Read Beenzino‘s interview with HiphopLE back in January 2012 where he talks about how he entered the Korean underground hiphop scene.
Can Beenzino be called a newcomer anymore? Even before releasing his solo album, he already has lots of fans while finding his own music style being active in Hotclip and Jazzyfact and at the same time becoming the scene’s blue chip for featurings. We met Beenzino, one third of Illionaire, who is determined to be successful with his solid skills. Let’s hear various issues, honest stories about him and his music.
LE: Nice to meet you! Please greet the members of HiphopLE first.
Beenzino: Yes. Hello. I’m Beenzino. I’m being active in Jazzyfact and I’m preparing an album under Illionaire Records, nice to meet you.
LE: I’m curious about your recent condition. What are you doing these days?
I’ve released a single with Jazzyfact in summer and I’m still preparing my solo album and Jazzyfact’s EP. That’s what I’m doing these days, no special activities.
LE: “Handalas,” “Forever Young,” etc., is there a song of your recent singles which will be included in your album?
Actually, “Always Awake” will probably be included in Jazzyfact’s album and apart from that there is no song which will be included in my solo album. I’ve never released a solo single and including a song in the album where I only featured, like “Smoke,” doesn’t feel right.
LE: Apart from music I’m also curious about your recent personal condition. I know you’re neglecting your twitter account (laughs) and that you’re studying ..
I’ve been going to college since September but actually not that earnestly, so it [work] isn’t going well. If you’re busy you’re busy. Artists always look like they don’t have anything to do but inside their heads it’s quite busy. So I think I’m just being busy. I’ve spent my time going to school, working, being absent-minded.
LE: Since you have vacation now, are you fully concentrating on music?
Of course, I don’t have anything else to do (laughs).
LE: Are you preparing Jazzyfact’s second album and your solo album together?
We’re progressing everything together, I think Jazzyfact’s second album will take some time .. Shimmy, who’s the producer, is going to the army in winter. So we’re trying to work our best with what he has left and release it. But I can’t give a definite answer on when that will be.
LE: All right. The personal stories are covered in detail some time later (laughs) so let’s talk a bit about your career first.
[Part 1. Career]
LE: First .. is it true that the name Beenzino was made from the American rapper Benzino’s name by leaving out the “Ben” and replacing it with “Been” (/Bin) of your own name “Lim Sungbin?” Or is there another meaning to it?
Yes, that’s right. My other trademarks don’t have any reason, like when I’m saying “isshoman.” And I didn’t do it to become cooler either .. I just continued using it because it sounded quite all right. My name doesn’t have any special meaning either, it’s just a nickname I got while fooling around during middle school.
LE: So you started to rap in middle school?
Yes. The first time I wrote lyrics was in … sixth year of elementary? That’s when I started writing.
LE: So when did you first learn of hip hop and how?
The first hip hop single I bought was Coolio’s “C U When You Get There,” the song is quite tender. Since I was small I’ve liked cute and bright songs so I think that was the first time I listened to hip hop. I lived in New Zealand during elementary school and my friend back then enjoyed hip hop like Tupac or Biggie. At that time, P.Diddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” was released and my friend had hip hop posters in his room. That’s when I learned of hip hop, because my friends listened to it I also started listening to it.
LE: So your [English] pronunciation is that good because you lived in New Zealand.
I’m doing my best (laughs).
LE: Do you like your stage name? And it might be coincidentally but the American rapper Benzino nearly isn’t active at all these days and his situation isn’t that good. (laughs)
Right, I don’t really care about that. I think he was only a tool for making my name. I’m not really interested in him. Honestly, it’s not that I like my stage name. Truthfully speaking. So I thought about changing it a few times but I couldn’t think of anything good. I didn’t have any stage names to choose from either. It’s actually a bit strange (laughs).
LE: What was your attitude when you first started rap ?
I was quite serious when I first wrote lyrics in elementary school. I liked writing about the gap between the rich and poor and I tried dealing with social issues but it didn’t go well. I think the main topic I dealt with was the gap between the rich and poor.
LE: Hmm .. so your family’s situation wasn’t that good when you were small?
It wasn’t that hard but I was somehow quite angry concerning that [topic] when I was small. I don’t know why. Did my mom not give me any allowance? I always thought I was poor somehow and wanted to represent the poor people. That must have appeared cool to me when I was small.
LE: How did you live when you were a child? I don’t mean life in general but what did you do for rap or because you were interested in it?
That’s quite a lot. Ah, where should I start .. I’ll just tell you in the order they pop up in my mind. First, I went to middle school in Yangpyeong, in Gyeonggi Province. After school I walked home past rice fields along the Bookhan River, listening to the coolest songs I had, I didn’t think about their real meaning then (laughs). I had to walk more than twenty minutes until home. It was really far, there was no bus. While listening to hip hop all the time I walked home and [then] studied together with my dad. During middle school I listened to music and wrote lyrics in a hurry before my dad came home, then I studied when he came – the time I had to study was fixed. They [my parents] didn’t make me study longer, just exactly that time, and the rest was free time. That’s when I searched for good music until dawn. I remember searching artists like p2p or soulseek on Soribada. But that was all at that time. And on the weekends I went to hang out in Seoul. For being able to go every weekend, I studied during weekdays. Only then could I go to my older sister’s place in Seoul and return on Sunday, that was the deal. That’s why the first time I went to a club was during middle school. At that time I had … kind of a passion, I was searching for a breakthrough in my frustrating daily life.
LE: So that breakthrough was hip hop.
Yes. That’s right. The first club I went to was a dance club, I was quite surprised.
LE: Didn’t they check your ID to see if you’re a minor?
Although I was in middle school they didn’t check. Because the people I went with were older than me and some were even ten years older. I was sloppy back then. I haven’t changed in particular since then. But I didn’t live in disorder or drink alcohol, I never did, I was just always searching for a cool person. I was searching for such an environment or place.
LE: So when did you think of seriously starting rap and why?
I started because I was thinking since middle school that I’d become a rapper as well one day. I’ve been doing hip hop since my sixth year in elementary. When I came back from New Zealand I didn’t go to school in Seoul but in Yangpyeong in Gyeonggi Province. But there really isn’t anything there. When I went out after school there were rice fields and in front of the school entrance flowed a river. There is nothing except mountains. It’s good for playing outside and running around but since I’m not the type for that it was too lonely doing hip hop there. So during my sixth year of elementary I searched for like-minded people on the internet. At that time there was something called “I love school,” 1)Probably an online community it was elementary school themed, I registered there and was active with others who did hip hop, then I went out to rap. And I think that’s when I became serious. I wasn’t thinking “I have to do this” but more something like “I’ll be doing it somehow.”
LE: You’ve been doing it all the time, even now in university, right? We know you’re active in “Bounce Factory” [black music circle of Seoul National University].
I’ve actually never been active in Bounce Factory. I’ve found out about that circle in school this year. But I never registered there or was active there, I’m just close with those guys. They’re fun, serious about hip hop and there’s lots to learn from them so I’m close with them. Many of them are talented, it’s a good group. I was quite happy to encounter such a good group after a long time.
LE: Is there someone among them who will possible be working with you in the future?
Yes, there are some I want to work with. One of them is called Demian, he’s my age, he raps and makes beats. He raps well and makes good beats, too. I was surprised.
LE: I see. I know that before you were active, DC Tribe (dctribe.com) was your first step [towards the scene]. I heard that’s when you got to know Simon D. Why did you upload songs on DC Tribe at that time?
That was when I entered college, I was writing lyrics and recording all the time, it was my world .. I usually don’t let anyone listen to my recordings, you know? But that day, I let my girlfriend listen to it and she said it’s good and that I should upload it on that site. I asked “Really? It’s all right? Shall I upload it?” and the comments people made [to that recording] back then were a bit different. I was amazed at it and that’s when Simon D-hyung contacted me. I was quite happy.
LE: So you’ve been a so-called “gutter MC” until then?
Yes. I actually had friends with who I did music. Next to the school I went to (prep school for Seoul University) was Gyeongboggo where Shimmy went. I visited there for a festival where I met him, so we became close and did music together. But I actually couldn’t do anything active like uploading a song on the internet. I didn’t know how to and I didn’t even vaguely think “I have to début as soon as possible,” I just liked every moment of it. If I hadn’t uploaded that rap on DCT that day, I’d probably be still living life normally now … Or not.
LE: Wasn’t it frustrating to do it all alone?
That’s also because I’m different. I’ve been drawing since I was small, my dad and my mom were both working, my mom is a writer so she had her own work and my parents were both quite busy. So I naturally also started with art, I began drawing on my own, I liked expressing things a lot. For me, ‘playing’ wasn’t playing with toys like for my friends but just drawing, inventing characters. I was simply living in ‘my own world.’ But I think it was the same with music. I’m doing it because I find it interesting myself. It’s not that I want a feedback from anyone .. I mean, it’s good to receive a positive opinion from someone but if it’s bad I’d see that as an interference. So if it isn’t anything I need to hear, I don’t want to hear it. I’ve always been that way, I’ve never really wanted feedback. I’ve always liked doing things on my own and being content with it myself. It just had to be what I wanted, I didn’t want to hear other people’s opinions. I always get distracted on hearing others’ thoughts because I mind them. I feel good when someone praises me but I don’t put a great importance on words. Because knowing those good words they unconsciously place a burden on me, if I like them or not.
LE: How was it to receive contact from Simon D during that time?
It was quite good, because at that time I liked E-Sens-hyung, Simon D and Dok2 a lot. So I thought an unbelievable incident would take place in my life and something would happen right away.. I was excited for about two months, I think. I worked harder. I also gave my best at listening to feedback I didn’t listen to before. I was quite happy. And we naturally got closer, so I was excited for another few months.
LE: I’ve heard (from Primary) that your participation in P’Skool’s “Daily Apartment” was also connected to that. How was it when Primary contacted you? Did you agree to do it right away?
When I received the recommendation, I was quite thrilled because Primary-hyung was also one of the producers I liked, I thought I had to do well. I thought it would become my awesome début.
LE: Didn’t you feel any pressure?
Of course, a lot. I think I suffered a lot because of that. Such a great person [Primary] but the lyrics didn’t come out well and I feared his work would be delayed because of me. So I was stressed and frustrated and went to New York with my friends because I couldn’t do anything in that situation. I wanted to run away from that frustrating world so the album release was pushed back, my rap disappointingly didn’t come out to my satisfaction. I think I couldn’t write the lyrics because I was being watched.
LE: How do you regulate your nature of not wanting to be influenced during your many featurings?
But I never felt that featurings influence a person that much. The most picky [featuring] was for the album “Blue Brand,” I was active in Hotclip at that time. They demanded a totally different style from what Beatbox DG-hyung and I were doing at that time, so it was a bit hard back then. The song’s cords themselves were totally unfitting and after an attempt at it I received a lot of stress. Although I said I don’t like to be influenced by others, when someone requests something from me I try my best to fulfil it. It wasn’t that difficult. I don’t have such a dry personality.
LE: So if you turn back, how is “Daily Apartment?” Are you satisfied with it, overall?
It was kind of fresh. Be it the rhythm or the flow, there was a lot to improve so it makes me think “I was like this once”. In that aspect it’s an inspiring album. Overall I think it’s true that I was lacking a lot. I think Primary-hyeong is great for making an album with me at that time. I’m thankful towards him.
LE: You were the main host of the album so how did you get the topics or concepts for each song?
I remember I talked about it with Primary-hyung back then. The concept for the album was actually already decided on. A lot of my opinions are in it, too. I think we talked about the basics together and I looked after the details.
LE: So how was Hotclip formed?
Hotclip was formed when the hyeongs from Supreme Team made their début – during the Hipful Show? There was some concert and that’s when we came to perform together. Simon-hyung wanted me as a guest for their concert and DG-hyung as well but there wasn’t anything I could perform alone .. “So why not do something together?” we thought, and made a team for that performance. At that time I thought DG-hyung and my style wouldn’t match. Back then I thought “I shouldn’t do it.” So I started it with doubts. But while performing and preparing together, we got to know each other better and had fun so we’ve been a team since then. Now DG-hyung and I fit each other the best. I think he’s the only musician who can be in a team with me. Simon-hyung always gives me something (laughs). DG-hyung and I decided on the name [Hotclip].
LE: Why are you neglecting Hotclip’s activities recently? Are you preparing an album [for Hotclip]?
Last year, Donggyu-hyung (Beatbox DG) went to the army. So since that we decided on doing each our own things but we’ll continue activities with Hotclip afterwards. We often work together, Donggyu-hyung is actually the rapper I meet the most. He lives in my neighborhood, I meet him at least once a week to play Pro Evolution Soccer with him, but he’s the one with who I talk about music the most. We also have some tracks nobody ever heard.
LE: Jazzyfact’s “Lifes Like” came out after that. Since you told us about that album in another interview in detail already, let’s talk about it only briefly. It’s a similar question as for “Daily Apartment,” it wasn’t your first solo album but the first album with your name on it. Are you satisfied with it?
First, it is an album my friends and I made. I think it has a great meaning for our high school times and the dreams we had when we were young. We told the stories we could tell in our situations, Shimmy did, I did, it’s quite a jazzy hip hop, I think it was an especially fresh album. I believe Shimmy’s beats are fresh and my rap and lyrics were clearly different from other rappers in our country. Since it’s not a style we are content with from the beginning I can’t say it’s perfect but it’s a fresh and confident album.
LE: Which track do you personally like the most out of that album?
I like the song “Friday Move” the best. I think that’s where my rap is the most fun. I like how that rap came out the most, refined but also cute, I like how it turned out. That’s the song of the album I feel the most attachment to. Not only the song, I also liked its beat a lot.
* Dok2 comes in during the interview!
LE: Apart from the music, how were the sales and the reaction from people?
For the sales, the first release was sold out so we released more which were also sold out. I’m satisfied but there are still people who haven’t been able to buy our album, so we’ve planned to reissue it soon. And since we’re a bit driven by work, I regret that we couldn’t do a live when we released that album. Rappers normally release an album during a release show but immediately after the album we didn’t have a release show. There are many people who want to see us perform but we never did a solo concert for them. So I’m the most apologetic towards all the fans who always had to visit other people’s concerts to see us only for 10 or 15 minutes. We should have held a concert so they could have watched us all they wanted but holding our own concert now would chronologically be a bit confusing … These are the things I regret the most.
LE: I absolutely want to do an interview together with Shimmy Twice as Jazzyfact the next time. But what does he think about that album?
Shimmy didn’t say anything particular about it, but sometimes while drinking he says “But we did well anyway.” From what I see, I think he’s still unsatisfied. He probably thinks that the album is too cute. Anyway, we aren’t satisfied and are constantly trying to improve. I think that’s why we can continue to do music.
LE: I heard you’ve often worked with Shimmy together since you were younger, so what do you think is Shimmy’s charm as a producer? And as a person? You can also state negative points (laughs).
As a producer, Shimmy has quite a strong persistence. It’s strong but he softened that persistence for me a bit so I’m quite thankful. He doesn’t neglect his work and gives his best, he becomes totally absorbed in work. Every day he searches for keys and then he just makes a song at once, that’s how he is, there’s nothing more to say. As a friend .. now that I think of it, he doesn’t really go to gatherings with friends. I don’t go there often either but he’s worse than me. Just when I think he’ll come he goes to meet his girlfriend .. But I understand it all (laughs).
LE: Do you think Shimmy softened his persistence because he was working with you?
Yes, I think that’s how it was. Although I accept demands rather well.
LE: I see. And how did you end up working with Sean2slow?
I met Sean2slow-hyung the first time during “P’Skool,” we kept a good relation and I asked him if we could record Jazzyfact’s album in his studio (Beyond Starz). Shimmy and I pushed each other to ask him but he was really open for it.
LE: So what about Jazzyfact’s current activities? Are you preparing an album or is Shimmy preparing another project?
Jazzyfact’s EP will come out, I don’t know when but both of us want to release it as soon as possible ..
LE: Are there any songs which will be included in the album for sure?
I can’t say anything for certain now but there will be new songs in it.
LE: If Jazzyfact’s second album will come out, are you thinking of doing jazz rap?
Yes. But I think the music we imagine when thinking of jazz rap is different from real jazz music. I want to try different styles of jazz rap but I think any other style can be included in the album if the song’s good. It would be a pity if we didn’t include a good song just because our name’s Jazzyfact and the song isn’t jazz rap.
LE: Which style apart from jazz rap would you personally like to try?
These days I’d like to try south .. Watching Dok2, it looks like a lot of fun. I’d like to do various styles. I’d like to try blues a bit, it’s strange. It’s confusing, there’s a lot I’d like to do.
[Part 2. Label & Crew]
LE: I see. I’ll be awaiting it. Let’s talk about your label and crew from now on. I’m curious about your time with IK Crew first.
When I got to know Simon D-hyung, I didn’t know about IK but there had to be something and I wanted to join them. I wondered how I could get in. Nobody ever told me “you’re in,” I just naturally became part of them. It’s not that a crew has anything ambitious to it since we just gathered and hung out ..
LE: What kind of place do you see IK as? After hearing what other members said, it seems to be an “innocent crew.” It doesn’t seem like they will have an album release or be active—
I think it’s an interesting crew. When I joined them I noticed everyone was using dialect so I can say it’s quite an interesting crew. They’re friendly people.
LE: Wouldn’t it be good to make an album or a project ..?
In the earlier days we talked about that, since everyone seemed to be excited to gather as IK but now they will probably all think like me. Everyone is doing their best at their own thing so we should think of the others. If we did something together now, there wouldn’t be anything in particular we’d gain from it. Everyone’s doing what we each have to do now so I think it’d be better [to do something together] after some time when everything’s more stable.
LE: All IK members said that (laughs). So what about the reason and time you joined Illionaire Records?
After Dok2 and Quiett-hyung (The Quiett) made Illionaire, I always hung around with them, they gave off a great atmosphere. Since they made it, they were pretending to be cool a lot, so I thought “Oh, that’s quite cool though.” I thought doing what they liked and living the way they liked was quite cool. Then I went with Dok2 to their office .. I was pondering on how to make better music in those days, so that’s when I joined them.
LE: When I interviewed The Quiett and Dok2 the other time, I heard Illionaire’s requirements are quite picky (laughs). They said they don’t just look at an artist’s music but also at his style .. Who offered you to join first? And when you heard that, did you happily say you’d join?
I didn’t do it first but I don’t remember well. I think we talked about it together and it naturally became that way. They said looks were important but it seems like they aren’t that important after all.
LE: Since it’s your first label, a lot of things must have been different.
First, I think having a public performance would have been quite difficult for me without a company, in that aspect it’s different from being alone. We also often have nationwide gigs together and since Dok2 and Quiett-hyung both make beats, I think that’s a difference to other companies. The environment is good. We can record at Quiett-hyung’s house, I get to know many new equipment and I feel a good friendship between us.
LE: Illionaire isn’t a crew but a label. For a label I think there are many points that have to be considered besides the music. What did you hear or read that made you choose Illionaire? I suppose you weren’t short of love calls from other labels. Talking about it, have you gotten love calls from major labels before?
Beenzino: Of course I had. I don’t think I can say their names though. Illionaire just seemed cooler to me so I came here.
Dok2: We really gave our best in luring him. I went to America to buy him shoes. Those kinds which are quite hard to get in America (laughs).
Beenzino: Right. He brought me those shoes I really wanted to have (laughs).
LE: Are the two of them (Dok2, The Quiett) good to you? Since Dok2 is younger than you (laughs).
Beenzino: Yes. They’re absolutely good to me. But they ceased giving me presents since the shoes, I think (laughs).
Dok2: We went to the sauna after that.
Beenzino: They’re quite good to me but .. but ah, a bit .. I think there’s something slightly missing since the shoes.
Dok2: But thinking about this the other way, Beenzino isn’t doing anything for our company. He doesn’t release any albums. The reason I was surprised just now is: this is the first time I see him coming to the company of his own free will. I was really surprised (laughs).
Beenzino: When I scheduled this interview (the interview was done in Illionaire’s office), I pondered a lot on your being surprised to see me here, so I thought of doing it somewhere else .. (laughs)
Dok2: I was really surprised.
Beenzino: I’m actually sorry for some things.
LE: In that case, what kind of people are Dok2 and The Quiett from your perspective? From the music and the human perspective. Of course I also welcome negative points (laughs).
Ah, that’s too embarrassing (laughs). Ah, how should I answer this .. Starting with Quiett-hyung, well there are some types of people I just don’t like. There are many people who easily get along with others while doing music here and there but Quiett and Dok2 move with their own confidence, which I think is being imitated the most. Because normal people like mixing with others a lot but they don’t. I think those points are quite cool. Ah, this is so embarrassing (laughs).
LE: From your own perspective, how do you see Illionaire’s position?
If you consider its place within the scene, you’d have to compare it to other labels but [I wouldn’t do that] not because we are better but because the way we operate feels different to me. That’s why I think placing us anywhere is a bit ambiguous. I think there exists a scene only our company is in. That’s why I think it’s difficult to talk about a position.
LE: If you had to chose the agency’s “color?”
I think it’s black. Although I tried to make it a bit white, it’s dark and a bit more serious in some points .. I think it has a deeper color and that’s its strong point.
LE: “I’d like Illionaire to do that” (laughs). Honestly. Whatever you want.
That’s a lot (laughs). Well, I’d like them to give me a house, a car, putting me food on the table would be nice as well .. I need to become independent and move out of [my parents’] home but buying a house is a bit difficult. But I have to do something [activities], I can state demands only after I’ve contributed something.
[Part 3. Music]
LE: I think the most charming point of your rap is how you save the bounce, your sense of rhythm. Are there any other parts you’re working on or caring for?
Lately it’s become less but in 2008, 2009, I nearly mainly concentrated on my flow. When I was small and listened to music, it was foreign music and I honestly couldn’t understand the lyrics well. I nearly heard them as instruments. So I was sensitive to the rhyme or groove and thought about it more concentrated and gave a lot of time for that. I focused on it and the flow so when I made my début my lyrics were a lot different. It once happened that Kiseok-hyung (Simon D) suggested me to copy Jay-Z’s rap as an exercise. The English lyrics changed into Korean .. only keeping the flow the same. So that’s what I did that one time, it helped me a bit.
LE: It seems like an enlightenment (laughs). You’re receiving a lot of attention for your lyrics being very easy to relate to. Did you want to write those kind of lyrics from the beginning?
As I’ve told you already, I was focusing on my flow until some time .. Then I realized people didn’t get what I wanted to say .. So when I thought about it, I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to say either. Ah, so that’s why people often say that lyrics are important. From that time on, I kept thinking about what I can say so I think I’ve been doing my best to write about experiences of people my age and my surroundings. Without exaggerating. I don’t like to exaggerate or using too strong expressions, I wanted to tell soft stories. I think I have bad memories from when I was smaller and wrote about the gap between the rich and poor. So that’s why it’s soft these days .. with those emotions ..
LE: It is also being pointed out that the delivery of your lyrics isn’t very prominent. What do you think of that?
That’s the same, I don’t know what people would say so I feel frustrated and sad because even my girlfriend doesn’t understand them [the lyrics] .. But thinking about it, I guess I’ve made a mistake. That’s why I stopped using so much English and gave my best in the Korean rap style I’m pursuing so I think it became better step by step. By only using Korean I can rap without being tacky and I’m confident I can deliver my lyrics now.
LE: I think things like your rap style are very similar to Gaeko’s. Your lyrics telling of everyday experiences and how you add singing. Of course that’s not the case for songs like “Forever Young.”
More than because of my singing, it’s because I talk articulately. I thought about it, which Korean rapper is good at delivering his lyrics. Gaeko-hyung is good, Swings-hyung as well. Dok2 also has his own way of pronouncing but they’re all understandable, so I’ve learned a lot from them in that aspect. Your thinking that I resemble Gaeko-hyung is because I talk articulately in some parts. But it’s true that I’ve been learning Gaeko-hyung’s rap since I was small and I’m still learning ist.
LE: I see. You’re also singing, was there a reason for it? Or did you just naturally start?
Since when was it … hmm … I just added singing one day when I was writing a short piece. I just suddenly tried it and it felt quite good. I don’t really focus on singing. I realized my voice color has an individuality to it so I thought I had to study that a bit to make my voice nicer to listen to, to give it more elements which make it enjoyable. From that time on I started inserting many melodious elements into my hooks or raps to make them more interesting.
LE: So what do you think about your own singing abilities? And would you like to get better at it?
I’m not singing because I think I can do it well. It’s not “I am a good singer,” it’s that I’m just a rapper who likes to sing a bit. But weaving a melody is fun to me. Although I’m a rapper, if I have the ability to weave great melodies, I think it’s natural that I use that ability.
LE: Do you also consider producing?
I’d like to do it but I think that’ll be way in the future. I can’t do that right away, I wouldn’t be able to do it now, I think I’d have to try it steadily to be able to do it after some years. I’m busy with rap at the moment, there’s no way I could start producing as well.
LE: You have featured a lot until now. When did that start?
I received a proposal for a featuring in 2009, that’s when it started .. I had to do it back then. Because I wanted to make myself known.
LE: Do you always say yes to proposals for featurings? What do you do if you don’t want to do it?
At first, I always said yes to featurings. Because I thought that’s what I had to do. But now, if their [the artist(s) who proposed the featuring] music is good, I do it even if I don’t know the person. And sometimes, if I don’t agree with the music I don’t do it although I’m close to the person.
LE: Which featuring did you like the most and which was the hardest?
I don’t want to put any of them at the bottom. Most of them have come out to my liking. None of them is too boring or too flashy, I just always played my role in each situation.
LE: What is your usual progress during featurings?
It depends on the person that requested the featuring. There are some which have specific wishes, some want to talk about it first, I think it differs from situation, person and style. It’s not that I just meet the other person, talk with them extremely deeply, get inspiration from that and do it. That’s not my personality .. I like to work but I don’t like to be called out of my house. So I’d like as much as possible to be delivered through feelings, without talking, that’s the way of working I prefer. If you talk too much, a frame is being set and I don’t like the feeling of being less free inside of that frame. That’s why I like to start without talking too much.
LE: In Dok2’s album you mention Big Bang’s GD and TOP. What was your intention?
I didn’t diss Big Bang, I talked about those musicians in Hongdae who mimic people like GD and TOP. They have strange hairstyles and I think they also use make-up. There are kids like that in Hongdae, so I just said they were imitating them, I didn’t mention GD and TOP to offend them but because they’re famous and there are others who want to become like them. But I understand that it can be misunderstood, since it’s all in one sentence. I made that sentence a bit vague. I should have been more careful with that.
LE: And what do you think about Idol Rap Star?
Honestly, I didn’t regard it with favor before, I thought “What kind of rap can they do, how much can they like it?” But looking at celebrities these days, like Park Jaebum or Secret’s Zinger, they have a deep understanding of hip hop. I think there are individual differences. If they want to do rap or hip hop, I think it’s a good thing for hip hop [the scene].
LE: How was your performance on TV? Don’t you want to go mainstream?
It was quite exhausting. Although I appeared only a short time on the program, I had to be at the broadcast station all day. I had heard about it before, I heard that you had to be there all day if you wanted to perform on Music Bank or something. But only then I realized that it really is hard. Anyway, by undergoing those difficulties I thought I’d be exposed to the masses and be able to earn a lot of money, it was a fun experience.
[Part 4. Music & Scene]
LE: What do you think about the current underground hip hop scene? Good or bad points, any wishes?
The current underground scene … I’m not a person who’s well informed about our country’s underground scene, so well … I think there are several classes. On one side there are those [rappers] who quietly do their thing and quietly and earnestly love hip hop. On the other hand, there are those who can’t do that, who can’t do musical activities discreetly. I think there are quite a lot of them. But I think the recent trend is to simply do it. Simply film a video, simply live a rushed live. I’d like for it [the scene] to be more genuine. Because I can’t really understand them, something just comes out when I see them. But take me for example, there are times I can’t quite be satisfied with my work. If no matter what I do I don’t like it, I do my best to think about the problem seriously .. Looking at the ridiculous results of those [other] people, I wonder what they want to achieve by it, it seems like they think they’re good or they’ve been brainwashed by others to think they’re good. I don’t like it when they make everything look like they’re living a cool live. But I won’t have to get involved with those people so I do my best to ignore them. As far as I see it, the cool people are only a few. It’s the same as in every area, there are always only a few people who can do something really well, the same goes for this scene. It’s not that I’m incredibly good but besides me, Free-hyung (B-Free) is good, Palo-hyung (Paloalto) too as well as Swings-hyung .. I think those who are always steady and cool are only a few while those who aren’t are a lot.
LE: I see. So what do you think about dissing?
Not much .. I think it’s rubbish. I don’t think there’s a need to diss anyone if nobody else has dissed me first. As far as I see it, the person who I’d want to diss won’t be able to compare to me anyway, so why should I get involved with them, I don’t like that. I never like messed-up things, so the whole dissing is just exhausting to me. One could do it but honestly, how much money would that bring … And this scene is so small, I don’t think there’s any reason to fight.
LE: What if someone dissed you?
If someone dissed me I’d spend a lot of time getting better at rapping. Wouldn’t I have to diss that person back? But if that person were too good, I wouldn’t do it. But if it were a situation in which I had to respond to it, of course I’d do it.
LE: Which artists do you like or are your role models? Native and foreign are welcome.
I think it’s Akinyele, he has a song called “Put It In Ya Mouth.” During junior high I liked that song a lot, it’s quite sexually but back then I didn’t understand the lyrics since I was small and didn’t know about it and naively listened to it. I also liked the songs of the female group Floetry, there’s no one I can especially think of though. The native rappers I liked when I was young were Masterplan, during junior high I listened a lot to Verbal Jint-hyung’s music, I liked “Saranghae Noona” and “Overclass” the most. I also liked “Radio” a lot. Then I listened to CB Mass, I think I’ve listened to everything there was. But right now I’m not really listening to a lot .. If I listen to native rappers, I notice that their ideas unconsciously appear in my mind [when working]. Because of that concern I do my best to not listen to their music. But I do listen to good songs. These days I like Zion.T and among the foreign artists I like Common again.
LE: It’s a similar question but which rapper and which producer would you like to work with? Native or foreign, but leave out Shimmy Twice (laughs)!
The native rappers I’d like to work with are Jinbo-hyung, Zion.T, Free-hyung. Honestly, the person I’d like to work with the most is Yang Dong Geun-hyung (YDG), if I ever have the chance I definitely want to work with him. I’d like to .. I’ve already worked with nearly all the artists I respect but not yet with him. But thinking about it, there’s quite a lot. I’d love to work with all foreign artists but I want to exclude someone (laughs) .. Benzino! Except him I can work with everyone (laughs).
LE: What kind of music do you mainly listen to every day? Do you tend to look through new releases?
I didn’t intend to but right now I’m always listening to Drake. My computer has become strange, so I can’t add any music to my iPhone any more. So my iPhone’s time has stopped at the release date of Drake’s album. That’s why I have it quite painful these days (laughs). I always want to go home, because only there I can listen to new music. What I listen to at home is “Mac + Devin Go To High School”.. I also liked Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller’s albums.
LE: Which album did you like the most this year? The best album of 2011 chosen by Beenzino! Native or foreign, as always.
The native first, that would be Dok2’s mixtape. I think it’s quite good. And I’m envious, since he makes his own beats it’s very well made and even for free. But it’s still a quality product and well made. There are lots of songs I like in it. And the foreign album of 2011 I liked the most was Stalley’s album, who joined MMG (Maybach Music Group). He released a mix tape under the street brand Mishka, but re-released it under MMG recently. The beat, rap and style are somehow smart and good. Do listen to it.
Stalley – SLAPP
LE: If you had to choose a foreign label for Illionaire, which would it resemble?
Beenzino: I think I know which it wants to resemble. I think I know which Dok2 wants it to resemble. And I also know which style Dok2 wants. Ah, why am I so embarrassed (laughs).
Dok2: Young Money, of course. There are Drake (Beenzino) and Lil Wayne would be Donggap-hyung (The Quiett) ..
LE: From which foreign album were you influenced the most, or is there an album you absolutely want to recommend? I’m curious what you listen to and what style you like.
But my personality is that I can’t stick to one thing. I can’t even play games where you have to level up. So there is no rapper I extremely listen to but thinking about it, the album I liked the most when I was young .. I think that’s actually Q-Tip’s “Amplified.” It has charisma from the start. I liked it a lot. Recently it’s Drake’s album, I can’t help it .. but it’s quite well made. There is a lot to listen to and the second track is catchy.
[Part 5. Gossip & Life]
LE: Other than for your music, you are receiving a lot of attention for your school career and your looks. You have many fans. It’s the same question I’ve asked Jerry.k, do you think your [hip hop] activities profit from those points? Or do you see them as burdensome or do they bother you?
Honestly, in our country’s society … it’s actually nothing great but I’ve entered the college I wanted. I think it’s true that the college you attend affects your musical activities. People have a good impression of you and no matter what I say, people listen closely. But I don’t want to use those things. It’s not that I’m doing my utter best at college but if people like me because of that I don’t intend to stop them. Anyway, I’ve done more and I’ve undergone more hardships than others to enter that school. I’m not ashamed of that but I think that can’t become the main part of my music. It’s nothing I put to use when doing music. Moreover, I never thought that I was good-looking or something. Honestly, the way I see myself I’m not good-looking, my eyes are small, my nose looks like this and my cheeks are gaunt, I appear quite ugly to myself. But that’s just what I think. Looking at great people like Yoo Jaesuk or Park Jisung, it’s not that they’re good-looking but they’re doing the best at what they can do, so people see that and like them. So I think it’s great if people see how I’m doing my best in life and like that or think I’m good-looking. Anyway, that’s why I’m doing my best at what I do well.
LE: You’re currently studying sculpture at Seoul University, have you always been interested in arts? Do you want to work in that line later on .. and why did you begin arts? Maybe your mother (painter) was a reason …
The fine arts are something I have to get away from but I can’t. Even before I started music, I had nothing but arts. If I had stopped doing arts, there would have been nothing left for me. That’s what arts were to me but since I recently began concentrating more on music, I’ve drifted a bit away from them. But the essential mind of an artist is the basis for doing any art. I’ve chosen sculpture when I entered my second or third term. Because I’ve taken absence from college to do music, it’s true that I’m behind with my studies but I’ll catch up later.
LE: Why did you choose sculpture?
I didn’t choose sculpture because I can’t work with a brush. I’ve been used to drawing two-dimensionally until then [starting with sculpture] but by finishing my studies of sculpture I will be able to work with three-dimensional bodies and draw paintings as well, which is even better for me, I think. It’s not that you can’t do something just because it’s not your major. I don’t want to stick to only one direction. Because that way, there’s a lot I’ll be able to do later on.
LE: I see. It doesn’t seem to be easy to study it parallel with [doing] music ..
Honestly, I don’t think it’s parallel right now. I either screw up one or both at once. It’s quite difficult. I can’t call it parallel. Both at the same time really doesn’t work well. But well, I’ll get used to this situation and it’ll all work out well later on .
LE: Managing and communicating with your fans, how do you do that?
I’m doing my best to have a good relation with my fans. If I can communicate with them, I do my best at it. There are also some fans I’ve known for a while and who I’m close to. These days, if I meet fans and somehow get to know them, I do my best to maintain that relation well.
LE: It seems like you’re very interested in fashion. You’ve even modelled in a video for Carhartt. What kind of brands do you like?
It’s not that I’m very talented in fashion. I’ve simply liked Carhartt since I was young, it’s the brand me and Shimmy and my friends from high school bought. So I was happy when they said they’d sponsor me. I was very happy about that, that’s all. [When I was small] I bought those clothes with my lunch money .. Now the label’s supporting me during my performances and I don’t stand out between my cool hyungs. I’m very happy about that. That’s why I gladly help Carhartt if I can, it’s a win-win relationship. I think I’m a normal 20-year old guy who likes street brands and wearing nice clothes.
LE: Except for arts, music and fashion, what are your other hobbies? Or what do you mainly do in your free time?
In that time I play PES [Pro Evolution Soccer], meet friends, play PES, meet friends, sometimes that’s all I do. But after I’ve been with my friends for a while, I try to go back home to work, even if I just sit around. But I think that’s how it must be. I just need something to do to be in my room. I’m just in my room. I also like watching sports tournaments so I spend my time enjoying football, NBA and recently NFL as well.
LE: Have you ever had a slump? And if you’ve overcome it, how?
Slumps .. I have a slump every day. It’s quite hard. Really. It’s so hard that I am often uncertain. I’d like to see myself as someone who’s well off and can do everything smoothly but while working I feel that isn’t the case. I think the slumps have never left me. During my entrance exams, when going to school, even now, I always bump into something in my life. I don’t know how to overcome it, I’d also like to know how. But then, one day I just suddenly overcome it and produce a piece of work so I’m quite happy at those times. But then another slump comes. That’s always how it is, that’s why I think overcoming my worries and being more at ease would be more of a help to me .. I haven’t found a definite solution for that yet. I’m still enduring the pain all the time. The more those days are, the more I can live with it [the pain].
[Part 6. Plan]
LE: Still, I think those problems should be solved and handled well on your own. So now some frequent asked questions (laughs). Have you ever visited HiphopLE (Hiphople.com)? Any advice or wishes?
I was on HiphopLE just yesterday. I saw HiphopLE’s channel on Vimeo. I randomly watched the videos there, it was quite fun. I think the way it is now is just right. If you did any more, it might have a negative effect. I think the way it is now, it’s clearly arranged and there’s nothing superfluous.
LE: So .. when on earth will Beenzino’s first solo album come out, for which so many people are waiting?
I think next year in spring. I think it has to be released then. I think you’ll be able to encounter new sides which are different from the other rappers you know. I think it’s my style, not too fully packed but not too little either.
LE: Lastly, please tell me about your upcoming activities/plans/dreams/thoughts.
Rather than “That’s how it will be,” I want to steadily and without hurrying do my best and build up my own strong skills. “Beenzino has made a lot of contributions to our country’s music industry,” that’s how I want to be remembered. Not being forgotten .. “Ah, there was such a guy,” if I would be remembered later on that would be great. I don’t have any tremendous or concrete plans, I just want to be a great person and not someone who passes by in the blink of an eye.
LE: Also as an artist (of fine arts)?
Yes. Of course. Arts can’t be taken away from me anyway. But it’s actually hard to so say right now. My friends from college ask why my name comes out when they search Seoul University’s sculpture department [on the internet], if I don’t come to school anyway. I can’t reply anything to those questions. But later on I also want to give my best at arts and become a perfect artist covering all aspects.
LE: Now some closing words, please. If there was something you couldn’t say during the interview, say it all you want now!
When I release an album later on, please do listen to it. I know there are many [Korean] people who don’t listen to Korean hip hop but I’d like those people to listen to it with a more open mind. No matter how stubbornly they like foreign hip hop, I’m sure they’ll like our national hip hop music when they listen to it. They shouldn’t deny that. If their instinct tells them it’s good, I don’t want them to refuse it but to listen to it at ease, without any prejudice.
LE: Thank you very much for the long and honest interview!
Interview: Gen_E, Bluc, heman
—[ SOURCE | HiphopLE]
Translator Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Probably an online community|