Cuvism has already introduced YG Producer Lydia Paek and Choi Pil Kang. It is rare to hear about their personal stories, so music fans showed their enthusiasm and this time, the artist we will introduce is Big Tone who is currently a YG rapper and songwriter. You can already tell by his stage name. His voice is big, no, his voice is unique. He has already been featured on many songs by mainstream Korean artists and he showed off this unique rap style of his in the song “Connection” by Taeyang. In Mnet “WIN”, the battle program that became a hot issue in the industry to determine YG next group, he appeared as Team A’s rap trainer. Today is also the day when the Team A’s rappers he’s coaching will compete [for the last time] against the other team. The stage of Team A, who has been coached by Big Tone. Isn’t this exciting?
Hello. Please introduce yourself.
Hello. I’m rapper, songwriter, producer Big Tone. I’m currently working for YG.
Is there a specific meaning behind your nickname “Big Tone”?
When I was working before, people asked me if I didn’t have a nickname, so I made up one. People around me told me my voice was special and my real name is Lee Dae Sung [t/n: depending on the hanja characters “daesung” can mean “greatness” or “loud voice”]. I decided to combine everything and the name “Big Tone” came out. Come to think of it, it’s really connected to my real name and it was also to my taste, so I’ve been using this name ever since.
Let’s start with your childhood, when did you start making music?
I think music has always been my dream ever since I was a kid. When I heard Seo Taiji & Boys’s music, I thought “this is what I’ll do, I’m going to do this”. So I loved everything from rapping to singing and dancing. Back then I had no other way but to watch TV, follow along and memorize the dance moves. This is how I started. Then when I was around 20, I met Pil Kang-hyung in New York while working part-time. (laugh) And we talked. He was composing songs while I was writing lyrics and rapping. So I made melodies on the tracks he had made. We recorded at his place. I think that’s when I began having a real conception of music.
So you really started doing music when you met Choi Pil Kang.
Indeed. When I met him, I felt “ah, I can do this too”. Then Pil Kang-hyung received an offer from Korea, so he went back. A year later, he contacted me and told me to come back too and we’ve been working together ever since. I think it must have been like 10 years now.
You were featured as a rapper on many popular Korean artists like Lee Hyori, Brown Eyed Girls, Mc Mong. How did that happen?
After Pil Kang-hyung contacted me, I came to Korea and I learned under Il Sang-hyung. At that time, Il Sang-hyung was a mega star. He had a large circle of acquaintances, so he received many song requests. Featuring requests also came along and he gave me the opportunity to do it. I did it a few times and the reactions were good, so I participated to other singers’ albums. I felt like I did a lot of featurings at that time. (laugh)
You really seemed to stand out through your rap featurings back then, were you looking for one specific rapping style?
I’ve been into hip-hop since the 90′s, so I had a strong inclination toward the East Coast style. I had the New York pride. So of course the flow was important, but lyrics were my main concern. I think the crucial point for me was to convey a message through my rap. So it’s something I really wanted to accentuate.
Right now, you’re a rapper and a songwriter at YG. How did you come to work for YG?
I had worked with Pil Kang-hyung on a couple of songs. Yang-sajangnim [t/n: director Yang] heard them by chance and he said he wanted to meet Pil Kang-hyung. So we met because Pil Kang-hyung had mentioned my name. He had said he was working with someone. To be honest, when I went, I was thinking “what am I going for?” because I’m much more of a player than a composer. Besides, YG was more focused on idols and there wasn’t hip-hop musicians from the underground scene at that time. Thankfully, Yang-sajangnim said that even if it wasn’t to compose songs, he still needed someone for his songwriting team. I had gone to there with no expectation and it was YG who held out his hand to me first. I was deeply moved because it was something I would have never imagined.
It was already like this at time, but YG was one of the Big Three, so you must have been worrying a lot. How did you feel after you started working for YG?
After I went in, I think I started having double thoughts. At that time, I was living on my own. All my family was in the US. To be honest, I had to do other jobs in order to live. English was the only thing I could do, so I became an English instructor. I gave rap lessons in other agencies. I lived in Gangnam, so when I was done with work, I had to go all the way back to Hongdae. This was a hard time.
You said you had to have another job after you started working for YG?
Yes. To be honest, music is a job that doesn’t put food on the table [?]. Back then, while I was an English instructor, I also gave rap lessons, and I wanted to keep doing music, so my energy went to ground zero. But Sajangnim held out his hand to me one more time by telling me to move from Gangnam to Hongdae. He said “Forget about your other job, isn’t music the only thing you should do?”. I was deeply moved again. (laugh) “Hey, a music man should only do music. What is he supposed to do if he does something else?”. That’s what he told me. So I shouted again “Sajangnim, manse!” (laugh) [t/n: “manse” is like a cheer]
So after much complications, you really went into YG. Which was the first song you worked on for YG?
I worked with Pil Kang-hyung on Se7en’s “Digital Bounce”. To be honest, it’s embarrassing to say I participated because I just touched the lyrics a little. After that, I helped writing the lyrics for 2NE1′s “I’m Busy”, I worked with Choice 37 on “Love Hurts”. Then, I worked again with Pil Kang-hyung on Seungri’s “What Can I Do?”, I sang as a featuring on Gummy-sunbaenim “Who Are You?”, I did the English rap on Taeyang’s “Connection”.
You were featured on a lot of songs. You said you rapped in English on Taeyang’s “Connection”. I think it must have been easy for you.
Indeed. It was totally easy. (laugh) I went because I had received a sudden phone call. Sajangnim told me to try to rap on this song. I listened to it, I wrote the lyrics right away and recorded it. (laugh)
What is the message behind “Connection”?
It’s a love song. The word “connection”[t/n: he used the English word] means that you feel connected somehow to someone. It’s like “don’t you feel there’s something like love between us”. To be honest, I was a little bit embarrassed when I was doing this song because the content is a bit light. (laugh) But being featured on a Taeyang’s song was really a good experience.
Recently, you also worked with Choi Pil Kang on Kang Seung Yoon’s “Stealer”. However, when you started working on this song you wondered if it would suit Kang Seung Yoon.
Yes. We worried a lot because it was his first song after the audition program. At that time, he sang songs that already existed, so even if he had managed to put his own style into it, they were still songs of other artists in the end. We thought more and more that we should keep this image but still show Kang Seung Yoon’s unique color. Besides, when people talked about Kang Seung Yoon, he’d be recognized “by instinct”. That’s why we worried a lot about how to break this mold.
How was the reaction after the song was revealed?
People often said that the lyrics were really cringe-worthy [? t/n: the word he uses is more like “give you goosebumps] because Kang Seung Yoon’s own name is in the lyrics. To be honest, the first time I heard the lyrics, my reaction was also “does his name really need to be there?”, but I ended up being okay with it. This is all part of the concept.
I saw on social networks that Kang Seung Yoon gave you a drawing.
Yes. Seung Yoon draws a lot in his spare time. He was bored, so he drew this. (laugh) Then he suddenly showed me his drawing and was somehow proud about it. (laugh) He drew me. It was cute. I took a picture and uploaded it online. (laugh)
Today is THE day. It’s the day of the ultimate battle for the YG rookie group that is currently the biggest issue not only for YG but also in the entertainment industry. You appeared as Team A’s rap instructor in Mnet’s program “WIN”.
Yes, I was shown as their rap trainer. (laugh) I’m also a songwriter, though…
Song Min Ho and Lee Seung Hoon, the rappers of Team A, are currently under your rap training. On broadcast, you said that Lee Seung Hoon’s rapping style was countrified. As their instructor, what do you think of their talent?
To be honest, it’s something I had been thinking ever since “K-pop Star”. I’m not pretending to diss him, I am dissing him and he knows it too. When he sang “Mother’s Bean Paste Soup”, he prepared the song with Pil Kang-hyung who felt the same way and told me “help me a little. This won’t work at all”. His pronunciation was shaky and, although he could really dance, there were many problems like his sense of rhythm when he rapped. I already knew that and he started rap training with me from the moment he entered YG. I had thought about it beforehand because I had knowledge from my hip-hop experience. You’ll probably see when you look at him now, but his skills really improved compared to before.
What about Mino?
Mino is already very good because he had activities on the underground scene. This is what I told him. “I know you can rap, but how will you convey emotion to people who know nothing about rap?”. He’s really good at rapping, but he’s no longer on the underground scene. That’s why I taught him how to appeal to the general public a little bit more.
Do you have a goal you want to accomplish as a musician?
Being recognized as a songwriter in YG. I hope songs I work on will keep ranking high in the charts. I think it’s my goal. It’s just that all I hope is the music I help to make do well. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s me singing or the family members of this company.
Original article: cuvism
Edited by @canoeknits