Like the scene in 8 Mile where Eminem fights his personal demons along with his real-life rapper foe, Chinese-American MC Jin Au-yeung aka Jin has been proving himself by battling it out on stage. The 21-year-old MC, who recently released his debut album The Rest Is History under leading hip-hop label Ruff Ryders, showed his impressive rhyming talent in front of his Hong Kong fans last week. As a rapper, Jin says the battles, which involve one or more MCs competing against each other in front of an audience, are of greatest importance to him. '[The battles] are number one ... even more important than a record deal,' says the avid hip-hopper who hails from Miami in the United States. 'Even with a record deal, without the battles you'll never get respect.' In the hip-hop community, battles including emceeing and deejaying are the only way for budding musicians to gain credibility. Rappers vie for the championship by coming up with impromptu and fast-paced rhyming. 'There are a lot of artists who are famous now, some have sold millions of records, but nobody in the hip-hop community respects them ... the real hip-hop community, anyway,' says Jin, a seven-time consecutive champion of the popular Freestyle Fridays battle on cable TV channel BET. Jin first heard hip-hop music on the radio and on CD, and started writing lyrics just for fun. By the age of 15, Jin was serious about his rapping. Since then, he has taken part in hundreds of MC battles. Last month, he came first in an MC battle at the Fight Club in Puerto Rico which won him US$500,000 plus a car. The reputation he built from battling finally earned him a record deal. After years of self-doubt, he felt overwhelming relief. 'I had been trying to get a record deal for so long. Sometimes I would lie in bed and think, 'Why can't I get a record deal?' But I knew I couldn't give up. If I gave up, what would I do? 'I didn't want to go to college as I knew that wasn't for me and I didn't want to be a delivery man [at a restaurant] forever. I didn't want my parents working in a restaurant for the rest of their lives either so I decided to stick with [my goal].' Determined to be a rapper, Jin began listening closely to top hip-hop acts such as LL Cool J, Naz and Naughty By Nature. He then developed his own rapping skills by writing down his rhymes. 'I did a lot of writing. You have to start off somewhere and I started from the bottom. It was hard work. I can even remember my first rhyme ... I'm embarrassed just thinking about it,' he says. Besides hard work, Jin thinks growing up helped his rhyme to mature. 'As you get older, you start having opinions on things and choose to support what you believe in. This is what makes up your rhyme,' says Jin. Having realised his dream of recording an album, Jin is surprised by what his small amount of fame brought - some critics calling him, the Chinese-American rapper, a gimmick. 'A lot of people didn't think I would make it. Some people even seemed to hope that I would fail. I don't really know why,' he says. But his love of hip-hop, as well as performing and making music, gives him the energy to face all odds. 'I enjoy every little bit of success that I get. It's like a blessing from God,' he says.