WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Tucked away in a storefront in downtown Worcester, surrounded by old posters of movies and hip-hop stars that adorn the walls of his office sits the vice president of Wu-Tang Management.
What’s the connection between Worcester and the internationally known group Wu-Tang Clan? Jimmy S. Kang.
He gives off an unassuming air while he talks about his life in the music business and management which he puts down to the tough love he received from his father.
“(My father) always told me, if you’re going to do something,” said Kang. “Do it to your fullest potential, don’t half-ass it or you’re just wasting time.”
Spending time at home in Central Massachusetts has been a luxury for Kang with the frequent travel he is required to do through his role with Wu-Tang Management.
All nine members of the group have their own solo careers but when the Clan comes back together, “that’s when I step in."
As vice president of Wu-Tang Management, Kang oversees the Wu-Tang Radio, Wu-Tang DJ Coalition, and Protect Ya Neck records and distribution.
He opens his laptop and shows the Wu-Tang theme park that he is negotiating in Seoul, which has special relevance to him as his family emigrated from South Korea when he was 4 years old.
Kang grew up in Los Angeles in a majority Korean neighborhood in the ’90s and was pushed to excel in two things: sports and academia. This focus would later enable him to be signed to the Junior Bruins in Worcester, which led to a career in the music industry.
“Worcester has great colleges (but) every one that graduates leaves Worcester,” said Kang. “Because Worcester was kind of a dead zone.”
During college, Kang would see his peers on the Junior Bruins and question his future as a professional ice hockey player.
“I was like, hold on, I’m the only Asian in the league, I’m the smallest guy in the whole league, and these guys didn’t even make it after they’re way better than me. So, I had to reevaluate myself.”
Kang decided the only way ahead was to turn to education.
While he was at Worcester State University, he took a job managing a club on Pleasant Street in the heart of Worcester, Club Red 1888, which was the genesis of his involvement in the music scene.
Kang booked shows with rap groups including Def Squad, G-Unit and Wu-Tang Clan.
“I’d like to see a platinum album,” said Kang in an interview with Pulse Magazine in 2006. “We’re just going to funnel everything back into Worcester. I want to get New England known like the South did. Let artists in New England eat.”
Music wasn’t something that motivated him before, but he found himself rubbing shoulders with artists and gaining a reputation for his work ethic and people skills.
At one event during this time he recalled a conversation with City Councilor Kathleen M. Toomey and feels that this was a pivotal moment when it came to his relationship to Worcester.
“At the time we were having great difficulty keeping young people in (Worcester),” said Toomey about her first meeting with Kang. “We had several deep conversations about his life and career.”
Kang was nearing the end of his studies and talked about leaving to start a career elsewhere because he felt Worcester was “a dead zone,” and wondered what better opportunities awaited him in the larger cities like New York or LA.
“I really wish you wouldn’t,” said Toomey. “Because we need to provide reasons for people to stay.”
Just before his conversation with Toomey, he had founded his own record label, STR8UP Entertainment and Records, named on his belief that management and labels should be “straight up” with clients.
He built a small empire in Worcester in managing four clubs around the city as well as running his up-and-coming record label, all the while he was still attending college.
With the world of nightclubs came the culture surrounding it.
“I was barely getting any sleep,” said Kang who after the clubs closed would “have after-parties at my house."
Kang started to establish himself in the music scene through his after-parties, social events and bookings that he made through his clubs.
In 2010, Kang received a call and was asked to go to a meeting in New York to meet the Wu-Tang Clan.
“They came and asked me to come up to New York City,” said Kang. “I met up with RZA, Freedom, Devine, Mook and Krumbsnatcha. When they approached me, I thought it was unreal.”
Not long after he was named the vice president of Wu-Tang Management.
“Jimmy’s so nonchalant,” said his then-girlfriend Ivania Nicole who was there when he was asked. “For him, it was just ‘'cool.'”
On the outside, it seemed Kang’s life was going from strength to strength with the success of his clubs, his record label and the appointment to VP for Wu-Tang Management. Then he appeared on the radar of local police.
When people drink, fights happen said Kang, who told MassLive that because of his smaller stature and that he dresses well, he feels seen as a target.
“Once I get punched, I blackout,” said Kang. “I don’t remember anything after, I just react.”
Eventually, he stopped managing nightclubs.
“What ended up happening was, I beat-up someone I shouldn’t have,” said Kang. “He was a big dude and he kept touching my girl.”
Nicole was not only his romantic partner but also a business partner and was dancing while Kang was working.
When he finally heard what had happened, he had the individual ejected from the premises but said the man waited for him to appear outside the club on Pleasant Street.
“When I went outside, he swung at me,” said Kang. “And I beat the living s(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) out of him.”
According to court documents, the individual was shouting at the police that arrived on the scene, “F(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) you, my dad’s a state trooper.” Kang had allegedly headbutted the individual. All charges were later dropped.
“(After that) certain police officers were pulling me over and messing with me,” Kang claimed as a retaliation for the incident with a law enforcement family member outside his club.
On the day that Kang was to have his formal announcement of becoming vice president of Wu-Tang Management, a party had been organized in his honor at Club Red 1888.
He described the police coming into the club just as he was going on stage to receive the formal title of VP and said they had a warrant for his arrest.
“They made me sit there for an hour,” while Kang was waiting for a police car to pick him up they had him in cuffs. “I had to sit there in front of everybody.”
After this incident, he stopped working in the nightclub business to focus on Wu-Tang Management and his other businesses.
Nicole and Kang co-own the clothing store Exclusives, at 39 Pleasant St. next to where his former nightclub, Club Red 1888 used to be.
It is set to reopen under a new name, “Creed,” later in 2019 according to Kang.
“We were like a power couple,” said Kang, who also started Miss Central Massachusetts with Nicole. “I was with her for 14 years.”
Their relationship ended in 2017 after he was arrested for breaking and entering and possession of a firearm.
In Aug. 2017, Worcester police officers found Kang allegedly trying to break into Takara, a then-closed restaurant in the city.
During his arrest, police found two rounds of ammunition in his pocket and a firearm in a nearby alleyway, according to court documents.
Kang denies that the weapon was his.
Kang recounted the evening saying that he had been invited to dinner by one of his employees and during the evening he went out to get some rolling papers from the store nearby. Upon his return, he realized he had locked himself out of the building.
“I’m not a big drinker,” said Kang. “(And) I was getting hammered.”
He tried to call up to his friends and threw small stones at the windows but to no avail and he was reported to the police who subsequently took him into custody.
Kang has yet to appear in court for the charges against him but he is hopeful he will be able to get back to focusing on his work promoting the Wu-Tang Clan and his personal projects in Worcester.
Information from: The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, http://www.masslive.com/news/