- How would you describe your music? What or who has inspired your style the most?
First of all I want to make music that will calm listeners’ minds, I want to make that kind of sound. Secondly, I want to have messages in my music that cause people to think deeply.
Sound-wise I am influenced by artists like Drake, Damien Rice, Kid Cudi and J.Cole. As far as lyrics go, I’m influenced by J.Cole.
- There have been comparisons drawn between you and Drake. What American artists do you listen to?
Drake is the artist I aim to emulate the most so I was naturally influenced by his music. But the artist who has influenced my music career the most is J.Cole.
- What is the meaning behind the title of your album, ‘Midnight’?
It’s simple. I named it with hopes that people would listen to this album after midnight or late at night.
- What is your favorite part of the process of creating an album?
After recording a song and finishing the mixdown, listening to the song in my car is the happiest moment.
- You traveled overseas to film the music video for ‘Paris’ – What was that like?
It was like an adventure. It was really fun and exciting but when we were filming some of the scenes in the middle of the street I felt embarrassed because of all the people around watching.
- What is your favorite track from Midnight and why?
‘Paris’ and ‘꿈을 파는 가게’ (The Store that Sells Dreams). ‘Paris’ is fresh because of the subject matter, the sound and the music video. On ‘꿈을 파는 가게’는 Bob James said that I could list his name as a feature and that was already a huge honor. I really like the theme of the song and the metaphors in it.
- What do you think about the racial discrimination towards blacks in America currently?
I recently watched a movie about Martin Luther King Jr. and I had many thoughts. I was very surprised when Kendrick Lamar didn’t win a Grammy [for best album]. I thought racial discrimination was almost gone, but I realized that it still exists in many places and is sometimes less visible. Just like blacks have fought for freedom and equality, South Korea has had similar issues so I have been writing lyrics about it.
- You have featured on many other artists’ albums and done numerous collaborations. I discovered you through your collaboration with Yankie on his “Lost In Memories” album in 2011. How do you get to work with so many artists? Is it just that you are friends and it happens naturally?
As for the collaboration with Yankie, he randomly sent me the song and I just started working on it. Usually musicians work with other artists close to them or they contact them by email or phone. Korea’s hip hop scene is small so connecting with other artists isn’t that difficult.
- Do you view the hip hop scene in Korea as one big community? Is there significant competition or any animosity between artists or labels?
That is something that I can’t define because we all have our own styles and goals as artists. As an artist, I personally prefer to make music focused on love rather than on dissing other rappers or competition.
- How do you feel about the spread of Korean hip hop globally?
Hip-hop originally came from America but because Korea has continued to produce its own hip hop music I think it has its own color or flavor. This type of collaboration [between American hip-hop and Korean hip-hop] is a great phenomenon and as an artist I am stimulated by it.
- Are there any artists that you have not worked with that you would like to?
Collaborating with Kid Cudi is one of my goals. It may sound funny but I really want to work with him one day.
- What is your advice to young people in Korea who hope to pursue a career in music?
Music is something that you can’t learn and its something that can’t really be graded. I want people to feel the significance of creating something. In that sense I’m not a perfect person but I try hard not to lose who I am.
- Why did you decide to leave Grandline?
It’s more like my contract expired rather than I left. I didn’t feel it was necessary to renew the contract. I’m still very close to the other artists with Grandline.
- This past summer why did you decide to try out for “Show Me The Money”?
I had a fantasy that I could share my music with a bigger audience. I am embarrassed that I had that thought and I wasn’t perfectly prepared.
- What’s your favorite song on ‘Boyhood’ and why?
‘막내 아들’을 (‘Youngest Son’). I haven’t had many opportunities to talk about family love but this is a song filled with my love.
- Can you talk more about the content of ‘Boyhood’?
I was inspired by the movie Boyhood and J. Cole’s music. When you go through life without much time to think it gets harder and harder to remember your youth. But in this album I took the time to stop and really remember my childhood. I made it with a light heart.
- What do you like most about doing music and what’s the hardest part?
The best part is that I can share my thoughts with people. I can also influence people’s lives. But at the same time that is the hardest part. This is why I have become extra cautious. Even though there are things in my music that I think are right, it isn’t the absolute truth. Because of this I am aware that it [my music] could be seen as trivial or hurtful by some people. So nowadays I review each song hundreds of times. It is a painful process. I have a compulsion to produce music that is fresh and this gets exhausting. I am not a perfect person and I have insecurities that have come out. I hope to improve as an artist in 2016.
- Can you tell us more about your recent album ‘The Bench’ – what does the title mean? Can you tell us about the two tracks?
Walking through a park, sometimes I run into men huddled on benches. Have I ever been like that? I have also been through hard times and experienced despair and found myself huddled on a bench, staring at the ground, sighing. I had this experience recently and I wrote the lyrics based on that memory.
- Any plans to travel to or perform in the U.S. in 2016?
If possible I would definitely love to.