Hip-hop is enjoying its highest glory days in the current music world. On broadcast days of shows like “Show Me The Money”, “Unpretty Rapstar”, hip-hop singers sweep off the portal sites keyword rankings and their names stay high on the music charts. As the number of artists turning naturally to hip-hop is growing, a fast reversal in quality that is growing bigger is happening. As we can talk about a “Korean hip-hop renaissance”, the “Meeting Hip-hop” corner will present you various musicians that lead the over and underground scene.
t/n: this is an on-going series.
Iron, he’s quite a funny fellow. This interview was my first time meeting him. This guy had a somehow naive expression as he greeted me with a 90° bow, but when we actually started the interview, he spoke in a sexy way as he made the comment “in 2015, I will collect everybody’s money. Because I’m a gangster.”
Besides, if another rookie had made this comment, it would have been considered as self-confidence mixed with humor going beyond giggles, but these words from Iron whose nearly every song he released since “SMTM3” until now ranked high in the charts just make you nod.
As the first project of Iron to collect people’s money, “blu” is his debut song. If compared to most of the “SMTM3” contestants who have already released singles or albums, his debut is actually late.
“To be honest, I was planning to debut with an album, but I thought it’d be too rushed, so I delayed it to reach completion and I released “blu” first,” Iron said. “The song was already made, but filling up the technical stuff took some time until my debut. I think I got a good grasp of the parts where my voice tone changes when the song is high,” he explained.
The “technical stuff” Iron talks about is mostly related to his voice tone. Iron has a voice that can actually take a high tone and a low tone which is quite rare to see.
“Some people get this “old emotion” feeling because my voice has this high tone. When I was a kid, I wondered what my voice exactly was. I usually have a low voice, but I noticed that when I’m happy or overwhelmed, my voice goes higher. Of course, in the end, both tones are what my voice is,” he revealed.
The fact that his voice changes according to the emotion he feels is a unique feature and an advantage for Iron. It became one of the reasons that allowed him to be second place as he pulled in the audience empathy even deeper with this voice change during his performances on “SMTM3”.
Of course, Iron is well aware of that. “While I was recording this song, I worried a lot about really being immersed in sincerity and the melody. I think about the emotion a song should have every time I work on one. “blu” is a song that really shows my ambition. The mainstream side and the experimental side, I was trying to kill three birds with a stone,” he confidently said, revealing one more time his “gangster” side.
Making a digression, Iron also revealed the reason why his lyrics delivering was pinpointed as his flaw. “It’s because I’m missing two teeth. I don’t have molars. My pronunciation is a bit off because my set of teeth moved backwards when the molar side collapsed,” he said, raising laughter with his explanation.
Then, he added, “to be honest, I didn’t really care about my pronunciation before. While doing this show, I realized how important conveying my lyrics was. That’s why when I performed “Malice”, I stayed focused all through my rap. However, I realized that when I’m like this, my groove or my swing get weaker. I’m trying my best to learn how to maintain my groove while keeping alive the powerful aspect of Korean lyrics.”
Back on the song topic once again, “blu”, the song he said that is killing three birds with a stone, is a song mixing pop, rock and hip-hop elements. Its noise reminiscing of a LP player as well as its somehow dark and deep emotion are memorable.
As the melody of “blu” was composed by Supreme Boi with Simo and Gizmo, Iron gave his thumbs up to Simo calling him “the best hip-hop composer in Korea”. About Supreme Boi, he explained, “he’s younger than me, but he’s an amazing composer. I’m planning to make him my main producer in the future.”
Here, there’s one thing that must be said about Iron and Supreme Boi’s connection. They’re both members of a crew called “Rock Bottom”. It’s a crew born from the combination of three other crews called Daenamhyup, which Iron belongs to, Korokke and Lotus. The word “crew” is usually used to talk about a hip-hop group, but Rock Bottom isn’t about [musical] genre separation. There’s also no separation by category. Rock Bottom is actually composed of members coming from various fields such as rappers, rock band, producers, designers.
“It’s a crew created by friends with the same intention. It’s not a crew organized around one specific genre, so it’s a cultural crew. We have activities connecting different fiels and we’re trying to create another sub-culture. I’m the start (of Rock Bottom). To be honest, they also helped me a lot during the filming of “blu” music video,” Iron explained.
Iron is on the front line, but he’s receiving support from Supreme Boi, in the way that every Rock Bottom member doing activities is connected to the others.
However, there’s something to worry about here. Iron is currently signed with Polaris Entertainment, so won’t his record label activities be a limit to his crew activities? “I don’t think so. On the contrary, I think it will give me the opportunity to fill up my shortcomings in both areas. I do my music work with my crew and I can trust the record label for the business side of things, so it can be helpful from both sides,” Iron explained about his satisfying current situation.
Currently doing many promo activicties such as performances including music programs and other events, Iron smiled as he said with determination, “all my singles did well in the charts until now, but I’m trying to put the focus more on my stage performances than my ranking. My mindset is that I must show a very interesting image when I’m doing a music program. I will chew all these music programs. Groups like EXO or miss A active these days are really great, so I think it makes it even more interesting. There are so many popular singers active these days, that I feel it’s a “SMTM” extension. I will also pick up music shows.”
In the end, Iron promised his album wouldn’t be released too late. “Korea likes things with standards. Comparisons are based on “good rapping standard”, pronunciation and punch lines. It’s a vision I want to break. When you look at rappers all around the world, there are really many of them who write with sincerity, with wits, who express their own personality when they rap. To be honest, saying you match or you don’t match some kind of standard is a bit funny. I think someone is good when they carry their own style and give off a vibe that no one else can,” he said as he made his directing point clear from a rapper’s perspective.
Donga via Nate
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com