Read Iron’s short interview with Hiphopplaya, amongst others about the Korean hiphop scene, SMTM3, ‘IXTAPE’, and his new single ‘blu’.
It’s our first interview [with you]. How did you get the name ‘Iron’ and is there a meaning behind it?
Since I was young, I wasn’t good at giving names. I think I was a bit embarrassed of choosing a cool name. However, one day I had to choose a name and during a drinking party with friends we talked about it. My real name is Jeong Heoncheol, so an older friend said “There’s ‘cheol’ [Kor. for ‘iron’] in your name, so you should call yourself ‘Iron’!” The moment I heard that, I thought that the name was really fine. It has a connection to my real name and at the same time it gives the image of strong steel, so after that I kept using it.
As far as we know, you did fine arts when you were younger. How did you start doing hiphop/rap?
Although I do like the fine arts, I never learned them properly. Learning fine arts costs a lot of money, which is why I couldn’t learn it. So I kept looking for something I can do without worrying about money. There was no exact incident or anything, from one moment on I was naturally doing hiphop.
You are with Polaris Entertainment. When exactly did you join them?
I signed a contract with Polaris Entertainment after I appeared on ‘Show Me The Money 3’. Of course, Yang Donggeun’s influence was big. During the shooting [of SMTM3] I thought that Yang Donggeun was just neglecting me, so to be honest I blamed him and was pissed off. However, I realized that he had understood my personality and purposely made himself the bad guy while actually watching over me silently. Now I am very thankful to him.
You called Show Me The Money the turning point of your life. What has changed apart from your sudden rise in fame?
As expected, the things that have changed after ‘Show Me The Money 3’ were my sudden rise in fame and my financial situation. First of all, before I went on ‘Show Me The Money 3’, I didn’t have a lot of money. So even when I wanted to eat my favorite food, hamburger, eating one would have meant that I had to calculate everything [I had and my expenses] to [make sure that I could] eat it. Now, no matter if it’s a hamburger or anything else, I can eat whatever I want whenever I want. I think that is the biggest change.
The first time you appeared on the show, your image was quite unique, so many people said that you were popular because of your unusual style. What do you think about that?
I just wanted to show my own style. I think that everyone can have different thoughts and opinions. I will work hard now to become someone who proves himself with skills.
Let’s talk about the music you performed on SMTM3. In the first round, you copied Kendrick’s ‘Look our for Detox’. Is there a reason why you choose that song?
The reason why I choose that song at the time was that I wanted to show people that there is someone like Kendrick in South Korea too. Thinking about it now, I’m embarrassed and really wondering with which groundless self-confidence I went on stage.
Michael Jackson’s ‘Blue Gangsta’, Leessang’s ‘독기’ [Malice], you kept using existing songs. Was there a specific reason you choose them?
I felt sincerity in their music, that is why I choose the songs.
Apparently, Swings often suggested to you that you honestly show your flaws. In [your version of] ‘독기’ [Malice], the results of that turned out very well. You must have realized how important the [lyrics’] honest message is.
That’s right, I very much realized it indeed. While preparing the performance of ‘독기’ [Malice], Swings gave me a lot of advice on honesty and sincerity. Actually, while preparing the performance for ‘독기’ where I sing, I was tortured a lot by the thoughts that “People will talk bad about me, the masses will forget about me,” so I was very scared. However, just like Swings said, people rather acknowledged my sincerity. And I think that is also why I can still be doing music now. To be honest, I was biased against Swings. After that incident, that bias completely disappeared though, and now I am very thankful to him.
You came in second, how did you feel when you saw that final result?
I felt more regret about my performance than my second place. I think that was because of the fact that I couldn’t live up to my words with my performance due to mistakes, imperfections, and greed.
You have constatly worked on featurings instead of on your own full-length album. How do you mainly work? On agency orders? (laughs)
The featuring requests were sent to my agency. I felt very honored that I received featuring requests although I hadn’t even officially debuted. I learned a lot on stage with SHINee’s talented Jonghyun, and Hyorin and Jooyoung. Also, many people got to know me and it allowed me to grow [as an artist]. In particular, I found out how music shows work, something I hadn’t been familiar with before. I learned how to look into the cameras, and where to look at facing the audience, and so on. I think I made very valuable experiences.
Let’s talk about ‘IXTAPE’. When did you start preparing the mixtape? I am curious about your working process.
I’ve been making music for about ten years but there was no proof of that anywhere. I thought I had to release something for once and started working on it. I released it in May 2014. Actually, at the time I was doing rap just to show off and prove myself, so when I listen to it now it makes my toes curl in embarrassment.
You choose a ‘beggar’ concept for ‘IXTAPE’, wearing a bucket hat and second-hand clothes. Were your outfits on TV part of a specific concept as well?
Since TV is a show, I think you can see them as parts of a specific concept. I tried hard to appeal [to the viewers]. Thinking about it now, I am a bit embarrassed about it though.
‘PSYCHO’ received a good response on SMTM3, and ‘구제 Swagger’ [Second-Hand Swagger] has become one of your representative tracks. Since these songs were clearly profitable for you, please explain them once again.
They are songs where I let out the words that I wanted to say. It’s the same for ‘PSYCHO’ and ‘구제 Swagger’ [Second-Hand Swagger], I really dislike it when people say “Different is wrong.” In the song ‘구제 Swagger’ [Second-Hand Swagger], I especially wanted to address the prejudices against second-hand clothing. I hate that people judge clothes by their price only. Clothes only need to fit you, they’re just clothes.
Your said you gained confidence after releasing your mixtape. What were you the most satisfied with?
I was the most satisfied with the fact that I gained confidence when standing on stage.
Your mixtape was the second best mixtape of 2014 at the Hiphopplaya Awards. How do you feel about that?
It’s nothing but embarrassing to me because I made the mixtape when I was busy proving myself and showing off.
How did you like your crewmate Rap Monster’s collaboration with Warren G? You two must have been great stimulants to each other.
Like I said before, I met Rap Monster as trainee at Big Hit Entertainment. Since he’s younger than me and has great skills, he has already been a stimulant for me since back then. I really think his collaboration with Warren G was very cool. There are people who think that Warren G is a forgotten singer, but I don’t think that way. Warren G is someone who has left his mark on the history of hiphop, and Rap Monster, an Asian, collaborates with him? I am nothing but proud of him.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
I absolutely would like to collaborate with Jeon Inkwon, Jang Sa-ik, and Kim Chooja. I think that they really are living legends. My skills are still lacking but I want to raise them. I do hope that the day will come when I can collaborate with these artists.
You said that your roots are hiphop and that you want to become one of those who help the Korean hiphop scene to develop and advance. Can you say a little bit more about that? For example, ‘what’ is it that you plan to do?
I’d like for musicians to make the music they want without minding others. I want to become an artist who lets people know that our souls are one in advancing hiphop, not in chasing fame. That is because I think that our souls are one, no matter if the musical genres are different, be it hiphop, rock, or raggae.
After being on TV, you talked a lot about mixing [hiphop] with other genres, giving André 3000 and Pharell as examples. It is actually a difficult aspect, don’t you feel any pressure?
As I am lacking musically, it is of course an aspect which is always difficult and which makes me feel pressured. However, I think that you should do what you want to do.
On March 31, your first and debut single ‘blue’ will be released. People are looking forward to it since it features Babylon, who has worked on singles with Paloalto, Gaeko and Yankie before. How do you know Babylon?
I didn’t know him in the beginning. Thinking about which artist to choose for the featuring, I talked a lot with my agency. We considered someone very famous, but I thought: “What is the most important thing about making this album?” That’s when I realized that I needed vocals that match the song. At that time I heard the song ‘Cheers’ that features Babylon and knew that it had to be him. So after I contacted him, I was able to work with him on the album.
Please introduce the song [‘blu’].
The title track ‘blu’ is a hiphop track seasoned with modern rock. It was jointly made by Simo, who is writing Korean hiphop history, and Supreme Boi and Gizmo, who will write Korean hiphop history from now on. And of course I personally participated in writing the lyrics. It is actually difficult to define what the track is about. I wrote the lyrics hoping that everyone who listens to it will interpret it differently. To some it could be a break-up song, to others it can be something else. I’d like to give everyone who listens to it room to find their very own interpretation.
What are your upcoming plans?
First of all, I am going to give my best promoting the digital single album. I will work even harder to show you a performance that contains Iron’s very own sincerity.
Finally, is your role model still YDG?
My role model is unchangedly Yang Donggeun. That is because I am looking very much forward to his upcoming releases and because there are many things I want to learn from him.
article by 고지현 [Go Jihyun].
photos by Polaris Entertainment
[ translation: hiphopkr ]