Read Young Samsung‘s interview with Beenzino back in September 2012 about music, life, and dreams.
Meeting the hip hop ‘fine’ artist “Beenzino,” Lim Sungbin.
Do you like hip hop?
If so, you might know Beenzino. Beenzino who turned up in 2009 like a comet, is called the best MC among those who appeared [in the scene] in the last few years. (In hip hop, MC refers to a person who personally writes lyrics and raps.)
If you know Beenzino, you might notice “Seoul National University Sculpture Faculty” first. You say it’s similar to “Pavlov” who we interviewed some months ago? As expected, Beenzino Lim Sungbin is Kim Minkyeong’s (interviewer) student senior.
He needlessly shrugs once. The school I attend is a school for fine arts so it’s not a school which trains celebrities but a school which trains fine artists. Going to such a school but becoming famous through music which isn’t his major – that such a person is my student senior is simply amazing.
As soon as his name was known, Beenzino participated in albums by many teams like Dok2, Epik High, Supreme Team, Verbal Jint, etc. and as P’Skool’s guest MC he strengthened his position. Albums by Hotclip, Jazzyfact etc. followed, groups in which he participated, and received much love from the fans. In July 2012, his first solo album “24:26” was released and he was referred to as a “newcomer who should receive attention” on music portals. People from all media scrambled for an interview, a pictorial, etc. with him, he became the center of attention.
But he can’t be seen on TV. He who isn’t being active in the so-called “over” but in the “underground” is already a famous star among hip hop fans. His fans say his strength is his “chewy” rap, which even people who don’t know hip hop that well can enjoy. Of course his handsome looks play a part as well!
A young boy who went to art school because he likes fine arts, one who went to no less than Seoul National University’s Sclupture Faculty immediately became a young hip hop artist. How did he end up making hip hop?
The anecdote of a video he uploaded on the net which was by chance noticed by Supreme Team’s Simon D. who then scouted Beenzino is already known to fans.
By taking that chance, Beenzino has released a solo album under his name before he knew it.
I met “hot” rapper Beenzino who’s spending busy days with his solo album.
Rather like a student senior than a singer, and rather like a nice oppa than a student senior, we chatted naturally during the interview.
The names of hip hop artists are always unique, so I’ve always been curious how he got that name. So I asked before starting the real interview.
Q. How did you get the name Beenzino?
I made that name for fun. There’s a so-so rapper called “Benzino.” In high school, me and my friends gave each other names of rappers so mine became “Beenzino” (his real name is Lim Sungbin1)The pronunciation is the same: Been = bin).
Q. So you’ve liked hip hop from way before. But wasn’t it difficult to decide on this career? You’ve been doing fine arts for a long time but suddenly change paths.
No, not at all. Of course I’ve been drawing and liked it since I was a kid, but as you know you realize things when you enter art school, college. The fight after the entrance examinations made me come to dislike school.
Because I wanted to finish college and the tiring examinations fast to freely do the music I like.
Ah, of course that’s not the right answer but I thought it was the most befitting choice for me. So I absolutely didn’t go to college because I thought of it as a tool for making music. I’ve always planned to do music after college so I didn’t have any big difficulties.
Q. The song “Profile” of your solo album in which you actually talk about yourself appeals with the expression of two specialities (fine arts and hip hop which he’s currently doing). These two specialities, I’m curious what you think about that part.
I have two choices for my career so I’ve become more relaxed, from the viewpoint of my fans or someone else I appear as someone special and the people who like me feel good about it, etc. I think it has a lot of merits.
To the question if fine arts help to do music Beenzino answered decisively with a serious expression.
Yes of course, it helps a great lot.
If I hadn’t been doing fine arts I would be writing lyrics like everyone else and I think I probably would be making only extremely boring songs.
Beenzino has a girlfriend with whom he had been going out since high school. The one who suggested him who likes hip hop to record his music and upload the video was his girlfriend.
“Aqua Man” which is about a guy who gets played by female player, is it indeed Beenzino’s own story?
He replies to the mischievous question, saying that probably everyone has had such an experience before and just smiles cutely, asking me to protect his privacy.
Q. The Song “I’ll Be Back” is for your fans. Is there a fan you remember?
I have quite a good memory! So I remember a lot. But no matter how heartily fans think about me, the small group of fans who have been with me since my first concert through ups and downs of course remain the most in my memory.
Beenzino was also popular during his time at art school. But he didn’t know about that at all!
“You should have made more effort. Because I didn’t notice anything! (Like “Kyaaa Oppa~?”) Exactly. And a bit of cheering as well.”
The art school holds an exhibition every year and it’s a tradition to give flowers to friends or other students who exhibit their art. I wanted to give him flowers then but it was hard to do (he was my senior and his girlfriend as well) so I couldn’t give him any. When I tell him that, he asks why and makes an expression that says it’s a pity.
Of course. It’s 100% my story.
But that song isn’t only sad, don’t you think it’s cute?
The title is simple. I think it’s appropriate just because that’s the theme.
Q. Is there a song with a special story behind it?
“If I Die Tomorrow.”
(This song was composed by “Philtre” (real name Jang Jaewon) from Map the Soul’s producing trio “Planet Shiver.”)
I was supposed to make the beats and I wrote it in a rush. But I’ve never made beats before so it was lacking a lot. That’s why I asked Philtre-hyung to make it cool for me.
It’s a quite meaningful song for me as well. Because I’ve made the beats in the beginning so it has 100% my feelings in it. If it had come out in that state I could love it even more (laughs) but anyway that’s the kind of song it was.
It was a song I … had made from beginning to end!
(But a song which you make all on your own, even producing, will come out, won’t it?)
Of course! That would be good. Isn’t that probably the dream of every musician?
“Always Awake” from Jazzyfact’s single album.
I imagined a lot while writing that song. “Those who do fine arts can listen to it at night while doing their assignments,” I thought. Anyone could listen to it, I thought. In fact I wrote that with college students in mind. Because they really have to pull all-nighters often, our students. So I wrote it with those thoughts.
The words “our students” sound touching. Isn’t it because Beenzino’s a college student that this can be felt?[…]
Q. How do you write lyrics?
Hm. For example, for “Aqua Man” the beats came out first and I wrote the lyrics while listening to them. I went back and forth between my house and cafés and also read books for inspiration and wrote a bit. Doing that, it suddenly came out like “pop!” The beat somehow has the feel of an aquarium so “fish tank” came to my mind. “Ah, so with ‘fish tank’ I’ll weave ‘fishing'2)‘Fishing’ is what a player does in their ‘fishing grounds.’ and make the song,” that’s what I thought.
And it’s one of my golden rules, if the title’s “fishing,” I don’t ever write that word in the lyrics. It becomes completely childish then. It’s the same if you draw a painting the way its title can be immediately known, that’s childish and nothing special.
And expressions and words have to be as fresh as possible.
I mind writing what others didn’t write or combining words to new ones.
For example, in “Nike Shoes” there’s the expression “implanted a color sensation into the cement,” the combination is different [and interesting], isn’t it? And there’s the song “Big” from Jazzyfact’s single album. During showcases, rappers often use the expression “I’m so hot” but in that song it’s become “the degree of my temperature is really hot.” The expression “degree of temperature” gives off a different feeling, doesn’t it? “The night sky is composed.” That’s also a new combination.
I want to make it as fresh as possible. If not I can’t survive. If it’s the same [as everyone else’s] it won’t work. I bet nobody would listen to my music? I think that’s the most important thing when writing lyrics.
Seeing how extremely serious Beenzino answers, I feel his passion. Who could be his role model?
“Verbal Jint-hyung and Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko-hyung were my role models. Verbal Jint went to Seoul National University but his rap was cool and Gaeko was a fine artist while doing rap which was cool. I think I’ve taken both their specialities and followed in their footsteps similarly (laughs)!”
Q. A vocalist you like?
Frank Ocean. The genre is soul and he’s re~ally good. Do listen to him! I strongly recommend him!
As for popular singers hmm, Kim Gwangsuk. Thanks to my parents I liked him a lot when I was young. In the mornings I listened to “Get Up” to get up. (While laughing – that’s not the meaning of the song!)
(Lim Jieun didn’t know the song so she asked if its meaning really was to “get up” (as in get out of bed) and we all laughed a lot. The late Kim Gwangsuk’s song “Get Up” is a song to give strength to keep on going, like “you can do it.”)
My mother also woke me up saying “Sungbin, get up~.”
“Sungbin, have courage and get up, have courage and wash up,” she said. Because it needs courage. It’s really exhausting. That’s why I like Kim Gwangsuk.
“Have courage and get up~,” the reason he likes Kim Gwangsuk was so simple and short that we laughed again. Was “Get Up” truly a rising song? Laughing excitedly due to the funny stories, Beenzino reminded us again to definitely listen to Franc Ocean. He said it with an expression that looked like he really liked him so if you like music do listen to him. Or if you’re Beenzino’s fan!
We asked him, a student who’s walking ahead towards his dream, for advice for those who are struggling between dreams and reality.
In Korean culture there’s always a time for something, there’s a frame which says what to do when you’re a student or when to marry but I want you to free yourself of that. And if you get rid of the worry how parents, girlfriend, teachers or people around see you, it’ll be a lot easier. You have to go at your own pace, you can’t keep up with other people’s pace. I think it’s important to concentrate on yourself and find out on your own what you do well and what you like.
I recently read a book by Salvador Dalí, although he was an oddball he was a genius. For example Dalí only ate what he wanted to. He always knew very well what he wanted to eat. I’d like for all people to live that way, to live according to what they like. Then they wouldn’t have to ponder about things like “Can I do this?”
Q. Many lecturers say that, but if you can’t find anything you like or you do well it’s no use. You only vaguely know what you’re interested in.
My thoughts are these: There’s something you’re interested in? Do that for now. If it’s not the right thing you can just go back. People are very afraid of “going back.”
During second year of high school I went to an acting school. I didn’t go to class [in high school] but went there for six months starting summer vacation. Of course it wasn’t easy. But still, I did it.
(While having your major as art student and always preparing for entrance exams as well as receiving lessons after school, that’s not an easy thing to do. It rarely happens!)
After six months during the winter vacation of third year of high school I realized “No. I can’t do this, it isn’t my way,” and I went back to school and started modelling figures again.
Q. Weren’t you confused and worried a bit at that time because of that blank of six months?
I was confused a lot. But I wasn’t worried, just confused.
When I said I wanted to go to acting school my parents said:
“Do it if you want to. But if you realize it’s not your thing, come back right away instead of wasting your time.”
I thought my friends will laugh at me, should I really go back, but the confusing thing was wasting my time. I first have to try before knowing what I can do and what I do well. Since I’ve tried it, I know that acting isn’t for me and I liked that I didn’t have to bother myself with pondering about that.
Somehow it was an obvious but very adult-like answer. With that earnest and serious face (still cute though) he was giving advice to his peers. In that, I saw “the human Lim Sungbin.”
Did the late Kim Gwangsuk’s song “Get Up” really give him courage?
Beenzino who is passionately going his way, after boldly finding it, emanated a light. It was tough, but he mastered studying, fine arts and got admitted to Seoul National University, tried acting and is just now going the way of hip hop. And that extremely “well.” I became curious of courageous Beenzino’s dream.
Q. I’m interested in your upcoming life plans.
Aren’t you asking something too important (laughs)?
First, I’d rather call it a goal than a plan.
I think the environment in our country to like and do hip hop music the way you want is difficult. Do as you please, earn a lot of money, become famous and be treated as a singer, that’s not possible as of now.
The influence of big investing companies and the broadcasting industry can’t be overlooked. But right now that people are liking me and are interested in me I want to push ahead the way I am to make a better environment for people who do hip hop. That’s the purpose of Illionaire (his label) anyway, so that’s my biggest plan.
Beenzino who wants to share the strength he has gained through his own effort with everyone who does hip hop.
At the end of the interview I can’t help but fall for his passion for humanity, his courage and warmth. Who is this man?!
What’s left after the interview with him are Franc Ocean, “Get Up” and courage, as well as my two red cheeks. He’s serious but also makes witty jokes. He definitely has his own swag which no one can copy.
I cheer on Beenzino Lim Sungbin who’s continuing to shout his own stories into the world.
Meeting the hip hop ‘fine’ artist “Beenzino,” Lim Sungbin.
I thank my student senior for taking time in his busy schedule to answer the questions for our Young Samsung interview.
Writer: Kim Minkyung
Photos: Song Hyunsup
Footage: Lim Jieun
—[ SOURCE | Young Samsung ]
Translator Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||The pronunciation is the same: Been = bin|
|2.||↑||‘Fishing’ is what a player does in their ‘fishing grounds.’|