Great story, great read. Full thing at the Los Angeles Times:
While the world knows of the major L.A. gangsta rap figures who helped popularize the raw urban genre two decades ago — Suge Knight, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube — a far less likely figure pushed the music long before most folks knew it existed. If it came straight outta Compton, the birthplace of gangsta rap, often it first went through Wan Joon Kim.
The L.A. riots of 1992 created an indelible image of Korean immigrant shop owners in urban neighborhoods often in conflict with their African American customers, but that was hardly the whole story. “Most of my customers were the gang-bangers and drug dealers, so I built a friendship with them,” said the now frail Kim, 79, in an interview interpreted by his son, Kirk. His son now runs the stall, selling Latin music to a changing demographic. Kim works there once a week. “They were good to me as I was good to them.”