Scope, a.k.a. Gerry Sung, self-identifies as a “multi-disciplinary creative”. The Vancouver artist began with rap, but has since branched into music-video production, sci-fi imagery, and hip-hop soundtracks. Now, he’s directing his own short film.
These talents are all on display in Scope’s wildly imaginative, futuristic music video, “Scopeman Blue Saga”, which was supported by Creative BC. He combined cyberpunk aesthetics with trap music to empower Asian youths and promote racial justice.
“Simon says they follow it now / I turned off the media now,” Scope declares in the song. “I see my Yella people bleeding it out / I see the system keeping us out / They tryna trap my people, we can’t be speaking out…”
Watch Scope’s music video for “Scopeman Blue Saga”.
These lyrics reflect obstacles that Scope has been battling against.
“Like in many of my songs, I always add a few lines about the challenges of being underrepresented, marginalized, and silenced,” Scope tells Pancouver.
According to him, the multitude of wires “reflect the connection between man and machine in the world of technology and artificial intelligence”. In addition, the wires represent how information is being jammed into our head, blurring what might be real.
Scope gravitated to hip-hop as a teen
Despite the video’s dystopian feel, Scope is in an upbeat mood when he speaks to Pancouver over Zoom. In a wide-ranging interview, he reveals that he grew up on Vancouver’s North Shore, which is mostly white with a sizeable Persian community. There are relatively few people of Chinese ancestry like him.
“Definitely, I was more of that token type of Asian,” Scope says. “All my homies weren’t Asian at all. So, I definitely grew up in a different culture.”
He played a lot of basketball, and naturally gravitated toward hip-hop music.
“I identified with it, just kind of being an ‘other’—like a person who’s not of the dominant culture at that time,” Scope recalls.
Hip-hop also appealed to him because he had stuttered since childhood. Because of his speech impediment, Scope sometimes had difficulty expressing himself verbally. According to him, he internalized his thoughts and feelings, pouring them into hip-hop.
Highlights from the Scope-organized Yellow Fire Battleground 2023.
Mentoring young artists through Yellow Fire
Scope already had a gift for music and writing. He always preferred English over math and sciences, and even earned an English degree in university. Moreover, he had some musical chops as a teenager. That’s because his Cantonese-speaking mother put him in classical piano lessons in childhood with the Royal Conservatory of Music.
“I went all the way up to almost ARCT [associate diploma], but I didn’t continue with it,” Scope says. “Piano definitely taught me emotion, I think—just understanding how to move people and move myself.”
He’s looking forward to his next live hip-hop gig at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (October 18) at the Hollywood Theatre (3123 West Broadway) to open the Jade Music Fest. The following day, at 9:30 a.m., he’ll join Juno-winning songwriter Jacqueline Teh for a public event at the Annex (823 Seymour Street). They will discuss how they encourage and mentor young Canadian musical artists of Asian ancestry.
All events are free at the Jade Music Fest, which supports Chinese-language music and runs from October 18 to 20 at various venues.
In recent years, Scope has devoted a great deal of time to mentoring young artists of Asian ancestry through the Yellow Fire Academy. He founded this educational project to help youths create beats and lyrics.
“I saw a lack of resources coming up as an Asian Canadian in hip-hop,” Scope says. “I wanted to kind of be there for that person like myself—growing up and not having anywhere to turn to and not knowing anybody. It was pretty lonely in terms of the trajectory.”
Short film tells Scope’s story
When Scope was young, Clarence “CNFMUS” Au was the only local Asian hip-hop artist of Chinese ancestry who had made a major mark. And seeing him succeed in making authentic, high-quality music gave Scope more confidence to continue.
Au ended up working in Asia for several years, collaborating with major stars in Hong Kong before returning home to Vancouver shortly before the pandemic.
“He is a pioneer,” Scope says. “I see him as like a checkpoint in the landscape of Asian Canadian hip-hop.”
In 2018, Scope was profiled in a short film directed by Brian Cheung.
“I would describe my style as abstract—Bladerunner meets Nas—like a sci-fi future film noir mixed with some ’90s grunge-grimy hip-hop,” Scope tells Cheung.
Scope refers to himself as a “CBC”, a.k.a. Canadian-born Chinese. He primarily performs in English because he feels that he can touch more layers with his lyrics in this language. On occasion, he has tried rapping in Cantonese, but it didn’t feel nearly as authentic. He quips that to him, it was like “the imposter syndrome”.
“My parents spoke Cantonese to me, and I would speak back to them in English,” he says.
The Jade Music Fest presents Scope at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (October 18) at the Hollywood Theatre. Reserve free seats through the festival website. At 9:30 a.m. on Thursday (October 19), Scope will speak with Juno-winning songwriter Jacqueline Teh about mentoring young artists. It’s also free as part of the Jade Music Fest.