Rapper Loco is the winner of “Show Me The Money – season 1”. In this survival program where a great rapper teamed up with a rookie rapper, he received incredible support from the fans as he showed his sincerity and his excellent skills each episode. During the five rounds, his stages were overflowing with power and energy. His final stage was a collaboration with Double K and the lyrics full of sincerity as well as the lyrical melody captured the hearts of the audience, and he seized victory in the end. As if his pride made him prepared himself and grabbed the coincidental opportunity, he cherished his passion for hip-hop and was able to create the turning point of his life. He said “the true beginning will be after this show”, he said and he’s currently preparing his solo album as well as extending his music world through the hip-hop crew “VV:D” he formed with Elo, Crush, Gray and Zion.T. Let’s listen to the true story of Loco who calmly talked about things we didn’t know.
Rapper Loco who makes the world go crazy
Nice to meet you. Please introduce yourself.
I’m rapper Loco.
You said the true start is now that the show is over. I’m wondering how you’ve been since then.
I found an agency that helps me to work on my album. After visiting a few places, I signed a contract with my current agency. Right now, I’m preparing my debut album.
When did you start being interested in hip-hop?
I was a quiet kid. I listened to hip-hop music when I was in high school. It was different from my personality, so it gave me this explosive fresh feeling. As I started to look for more songs, I slowly fell for hip-hop. After that, I told to myself that I wanted to do something about and I created a hip-hop club at my school. I wrote lyrics as I was preparing for the school festival. I enjoyed it because it felt like I was going astray which was something I didn’t usually do. I think what I liked about it was how I could use the songs to express things I wasn’t usually able to express. Even when I started college, I joined the Black music club and I kept doing music activities. Until then, I only thought about it as a hobby. Then I met a producer called Gray. Gray-hyung asked me if I wouldn’t try to properly work in the music field and I think I started being more serious about it because of his advice. It was in 2009.
You said you were doing music without your talent being acknowledged. Wasn’t your family against it?
I’m an only child. It was just me and my mother, so she wanted me to find a steady job. However, when I recorded music with Gray-hyung and he listened to what I had released and an agency contacted me. That’s why my mother was against it but still watched over me at the same time.
I heard you went back to school. Do you think about keeping studying?
I receive all kind of influences when I make music, so I think that I also want to influence others. That’s why I want to keep studying. To be honest, I applied to go back to school this semester, but I was so busy while preparing my debut single that I didn’t have time to attend my classes. It was the busiest time for me. That’s why I cancelled my request.
When did you get the feeling that you truly started doing music activities?
Gray-hyung suggested that we worked together, so I had this feeling that I was truly making music when we were working together in the recording studio. Back then, I had applied for a leave of absence and I think I was focus on working on my music. That’s how I ended up joining “Show Me The Money”.
Your stage name “Loco” is unique. How did you choose that name?
Gray-hyung called me “Demain”. It means “tomorrow” in French and I felt like it was more fitting for my quiet daily image rather than my image on stage. That’s why I wondered if I couldn’t find another name and I stumbled upon the word “loco”. It means “making the world crazy”. I felt like I’d be able to express what I wanted on stage and make the audience go crazy, so I changed my name.
What was the first stage you did under the name “Loco”?
My first stage was for the school festival with my friends. There was a lot of people and there were many expectations because it was a school festival. Artists go on stage according to their level of popularity. An artist suddenly cancelled, so my friend and I became the main act. It was our first time being on stage in front of an audience and we weren’t popular. That’s why we had to perform while watching the audience leave the venue. It didn’t turn into a real performance and I was really disappointed.
How did you end up joining “SMTM”?
It was after I had left my agency because of musical disagreements and when I did my first stage as Loco. I was thinking about enlisting at that time, so it was a time when I had many worries. I read the SMTM ad. I thought I’d go to the army if I was eliminated and I applied the next day.
I think you must have had some motivation since you applied.
Because all my career was so far was what I had recorded with Gray-hyung, I was curious about my skills. I thought I was lacking a lot, so what caught my eyes was the fact of doing performances with other rappers and being mentored. I thought it was an opportunity to feel many things and to improve. I also applied because it was a way to get a judgement on my skills.
Can you tell us which rapper you enjoyed working the most with?
Each of them had a different style, so I learned a lot as I was able to watch each of them. The rapper I enjoyed working with is MC Sniper-hyung whom I did my second performance with. He gave me a lot of advice while showing me a powerful stage. The 45RPM-hyungs showed me how much fun a performance could be. What I learned from Joosuc-hyung was about doing things with style, and with Double K-hyung, it was about being detailed. Double K-hyung knows how to prepare a stage where you can be free. Listening to him talking non-stop about emotions was just awesome. He even created a detailed line on stage. When we were recording, we spent a few sleepless nights working. I think “SMTM” made me learn a lot about song making, about feelings, about how to express myself on stage.
Your performance with Double K was memorable. Many said it was emotional. And it was about your mother, so how was it?
To be honest, my mother didn’t know the song “Home”. She had decided to come to the show because it was the last one. I was already nervous during rehearsals. A lot of people didn’t catch on that, but I was so overwhelmed that I got my lyrics wrong during the bridge. Fortuntaly, I managed to control my emotions, but I didn’t even realize that it could also make me cry.
Are you nervous on stage?
I’m nervous only in the beginning. The stress goes away right away.
Who would you choose as the rapper you became friends with during “SMTM”?
I became quite close with almost everybody. Jindo Dog and I contact each other a lot. I also see Take One a lot during concerts.
You’re in the agency Illtong created. How did you end up joining his agency?
After “SMTM”, I went to a few places because I was looking for an agency. There were good agencies indeed, but most of them offered me to be a part of a hip-hop group. I wanted to do my music as a solo artist, so I was worrying a lot. Illtong-hyung then asked me what I thought about joining his agency and that’s how I joined.
What was the reason for you to be so adamant about working as a solo artist?
I wanted to tell my stories through music. And I think I was also influenced by the fact that rappers are usually longing to be solo artists.
You held a performance with Lee Hyori. How was it to be on the same stage with the sexiest diva?
I think it’s very hard for me to approach people, regardless if it’s a man or a woman. It’s like a phobia. And Lee Hyori’s charisma is naturally strong. (laughs) She didn’t rush me, she tried to ease my stress, but she’s naturally strong, so I couldn’t help being nervous. Besides, I think my phobia is even more severe when I’m in front of beautiful women.
I think doing a survival program is very stressful.
Yes. You had to show a better performance than the others in order to have the opportunity to move to the next round. That’s why I think stress was natural. Besides, we had to create a new song once a week. The creating process was painful. And creating a song because I had to go on stage each week, it meant less time to memorize the lyrics. I can’t memorize lyrics in just one or two days, so getting used to the lyrics was hard.
What do you focus on when you write lyrics?
I’m trying to talk about my own experiences. Expressing yourself with honesty through your lyrics is the most “hip-hop”, the coolest thing to do.
What do you usually do to relieve the stress?
I think stress goes away when I listen to new music. Also when I’m eating. However, I’m filming a music video this week, so I have to control what I eat. I’m currently boxing and dieting.
When did you start boxing?
It’s been 2 weeks. It’s hard. When I go to the gym, they play hip-hop music. It might be the reason why I’m slowly feeling the excitement about it these days.
“SMTM 2” is about to air. As the winner of season 1, how do you look at it?
I think it will be fun. The SMTM producers really care about showing good performances. That’s why what I’m anticipating the most this time is what kind of stages they will show. I’m also anticipating to find out who the contestants will be.
I think many things must have changed for you since “SMTM”. What changed the most?
First of all, I have a lot of self-confidence now. And the thing I’m the most thankful for is to have people listening to my music and being able to let my music be heard.
Before you filmed “SMTM”, who did you hear feedback from?
In the past, it was from my friends or the ones in my hip-hop club or people who came to my shows. While I was doing activities on the underground scene, I didn’t have a network of people who could give me feedback, so I really didn’t know. Fortunately, I still have a few people, though.
You performed with Roy Kim and Son Seung Yeon on the stage of Mnet “2012 Supervoice Show”. Since all of you were survival program winners, you followed a similar path. How was it to work with them?
I was the oldest, but despite being the youngest, Roy Kim really talked a lot and took the lead to greet me and said that he enjoyed what I did on the show. That’s why we became close fast. Son Seung Yeon and I were awkward at first, but we had things in common like we did a survival program and we won, so we ended up talking a lot.
Your victory dance after passing the 1st round became a hot issue. Do you usually dance?
Watching new music videos is something I do everyday and what I enjoy the most. I think that I want to learn the freestyle non-standardized dance Black people do. To be honest, I’m so clumsy that I really have no confidence about dancing. That dance I did was something I had seen on youtube and I just made weird modifications. (laughs)
You said you’d use your prize money to produce your solo album if you won. So what did you do with the money?
I gave all the money to my mother. My agency and I are producing the solo album. Giving this prize money to my mother made me so happy and so glad.
What do you think was the reason for you to become the winner of “SMTM”?
I think it was destiny at some extent. It wasn’t shown during broadcast but there was a game to organize the teams. It was a game to choose your partner just like in a dating show. In the end, it was destiny that I ended up with Double K-hyung. For the solo stage, there was also a selection to determine the order. I picked the ball to assign the order, so I was able to determine the performances order. I think this was also destiny at some extent. Still, it wasn’t only about destiny. I worked hard to show my efforts and good stages and I think a lot of people acknowledged that. I’m thankful.
You worked on the OST of drama “The Virus” that is currently being broadcast. How do you feel about it?
The offer came at a time when I was really busy, so I was running out of time to work on it. That’s why there are some aspects I’m not satisfied about. I wanted to do better. My music came out on an OST, so a lot of people will listen to it. That’s why my mother really likes it.
You did a mini concert with Illtong, the other finalist. It was to sponsor studying rooms for low-income students. How did you join this project?
The sponsor company contacted me first. I said I’d do it because I really liked the idea. The reactions were great and it was very heartwarming even for me. I thought to myself that I should do more of this kind of concerts in the future.
Double K performed on many big stages. In 2012, you performed with him. The stage was a mix of traditional Korean music and hip-hop and was outstanding. How did you come to make it like that?
It was so awesome that I still can’t believe that I was on the MAMA stage. The concept was to perform with a beat made just with instruments. Zico had the electric guitar for his beat and we used the chang [t/n: pansori element] for ours. Double K-hyung worked on the song and handed it over to me. The music was fresh and original because it mixed a Korean vibe with a trendy beat. A lot of people who saw our performance said it was unique.
Is there an artist that you’ve always liked ever since you fell for hip-hop?
I can choose Kanye West who is a singer and a music director. And Dynamic Duo as well as Double K are artists I really like. Having the opportunity to work with Double K still feels like a dream.
And who would you choose as the artist who influenced you the most?
I’m influenced whenever new music comes out and it’s good. I think I was influenced by each SMTM stage.
I’m curious to hear about your future plans.
I’m planning to start doing effective activities as a solo artist. My debut single will be released during the 3rd week of April and TV activies are scheduled. I want to show my own style through this album. I also want to work on my studies.
The lifestyle of shy rapper Loco
Work aside, how do you usually spend your days?
On the weekend, I meet my friends. Lately, I’ve been busy working on my album, so I have no free time. Because the dorm and the agency are in the same area, I’m only staying near the office. And I also take boxing lessons.
I’m curious to hear what kind of student Kwon Hyuk Woo was when he was a kid.
I’m similar to who I was back then. I often heard that I was quiet, that I was weird. What was surprising was that I was chosen to be the class president. And I was the students vice president for the entire school. This is what a bit strange. (smiles) I don’t know how I felt about it. When I was in college, I was the club president.
Have you ever wandered because of your love for music?
My mom told me that if I want to do something as a hobby, then I should do anything I want. That’s why she let me take lessons and I went through a smooth process to love music.
You communicate a lot with your fans through SNS. What do you like to hear the most?
That I made them being interested into hip-hop music, that they go to my performances. Others talk about how they became sure of their dreams. Some said they did like me and they went to college. Having this kind of influence on someone is just awesome. Hearing stuff like this makes me happy.
I’m curious to hear what other things you are interested in, music aside.
I like watching soccer. I’m also interested in clothes and shoes. And I really like food. (smiles)
Do you often look for new places to eat?
Yes, I do. However, I don’t really know about well-seasoned food, I just eat. That’s why if you tell me the food is salty, it feels salty to me, if you say it’s bland, then it feels bland. (laughs) When I roast meat, I still don’t know when it’s ready. I enjoy more the fact of eating itself than appreciating food. I think I go more to restaurants because it’s fresh and fun rather than for the food itself.
What does influence your style?
When a new song gets released, I frantically try to find the music video or the music itself. I think I get very influenced by the fashion style of the musicians in the music video or the overall feel. Findind it makes me want to change my image.
It might have been because of the contract you had with your previous agency, but it definitely seemed you figured out the joy and sorrow you had about life when it came to your worries about school and the job you wanted to do as well as filming “SMTM” that you even won. What was the hardest moment of your life until now?
It’s when I left my previous agency to do my music and should have been performing in college festivals. Looking at those who were on stage, I think this was the saddest moment of my life. Back then, my mother gave me an advice: “earn your own money and spend it for yourself”. I worked part-time, but I couldn’t really buy clothes.
So when was the happiest moment of your life?
When I stood on the “MAMA” stage not long ago. I will never forget this moment. It was one of the stages I wanted to perform on. It was a big stage that I couldn’t even dream of. As I started music, it became a dream stage for me and I ended up performing there. I was truly happy.
If you hadn’t joined “Show Me The Money”, what would you be doing today?
I think I would have kept doing music. I might have enlisted and be in a military band and I would keep working.
Please say a few words to our Cuvism readers.
I’m working on the music that I said would be a new start for me after “Show Me The Money”. I’m working hard, so please anticipate it. And I’m in the crew VV:D with Elo, Crush, Grey and Zion.T. It’s a crew we made because each of us has a distinct music style. A single will be released soon. I hope you will pay attention to VV:D. Thank you!
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com