Are you aware of your popularity?
Yes, totally! When I go out, I can do nothing because a lot of people recognize me. Still, I do what I have to do.
What’s the biggest difference in your life before and after “Unpretty Rapstar”?
My schedule is so full that I can’t have a day off. It’s physically hard, but it’s something that I had always hoped to do, so I’m fine with it. Ah, being filmed without knowing it is burdensome. Since I’m willing to take pictures, I wish people wouldn’t take pictures of me or film me without me knowing it and put them online.
You were busy for the past three months, do you plan you to be even busier in the future?
It was just a warm-up. Everything really starts now. If you want to use a TV comparison, it was just the trailer!
In the past, when we looked up the word “cheetah”, animal pictures would come up. Nowadays, we see pictures of you. Why the name Cheetah?
It was my nickname. The CEO of my previous agency called me this way to tease me. After being on “Unpretty Rapstar”, one fan asked me one day if Cheetah (치타) was the abbreviation for “fatal blow” [t/n: chi (치) + ta (타)= fatal blow (치명적인 타격)]. I also think it’s a fitting image. If I go slow now, animal pictures will come back for this keyword. I must go hard.
I heard you do your own make-up and your own styling. Is there a particular reason for that?
It’s because I like it, but it’s also an extension of my preparation before I go on stage. I’m the one who knows best the lyrics I wrote. It’s not that I’m trying to make myself look pretty and cool, I want to convey properly what I have to say and it can make the audience goes “wow!”. That’s why I do everything by myself. I come up with my own concepts and I rehearse the right expressions and the right gaze.
Many people just love this image. To become your babe, should a guy follow what you say in the lyrics of “My Type”?
Rappers tell their own stories in their lyrics. I start with a straightforward line that goes “my ideal type is a bastard with more sex appeal than me”. This is exactly my type.
You’re very different from when you participated to the first season of “Show Me The Money”. This can be said about your looks, but your vibe is very different. It might be because you have this free mindset. What did you do meanwhile?
This represents about three years and time can’t be ignored. Overall, I developed my style as I went through different experiences. I tried to write more meaningful lyrics. I practiced my rapping flow, but writing lyrics is something I practiced even more. I wrote a lot, so I could only improve. If I don’t improve, I shouldn’t do it at all.
Your lyrics are memorable. How do you usually write your lyrics?
I go to exhibitions, I watch movies, I read a lot. I often go to the bookstore, so I can tell if a book hits it big just by reading the title. Kim Hoon’s “Song of The Sword” is a book that I really love. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it. His writing style is strong. The adjectives he uses are strong but even. And I find it so cool. Sometimes, it’s also sharp.
So when you write lyrics this way and you get good reactions, how do you feel?
When I did “Jungle Bush” for “Unpretty Rapstar”, San E-oppa said “there was a drawing in my head”. I was overwhelmed with happiness because it wasn’t just about the lyrics, I was able to convey the right feeling too.
Do you mean the hip-hop scene whe you talk about a “jungle”?
It’s from the lyrics of my song called “100km”. The song says “I refused to become a flower in a jungle. I became a beast.” The jungle is a place where you eat and you get eaten. It means you must take care of yourself if you want to survive instead of stepping on others to rise. I’m talking about playing fair. You can do pretty, but I won’t. My intention was to say I don’t have others to protect me, I will use my own strength to chew you and eat you. This is the hidden message and I’m happy whenever someone notices it.
Are there lyrics you’d like to talk about right now?
I wrote these lyrics for the last track. It goes “music is my top priority, my haven and my home, guards up, bounce, put my soul into it”. This is my mindset right now. It’s the best sentence that can express how I feel about music.
What did you do before becoming a rapper?
To be honest, I started out with dancing and singing first. As soon as I started high school, I moved from Busan to Ilsan. I practiced as I joined a training camp with people who did music. My parents really believed in me. That’s why I couldn’t do bad things.
You dropped out of high school. Why make such a decision at this young age?
I went to school up to the first semester, but I was very passionate about music. I didn’t see where to use what they taught me at school and I wanted to use this time for my music. I called my mom and I told her “mom, should I just quit school?” and she said “hm… you must have thought about it a lot… Are you sure? I understand. I’ll go up there” and I stopped right away.
And you were in a big accident after that, right? Do you remember?
It was January 2007. I had just turned 18. I only remember standing at a crosswalk. Then it’s the ICU because I had recovered consciousness.
I heard your parents were against you getting surgery.
They were against every surgery. Right before the surgeon pierced a hole in my throat. If I were to go under a second operation, there would be little chance for me to survive. There’s no chance for you not to be disabled if you go under this surgery. In the end, they chose the artifical brain death. Except for the heart, the whole body is anesthetized and they wait until the blood is taken out. Odds that I’d die were high and the possibility of living without a disability was very small.
How did they come to this expectation?
More than relying on expectations, I’d say my parents know I’m pretty much like them. They knew their daughter had a precise dream, that their child sings and needed her throat. They knew that if I woke up and realized I could do nothing with my voice, death would just be better. This is what they thought.
Do you agree?
I completely agree.
But you weren’t able to sing again?
I had a respirator in my throat for so long that I wasn’t able to speak at first. My head hurt so much when I tried to reach high notes. I had dropped out of school, there was nothing else for me to do… Of course, I was alive and I was thankful. Miraculously, I had no disability, but I couldn’t sing anymore.
So you started rapping?
I didn’t think about it at first, but I kept being stuck no matter how hard I tried singing. The CEO of my previous agency said I had a nice tone and I had potential, so he suggested that I tried rapping. I started rapping without knowing much about it.
And it seems it was the right thing to do?
It was truly a skill of God. (laugh)
And if you weren’t a rapper?
I think I’d still be working in this field. Something about beauty or fashion. You probably don’t know, right? I could have been an actress too. I took classes and it was fun. I’m also good at acting.
How would you like to be perceived by the public?
It’s nice to be recognized in the right way now. I’m being recognized for my rap. People also show interest in my make-up and my fashion style. There’s no one who really tells me off for my personality or my character. People will only see a part of all the images that I have, but I’m satisfied. Because this is also a part of who I am. I must be more careful and it’s going to be more pressure, but I’m very happy. I’m thankful.
What kind of rapper do you want to become?
I still don’t know yet, but I hope my character will be unrivaled. Like a landmark. I want to hear “hey, this is Cheetah, this is Cheetah’s voice”.
Do you have a dream stage?
I think the Super Bowl is the coolest stage, but I want to go on an international talk show like Oprah Winfrey’s or Ellen’s shows. You talk and then you have a live performance with a band. Ah, just thinking about it makes me feel good.
When will your album get released?
I think it might be released around May. We’re thinking about a release date to match my birthday.
Would you like to say a few words to finish this interview?
If you’re determined about something you want, I hope you won’t be afraid to try and go for it. Don’t care too much about what you lose because you need to lose something in order to gain something else.
Translation: @onesunnylady – thesunnytown.wordpress.com