This interview is about Double K who released his mini-album “Nom” in December 2013. Called the hip-hop dandy, he worked with popular artists like Lee Hyori, Lyn, Tiger JK, LeeSsang, Dynamic Duo through his career and celebrated his 10-year anniversary in 2014. In 2012, he joined “Show Me The Money” and won the ultimate round with Loco. Listening to his story as he looked back to his career is like living “Reply 2004”.
Hello. Please introduce yourself.
I’m Double K. The double k stands for “Killer Korean” which means the Korean who kills. (smiles)
How did you get the name “Killa K”?
When I was young, I lived in the US and I did some b-boying. Back then, my nickname was “Killer Korean”. When I came back to Korea, I wanted to do activities under this name, but after giving it some thoughts, the meaning wasn’t well communicated. Still, I wanted to carry on with the name, so I used the two K of “Killa K” and I worked under the name Double K. (smiles)
It might look like to our readers that it’s the first time we discuss, but it’s actually the second time we meet. (smiles) I’m curious to hear what you’ve been up to since our interview in May last year.
My first interview with Cuvism was around the time I released the singles “Rap Movement”, “Hot Pants” and “Rewind” in April, May last year. It’s true. (smiles) Back then, my singles mostly received positive reactions, but unveiling singles before the album also threw me off. I told myself it wasn’t the way to go, I asked for some time because completing the album was my top priority. I asked for your understanding and the article got delayed. Since then, I sorted out my feelings and took time to define my own musical identity. That’s how I focused on my work and managed to finish my album and here I am, meeting Cuvism again. Thank you for waiting for me. (smiles)
Your mini-album “Nom” was released this past December after a long wait. Please introduce this album to us.
Including the title track which features Jay Park, this mini album is made of 7 tracks. There are 9 tracks overall if you include the bonus tracks. The bonus tracks excluded, if you listen to each song in order, you’ll hear a big story.
I think it will be nice to hear a little bit more about the stories told in this album.
The first track is “Hot Pants” and it’s about the gaze of a man who likes a woman who wears hot pants. In order to seduce this woman, we move to the second track which is “Ment” (feat. Gaeko), but she doesn’t open her heart easily because of the other men who hurt her in the past. She sees the man like evey “nom” [t/n: it means “guy”, but can be translated as “jerk”]. So at the end of the 3rd track “Nom” in which he tries to woo her, she opens her heart. When they actually start seeing each other, he realizes she’s superficial and she has the “Cinderella” syndrome. So the 4th track “Cinderella” criticizes her and in the 5th track “she’s gone”, she leaves him. The 6th track is “Rewind” and is about the regrets of a man who wants to turn back the hands of time. The last track “Wish u well” (feat. Gray) is about when some time has passed since the break up and the man prays for her true happiness now that she became the wife of someone else. It’s about love and breakup, but it also deals with social issues and various stories about reality.
It’s been a long time since your last album, so many fans are quite happy. After your first album studio in 2004, you even took 6 years before releasing the 2nd one. Fans also waited quite a while for this mini album.
Even if I didn’t release my own albums, I was featured on songs of my fellow musicians. In 2011, Dok2 and I released our project album “Flow 2 Flow”. I didn’t stop my music activities, I kept working constantly. Even if it takes some time for me to release albums under my own name, it’s just that I tend to be careful. (smiles)
So what’s your conclusion about this album you carefully prepared?
It’s an album that I’m satisfied of. I can’t say that I was able to show my best artwork, but I’m proud because of the seven tracks that were able to show various sides within the same flow. And after the release of this album, I received a lot of nice messages from fellow artists that I take in high consideration. They texted me stuff like “the lyrics are awesome!”, “hyung, you really did a nice job with the lyrics. It’s crazy!”. (smiles) To be honest, I don’t write lyrics with a literary style. My writing style is blunt, so while I feel that my lyrics can be lacking when I’m writing, I often find myself in a dilemma. However, musicians that I like enjoy my lyrics, so I have this sense of pride like “I’m good at writing lyrics with my own style”. (smiles)
You did many featurings and collaborated with other artists. Is there an artist that you see in a special way?
I think it’s Dok2. Dok2 is the most talented person in my eyes. That goes for his music, but he’s also a friend that I can talk to and I can be honest with. When he was a kid, Dok2 used to do hip-hop in Busan and then he moved to Seoul. I came from the US and moved to Seoul, and we grew up together like this. From hard times to good times, we went through everything together, so he’s someone special to me. He’s 9 years younger than me, but I think we will be friends for the rest of our lives.
You worked a lot with Dok2 and you even released a project album together. Did you also collaborate with him for your mini-album “Nom”?
We worked on many songs together, so I refrained myself from having a direct featuring by him. Instead, Dok2 wrote the song “Cinderella”. It’s a song I received 2 years ago from a producer in Japan and it was recorded with the theme “Cinderella”. Meanwhile, the producer had sold the track to someone else in Japan. However, I wanted to keep the lyrics written for this song, so I called Dok2 right away. I told him that I wrote rap lyrics for a song called “Cinderella” and I asked him if he could write me a melody to match the lyrics. Dok2 said he’d give it a try. Less than thirty minutes later, he called me back and said the song was ready. (smiles) I listened to it and it was so much better than the original song. That’s how much of a good match the two of us are. (smiles)
You’ve been recognized for your skills while doing music activities. You even got mainstream popularity as you won “Show Me The Money” with Loco. I wonder how you got into hip-hop.
Because of my father’s job, my family and I lived in San Diego for a few years starting from my 4th year of elementary school. When I first got to the United States, I felt that the Black people wearing their pants low and rapping were so cool. (smiles) I really love basketball and around the time when Michael Jordan was at his prime around 1993, Shaquille O’Neal released a rap album. I liked this player, so I bought his album and I fell for hip-hop. When I listen to it now, it’s definitely not a great album, but I remember listening to it everyday despite not understanding a word of what he was saying.
What kind of student were you in school?
After that, I started being interested in breakdancing. When I was in the US I created a dance club and we also performed. While b-boying, I’ve come to love the hip-hop culture and at some point I found myself rapping. (smiles) When I was in high school, I formed a crew with my friends and we also performed. We did sampling and created our own music through a black-and-white 8 beat McIntosh in a small studio of our school. That’s how I totally fell for hip-hop and that’s how I spent my school days.
I’m curious to hear about your college days.
I attended the Ohio state university. There were many impressive talented rappers in the inner city next to the school. One of them acknowledged my Korean rapping skills and he used to bring me to freestyle performances only Black people could have access to or to an underground studio where famous rappers had first started rapping. Thanks to that, I observed many things and broadened my musical horizons. Once, I bravely joined a rap battle at school, but I got scared when I was actually on stage. (smiles) I did some crazy rap against Black people who rapped even in their daily discussions. There was no booing and everyone was just stilled, the atmosphere was chilly. However, if I had stepped down, I felt like I wouldn’t have been able to show my face at school anymore, so I asked them to give me one more chance. As the crowd was making fun of me, I grabbed the mic again and I rapped in Korean this time and it was awesome. People in the crowd were high-fiving each other and the atmosphere just turned hotter. I think it was this performance that made me decide to go back to Korea.
How did you feel when you came back to Korea?
When I came back to Korea, it was the hip-hop boom here too with the release of the first hip-hop compilation album “1999 ROK” which featured Drunken Tiger, Honey Family, Kim Jin Pyo or Uptown. CB Mass who was from Dynamic Duo or musicians from Master Plan were also doing activities. Many of the hip-hop musicians working today dreamed of doing this as they watched artists like them back in the day. I was also influenced by the DJ Doc-hyungs or Seo Taiji&Boys I enjoyed listening to when I was a kid, but when I was in the US, I translated the lyrics of Jay-Z, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G. and I think that’s how I was able to build my own rapping style when I was writing lyrics in Korean. When I was in Korea, I kept developing my own unique style.
I’m curious to hear about your early musical activities when you really started working earnestly on your music in Korea.
LeeSsang were the ones who introduced me to the hip-hop scene. There was the song “Yes. OK” on their first album “Leessang of Honey Family” which was released in 2002 and it made a strong impression with lyrics like “sticky. the feel is very sticky”. I was featured on that song. Many musicians of the hip-hop scene listened to my 16 bars and wondered “who is Double K”. In the end, these 16 bars allowed me to release my own album and I was able to debut. My first full album “Positive Mind” was released in 2004 and it was produced by LeeSsang.
After that you released your second full album “Ink Music” and the project album “Flow 2 Flow” with Dok2. In June 2012, you got the opportunity to make yourself known on the mainstream scene through Mnet hip-hop survival show “Show Me The Money” season 1.
When they contacted me to join the show, I didn’t think it over that much. Rappers don’t have a lot of opportunities to perform the way they want to in music shows. I only thought about this stage and the opportunity given to me and I accepted right away. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stressed during fliming, but what was meaningful was that the opinion of the mainstream audience about hip-hop changed after “Show Me The Money”. To be honest, the ranking wasn’t important. If anything, the grades were just for entertainment purpose. I worked hard for every episode in order to show a performance that I could be satisfied of. I can only be thankful for this valuable outcome called victory.
“Show Me The Money” received good response and even those who had no interest in hip-hop turned into fans of you. It’s been quite some time that the program aired, so is their love still there?
It’s not that I want to highlight the fans that I see with my own eyes, but “SMTM” made me realize how powerful a TV show can be. My number of fans really grew. (smiles) However, I did imagine it would happen at some extent, but those who have become fans just by watching me on the show left soon. (smiles) Those left right now are only the sincere supportive fans who always liked my music and always came to my concerts. Many people gave me strength and I make music for them with a thankful mindset. (smiles)
It seems that you communicate a lot with your fans through Twitter.
For Twitter, I can tweet a lot one day and then I don’t for a certain time. (smiles) SNS were fun at first, but after using them for a while, I realized that I was stuck to it. It’s like how you’re meeting your friends, but at some point you just don’t talk and keep only looking at your phone. We’re all slaves of our smartphones, but I’m trying my best not to be. I don’t go on Twitter as much I used to. I’m used to restrain myself, then I decide to go on Twitter one day and talk with my fans. (smiles)
I’m curious to hear about your future plans.
Right now, I’m promoting my mini-album “Nom”. After that, I think the albums I will show will be about the feelings and the experiences I live as time goes by. I don’t know when it will be. Music creation isn’t something you can complete because a certain time is set. I have some plans I established for myself that might happen at some point, but I mean that completing music is something that must come out from me. (smiles) If you always talk ahead of your plans and you set a date, it oftens turns into a lie. (smiles) I think I will tell you about my next album when it’s actually done. (smiles)
The life style of Double K, a man you realize is healthy once you know him.
How do you usually spend your days?
When I was a kid, I really loved playing basketball. It’s the NBA season right now, so I enjoy watching the games. If you come to my house, you’ll see there’s one room that is like a movie theater. It’s like you’re really experiencing the game. (smiles) If there are interesting competutions, I watch them in this room and I have a drink at a bar with my friends at least once a week. (smiles)
Isn’t it another prejudice against hip-hop? That hip-hop musicians seem to enjoy going to bars. Isn’t the frequency higher than we think? (laughs)
When I was in my 20’s, I always had to party every weekend. After I turned 30, my health changed, so when I drank, you can guess I was pratically stuck to my bed the next day. When I was young, I accepted easily the tempation from my friends and I used to go straight to the party, but things like this feel vain these days. (smiles) That’s why I ended up thinking that I shouldn’t go to a bar more than once a week. I think my interests into these things naturally declined and switched to more career-related stuff. I worried a lot about how to show that my music was improving more. Your life focus changes as you get older.
When you entered your 30’s, your life interests changed and what you do for fun now is quite different from what you enjoyed when you were in your 20’s.
Indeed. I really enjoy playing at the golf indoor simulator these days. (smiles) When the weather is nice, I go to the Han river on weekends and I play basketball. When I play today, I still play hard, but I’ve come to like leports (leisure + sports) instead. (smiles)
Since you mentioned basketball, you often showed up at the Gaepo-dong 5 Complex basketball court, but an anonymous resident asked why you no longer come to play basketball these days. (smiles)
In my early 20’s, I often went to the Gaepo 5 Complex because I was often with Joosuc-hyung and Sangchu-hyung. (smiles) However, there are many good players playing basketball at the Gaepo 5 Complex. I lost a couple of games over there. Maybe it’s in my subconscious that I want to play somewhere I can win? (smiles) I don’t know. Anyway, I just ended up not going over there that much these days. (smiles)
Who do you enjoy playing with these days?
I mostly play with sunbaes I met when I was in college in the US or dongsaengs I’m doing music with these days.
Reading and writing are important habits a rapper must have to write rap lyrics.
When I was young, I really hated reading. It was the “Dragonball” craze, but I couldn’t even read manhwas like this. I just couldn’t bear sitting without moving. I was a kid full of energy who always plays outside. (smiles) No matter how much my mother scolded me and ordered me to read, I can’t remember one single book I read properly. (smiles) When I reached my mid-20’s, as I tried writing lyrics, I felt that my vocabulary was limited. That’s when I started forcing myself to go to the Kyobo library and I started to read. It kind of turned into a habit as it was a way to keep stimulating me. My hand still goes to the remote control before going to a book, but I’m reading constantly these days. (smiles)
Tell us about a book you read recently.
The most recent book I read is Hemingway’s representative book “The Old Man and The Sea”. Pento who was featured on “Hotpants” (Extended version) which was a bonus track on this mini album gave me two books for my birthday. He said he prepared this gift after thinking it over for a long time. One book was for Son Chang Il which is my real name and the other one was for rapper Double K. His words really moved me, so I read both books in less than two days. Between the two books, there was “The Old Man and The Sea” and he said he chose it because it made him think of rapper Double K.
What was the meaning behind this gift?
I think I figured out the meaning once I read it. It’s the story of an old fisherman called Santiago who catches a big marlin in the sea. However, he doesn’t have the strength to pull up the fish onto the boat, so he fights with the fish for a few days. After a long fight, he attaches the fish to the boat and goes home, but sharks are coming after the fish he caught, so the old man fights them off desperately in order to protect the fish. In the end, the old man returns home safe, but the only thing left of the fish is its skeleton. Reading about the fierce journey of this old man who seemed to use his greed as a way to prove to himself that he was alive made me thought a lot about life. It’s a book that will linger in my mind for a long time.
Literature aside, it seems that you’re making efforts to enjoy various forms of culture as a creator yourself.
I also like going on trips, but I can’t really do this these days. In my early 20’s, I went backpacking through Europe all by myself a couple of times. I also went to Japan, China, but my most recent trip was to Jeju. I realized that travelling is something important in one’s life. Meeting and talking to someone, reading books, watching movies. A life made of things like this is nice, but you can run out of material when all you do is doing the same things over and over again. In moments like this, you need to step back or to go away for a moment in order to recharge your batteries, to medidate. If I go far away, I can see things I wasn’t aware of in my daily life. I can’t travel a lot, but I want to create more opportunities to travel around from now on.
If you could go somewhere right away, where would you like to travel?
If I could go anywhere, I’d like to go to Africa. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always found cultural aspects such as the Egyptian pyramids or the Sphinx very interesting and I always wanted to see them with my own eyes. And in places like the Republic of South Africa, I want to go where you can feel Mother nature like going to the “animals kingdom” and not just go to places touched by civilization. I think it would be quite a special experience. (smiles)
Which fashion style do you usually like?
I like the casual style. I mostly wear a hooded t-shirt with jeans. I wear the hood just however I feel like it. As long as I’m comfortable. (smiles) I have a lot of black clothes. And I wear a hat nearly every day. (smiles)
I know you collect hats. How many do you have?
Maybe 1,000 hats. The collection is still growing. (smiles) It’s not that I do it on purpose, but people around me know that I like hats, so they give them to me as gifts. And since I like hats, when I go shopping, I usually have my hands on hats, but I receive them as gifts quite often, so that’s how I ended up having such a big collection. I have a lot of hats now, but I still get quite happy whenever I receive one as a gift. (smiles)
You have many female fans, not only for your music but for your good looks as well. We can’t leave out the ideal type question.
First of all, someone with a good personality. I’m more attracted to women with Eastern looks than a western appearance. I think it’s even more charming when she dresses in a casual style. Ah, I find it pretty when she ties her hair back. Is it too detailed? (smiles)
I’m curious to hear which musician you are close with.
People like Bobby Kim, Dynamic Duo, the Epik High-hyungs, Yankie from TBNY, Dok2. (smiles)
Your music friends aside, who are the losest people to you that you rely on?
I don’t know if it will sound sad, but (smiles) I think the person I rely the most on is myself. Of course, I have friends I love, I have hyungs who give me strength, I have my parents whom I respect, but my life is the path I followed on my own. (smiles) In the end, I’m the one who must find a solution to everything. When things turns out well or when they don’t, I can’t put the blame on someone else, I’m the one who takes responsibility for any outcome. I even told myself once that I want to look at myself in a mirror before I die and being able to say I lived my lifed fair and square so I can die without any regret. (smiles)
What’s the difference between hip-hop musician Double K and Son Chang Il?
When I work as Double K, many stuff get more excessive than what I do in my daily life. When I’m on stage or when I write lyrics in order to convey the emotion in my music and to make an impact, I tend to maximize the feeling. “Hot Pants” is a light song on the theme of just having fun in a club. That’s why there are revealing scenes in the music video. However, what you see in the video is not the way I have fun in real life. It’s this kind of difference? (smiles)
2014 marks the 10th year since you released your first album. As a musician, what would you say if you look back?
This October will mark the tenth year since my first album. Of course, if I start showing regrets about things one by one, there will be no end to it. (smiles) However, what’s more important is the fact that I keep improving as time goes by. Of course, there will be people who enjoy more the music I did early in my career, but from my own point of view, the music I’m doing today is more my style, I think I developed my style in a direction that allowed me to put a lot of myself into lyrics depth and philosophy. That’s why I’m more anticipating which way I’m going instead of dwelling on regrets or things I wasn’t satisfied with in the past. I can’t wait to see which new stuff will happen when I pass the hill I’m climbing. (smiles)
So which image will you try to have when you reach your 20th year of career?
I’ll be quite old too, so I hope I’ll be an artist who keeps making music and who is respected by all the other younger hip-hop musicians around him. (smiles)
Please say a few words to our Cuvism readers.
It’s my first time greeting the Cuvism magazine readers. I think it’s a magazine that puts artist at ease and does interesting deep interviews which is rare. That’s why you should keep suscribing to this magazine. (smiles) I talked about many things through this interview today and I hope you will enjoy reading about them. I hope you will listen to my mini-album “Nom”. Please show hip-hop some love. I will greet you with a better and upgraded sound thanks to the energy you give me. We will definitely meet again when I release my next album. Thank you. (smiles)
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com