ROKHIPHOP has started this interview series to look for rappers who have released good mixtapes and albums but receive relatively less attention, thus the series is titled ‘SCV’s Mineral Excavation Interview’. This time, the guest is Layboy who has become very popular these days.
SCV: Thank you for visiting. Please introduce yourself.
Layboy: I am Layboy. In July I released the EP album ‘AK’, and in September the single ‘Halftime’. I am from Bitgeoul in Gwangju, Jeolla Province.
I remember that your first mixtape received quite good responses.
Yes, the reactions to my first mixtape were good indeed. B-Free even gave me a shout-out on HP Radio for the track ‘자음미해’ [The Beautiful Understanding of Consonants and Vowels], and JJK retweeted it saying that it is a fun song and telling people to give it a listen. That became my foothold as I got to know many people that way. Before, I had absolutely no connections.
You often give shout-outs to your hometown Gwangju, have you come here to Seoul to live by yourself?
It has been six years since I came from Gwangju to Seoul at the age of twenty. The reason was that I started going to Hansung University. I’m in the programming department, but actually I don’t know much about my major. (laughs) When I came to Seoul, it wasn’t because I had a big interest in music. Gwangju was just too stifling somehow. Even if you like hiphop, concerts and stuff always happen in Seoul, so there were few chances. It was also difficult to meet people who make music, so since I was a child I had decided to go to Seoul. And there was an incident which became the decisive reason for me to go to Seoul. My accumulated grade from high school was about 8.51)9-point scale with 1 being the best grade. which was worse than [the grades of the members of] my school’s Taekwondo Club back then. I don’t even do Taekwondo but had worse grades than them … (laughs) So I was keeping my distance from studying, but as they say, men change due to women: I broke up with the girl I had been going out at the time. She was six years old than me and we broke up around the end of my second year in high school, so I thought that I had to succeed and thus started to study. There was only one year left until the SAT and I really studied all through the nights. As my grades improved I had fun too, and even though I had been a problem child who didn’t go to school every day, the teachers started to like me so much that they nearly founded a fanclub for me. My grades rose up to 2.5. That is how the miracle of going to Hansung University happened to me.
Four years in Seoul thanks to one year of studying .. You must be grateful to your ex-girlfriend. Did you study so fervently for the sake of making music in Seoul?
No. Although I did like listening to music back then, I didn’t go [to Seoul] with the resolution that I’d make it my profession. Hiphop was one interesting culture for me. As I entered university, I joined a hiphop club which you can find at any university, exchanged ideas with people who like music and even stood on stage for the first time which turned out to be a lot of fun. When men go to the army they start thinking more deeply. I pondered on what to work as and what I like. I decided to do rap, and after my discharge at the age of 23, I started with hiphop.
Living alone comes with many difficulties, how is your life in Seoul?
As my friends are not as educated, I have often been by myself after coming to Seoul.2)He means to say that he is the only one amongst his friends who went to university which naturally created a distance between them. I felt very lonely, plus it was my first time living alone so I definitely had some hard times, but since I felt free to the same extent, it was fun. Now I have completely gotten used to it and like living by myself. My parents are not happy about me making music at the age of 26, so I’d certainly feel uncomfortable if I went back home.
If anything funny happened to you after coming to Seoul, please tell me about it.
You know that people tend to forget happy memories quickly and bad memories well. I think most of the memories I have are those from the hard times. As I started to live on my own, I had decided to do so using my own strength without asking my parents for money. Because of that, I restlessly worked part-time. There’s nearly no part-time job I haven’t done. I’ve worked everywhere: at billiard rooms, Internet cafés, gas stations, call centers, serving at bars or restaurants, selling clothes, etc. Of course I worked on weekends and as a student I also worked part-time after school. After work, I took time before going to bed to make music. When work ended and I got home at 1am, I started working on music. I briefly slept from 6 until 9am. And I made three mixtapes, so I think I worked hard. There is no way anything funny happened. Nevertheless, as I am a positive person, I see it as an enjoyable time. I can confidently say that I worked as hard as I could.
So, you didn’t have a girlfriend at that time?
Despite everything, I did have a girlfriend. However, as I was busy with every-day life, I’d say it was difficult to maintain a serious relationship. Now I have become more at ease and am happily going out with a good person.
Among the retro games from my childhood, I really enjoyed playing ‘Rayman’ a lot, although it probably has nothing to do with your nickame. How did you make the name ‘Layboy’?
I don’t really know ‘Rayman’. Anyway, when I was part of the black club at Hansung University, there was a crew within that club that was thinking of going in the direction of black music. That crew did a performance at a club, and thinking about it now, the line-up was quite good. It included Deepflow and WIKI Young. I got to stand on that stage but didn’t have a name. So I thought about good names and removed the “P” from “Playboy” to create the name “Layboy”. My friends saw me as someone who likes girls and flirts around anyway, so I thought the name would fit that image and my determination to go out with a lot of girls. So without thinking about it much, I chose that name. I thought I’d change it one day but I’ve come until here. Even now I sometimes think of changing it, but I have already used the name a lot. I do wonder if the name matches my music, but I can’t think of anything else so I’m just leaving the name as it is. You can say it’s become a name of love and hatred now.
I think it is quite an honest and good nickname.
Still, when someone asks me what ‘Layboy’ means, I find it a bit embarrassing to explain. (laughs)
You released three mixtapes. You seem to work mainly with trap beats these days, how has your music style changed over time?
In my lyrics I say that I have released three mixtapes, but there is actually one mixtape from my past which I have erased because I released it for fun in 2010 when I wasn’t very good at rap. Anyway, it is probably the same for other people of my age, but until recently, my music’s emphasis has been lying on Southern hiphop, like Lil Wayne or T.I. That’s the kind of music I grew up listening to, so I think I naturally crossed over to trap music. I also liked it as a music style. So now I am making music based on trap, but when I started making music I had more than 1,000 instrumentals on my PC’s hard drive which I each listened to and rapped on if I liked it. I think that as long as I could think of an interesting topic, I rapped on it [the instrumental] no matter if it was trap or boom bap. The same goes for ‘자음미해’ [The Beautiful Understanding of Consonants and Vowels], I thought of an interesting topic and searched for an instrumental to go with it. My last EP album was trap music simply because it fit the atmosphere and messages I wanted to convey, I don’t want to restrict myself to the trap genre. If I want to do something else, I’ll obviously do that. At that time, I wanted to do trap and now I do not want to do trap. So, Layboy is not an artist of one genre, I’d like to be seen as an artist who always makes new and interesting things.
I thought you mainly make trap music, especially after listening to ‘나잖아’ [But That’s Me].
I’m a person who puts the focus on himself, so when I make songs I don’t think “I have to make this music and become famous.” I just do what I find interesting. I tend to not mind other people’s opinions either. At the time I was making the album, the genre I enjoyed the most was trap and it is the genre I have been making the most until now. Let me say this: from today on, I have had enough of the trap sound and I am in the middle of looking for something new. There is no reason for me to stick to trap and if there is a genre I find interesting, I’m thinking of choosing it without hesitation.
What songs are you listening to these days?
These days, I’m listening to ASAP Rocky’s early tracks. I’m looking for music with such a messy feel. I also listen to Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock.
In July you released a mini album and recently a single. Your workload seems to be huge, please introduce the album and the single.
My EP album ‘AK’ [Evil] which came out in July is about my evil side, as the title implies. I said it before, but while trying to hang in there living by myself, I became very tough. In light of this, I’d say that I have a somehow tenacious side to myself. I wanted to make an album filled with such kind of evil, and thus made that its concept. There are many independent artists like me, and I can introduce the album’s content as something those independent artists can understand. The time before I had released the album was quite hard for me. I also experienced a slump. I had fallen so deep that I considered quitting music and was already looking into another line of work. As I like travelling, I had decided to release the album and then look for a job related to travelling. I have overcome that and am having fun [making music] now, after having received new energy from the album release, but it was a really difficult time. The album contains my thoughts and feelings while enduring it.
After having released that album full of evil, I became melancholic and released the single ‘Halftime’ which has a peaceful feeling to it. I had recovered my interest in music and rapped calm stories about life, completely different from the album. I will release other kinds of interesting music from now on and I’d call this their foreshadow. The song gives me a lot of consolation and is of a strong self-comforting nature.
‘AK’ [Evil] seems like an album which opinions could differ on, how did people react to it?
Better than expected, so I was surprised. As I placed a great emphasis on the lyrics, I suppose that people could relate to them the most.
Are you satisfied with your recent works?
Before, I was somehow fierce, but now with ‘Halftime’ released I think I’ve become a lot more relaxed. ‘AK’ [Evil] is an album in which you can wholly experience my feelings from the past and how I was giving my best, so I’m satisfied with the album and think that it might become a personal memory for me.
I quite like the cover of ‘Halftime’. Who made it?
I made it with my girlfriend. She is working in the design business, so she has a feel for it. I released the single feeling at ease and the cover was made that way because I wanted to work together with my girlfriend. Although it wasn’t professional, every single part of making the track was fun.
What is your musical belief?
I have nothing grand like a belief, but I ask myself: am I enjoying music? Am I making music without minding others? I’d like to call this my belief. What I’m going to say now might become controversial, but music is not my everything. I think that it is nothing but one of my means to have fun. I enjoy music the most and I keep doing it because I’m happy [with it], but there are so many fun things in life. I like traveling too. If music ever becomes uninteresting to me, I’ll stop making music.
There was a time when for me too, music was everything. When I was discharged from the army and took a leave from school, I was trying to make it my main occupation and thus ended up thinking only about music. That way, I also experienced slumps and was swept away by that. I remember it as a very hard time. To stop thinking for a while, I traveled to Southeast Asia for about one month. When I came back, I felt that I had become bigger than music. It wasn’t that I was making music but that there was also music inside of me. Inside of me there is music, traveling, and even more. Anyways, the important thing is that thanks to that experience, I became more laid-back. Due to that, music became more fun. The reason I make music is simply because it makes me happy. There might come one day when music is no more fun to me, and if it does come I do not want to insist on making music even though it makes me unhappy.
What do you think are your strong points when it comes to music?
Hm, strong points … These days, there are many rappers who pretend to have a special something, how should I say it, they don’t have the basic skills, and compared to them, I think that I do have the basic skills. I haven’t released a lot to prove myself with, but one needs to have confidence no matter the genre. That is why I can do well even if it’s not trap music. I think that can be called a strong point. I’d also say that my attitude of always looking for something fresh is a strong point as well. That should be it?
Do you possibly have a label in mind?
I not only don’t have any in mind, I also think that my current situation is the best. When I finished the work on my album I wanted to join a label, no matter which, since I had to work on everything by myself: the music video, album jacket, mixing, and mastering. That needs an extreme amount of physical strength, which is why even though I did think of joining a label, when I realized that “because I am taking care of everything by myself, I am able to do this music,” I felt that my current situation is good too. So I don’t really have any label in mind. If later I find a place that understands me and keeps 100% out of my music, I’m planning on joining it. I’ve always been immune to feelings of wanting to become famous, so I am enjoying making my music and am being satisfied now.
What is your goal?
When I stepped into the scene while making ‘AK’ I felt very much disillusioned. I didn’t like the situation I was in. I slightly wanted to become famous at the time, so I thought, “All those who feature on my album are well-off, but what about me?” I felt this kind of shame. Also, when I chose a way of distribution, I had an overall feeling of disappointment that if I had released the album under a good label, my music would have been able to shine more. Thoughts like, “Do I even have to endure things like these to make music?” made me lose the joy of making music. However, then I released the album and more positive elements appeared. I felt myself escaping those [negative] thoughts. That is why I am sufficiently satisfied with things as they are now. Right now, I’m not thinking of getting rich quick with music. Just being able to make ends meet and having fun making music, which means being happy in the end, in other words maintaining the current situation has been my goal. So you can say that I have reached my goal.
You could call that the rawest goal. What is your short-time goal then?
My short-time goal is to establish a structure in which I can only make music. I am in the middle of solving one issue after the other. I know many people who are good designers, and I have also found many producers who give me songs. I even made a friend who can do professional engineering. If I keep going like this, I think I’ll be able to release a larger quantity of songs.
Do you have many concerts scheduled? I heard that you recently performed at Fana’s ‘The Ugly Junction Live’. If there’s another concert coming up, please tell me about it.
I don’t have any concerts scheduled. As I’m not someone who approaches people first, asking them to let me perform, I’m thinking that when this interview comes out and people invite me to perform, I’ll be able to show them how good I am. I always receive a lot of energy from going to or performing at concerts, so if anyone wants me to perform somewhere, I’d like to stand on stage.
How did you end up working with Ugly Duck?
Shall I say, people from Gwangju look after each other somehow. He’s originally a friend of a friend, which I didn’t know at first, but when I started making music I found out about it some way and met Ugly Duck, that’s how we got to know each other. After that, Ugly Duck introduced me to the people he knows and we ended up in the same crew called ‘062’ where we worked together. 062 is an area code. You could say that nearly anyone from Gwangju is part of it. If someone wants to know what our exact relationship is, I’d say that “People from Gwangju are in the same team.”
How did you end up working with Andup and SIK K?
I didn’t know them before, I contacted them while working on the album and wanting someone to feature on it. Since I knew Andup as someone with a strong voice, slightly different from what he’s showing these days, I thought he’d be interested in a song with an intense atmosphere and sent him “Sorry Mom”, asking for his opinion. Before I sent him that, Andup had already told me that he liked my track “나잖아” [But That’s Me], and then, he also said that he’d like to feature on “Sorry Mom”. I met him after that for the mixing and got closer to him while talking about this and that. As for SIK K, he came over to my place when I was hanging out with Ugly Duck. So I let him listen to my music which he liked, thus he ended up featuring on the track as well.
Anyways, that is how I ended up working with them. If you read reviews [of my album], some people say that I’m doing “connections hiphop”,3)So-called “connections hiphop” is trying to become a famous rapper by relying on connections rather than skills. but what do those rappers gain from working together with me that would make them feature on my songs even though they don’t want to? It would only be bad for their own careers. It’s just laughable, well … It’s not like I can speak to every single person [and tell them this].
That is not how the system works (laughs), do not try to understand those people.
I don’t really care, I just find it funny that some people react like that. I am not a very affectionate person who approaches and knows many people, so I do think that they liked and featured on my songs because I am giving my best at making music.
Are you working on something new?
I took a long break before releasing the EP, and I nearly don’t have any songs left. I do want to try something new, so I am thinking of releasing a single in about one month. Since the music market has become very demanding these days, I have to “show” myself often in order to not be forgotten. I am making music like I breathe so I’ll release one single, and when I think I have gathered enough songs I’ll release an album. If I make something interesting I tend to show it off right away, so if I have been gathering songs until now I will be releasing many in the near future.
I heard your track about your father having an oriental clinic (우리 아빠 한의원 [My Dad’s Oriental Clinic] (HOT NIGGA REMIX)). It was a very funny and witty track, in my opinion. Please promote it a bit.
The music itself is the promotion, I’d like you to listen to it. It is fun so go listen to it! My father is a great mental support for me, and I made that track because I wanted to help out my father too. My father likes that track the most. There even came a message of support from the National Oriental Medicine Association.
Last but not least, please say a few words to ROKHipHop’s readers.
Video: Hello ROKHipHop readers! I am Layboy, a Hongdae rapper from Bitgeoul. In July I released the EP album ‘AK’, and afterwards, in September, the single ‘Halftime’. Please give them a listen if you haven’t done so yet. I often visit ROKHipHop to read interviews or watch videos, and I had fun doing SCV’s Mineral Excavation Interview. There was a lot I have been wanting to say and I feel better now that I have been able to let it all out in this interview. Do visit ROKHipHop often for information about Korean hiphop. I plan to keep doing the music I like, so I hope you look out for me and listen to my songs often.
Interview by SCV
Translator’s note: a big shout-out to SCV for not only allowing me to translate his interviews, but also especially creating the English version of the banner which you see above, and even checking the finished translation! Also many thanks to ROKHIPHOP’s head who made all of this possible.
Translator Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||9-point scale with 1 being the best grade.|
|2.||↑||He means to say that he is the only one amongst his friends who went to university which naturally created a distance between them.|
|3.||↑||So-called “connections hiphop” is trying to become a famous rapper by relying on connections rather than skills.|