New Jersey-based Korean American artist Absint, who recently competed on Show Me the Money 6, sits down with HiphopKR to share his story on how he became an artist, his signing with the music label Cycadelic Records, and his experience on Show Me the Money 6.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I go by the name of Absint. Been rapping as a career for about 2.5 years, and rapping for Cycadelic Records for about a year now. Located in LA and Seoul, going back and forth and living that lifestyle of making music and performing… just living the life as a rapper.
When did you meet Cycadelic Records?
I started getting serious into this music business about three years ago, and at that time I was in LA. I’ve been making music here and there, and meeting rappers and producers. After working on about three or four tracks with Osean, he brought me to Cycadelic Records and introduced me to Kirk hyung [Cycadelic Records CEO]. I let him hear my songs and he offered to sign me immediately. That was about a year ago.
Do you fly back and forth between Seoul and LA quite often?
Yeah, I fly back every three months or so. I’m actually flying back to LA tomorrow and will be coming back to Seoul for a show around early August.
You collaborated on a track with Lee Hyori.
Yeah, that was a very special moment for me. I think every Korean knows who she is. She’s definitely an icon, so it was an honor to feature on her comeback album. More than myself, my parents were very happy about it. That’s just a start for many things.
Tell us about your early life.
I was born in New Jersey, and lived in Inglewood for about four years before moving to Brooklyn for three years. Then I moved to Korea and spent my elementary days here, which is where I picked up my Korean. For middle school, I moved to Hong Kong and attended an international school for four years. I moved back to Korea and attended Yongsan international school right by Itaewon. Then I moved to Michigan State University, but college wasn’t for me and I wanted to pursue music so I dropped out and moved to LA. My music career basically started from LA.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
Definitely A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ). Rest in peace to Phife Dawg. They were one of my biggest influences in music. They were the ones that taught me that hip-hop is not just all about southern gangster rap and the hardcore rap that I thought hip-hop was about. I got to listen to ATCQ and learned that hip-hop could be in this form as well. They let me know about the diversity of hip-hop.
I listen to a lot artists, and I always try to open myself up in terms of music genre. Kaytranada, Mura Masa, A$AP Rocky, Isaiah Rashad, to name a few. When I was younger I restricted myself to just hip-hop, but now I try to broaden my perspective just as an overall artist.
Anyone you would like to collaborate with, dead or alive?
Dead or alive? Damn… that’s very tough. I don’t think I could just pick one, but one would definitely be Michael Jackson. Say no more, he’s a legend. Let’s say just in hip-hop category… ATCQ. I would love to collaborate with the whole unit, with Phife Dawg back in the game. It would be an honor to have Q-Tip produce my track and collaborate with him in any sort of way.
Tell us about your music.
My first single ‘Jamsu‘ dropped back in October 2016. I was at producer Wavman‘s studio. I came out with the concept, the hook, as well as the verse for the track. Osean [who was Sean Rhee at the time] was there with us, and wanted to jump in on the track. It worked out organically because he was feeling the vibe of the song, and he was feeling my story of it, you know? Because at that time he was going through a similar situation. He went into the studio and killed it.
Same for my SoundCloud track ‘Nocturnal‘ which also features Osean. Both him and I live that [nocturnal] lifestyle, and so he definitely knew what I was talking about. That’s when I was working with him a lot. ‘Nocturnal’ happened the same way as ‘Jamsu’.
For ‘Maltwo‘ I was planning to release it as my solo track. Me and KillaGramz went to Las Vegas, which is actually the trip where I was convinced to join Cycadelic Records. During this trip, I played him the ‘Maltwo’ track and he asked to be featured on it. Collaborations are definitely about connecting with the other artist. It happens very organically.
You, Rick Bridges and Scoop Deville recently dropped a remix of Lee Hyori’s track ‘Diamond’.
Yes, we dropped it yesterday [July 17, 2017]. The track is available for listen on our SoundCloud and YouTube channels. ‘Diamond’ is from her comeback album. The complete title of the track is ‘Diamond (Dedicated to all Unsung Heroes Among Us)’… both me and Rick are referring to our parents, because we want to thank them for who we are now. The track was supposed to be just me and Rick, but Scoop Deville wanted to hop on the track as well, and he killed it.
Scoop Deville is also an artist under Cycadelic Records. Does this mean we’ll see a lot more international collaborations?
Most definitely. I’m actually working on a track with Scoop Deville right now. It’s called ‘Asiana‘ which should be completed within the next few weeks. When I fly out to LA tomorrow, I’ll be in the studio working on new joints with Scoop. Other Cycadelic homies like Los is working with Sonny Digital on a track. Me, Osean, Rick and Lako have a track with Salam Wreck, which we hope to drop very soon. There’s going to be continuous connection between everybody.
Did you ever foresee yourself collaborating with American artists in this fashion?
I definitely wanted to, and I knew I would. But I didn’t know I would be working with Scoop and Salam. It’s definitely an honor. Same with Lee Hyori. When I was working on the track with her, it felt like I was just doing what I was doing. But when I look back, I tell myself ‘damn… I was featured on her comeback album’. It’s been an amazing experience and ride, which is the reason why I joined Cycadelic Records, because I felt like it is the best label to connect US and Korea. As a Korean American artist, I felt that it was the best fit for me.
You and Rick Bridges have a mixtape coming up.
Yes, the mixtape is called Lounge 7. Both Rick and I love the vibe of being at a lounge, and the type of music played in a lounge. As for the feel of the tracks, I think people could expect somewhat of a lounge music, if anything. But there’s mixture of hip-hop, jazz, rumba, house, tropical, soul… a lot of genres mixed together. It will definitely be a summer/fall jam… It’s called Lounge 7 because “7” is ‘chil’ in Korean, and there’s seven tracks total. The track names are all cocktail names, so it has that lounge theme to it. We hope that with every track people will get drunk off of it, with more and more you go on [listening to each track]. I’m definitely looking forward to releasing this mixtape.
For Show Me the Money 6, you auditioned in New York, where Swizz Beats praised your rap skills. Tell us about your experience.
Overall, Show Me the Money was a fun experience. It taught me and showed me a lot of things. In New York, I actually didn’t want Swizz Beats to judge me, because I had Korean verses ready for Korean judges. But hip-hop and music in general is global, so I decided to spit the verse I had in mind. I don’t get nervous easily, so I was just having fun with it, and I’m sure he could see it too. I was really surprised when he praised me, he said things like “flawless” and “this is how you should rap” etc. It’s definitely an honor to be praised by Swizz Beats. It was definitely fun, and it was no burden. It let me knew that music is definitely what I should be doing. It was definitely a cool moment.
The preliminary second round was fun too. Other Cycadelic Records artists including KillaGramz, Los, Lako, and Osean passed the first round so we all went to the second round together. It was like a fun, rap trip. I got to meet a lot of people through the show. One thing [I didn’t enjoy] was the waiting, which was a killer. It just puts you out of the zone, because you been waiting for fourteen hours to spit a 16… It’s crazy. It makes you tired and messes with your rhythm. Other than that, it was extremely fun. It was both a challenge and opportunity for myself and every rapper who was there.
Would you consider competing again next year?
Right now, I’m not sure. After my experience this year, unless I think I can win the whole thing, I don’t know if I’ll compete again. But if I do, I know I’ll have more fun, because I now know what the show is all about.
I feel like Show Me the Money is like writing a test. After I didn’t pass the [second] round, I know what they are asking and what they want to see, and what the answer is. And I could prepare for that, the way they want to see, you know? I know I’m good at rapping, and I’m sure they know it too, but that’s just not what they were looking for, what they were expecting out of me. If I do compete again, I’m sure I can circle the right answers.
Through my experience on Show Me the Money, I definitely realized the power of the media. Nowadays, when I walk around, there’s definitely people who recognize me. Through this, it’s easier for me to get shows and events, activities, etc. Show Me the Money can be a good media medium to jump on as an artist.
Anything you would like to say to our readers?
For whoever is a fan of me or do feel my music, I definitely appreciate the love. At first, I didn’t do this [music] for other people, but now it definitely does affect me. I know I’m receiving love when I am, so thank you for that. I’m hustling, and I’m grinding, so keep in touch with what I’m doing. I’ll definitely update on my Instagram and Facebook because I have a lot of projects coming up. I’m definitely trying to get better every year, every day, every hour.
For hip-hop fans, I just want people to realize that there’s so many good rappers and artists. Don’t judge on artist through media and word of mouth. Always judge music through your own ears. Always find great upcoming artists through a lot of platforms, because I think it’s important to dig. I definitely appreciate the attention and love that people show me.