Kung Fu Vampire is a genre-bending rapper and performer born and raised in San Jose, California. He has spent the last 20 years curating a sound and image that has gained international interest among fandoms, including horror and hip-hop. His interests in Gothic style, music, and rap converged around a film concept conceived in conversation with friends. This concept has since led him on a career path that includes national tours, high-profile performances, and, most recently, a feature at the 2023 Gathering of the Juggalos in Thornville, Ohio, where he performed for a crowd of 8,000.
In our conversation, Kung Fu Vampire shares his origin story, the development of his image, and his relationship with San Jose.
Be sure to catch Kung Fu Vampire Live at the Ritz on July 14th, as he returns to his hometown for the first time in four years to perform with Chow Mane, Cola!, & Yo.Izz.
(Additional images by PARIS of Billion Dreams @OfficialBillionDreams)
Following is our 2018 feature from issue 10.4.
San Jose’s preeminent horrorcore rapper—who rightfully thinks the horrorcore label is inaccurate—Kung Fu Vampire is a legend in the Bay Area hip-hop scene. Born and raised in San Jose, he first came up with the name in 2001, then spent the next decade building up his rap reputation, playing shows around the Bay and then the state. In 2009, Kung Fu Vampire took his unique brand of rapid-fire delivery and dramatic personage all over the world, touring with such legendary acts as Tech N9ne, Dirtbag Dan, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Originally, he was known for his dark material and even spookier look—pale face paint and glaring white eyes. As he’s matured, Kung Fu Vampire has toned down the look while building up the positivity transmitted through his lyrics, with many of his songs focusing on living a healthy life with a healthy mindset. Going forward, Vampire plans to remain an independent artist, while fully exploring his music as the man, the myth, and rap legend—Kung Fu Vampire.
“Back in 2001, some friends and I were messing around and talking about making a low-budget vampire movie. And then it kind of came out, mixing kung fu and vampires. But all my friends were like, ‘Yo, you’re the Kung Fu Vampire.’ I just loved Asian culture as well as vampires. It’s like a yin and yang, with kung fu and vampirism as that dynamic. You hear it in my music, which can be bright and cheery, but also really dark and edgy. Ultimately, I’ve always been inspired to bring live instrumentation to hip-hop without it sounding like rock-rap or sloppy. I want to create liveband-backed hip-hop that still sounds like hip-hop.”
Article originally appeared in Issue 10.4 “Profiles”