Rapper Mad Clown shot Mnet “Show Me The Money 2” and got called the “Son Suk Hee” of the hip hop world. As he worked with Soul Company that belonged to the Korean history of hip hop, he polished his skills on the underground scene. The message he passed through this “SMTM” was quite obvious. He didn’t win, but Mad Clown was the hot issue as he was constantly seen as a potential winner until the end. He shared with us anecdotes and the various experiences he went through while doing this show.
Hip-hop’s Son Suk Hee
Hello. Please introduce yourself.
Hello. I’m Mad Clown. I’m 29. I’m doing music in Hongdae. I was in Mnet “SMTM2″ recently, so I think more people know me now. Before that, I was active on the Hongdae underground scene. I was a part of Soul Company. Right now, I’m doing solo activities.
Do you miss your Soul Company days or not?
To be honest, it wasn’t a time of my life when I worked hard on my music. I spent 6 years with Soul Company, but my EP came out almost right before the company disbanded. Looking at it through a music perspective, my activities at that time were really not that much. However, I think I kinda miss it sometimes. I feel some nostalgia because it was where I began.
I want to talk about “SMTM”. I think shooting this TV program must have been some pressure for you because you worked on the underground scene. How did you get to be on the show?
I worried a lot because many musicians watched what was going on too, you know? Being on the show was a good way to be recognized. There was a lot of talk about “SMTM 1” too. The people around me also had many awareness fights asking if “going to the show won’t trigger bad whispers”. It was the same for me when I told the people around me that I’d be going to “SMTM”. I got a personal call from someone working at Soul Company. He told me not to do the show. It was clearly not an easy decision. I told myself it’d be better to do something than doing nothing at all, so I went on the show.
How was your mindset once you decided to be on the show?
After one show, Swings said something that really impressed me. It was after the first performance and he said. “When this program is over, I’ll have grown a lot as a person and as a musician and I’m anticipating to see this happening.” Seeing this, I got the impression that Swings had none of my worries about the other musicians watching me. He only thought about this new experience as a way to grow. I was so shocked to realize there was someone who could think this way.
During the first guerrilla mission, you introduced yourself with the “slamming rap to hit the ear”. What do you think is your rap’s specificity?
First of all, my pronunciation is quite chopped off and the line is clear. Rap is like a percussion instrument, you know. There’s a lot of concerns about rhyming or pronunciation, about each syllable. That’s why my biggest worry when I rap is to keep everything tight. If I were to pick something specific about my rap, I think people often say that my pronunciation is clear and I have this sharp high-toned voice.
On the contrary, what is the point you think you must improve?
My rap style itself is all wound up. It goes fast fast and it’s very sharp. However, the rapping style I like is the slow groovy type. That’s why I like J’Kyun-hyung’s style. (laugh)
My rap style is the exact opposite. That’s why I hope I’d be able to rap this way at some point. Be it through the rhythm or the groove, what I’m worrying about a lot these days is if I’m able to do it in a creative way.
When the crews were being formed, you refused the D.O crew’s offer. However, you would have been eliminated if the Meta Crew didn’t have make you an offer. What were you thinking about at that time?
To be honest, going to “SMTM” was already about embracing many risks. I thought things wouldn’t work for me with the D.O crew because there was a performance before we started forming the crews. I felt it didn’t match my style somehow. At that time, it wasn’t about going with whatever would come my way. I think I had already made up my mind. If they didn’t chose me, going on stage and perform wouldn’t have been for me. That’s why I was able to make this decision.
You were sure of the Meta crew since the beginning?
I worried a lot. D.O-hyungnim is true hip hop. Since his Deuce days, he made history in Korean music. As time went by and I watched each crew’s performance, my heart was definitely leaning more toward the Meta crew.
A scene was broadcast showing Meta having conflicts with the crew members. I’m curious to find out what was the atmosphere really like.
The atmosphere between the crew members was totally peaceful. I think our opinions and Meta-hyungnim’s opinion did clash on many things, but there were many times when things got resolved and we made music together. This was a TV program, so they made the conflict standing out and didn’t highlight the other moments.
After the finals, your performances with Ivy and Fana left me a deep impression. Which stage do you remember the most?
I don’t even have to think about it. It’s definitely my performance with Fana. Being able to perform in this cable program with Fana who belonged to the same agency in the past was quite meaningful. From a music perspective, it was a song of minor influence, but the fact itself of doing this song on TV was meaningful. And working with Oh Ji Eun too. Our stage came out well, so I was satisfied. Besides, it’s the only song I managed to sing without getting the lyrics wrong. (laugh)
To be honest, Fana doesn’t have a good relationship with “SMTM”. How was it when you suggested this performance?
It was very hard. After several attempts, my suggestion got accepted. Once we got in contact, the writers really enjoyed the idea. (laugh)
Is there a song you wanted to show during this program but weren’t able to?
Swings sang “Classroom Idea”. At that time, Sould Dive and I had actually decided to do “Classroom Idea”. We had decided to do the same song. The battle would have been on the same theme, but Meta-hyungnim said some things he thought about were different, and our plan fell through.
Was there a contestant you considered as your rival?
No one felt like a rival to me, but Swings was the one people wanted to compete with. They were like “let me defeat Swings”. (laugh)
When you sang “Loneliness In The Palm Of My Hand” for your 4th performance, you forgot some of your lyrics. How did you feel in this moment?
I thought “ah! It’s over! I’ll be eliminated”. It would have been fair if I were eliminated. I think I passed the round because people supported me. To be honest, Wutan should have been the one passing this round, that’s why I’m very sorry toward him.
You rapped a capella without even a mic. How did you come with this stage concept?
There’s this US TV program called “Def Jam Poetry” presented by Mos Def. It’s a program about where people slam or read poetry. Famous rappers or rookies go up there and slam. Sometimes, it looks like poetry reading, sometimes it looks like they’re rapping. It’s every form of slam. I often watched this program and told myself that I’d like to try to do something like that. So I did “Loneliness In The Palm Of My Hand” a capella. Some of the reactions I got afterward were “Mad Clown did poetry reading!”. What I did was poetry reading, but it was all about the rhythm and not poetry up there. I even forgot some lyrics, I stopped breathing, and there were many unfortunate things about this performance. However, I don’t regret going a capella and without a mic. I just regret how this performance went.
So while we’re on the lyrics topic, a short memorandum about your Soul Company days became a hot issue recently. How did that happen?
During a Soul Company concert, I forget a lot of my lyrics, so the hyungs thought I wouldn’t make it and wrote a memorandum in a half-joking, half-serious way. However, after they wrote the memorandum, I went on stage the next day and I sure did forget my lyrics again. So the hyungs scolded me. I was in a bad mood, I went to a bar and drank all by myself and I even cried. But it was fun to see it becoming an issue again.
[t/n: From what I know, this memorandum is from 2009. Soul Company had listed like 5 things for Mad Clown to do otherwise he’d no longer be a Soul Company member. The first thing listed was to never forget his lyrics or get his lyrics wrong when he’s on stage.]
The funny things in this memorandum was the “don’t wear brown pants”. (laugh) There was “don’t wear brown pants, hold the mic in the right position, get the audience to react more than 10 times”. (laugh)
Forgetting your lyrics can be a fatal mistake for rappers, what’s your take on that?
It’s simple. It’s a problem I must overcome.
You must have felt some pressure.
I did. Forgetting my lyrics had already happened to me a lot, so the pressure was big.
The last episode was broadcast last week. How did you feel when you were going to the last recording?
When I was going to the last recording, I really wanted to win. Honestly, I was confident because I knew I had rehearsed a lot. “Teeth” is a song that I really enjoy singing. I got the lyrics wrong once, but I was fine. And then, I just did many mistakes. I was quite disappointed when I got off the stage. The people who were in the audience that day didn’t see all the mistakes I did. It was quite unfortunate.
This three-month broadcast finally ended. How do you feel about it now that it’s over?
I feel much better, but I feel this void at the same time. Every day for three or four months, the composers contacted me. We’d prepare songs, we filmed. It was my daily life and everything is over now. I feel like it was just a dream.
What did this experience make you gain?
So many things. First of all, I got many opportunities from a music perspective, not to mention the stage experiences because being on the show revealed clearly the things I needed to fix which it’s something I must keep approaching in the future.
I know that your EP album “Anything Goes” that was recently re-released was sold out.
While we were surprised, we did think it was awesome. Without doing PR work on hip-hop sites or anything like that, 1,500 copies were sold just because of SNS. And 1,000 copies were gone in nearly a day. The other 500 copies left were gone in a week. It’s an album I released two years ago and it had already been on sell. That’s why it was quite surprising.
Do you plan to sell extra copies?
No. We won’t print extra copies. There are 300 copies left and we purposely shut it down after that. I think it will only be sold once in a while during small-scale performances in Hongdae from now on.
The broadcast was recent, your last album got sold out like this which mean your popularity increased. Are you aware of that?
I realize it just by looking at the messages I receive on SNS. When I’m in the street, people often recognize me. It happened to me before, but I feel it’s a bit burdensome and I’m a bit embarrassed when people come to see me perform and ask for a picture or an autograph because I’m like “I’m nothing. Why would you want my autograph?”. It’s just embarrassing and it makes me shy.
Do you have plans for future activities?
I recently joined an agency, so I think I might release a single in September. I don’t think I’ll be on my own. There will probably a singer with me. We’re planning something after that. It might be a mini album.
I’m curious to hear about the goal you want to accomplish as a rapper.
I want to be a musician that people see as such as soon as they hear the words “Mad Clown”. I signed with an agency, so I’ll be able to draw bigger pictures for the mainstream audience, you know. However, I won’t change the musical influences or the lyrics contents I had when I was working on the underground scene. I mean that I won’t be able to suddenly start singing club songs. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that. What’s for sure is that my music base must stay hip hop even if I go mainstream.