration. It’s just, I had been there for so long, so I felt like I tapped it out. Maybe I didn’t, and I just prematurely left. But Toronto’s great, and it’s growing a lot right now too. It’s huge right now. If you look at the music charts, a lot of the artists at the top are Canadian, like Shawn Mendes, Alessia Cara, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd. These are all Canadians, and at any given time, those guys are in the Top Ten. So it’s really cool to see how Canada has stepped it up musically-wise.


If you weren’t aware already, Sparks Magazine is an APIA magazine dedicated to tackling social issues, so did you hear about any Asian Canadian issues growing up?

Yeah, I feel like it’s the same thing, Asian American, Asian Canadian. In a sense where there’s that kind of oppression because we live in a majority white place, so it’s like any sort of struggle you’ve felt as an Asian American, an Asian Canadian’s probably felt as well. Maybe on a slightly lesser scale, because people in Canada are usually “really nice.”

There’s definitely been stuff, you know. There’s been a job. One time, this audition I had, I beatboxed, and at the audition, they were like “Wow, that was freakin’ amazing. If only audition was about talent, you would have made it. I was like what?” It kind of flipped a switch, like wait a second, what are you talking about? Oh, I get it. It’s ‘cause I’m not like, you know. And then I found out the other person who got the job was, you know. Yeah.

So that’s kind of the moment when I realized like, alright, there’s going to be a couple setbacks, but if I didn’t have thick enough skin, then I wouldn’t have made it this far. At this point, it’s just water under the bridge. It doesn’t really matter to me at this point, ‘cause I’ve looked past all that—I mean, it still matters to me, but it doesn’t affect me in a way that deters me. I use it as ammunition, and I harness that kind of energy, and I use it for positive things.

I harness the negative energy, like, “You’re Asian, you’ll never make it. You’re Asian, you’re just a nerdy guy who can’t do hip-hop. Oh, you’re Asian, whatever, blah-blah-blah, you can’t get this and that.” I use that energy and harbor it—Sorry, not harbor, harness it—towards good things. I’ll use it on my next video, like “Oh, I’m going to think about those guys who said I wouldn’t be able to do this. Just make sure it’s super dope.” Not on some vengeful shit, but on some “I gotta prove myself” shit.


Initially, your parents were concerned with your beatboxing career. Do you have any advice for kids who might be trying to pursue their dreams as you did?

Yeah, I guess there’s a couple different ways you could look at it. One way is really believe in yourself, and don’t listen to the negativity that people have to say. But it’s only like if you truly, truly believe in yourself, and you know that’s what you want to do. Because sometimes people are unsure of things, and it doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to. So it’s like you have to be careful of your decisions.


Photo courtesy of Justin Chu