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SANDALBOYZ Spotlight: David Yungin Kim

December 21, 2021
Ryan Chang
Ryan Chang
David Yungin Kim is a Grammy-winning audio engineer known for his work with producer Hit-Boy. His path to success was long and arduous, but he remained true to himself and always sought to express what was his truth.

David Yungin Kim had dreams of becoming the next Korean American phenom in the NFL. His football resume comes highly decorated at a young age: playing on varsity as a freshman and making First Team All League in the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation). However, any NFL aspirations were dashed when he blew out his lumbar spine in a weightlifting accident.

David reflects on the dream-ending experience as a pivotal moment in his life that taught him the lessons needed to develop him into the person he is today. He admits that he was angry at the time, but the frustration allowed him to dig deeper in what he calls the "best thing that ever happened to him."

Yungin's life is a story of perseverance. Walls and pitfalls stopped him in his tracks along the way, but he managed to constantly muscle through.

Ryan Chang | David Kim

What did you learn from the injury?

My life had been stripped from me, but I wouldn't be where I am today without that. A lot of people think that you have to find the one thing you're destined to do, but it's really important how you handle what's in front of you. That's what leads you to find that passion later on. You need to work vehemently towards something in order to find it.

What position did you play?

I was a middle linebacker. I was big man, 230 pounds, 10-11% body fat, and fast. I was that guy that was giving 110% at practice.

Where do you think that 110% drive came from?

My biggest fear is regret. I found when I didn't go 100% or higher, I would regret it. I found that the only way I could escape that fear was to give everything I could've. When you leave out that 10-20%, you leave room for an excuse. When you give your all, you don't really have an excuse.

So when the injury happened, it was like a down-to-earth moment right. What did that look like?

It shifted my entire life. Like I was saying, I always thought that if I gave it my all, then I would succeed. I was bedridden for almost 3 months. I cried a lot in those months. I felt like my whole life was over at the age of 17. I had to transform my mentality from being a victim and saying "why me" to really thinking about the impact of my decisions and choices.

I realized that just because I wanted something to happen doesn't necessarily mean it was going to happen. I had to understand that my point of view is not the only one, and in order to get through life, I had to be able to view life from different angles.

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David eventually hits what he calls the second low point of his life. He dropped out of school at Cal State Northridge. Football didn't work. School didn't work.

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So is this where music comes in?

Music has surrounded my life at a young age. My dad played hella instruments. My mom is a self taught pianist and vocalist. I learned a lot from my parents. They were the anti-excuse. I adopted their mentalities to always persevere. So I decided to get into songwriting, rapping, and producing. I quickly realized that this was also not the way for me, so I enlisted at MI (Musicians Institute of Hollywood). It was the first time I was excited about something again.

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David soon hits yet another humbling moment. He wasn't able to find work for about 2 years even after graduating top of his class at MI. After a grueling job search, he eventually settles on an internship/runner position at Chalice Recording Studios. However, working as an intern — even in one the most prestigious studios in Los Angles — is far from glamorous. His work consisted of sweeping floors littered with cigarette butts, buffing floors, and doing coffee/food runs.

As a runner (the next level up from an intern), he was able to squeeze in studio time during the off hours for him and his friends. It was during these precious moments that he was able to work on his craft, mixing and engineering. During his 6 years of climbing through the hierarchy of Chalice, David was able to build a rather large network of clientele and meet some important people along the way.

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When did the Hit-Boy link happen?

The initial meeting happened when I was a runner. I was getting their Chick-fil-A order. This was the most important Chick-fil-A order I've ever had to order. In order to get noticed, I told myself I was going to bring this food back faster than any other Chick-fil-A order ever. His manager was impressed, so they took down my information. I honestly thought nothing of it. Fast forward two years, I'm an assistant engineer for Chalice now, and Hit-Boy's camp actually hit me up to engineer for them. I did a good job, so they called me back. We ran into some scheduling issues because I was still full-time with Chalice. Hit-Boy and I eventually negotiated to a place where I could go full-time with them. So I left Chalice, and yeah.

So it took you like 8 to 10 years before hitting your "big break." What advice do you have to people who are at year 1 or year 2?

Don't be discouraged. Be open to pivoting. You never know what doors are going to open. Persistence and faith in the process are crucial. Be open to other opportunities. For example, you might want to be a producer, but engineering might be the way into that room. You might want to be a songwriter, but photography might be the way in. You have to open to doing whatever is necessary. It's advice that is hard to listen to because it's impossible to picture what is 8 or 10 years out.

My whole life has been a story of me thinking that if I tried hard enough, I would be rewarded. That big reward never comes. The truth is that it is a non-stop grind, and you need to take the small wins along the way. There isn't really a pot of a gold at the end of the rainbow. You need to speed through these checkpoints in life and just continue grinding.

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After about 3 years of working with Hit-Boy outside of Chalice, David now has his own studio at the place it all started — just down the hall from Hit-Boy. The duo was able to secure a couple of rooms at Chalice which had been previously occupied for about 15 years prior. A Grammy award sits behind David's working desk for his work on Nas's King's Disease in 2020. He's been working on his golf game passionately alongside his craft as a mixer/engineer.

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What keeps you grounded?

My wife, Connie. She's responsible for helping break me out of my introverted bubble. I actually do not like interacting with human beings. If it was up to me, I would stay in this room for up to months at a time. Don't get me wrong, I'm good at socializing. It's a gift that I do have. She really encouraged me to embrace that side more. She pushed me into doing YouTube videos and creating content for the community.

And golf as well?

Golf to me is the great equalizer. The course does not care who you are or what kind of day you had. If you're out there, anyone can get it. It comes to preparation and demeanor. It's something that humbles me. Whenever I'm feeling low, I might hit a good round and it'll bring my mood up. Whenever I'm feeling too hot or full of myself, golf will quickly humble me as well. It keeps me balanced. I'm a Libra so I'm always looking for balance.

Any closing thoughts?

If I can be responsible for one person taking a step towards their dream, then I'm happy.