XXX at SXSW 2017

XXX (Kim Ximya, FRNK) Exclusive Interview at SXSW 2017

In Exclusive Interviews by Andrew

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During the 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview with hip-hop duo XXX (Kim Ximya and FRNK), who performed at ScratcHouse in Austin, Texas on March 15, 2017.

Introduction

Hip-hop group XXX is an up-and-coming and internationally recognized duo signed under the Korean label Beasts and Natives Alike (BANA).  The first member of XXX is rapper Kim Ximya, who made several headlines when he was first noticed as the sole featured artist in E-Sens critically acclaimed album [The Anecdote] (2015), which took home “Best Rap & Hip-hop Album” and “Album of the Year” at the 2016 Korean Music Awards.  The second member is a young producer named FRNK, who surfaced to the Korean music scene through his production of E-Sens’ single “Sleep Tight” (2015), as well as the official remix of K-pop group f(x)’s track “4 Walls.”

The combination of rapper Kim Ximya’s “brutally honest” rap and producer FRNK’s avant-garde beats was spotted by BBC 1 Radio, Apple Music and Hypetrak, even before the release of their debut album [KYOMI] (2016).  In addition, the duo has worked with international artists including the Paris-based animator and illustrator Mattis Dovier, who is recognized for his “gruesome yet beautiful” 8-bit dot animations.  The music video for the track “Flight Attendant” takes place in an airplane, which “symbolizes today’s consumer society expressed in a beautiful yet gruesome way with [a] spine-tingling twist.”

 

The Interview

What’s been your favourite about Austin, Texas?  What’s been your favorite food here?
FRNK: Most definitely, the weather.  It’s been pretty cold in Korea.  My answer [to the second question] is very ordinary, but for me: In N Out.  It’s my favorite burger joint.

Kim Ximya: For me, Gus’s chicken.

 

What inspired each of you to pursue music as a career?  Which artist(s) has/had the greatest impact on you?
Kim Ximya: I started [rapping] because I wanted to get attention from the girls.  For me, Jay-Z has had the biggest impact.  I first discovered Jay-Z through his track “Tom Ford” from his album [Magna Carta… Holy Grail].  And then I went back and listened to [The Black Album] as well as [The Blueprint].  I first thought “Tom Ford” was the best track but now I think it’s “Takeover.”

Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail dropped back in 2013… does this mean you only started rapping 4 years ago?
Kim Ximya: Not exactly.  I started listening to trap music before I discovered artists like Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar.  Nowadays, I don’t really listen to trap music because they sound the same.  For Jay-Z, I thought the [Magna Carta… Holy Grail] album was very experimental and I like beats that are hard to rap on, which is why I can work well with FRNK.  I always knew who Jay-Z was, but the album is what got me into listening to his music.  [The Blueprint] is a real classic.

FRNK: For me, J.Dilla has been my biggest inspiration [during their first show, the artist wore a T-shirt that read ‘J.Dilla Changed My Life‘].  It was through his music that motivated me to learn how to produce beats and take music seriously.  Although our beats are nothing alike, it was his forward-thinking and willingness to invent new styles that pulled me into music.  Though I enjoy all his albums, I’d say my favorite album has to be [Donut] (2006).  What attracts me to this instrumental album is the messages included between tracks, as well as the fact that the album started with an outro track and ends with the intro, like the shape of a donut.

 

Did you two know each other before forming this group?
Kim Ximya: Initially, we were in the same crew.  We actually started as a trio, which included a vocalist, but that eventually turned into a duo comprising of FRNK and myself.

 

Let’s talk about the group name “XXX” — I remember reading a series of tweets by fellow label-mate E-SENS regarding the name.  Knowing that some fans have trouble discovering your music because of the name, have you considered changing the name?
Kim Ximya: We weren’t very concerned about it… until we came here to Austin, Texas for SXSW.  Earlier this week, we were at In N Out and met this guy who was apparently a friend of the rapper xxxtentacion.  While exchanging small talks with him, he asked us what our group name was.  When we said we are a group called  ‘XXX,’ he suddenly became defensive and told us not to f*ck with him because he ‘was a friend of xxxtentacion.’  I guess he thought we were pretending to be xxxtentacion.  There’s also a handful of other group names that includes the letter ‘X.’

The name ‘XXX’ does not have a specific meaning to it.

 

The music production is industrial, raw and hard-hitting, like an organized chaos. What’s your process of creating music?
FRNK: In the beginning, I would create the basic drum and bass lines to establish a rhythm.  This is then passed onto Ximya, who would write his lyrics over the preliminary beats before passing it back to me.

Kim Ximya: When the basic bass/drum line is complete, he comes up with five or six variations of it.  Once I establish a structure for my lyrics, FRNK and I would get together and piece the different versions to my lyrics.

FRNK: Although the rhythm of the drum line remains the same throughout the track, the rhythm of Ximya’s rap keeps changing.  I would then challenge myself to insert varying beats over his lyrics.

 

Your debut album [KYOMI] (2016) features contributions by producer 250 and mastering engineer Vlado Meller, as well as French animator Mattie Dovier.  Any other international artists you want to work with?  How about domestic artists?
FRNK: There’s a lot of producers I would like to work with.  If I had to choose one, I’d like to work with Kanye West.  If I could revive J.Dilla, I’d definitely work with him *laughs*

What’s your favorite Kanye West album?
I like all of his albums, but the one that stands out is [Yeezus].  Coincidentally, our EP [KYOMI] was actually mastered by the same engineer who mastered Yeezus!

Kim Ximya: I’ve got two answers for this.  From the production aspect, I would work with a group/team called They, who performed a show last night during SXSW.  Although I was a fan of them before I came to Austin, but when I saw their live performance… If I could be their fashion stylist, design their album cover, or direct their music videos, I would work with that team.  If collaborating as a rapper, I would choose to work with Clarence Clarity, which is a band also with an industrial sound.  I’m a huge fan of them.

 

Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) member and producer D.Sanders recently signed with BANA. Have you had the opportunity to work with him on a project?
Kim Ximya: I’ve been working on a mixtape with D.Sanders.  I’m hoping to drop the mixtape this summer, provided everything works out.  I’m not sure though, because he’s been busy with his overseas activities.  We still got the mixing left, so we’ll see.

2017 BANA Takeover coming live and direct from Seoul

A post shared by D.Sanders (@sondaehyun) on

 

Any upcoming projects (albums, singles, etc)?
FRNK: Following our EP KYOMI (2016), we’re planning to release our first full-length album by the end of the year.  At this time, we’ve only nailed down the concept and the promotional aspect of the new album.


Follow BANA, FRNK & Kim Ximya

BANA        
FRNK        
Kim Ximya        

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