16 April 2015

[Interview] Trio talk ‘WondaLand’, getting blacklisted, idols, reality shows, and more

MFBTY recently dropped their first album, “WondaLand“, and Asian Junkie had the opportunity to talk with Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae, and Bizzy about a variety of topics, ranging from their album to being blacklisted to learning about Twitter to their thoughts on rap reality shows and variety appearances to ghostwriting for idols.

Check out the entertaining yet revealing interview below!

Asian Junkie: Hello, MFBTY! We’re very familiar with you here, but for first-time listeners could you please introduce yourselves.

Tiger JK: Hello ghood people! I go by the name Drunken Tiger, my fans call me Tiger, and my mom calls me JK.

Bizzy: Hi, my name is Bizzy and I’m from New Zealand. I moved to Korea because my father needed me to work with him. I used to DJ here and there, Yang Dong Geun and I were sort of like a group. We were big fans of Drunken Tiger and would go to where Drunken Tiger used to hang out. We would catch them in a circle of rappers having a freestyle session. Me and YDG would jump in from time to time and naturally we all became a family. I also worked as a ghost writer for many idol rappers, but I’m not allowed to say their names!

Tiger JK: Fast forward to now – we’ve been through some hardships like dealing with shady folks, losing everything we built, you know them good ol’ cliché rapper stories. From making it, to getting robbed and stabbed in the back, being betrayed, losing loved ones, and dealing with health issues. You name it, we have been through it!

We were getting turned down for TV shows when K-pop started jumping off as well. Most of the shows were K-pop related. We tried to book things but were being told, “Sorry this is a K-pop show and these kids do not want you.” To make a long story short, we were going through a dark period in our careers, we were all kind of jaded, tired, and not inspired.

I started tweeting one day and got hooked on chatting with random fans of other groups and artists. I thought Twitter was like a chatting lounge. I was very ignorant about it and got lots of complaints. People kept saying things like, “Please shut the fuck up, you’re fucking up my timeline,” and things like that.

Anyway, to make a long story even longer, MFBTY was created by those who chatted with me and had fun just talking about anything. That led to us making a single and then our new full-length album, ‘WondaLand.’ Doing this has been a breath of fresh air for me. It’s been therapeutic and fun making these songs.

AJ: You just released your first full-length album ‘WondaLand’ a few weeks ago. For people who haven’t had a chance to listen to the album, can you shed a bit of light on the overall sonic experience? Because it’s quite the ride …

Bizzy: Thank you! I guess the word I would use to describe ‘WondaLand’ is eclectic. It’s funny you said “ride” because that’s exactly how I feel about the music. It’s like being on a musical rollercoaster. There’s a little bit of everything – dance, hip-hop, R&B, and even disco. I think the album flows really well.

Tiger JK: It’s a pop album that I enjoy. It’s something I can dance to, something I can make breakfast to, and something I can fall asleep to as well. It’s something, perhaps, that I shouldn’t have dragged these two talented artists into. What have I done?

AJ: What is the meaning behind the title ‘WondaLand’?

Tiger JK: We wanted to create music that makes us happy and not be confined or pressured into making what we thought might sell or doing what people thought we should do. I like to think a lot of strange yet beautiful things happen in ‘WondaLand.’

Bizzy: Peace, love, and fun. A land where everyone wishes nothing but goodness upon others. A land where hate and war is accepted in a sense that as long as you can dance it out, no harm is done.

AJ: At what point did the album start to take shape? Did you have the title tracks set in stone before the album’s completion or did deciding on those come later in the process?

Bizzy: Definitely later. Recording for us is always the easy part. Everything always happens organically. We’ll just be listening to or making beats and one of us will be inspired and start to write and the rest of us will just feed off that. We eventually ended up with about 30 songs, and that’s just from the songs we recently recorded.

Tiger JK: We just got lost in the studio. We worked like we were three jazz musicians jamming and improvising off of each other’s solos. There were no rules. We all just went in and freestyled a lot of the stuff.

Post production is always hell for me. Rearranging and mixing things right sonically. Making sure all the instruments or vocals stand out the right way and at the right moment. And also getting rid of some great parts to make things fit better or flow more smoothly. When we record, we also have dancers and music video directors around as well. They offer their input and perspectives too. We party when things click magically. And other times we argue like children! Making an album is sort like painting a big mural or playing Jenga so to speak.

Picking singles is when things get real awkward. People in suits come through from our distribution company and they all want a radio hit. This time they were all strongly against “Bang Diggy Bang Bang.” But we had already shot the video at that point. Those people in suits were shaking their heads and waving their fingers at me.

15 April 2015

[March 2015 - Marie Claire] Yoon Mirae - Only One - Interview

Countless of idol group members and audition programs contestants say they want to become the next Yoon Mirae. However, the next Yoon Mirae has yet to be found. To be honest, it’s not something possible just because you say you have great singing and rap skills. It is impossible to have this outstanding way of expressing oneself, this soul and feel that only Yoon Mirae has. We heard her voice we hadn’t heard in a very long time. Meanwhile, Yoon Mirae and Tiger Jk had been surrounded and dealing with many issues, but their music didn’t lose its light. Instead, there’s a feeling that their music is complete with stories staying true to their lives of ups and downs as if they were riding a tough wave. And now, here comes the good news that MFBTY, the hip-hop unit created by Yoon Mirae, Tiger JK and rapper Bizzy, will release a full album soon. “We’re in the final stage to finish MFBTY full album. For us, it seems like our debut album. It’s an album filled with every emotion. Other people worry for us and ask why we release a full album when times are hard like this. We also get comments on why we release a group album with a name people are not familiar with, so this is also an album with no answer to fear or enthusiasm. Please show it some love.”

She said she wouldn’t be able to stop doing music even if she had to, but her activities are rare if compared to the time her fans waited. There aren’t just one or two people who are thirsty to hear Yoon Mirae’s rap and singing. That’s why this album is even more welcomed. “Musis ic everything in my life, to the poin I wouldn’t be able to live without music. However, I’ve always had serious anxiety [to be on stage by myself], so it’s hard for me to do activities. I started boxing last year and I enjoy it. Running/Jumping, sweating without thinking. Being into the music and punching the punching bag all by myself is something I can enjoy. The time a child spends with his mother is important, so I didn’t have time to do music activities meanwhile and so many things that I can’t talk about happened too. Today, I’m trying my best to go against it because I got courage. I want to meet the fans through good music and good shows.”

However, can the hip-hop empress be so shy? The Yoon Mirae we met at the studio is very different from the powerful image she shows on stage. Doing a photo shoot by herself without Tiger JK who is always with her, receiving compliments, listening one more time to the songs she sang in the past, cooly evaluating a contestant in an audition program, she “can’t really do it because she’s shy”. Still, we can feel the “groove” of the hip-hop empress even in the way she moves along the songs she’s humming during the photo shoot. Humility is the best keyword to explain Yoon Mirae’s personality. “The vocalist who is the best at making black music”, “MTV’s top 12 best female rappers in the world”, “Korean hip-hop’s diamond”, these are a couple of titles attached to her name and even with her colleagues confessing they lose confidence when they listen to her rapping, Yoon Mirae is unreasonably humble. Although she’s receiving many love calls from foreign musicians, she’s still not very greedy about advancing overseas. Isn’t it because of her personality? It even ended up being a troublesome worry. She said she liked making music as much as it always made her happy and being able to do the music she liked was enough for her. Saying this won’t decrease the voices of the fans who want her to release a solo album, though. “When my solo album will be out, it will be at the best time? I think it can be within this year. First, I hope MFBTY’s album that will finally get release will allow me to meet the fans who have been waiting all this time. I’m thinking about small-scale fan meetings and concert in small venues.”

Read more on thesunnytown

13 April 2015

[Interview] MFBTY's Album Process, Raising Jordan, and the Awe of Bizzy's International Fans

MFBTY: “There are bigger things in the world to worry about. We just want to enjoy it.”

Editors: In Uijeongbu lives a couple and their close friend who form MFBTY, whom just recently released an album, Wondaland. They introduced themselves like this: “We wish not only for every person in this world, but all bees, butterflies, insects to be happy. For all to blossom like flowers, be beautiful, healthy, be in harmony with each other and live well.”

They are people who are about living with LOVE & PEACE. They are Tiger JK, YoonMiRae, and Bizzy—lonely, hurting, in pain, holding on to what is left of their father, releasing music even though times are tough. As family and colleagues, they have made a synergetic bond and are recording their growth through music.

I understand you faced some hard times prior to setting up your company (Feel Ghood Music), has everything settled down?

TigerJK: We wanted to get off on the right foot. Our son is 8 years old now, but I also haven’t aged mentally further than 8 years old. No, truthfully my son’s mental age is a lot older than mine. (Laughter) Since I am laughing and playing with my son a lot, it has made me a brighter person and people can really see that when they meet me.

 So, about your song “Hello Happy….”

Tiger JK: Happy was our wish (to become happy). I’ve mentioned it before that I am a story teller and that we write lies based on truths, but when we recorded our solos, they sounded sad and dark as our heart and soul was put in to them. However, when we recorded together, the end result was silly, fun, and wacky. At first, we only planned for a single, and then we kept making more songs, and then an intro, and slowly we came up with 16 songs for a full album.

Was that because there were a lot of stories to be told?

Tiger JK: As well as having stories to be told, we spent our time only in Uijeongbu which made us feel isolated. But when artist like Jeon InKwon and Yoo Hee Yeol came to Uijeongbu, whom we knew as more of friendly faces rather than musicians, a lot of interesting things happened. Whenever someone came over and visited us, we were able to create music there and then, and it was a phenomenal experience. I have OCD and have a tendency to structure the album from start to finish, but this time around, it was really fun working on this album.

It seems you have broken some conventions.

Tiger JK: As well as Jordan and other artist that we worked with, we learnt important lessons from everybody. Jeon InKwon’s “Love and Peace” is a different version compared to the one listed on our album. The previous version had a lot of components and was more upbeat. Jeon InKwon said, “The chorus, adlib, rap, take it all out and leave the song bare and lonely, pure like a child. I like it the way it is. You have to trust me.” So I followed, and now the CD is rare item. (Laughter)

And while YooHeeYeol was reviewing the codes and laying out the instrumentals, he advised that “Just because it’s flashy, it doesn’t mean it’s good, let’s try it this way.” When we heard the new version, we said “wow!” Truth is, we did not study music professionally. But when he praised the lines Mi Rae made just by tapping on the piano keys using two fingers, it really made us happy. RapMonster’s energy was genuine and plentiful. He would say, “These days, this is trendy. From here, let’s take this out and the song will sound good.”

Son Seung Yun would quietly ask, “So can I do it like this?” While she was recording, it was like an explosion came out of her.

There are tracks that are soulful and have that feel good vibe to them. But there are other tracks, especially “Bang Diggy Bang Bang” and “Bucku Bucku” that are more upbeat and catchy. How were they created?

Tiger JK: In our opinion,Wondaland is a pop album. To us, Hip Hop is a way of life. It’s not all about shouting “yo yo yo!” but it’s about the philosophy and the culture that’s embedded within us, and this album is not hip-hop. To be honest, I don’t know what hip-hop is these days. That’s not taking shots at what’s hot right now, because we used to be like that when we were younger. We decided to make positive music that makes everyone feel good amongst all these diss, beef and battles that happen constantly. Coming back to the question, “Bucku Bucku” and “Bang Diggy Bang Bang” is pop, but the way it was made was more like a jazz improvisation: impromptu. With “Bucku Bucku,” when people heard it for the first time, they thought we were crazy because it literally just said “bucku bucku” at the start. “Bang Diggy Bang Bang” had 3-4 more choruses and hooks, but we took them out and left the fun bits in it, all thanks to MiRae.

How’s everyone’s schedule (both personal and professional) working as a trio?

YoonMiRae: I wasn’t able to stay in the studio as long as the others. When we are making music, we have too much fun and lose track of time. Before we know it, it’s 5am. So then I catch up on any sleep that I can, then wake Jordan up, and get him ready for school. And when he comes home, I have to check his homework too so it can get very overwhelming at times. I’m also not as young as I once was (laughter). So I listened to the music, and wrote what I felt like at the time, recorded my parts, and went home.

With Jordan going to school, and working with different people, you must’ve felt your circle widening up. How did that feel?

YoonMiRae: To be honest, it was difficult at times. Apart from friends that I know from school, I don’t have many friends from the entertainment industry. I still don’t know what to do when I meet new people. So when Jeon In Kwon and Yoo Hee Yeol Sunbaenim visited us, I arrived at the studio later on purpose. I felt a bit awkward and didn’t know what to say to them and how to request and ask for things. So I thought about all of that thoroughly at home, then arrived at the studio. Turns out, I thought about it way too much. By conversing with them, laughing and discussing music and being comfortable enough to talk about everyday things, I realized I just thought too much about all of this.

Tiger JK: MiRae constantly thinks about Jordan. She records until the sun comes up, goes home, and prepares breakfast so that Jordan can wake up and go to school on time. Her motherhood is so strong, it’s difficult to explain. I guess all mothers can relate to her. MiRae is our son’s mom as well as a girl with an innocent heart. With the past that we had, she faced some criticism when she graced some of the fashion magazines with the photo shoots she did. To others, it seems like MiRae is saying that she is the best MC. So in my eyes, it felt like she is battling an image that is not her at all.

You haven’t appeared on MNET Unpretty Rapstar, but your name keeps getting mentioned.

YoonMiRae: Yes, but I don’t think the contestants even expected my name to pop up as much as it did.

JK: Mirae supports all female rappers and singers.

Because she is the most prominent female MC in Korea, I guess they expected her to have some kind of a role for them.

Yoon Mi Rae: When I rap, I do say things like “I’m the best,” but I really don’t think that is the case. If I really thought I was the best, I would be doing this as a hobby and not producing music as a job. I still have so much to learn and still in the process of learning, so I did not feel like I was in such a position to teach others how to rap verse.

This album feels like the three of you are communicating with your rapping and singing. Did your definition of rap change?

Bizzy: There is a separate project that I’m doing with JK. It’s got 40 bars each, but in this album, we made the tracks the main characters, not us. We learned to control our output and let our raps be marinade to our tracks.

Tiger JK: As well as controlling the amount of rap, we toned it down when we had a guest rapper. Previously, we thought to ourselves ‘I’m going to make my 16 bars outshine everyone else!’ (laughter), but now we learned to give, share, and control ourselves. When I mispronounce something or skipped a beat, I would usually record the track again. However, this time around we thought about the emotional content and how it fits around the track. MiRae told me to let it flow naturally and I did.

Did you ever feel like you were steering away from the current trend or what’s hot on the music scene?

Tiger JK: To be honest, we know that it will sell well if we do a track with a generic “money making” structure, with some ballad lines and a bit of rap. But due to my stubbornness, we did the mix down on our whole album four times, blowing our budget. Luckily, May is concert season so we can get some gigs (laughter). Back to the point, I believe there is a necessity for variety and we plan to continue what we are doing. When we came on the scene as Drunken Tiger, we’ve heard negative feedback from everyone for a year straight saying that we won’t be able to make it. Those hard times though made us stronger, and we’ve obtained peace of mind.

What do you want to release to the world now?

Tiger JK: I would love to be a barista/bookshop ahjussi. Previously, I only spoke about my hard times. Even though they are all true, I don’t want people to think of me as a disgruntled man, I want them to go, ‘Oh wow, that’s JK!’ Before my father passed away, there were some medical malpractices that I had witnessed, which made me disappointed. However, with all the bad things that are happening around the world, I wanted to provide people happiness.

YoonMiRae: At first, I made music because I loved it and most of all, I did it for me. However, later it was unclear whether I was doing it for the record label or whether I was doing it for the money. I am just thankful for all the fans that trust me and have followed me over the years. These days, I really like watching fan reactions videos to our music after I take Jordan to school. I want to continue making music to make my fans happy.

Bizzy: When we were shooting the music video for our previous album, “The Cure,” one of the staff members came to me and said, ‘I went through some really hard times and this song helped me a lot. Thank you.’ At that time, I didn’t sleep for days, but hearing that made me even more determined. JK hyung always provides me with good lessons, but when he speaks to me about music, I hold on to every word. I want to listen to JK and MiRae’s voice longterm, and I want to continue making good music because when times got tough and I wanted to give up. it was music that helped me get back up.

Tiger JK: I just want everybody to know Bizzy, so that when this handsome kind Bizzy gets more popular, I can just sit back and laugh.

So nowadays I hear you have a lot of international fans, Bizzy.

Bizzy: I’m also shocked. I asked playfully ‘let’s get married,” and I get serious offers still!

Tiger JK: Kpop has it’s underground fandom, not like a normal fandom like EXO. Twitter is where MFBTY first came about. On the other hand, marriage is something different and serious. When Bizzy leaves Uijeongbu, there is nothing that I can do. (laughter)

Source: Ize Magazine
Translated by DTINTL

09 April 2015

Yoon Mirae Opens Up About Her Background, MFBTY, and the Current Korean Hip-Hop Scene

Yoon Mirae, famous female rapper in South Korea, co-founder of Feel Ghood Music:

We were warned not to take pictures from her manager. She is without make up, wearing just jeans and a hoodie. YoonMiRae meets us at her label’s office north of Seoul. Born from an African-American father and a Korean mother, she’s the country’s most famous female rapper. Also known as Tasha or T, the 34-year old artist is sometimes compared to Lauryn Hill. She is married to Tiger JK, with whom she works regularly. With label mate and rapper Bizzy, they created a group named MFBTY and their own label, Feel Ghood Music.

MFBTY (which stands for “My Fan are Better Than Yours”) have just released their first full length album, Wondaland.

Why did you establish your label in UiJeongBu, far from the media and music industry?

My father was an American soldier. He met my mother in Uijeongbu district when he was stationed at the base here, so I lived most of my life here. I like the atmosphere since it’s a mix of city and country.

How was it when you first debuted in Korea? At the time there was more prejudice towards mixed people. 

I experienced discrimination from both sides. In the US, I wasn’t Black enough. In Korea, they called me “Yankee.” In primary and middle school, there wasn’t a day when I wasn’t reminded I was only half Korean. People stared at me. It was really hard. My first label asked me to hide my father’s skin color. They told me, “We will say you have far African-Americans origins.” Sometimes stylists tried to make me look “more Korean.” Later, when African-American music was the trend, they accepted my darker skin color. I was angry and lost at the same time. I put this anger into my songs.

Tell us about Korean hip-hop in the 90’s…

When I debuted, hip-hop was like a secret society, a small circle of people where everything was word of mouth. Tiger JK helped me discover underground battles in Hongdae and Sinchon. The rest of society thought rappers were all gangsters. Thankfully, today things have changed.

To the point now every boy band has a rapper!

To be honest, this trend irritates me. Some are clearly formatted, but sometimes when I turn on the TV, I see one with good potential. Because hip-hop is now trendy, we need a bigger underground scene [to show various types of hip-hop styles]. However, finding this type of scene today is more difficult. In the media, there is only one style: pop. If you don’t sign with a big label like YG or SM, your chances of appearing on TV become slim. It’s disappointing, and I don’t think it’s going to change soon.

What do you think of shows with rappers, like Unpretty Rapstar?

I know this is going to sound shocking, but I don’t really get a chance to watch the show. However, that doesn't mean I don't support my fellow femcees. I hear some of the contestants are very talented, and that I was a major influence for some of them. I am thankful for that. Whenever I’m asked about how I feel about being the only femcee, my answer was and always will be, “I’m not the only one.” There’s a lot of talented ones out here. You just don't get to see them because either they want to stay underground so they don’t “sell out” by signing to a huge label, or they want to blow up, but feel they will have to give up creative control of their music if they sign to those large labels. We don't see these artists because we're either not really looking, or because stations won't play their songs. 

Does Korean rap focus on specific topics? 

In Korea, like elsewhere, rap discusses many things including politics and society. However, there is censorship here even though we're a democracy. There are a lot of things rappers can’t say, but the censors are more lenient when a pop star says it.

In 2002, the first track of my “Gemini” hip-hop album was censored by the media because I said “show me your belly button.” However, at the time, there were pop songs on radio with more explicit lyrics. Fortunately, things have been changing for the better as hip-hop has become more recognized.

Interview by E.J. (in Seoul)

Translated by MFBTYFrance

*Some parts of the original interview were lost in the French translation. DT INTL was able to recover some of the original answers, thus some variations between the French and English version.