On July 13, 2017, I had the opportunity to sit down with Queens-born American artist Koncept who shared his experience in Seoul, South Korea. We discussed topics including his latest album 14 Hours Ahead, his recent signing with Vismajor Company, and his upcoming projects.
“Hailing from Queens, New York, Koncept is trailblazing his own path in Asia’s music scene right now. What was originally planned as a two-week trip to Seoul, South Korea has evolved into the next chapter of his artistic journey.
On Thanksgiving evening last fall, Koncept flew out to Seoul for a two-week trip. He was set to perform at a show sponsored by Miller, and then another by Jameson Whiskey. The performance organically developed into a series of shows and bookings, a signing with Sony for his new album 14 Hours Ahead, and before he knew it, Koncept was putting down roots in a foreign country he never imagined calling home.”
For those who are unfamiliar with your music, please introduce yourself.
I am Koncept. I was born in Queens, New York (NY), but I’ve lived all over New York City. I lived in Brooklyn, New York for about 9 years. I’ve spent some time in Manhattan as well. Even some time out of the city. Red Bull basically found me [in 2014/2015] and asked me to come out to Los Angeles (LA) and record in their studio. At first, it was back and forth between LA and NY, but I found myself in LA more than NY, and because I was paying rent in NY (which was super expensive, sleeping in my bed maybe once every fifty days), I decided to make the move and move out to LA. I’ve lived in a few different places in LA, and I was actually living in Koreatown right before I booked a trip to come out to Seoul.
I rap, sing, produce. I’m a musician. I’m an artist. I came out to Seoul for what I thought was going to be for only two weeks, which basically domino effected into other things. Initially, my two-week trip got extended for another two weeks. During this time I met with Sony Music Asia and worked out a deal for putting out my new album 14 Hours Ahead. I didn’t know if that meant I would stay in Korea temporarily to finish and release the album, or if I would move here completely. All I knew was that I wasn’t leaving again after the four weeks and was going to stay longer, and in that time period, I would be finalizing the album, work on the visuals and the branding, and prepare for the album release. During this time, other things happened, and I saw the potential of where I could go. I love being here with the energy. I’ve built a community and met a lot of great people. That’s when I met with Vismajor Company (VMC) and talked to them about joining the label, which eventually happened.
And here I am, 8 months later. Seoul will always be a home of mine now. It’s another city where I’ve cultivated my brand. I love the vibe of Seoul in general. On the music level, everyone is so supportive, from the artists that I’ve met, to the fans in Korea. People come out to the shows because they genuinely want to have fun and support the artist. They’re not there just to get drunk or just to be there. There’s a passion. I feel like a lot of places in the world, unfortunately, people go to events just to be there, you know? And here, I just feel a different vibe. It’s a very beautiful thing.
The second show in Korea, I played over at Secret Society, which is Vasco/Bill Stax‘s club in Hongdae. Just like the first show, the energy from the venue was insane. I met Vasco/Bill Stax that night, and we became good homies too. Shortly after the show in Hongdae, he invited me out to play at his club in Busan for his birthday. It was an incredible experience.
You worked out a deal with Sony Music Asia?
Yeah, I’ve partnered with them. When I first came out to Korea and met with Sony, they liked my content and believed in what I was doing artistically. What we did was, rather than them just sign me to get control and all of that, we decided to form a partnership, where they use their resources and I have Sony distribution. That being said, through my own label Champagne Konny Inc., I get to decide all the creative aspects of it and how my music is released to the market. Because they work directly within the Asian market, which may be different than how the market runs in the United States (US), I always ask for and respect their input. But ultimately my artistic direction is run how I want it to run. They’re not telling me how to shoot my videos, or how to create my artwork or music, you know? If you’re signed to a major label, they may even tell you how to fucking dress or look. Fortunately, with how we came together, they respected me of what I was doing and didn’t want to change anything… rather, Sony wanted to jump on board and help me, which allowed us to form this partnership.
How does Vismajor Company (VMC) fit into the existing relationship with Sony Music Asia and Champagne Konny Inc.?
My relationship with Sony Music Asia is a situation where we work together without any specific guidelines. I don’t have to do everything with Sony, and don’t have to do a certain amount of projects with them either. Same thing with VMC. VMC is like joining of the crew. There’s freedom and respect. How we work together is not like a prison, you know? I say that because a lot of major labels you sign to them and you have to follow the rules, where you have to do things one way and are forbidden to do certain things. Where here, the synergy is great and we all talk and do what makes the most sense. We all support each other. It’s a family.
When I rolled out my album 14 Hours Ahead, it wasn’t distributed through VMC, yet the music label still supported the album. They helped by promoting the album and putting it on their channels, and VMC CEO Deepflow performed at my album release party. It’s basically an organic, natural team.
VMC x Part Time Cooks x Koncept "This collaboration is very meaningful as it is the first time that VMC have signed foreign artists." – @hiphopkr Click the link in my bio and watch our new music video Photo by @christzitzis . . . . . #Koncept #Parttimecooks #VMC #Vismajor #14HoursAhead #SouthKorea #Seoul #instagood #photooftheday #picoftheday #igers #beautiful #instadaily #ilike #music #songs #hiphop #rnb #pop #rap #제임슨 #hiphopkr #korea #korean #힙합 #서울 #공연 #한국 #대한민국 #파티
Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I’ve completed a new album with Red Bull. No date yet. I’ve been back and forth to Thailand a few times, and actually met with the owner of Red Bull, as well the manager of the entire culture department of Asia. We’re currently talking about how we could work together to release it both in Asia and in the US. The release date will be later especially being I’m still going to push and promote 14 Hours Ahead to get more and more people listening.
I’m also working with a lot different Korean artists. Currently, I’m working with YunB (of HI-LITE Records) and we’rve already recorded a couple of songs. Me and Ugly Duck (of AOMG) have been talking about doing some stuff when we both free up a little. Me and Bill Stax (of Just Music) have a song as well. In addition, I’m thinking about doing some remix tracks from 14 Hours Ahead with VMC and other artists, and have some the homies jump on some joints that I already have. Maybe I’ll record different verses on the tracks…
Andrew: and maybe throw in a couple of Korean words…
Exactly. Now that I’ve been learning more Korean. *laughs* I have been writing some new songs and have been incorporating some Korean words into them.
You recently released a new music video for ‘Trip’, a track that was not in 14 Hours Ahead.
That track was produced by D.R.U.G.S BEATS, who is part of the label Street Corner Music. The label is led by House Shoes, the OG who is responsible for a lot of things and worked very closely with J Dilla and Beat Junkies and other legends.. He works with my homies D.R.U.G.S BEATS as well as Tenacity who is part of the label as well. Tenacity is actually on the second verse of ‘Trip’. Since he wasn’t in Korea when we shot the music video, we decided to leave out his verse and shoot it as a short-length music video. That song was supposed to be on my album 14 Hours Aheadbut didn’t end up on it due to issues with sample clearance. But I loved the track so much that I decided to make a promo clip and release it right before the album drop. The MV features three muralists, Boyane, Dröl, and Rat Special, all incredible artists from France.
Any upcoming music videos?
I’ve got a music video coming up for my track ‘Overboard‘ which was shot during my visit to Thailand early this year. I hope to drop it very soon, but we’re currently figuring out a few different pieces before its release, such as scheduling with VMC and Sony Music Asia so that all parties can help push for promotion at the appropriate time. The release will be very soon, so stay tuned for that.
How about upcoming shows?
One show I am confirmed to perform at is at the Zandari Festa, which is at last week of September. For those unfamiliar, it’s basically the Korean version of South By Southwest (SXSW) and is held in Hongdae.
14 Hours Ahead
“14 Hours Ahead isn’t just the time difference between countries, but also the moments in his life. This music is the reflection of doing better every time. Learning, growing, and believing in yourself. It’s seeing what’s in front of you, and going and getting it without letting in any interferences. 14 Hours Ahead is manifesting your future.”
Listen to 14 Hours Ahead:
What track(s) from 14 Hours Ahead do you recommend for first time listeners?
There’s always a different choice for me, because I go through different moods. When I made this album, and when I make music in general, I make [the music] reflective of me, and try to make it reflective of everyone’s lives. It’s never one constant. You’re never just always happy. There’s good times, and there’s bad times. Some days we feel better than others. Some times things go smoother than others. That’s life, you know? That’s just what it is. With my music, I try and take you through all of those emotions and moods. So depending on the mood that you’re in, my recommendation would be different.
Today, you may want to hear an uplifting song, and if that’s what you want to hear, I would recommend ‘Hug Someone‘. I made that song because it has a sort of somber feeling to it. It may be an uplifting and inspiring song on a rough day where you want to be put on a better mood. The premise of the track is that sometimes people need a hug. Sometimes, people are having a hard day and a hug, and a little bit of show of care can go a long way. Everybody goes through hard stuff, and sometimes people just need someone to tell them that we care about them and love them.
If you’re going through a ‘fuck you‘ kind of day, like ‘I feel good‘ and ‘I’m not going to deal with drama or bullshit of a person or your job’, then I recommend listening to ‘Overboard‘.
If you’re going through hardships of a relationship, I recommend listening to my track ‘Understand Me‘.
If you just want some boom bap shit to knock your head to, listen to ‘Adidas‘.
Any closing comments for our readers?
Yes: Thank you, and I am humbled and appreciative of the support. It’s been an amazing and beautiful 8 months and look forward to where to take it to next!
Always believe in yourself. Follow your heart and your dreams. Be 14 Hours Ahead.