Kato decided to become a full-time producer in his early 20s. The idea of entrepreneurship, the possibility of fame, and the expectation of fortune inspired him to quit his job to pursue his passion with vigor. His parents, however, didn’t share the same enthusiasm.
“My parents are first-generation Korean,” he says. “They immigrated to this country hoping that I would get a good job, make a lot of money, and hopefully become a doctor or a lawyer. That was their vision for me.”
Kato was introduced to hip-hop production as a freshman majoring in digital media at Drexel University. He quickly realized that a career in digital media wasn’t his passion and dropped out. He left Philadelphia and moved to Atlanta with his parents.
Despite living in a growing hub for hip-hop, he faced a number of challenges. The first, and most popular among music industry newbies, was figuring out how to get his music heard.
“When you’re a 19, 20-year-old kid, you don’t necessarily know how to approach people,” he says. “You don’t know how to offer people value before trying to pitch yourself to them. I think a lot of my mistakes were probably in first impressions or communicating professionally with people within the industry.”
His second hurdle was dire. At 23, he decided to quit his job and make the leap into producing full-time. His family had moved away from Atlanta, forcing him to provide for himself. The harsh realities of pursuing his dream were experienced multiple times, namely when his car was repossessed because he couldn’t pay his car note and when his heating was turned off because he couldn’t afford the bill.
“Those were the times that really, really prepared me for life as a music entrepreneur and a full-time producer,” he says, reminiscing.
Kato, now 32, claims the ups outweighed the downs.
Throughout his decade-long career, he has produced for artists such as Tory Lanez, Joyner Lucas, Token, Jarren Benton and more. He says the key to growing his client base and fan base was giving away free beats in exchange for production credit and visibility.
“I still give away free beats. There’s long-term value, sometimes, in giving away free beats if it’s to the right artist. It’s about staying in people’s faces.”
He often dishes out advice like this on Instagram and through his music industry educational platform, Music Entrepreneur Club, co-founded by Dame Ritter and DJ Payne 1.
Though Kato hasn’t reached the pinnacle of notoriety just yet, he’s cultivated a personal definition of success that keeps him satisfied.
“If I’m happy, I’m successful,” he says. “I wake up every morning and I thank God that I’m in this position. I’m not the richest producer in the music industry, but I’ve made a living for myself doing what I love to do. What is there to complain about?”