By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief
In March, hip-hop trio extraordinaire MFBTY released their first full length album, “Wondaland“, and with an eclectic mix of genres and sounds, the album is choc-full of bangers and “feel ghood”, head-bobbing music. Consisting of members Bizzy, Tiger JK, and Yoon Mirae, the group is composed of artists and entrepreneurs (they founded their own lable, Feel Ghood Music) who are each impressive in their own right. When brought together as a trio though, MFBTY have an undeniable lyrical chemistry and stylistic alchemy unparalleled by anyone in today’s hip-hop scene.
The group took some time to talk with moonROK about their new album, hip-hop in Korea, working together with BTS member Rap Monster, and more, check it out below.
Your last album, “The Cure”, had an emotionally heavy focus drawn from real life tragedies, but “Wondaland” seems to establish that you’ve moved on, especially with the first track, “Hello Happy.” Can you tell us about the transition from your last album to this one?
Tiger JK: Most of my songs are drawn from real life. Particularly “The Cure” was my mantra, it was our prayer for people who are suffering. As far as moving on, I don’t think I will ever be able to. I’m moving forward though because time doesn’t wait for me. “Hello Happy” was just the right theme for us. We wanted to focus on something positive and fun. It was like breaking the ice on a first date after a very long awkward silence on a rainy day by a car driving in a puddle and splashing water on us, now we’re laughing and hugging. It all sounds very Korean drama-esque!
Yoonmirae: We just wanted to do music that made us “Feel Ghood.” I guess you can say it was a self-fulfilling therapeutic decision.
One of your lead singles from the album features EE, Rap Monster, and Dino-J, who all have very different styles. Right now Korea seems to be experiencing a rap and hip-hop renaissance – there are so many artists doing so many different things creatively, and a very diverse landscape is evolving within the rap/hip-hop genres in Korea. What do you think brought about this renaissance and where do you see it going?
Tiger JK: Korea is not experiencing a rap and hip-hop renaissance, it just seems that way due to the Internet. Korea’s been through that already before the YouTube generation came along. Just like the States, Korea’s experiencing a “love and hip-hop” reality TV renaissance. There are many, many talented hip-hop artists in Korea that nobody in the outside world has heard of. But as long as the commercial world shows rap music interest, I guess we can manage to stick around somehow.
Yoonmirae: I’m not really sure. It’s hard to answer this question without being biased. There’s something special about expressing yourself through hip-hop. Personally, it’s easier to touch on certain subjects when I’m writing a verse to a hip-hop track as opposed to when I’m writing a verse to sing. Also, I don’t think you can deny the energy and the coming togetherness between artists are their fans or just the crowd in general when watching a hip-hop performance. As for where it’s going, that’s up to the people to decide.
Speaking of diverse landscapes, MFBTY seems to have a multitude of styles of your own; “Make It Last” is very different from “Bang Diggy Bang Bang” which is very different from “Hollywho,” and so on. What other artists are you inspired by? Do you think that those artists influence all of the different sounds on your album?
Tiger JK: Although we all see eye to eye on many things, each one of us is into very different things musically. We don’t share the same playlists. But when we get together as MFBTY we tend to transform into totally different characters and we enjoy these characters we become.
Yoonmirae: There are far too many artists to list!
If you could characterize “Wondaland” in five words, what would they be?
Tiger JK: Anything is possible in “Wondaland.”
Yoonmirae: “Wondaland” is love and peace!
Bizzy: Everyone deserves to be happy.
A few of your tracks are somewhat critical of celebrity culture in Korea (for example, Yoon Mirae’s line “boss bitch self-made, you hoes is trained” on “Buckubucku”). What do you think are the biggest differences between Korean and American celebrity culture? Do you think that there are certain practices of the music industry that are fostering Korea’s celebrity culture, or do you think that it’s more a result of societal values and norms?
Tiger JK: Netizens can make you or break you in Korea. In the States, TMZ and the Fox Network seem to do that job. But at the end of the day, money and fame is a dangerous combination which could go either way for one’s soul.
Yoonmirae: I think when it really comes down to it, the industry and its politics are all pretty much the same no matter the country. I will say that some things are better accepted, forgiven, or tolerated in the States – not that that is necessarily a bad thing or good thing – but it’s all pretty much the same.
Tiger JK: I don’t generalize idols as a whole. There are some really talented artists and there are others that are just hanging around and hoping something sticks. Rap Monster is one of the ones who’s talented, devoted to his craft, and has a crazy work ethic. I hope he stays healthy mentally and spiritually. As far as working with him, it was fun. Nothing was forced, nor calculated.
Yoonmirae: I wouldn’t say it changed my perspective, but it definitely confirmed my feelings. Rap Monster is exactly that – a monster! His work ethic was admirable and his flow is sick. Now I don’t think all “idol rappers” are as talented or have the same work ethic, but I am very aware and believe that you can’t dismiss someone just because they happen to be in an “idol” group.
Bizzy: He was very passionate about what he does and is smart about it.
Is the introduction of “Bang Diggy Bang Bang” your son Jordan speaking? How has having children influenced your music and your creative process?
Tiger JK: Yes, it was Jordan who dropped that bomb intro. He was the one who introduced me to this new slang “bang bang” which means “trampoline” in Korean. He lets me know what the kids are into. He keeps me on my tippy toes.
Yoonmirae: As much as I thought having a kid would change my music, it really hasn’t. I still listen to the same music and still write whatever comes to mind.
You’ve all worked as solo artists before forming MFBTY – how does the creative process work differently as a team?
Tiger JK: As a solo artist, I’m very selfish. I don’t hear anything but my own voice in my head.
Yoonmirae: It hasn’t really been that different. We’re always together in the studio either listening or throwing out ideas.
Bizzy: Putting everything together was a pain in the ass, but after all that hard work we got this solid album.
A lot of your lyrics are in English – any plans for an all-English release any time soon?
Tiger JK: I think Tasha is the one and I need y’all to please trend it on Twitter – #we_want_Tasha!
Yoonmirae: It’s very possible we’ll do an all-English release sometime.
Bizzy: I’d love to do that if there is a chance.
When you write your verses, what is the thought process like? Do the words automatically form first in English in your mind, or do they form first in Korean and then you translate? Or vice versa, do they come to you first in Korean but then you decide English would be better? How does the language decision get made?
Tiger JK: It’s different every time. I am what they call “confused” and sometimes I hear things in gibberish. As far as a language decision is concerned, if we are making a song for a client so to speak, like we have to turn in a song for a drama and there’s a specific topic and audience, we follow instructions. Otherwise we are spontaneous and we follow our hearts
Yoonmirae: I always write in English first. Sometimes I’ll translate it and other times I just record what I wrote in English to keep the flow and then completely change it after. I never know which way it’s going to go.
Bizzy: Word play is what I like. Of course, it’s all got to make sense.
Word on the street is that all of the profit from “Wondaland” sales will go to charity. Can you talk a bit about the charity and the cause you’re supporting?
Tiger JK: The Red Cross and some college hospitals for cancer patients.
Finally, what message or feeling would you like your fans and listeners to take away from “Wondaland”?
Tiger JK: Peace, love, and pillow fights.
Yoonmirae: Feel Ghood!
Bizzy: My fans better than yours. I hope you find your way out, nobody is lost in this “Wondaland.”
moonROK would like to thank Bizzy, Tiger, and Yoon Mirae for taking the time to interivew with us.
Tags: Bizzy MFBTY Tiger JK Wondaland yoon mirae