Read this short hiphopplaya interview with newcomer R&B artist Babylon, who has left an impression on many people with Paloalto’s ‘Good Times’, Yankie X Gaeko’s ‘Cheers’, and so on.
What is your relationship to the Monster Woo Fam? Are you a member of the Fam?
It’s been about five years since I’ve known Monster Woo and the Woo Fam. Since I like a dance called ‘krump’, I went to the Fam to learn it. We have been close since then. Monster Woo has helped me a lot during hard times, so he is like family to me.
Together with Last Nite, you are active as ‘MMM’. You also work on lyrics and other things together, you seem to be a producing team?
The exact name is ‘Max Mind Music’, it’s a label that Last Nite-hyung and I made so that the two of us can have fun and make music. When one of us thinks of a good topline or good lyrics, we record it or write them down. That is our framework which we then develop further into a song.
By featuring on Paloalto’s ‘Good Times’, you have made yourself known in- and outside of the scene. How did you end up featuring on the song?
Before the ‘Cheers’ album (which includes ‘Good Times’) came out, I went to one of Hi-Lite’s concerts. As I worked with them before on a track called ‘Lay Down’, I went into the waiting room to greet them. That’s when Paloalto-hyung said that there’s a song on which he wants to work with me. He immediately gave me earphones and let me listen to it. That song was ‘Good Times’. When I heard the intro and [the lyrics] “We’re having a big party,” I agreed to the featuring right away.
Please also tell us about ‘Cheers’ with Yankie, Gaeko, and Beenzino.
When Crush’s full-length album came out, I helped out as a dancer together with the Woo Fam. So I ended up being in the waiting room with Gaeko-hyung often. He knows that I’m making music, so he was interested and talked with me about music. That way, I let him listen to ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Cheers’ and he liked it so much that we ended up working together. It was very fortunate for me.
This might be my personal opinion, but judging from your relationship to the Woo Fam and because of ‘Cheers’, I predict that you will sign with Amoeba Culture. What do you think? You’re a ‘free agent’ right now.
I was contacted by several agencies, for which I am very grateful. I feel that it is more than I deserve … First of all, I want to do the music that I like to do a bit longer, together with Last Nite-hyung as MMM. After that, if I reach the limit of what I can do by myself, I think that’s when I might approach a label.
You are not signed to any label at the moment and let’s assume you receive an offer, what would be your criteria to agree to it?
First of all, only me signing to a label is meaningless. I think I would agree if Last Nite-hyung, who I founded MMM with, is coming with me. I would like a place that understands our music, a place where everyone respects each other as people and as artists, and it would be even better if the pay is enough for me to support my family including my grandmother, since I am the family head and breadwinner.
Besides the songs that we already mentioned above, you also worked with Untouchable and Iron, plus you are quite well-known. Nevertheless, you released a remix album (maxi single) instead of an official single. That is quite impressive. What is your intention? It is also unusual that the ‘title track’ is indicated separately.
At the time, I hadn’t completely decided on the subject and concept of my official single yet, and while considering what I could do that would be fun, I thought of a remix album (maxi single). So I decided to remix Musiq Soulchild’s ‘LOVE’, whose fan I’ve been for a long time, and Monica’s ‘Before You Walk Out of My Life’. I think I finished the vocal arrangement and the lyrics in just two days. I had a lot of fun during recording. The reason why I’ve separately indicated a title track is this: I made the melody and wrote the lyrics for ‘바보’ in a way so that it is easy on the ears. I wanted ‘LOVE’ to be especially emotional vocal-wise, so I separately indicated it as title track. However, it seems like women prefer ‘바보’.
How did you end up working with TakeOne and Nafla? Isn’t Nafla in the US? Did you have any difficulties communicating?
TakeOne asked me to feature on his album that will be released this year. So we kept in touch and when I heard the song on which I was supposed to feature, I wasn’t confident that I could do it well. I was sure that there had to be an artist who could do it better than me, so I did not work on that song with him. However, it was only the song’s concept that didn’t fit, I have also wanted to work with TakeOne for a long time. So I asked him right away to feature on my track, and we worked together. As it happens, I saw Nafla’s music video for ‘locked and loaded’ and it was shocking. I liked its feel and groove so much that I asked Owen Ovadoz to introduce me to Nafla. We kept in contact via a group chat on KakaoTalk. I asked him to feature and he sent me his acapella and instrumental file in exactly one hour, so I was super surprised. I thought his rap only goes well on boombap beats, but as it turns out he is a great artist who can do any genre.
On several community boards, you are being compared to Chris Brown. Is he actually one of the artists who influence you a lot?
Yes. I really do watch a lot of his videos and listen to a lot of his music. The songs that inspired me especially are ‘Pot of Gold’ and ‘Private Show’. In general, when he releases a new song or features on a song, I look them up to listen to them. I mainly pay attention to his diction and ad-libbing.
From your featurings to your recent work ‘Feeling’, you have a great sense of rhythm and tone color. What is important to you when writing a melody?
To start writing a melody, I have to like it first. That is because I think that if I am comfortable and having fun, only then those feelings will be delivered to the listeners.
You are the [scene’s] newcomer musician in a long while (?!) after Zion.T and Crush, so it seems like your fellow musicians and the fans are having great expectations. What are your plans for the future?
I met Last Nite-hyung when both of us were having a very hard time. If possible, I would like to keep working with him for a long, long time while producing good vibes. I also think I will be at many concerts with fellow musicians.
And now the usual question: where does the name ‘Babylon’ come from and what does it mean?
I was watching the movie ‘Scarface’. In there, the name of the bar which Al Pacino frequents is called ‘The Babylon’, that’s where the name is from. It means that I want to exchange and communicate a lot with people through music and that I want to grow as an artist.
Finally, anything else you would like to say?
My friend Daewon-hyung (DJ Tomnig) has a black music café called ‘Back In The Day’ in Donggyo-dong, Hongdae. As its location isn’t that great, he doesn’t have a lot of customers and is having financial difficulties. I would like a lot of people who like hiphop and R&B to go there. The address is: Mapo-gu, Donggyo-dong, n° 201-45, 1st floor.
Babylon’s profile on hiphopkr