XXX Talks New Album 'LANGUAGE' & the State of South Korean Hip-Hop: 'We're Very Angry'

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South Korea's hip-hop scene has grown immensely over the previous three many years. Since its inception within the early ‘90s, South Korean hip-hop has helped popularized the nation’s vibrant tradition within the worldwide market as a part of the diffusion of Korean tradition often known as the Hallyu, or just, the Korean Wave. Artists resembling Jay Park and DEAN contributed to the expansion and crossed over to the American market, paving the best way for a brand new technology of Korean rappers to observe go well with.

XXX, a rapper/producer combo from South Korea, look like the following act to observe within the footsteps of their elder statesmen. The younger males behind XXX, Kim Ximya and FRNK, discovered one another in a web based hip-hop neighborhood the place newbie musicians uploaded their music. FRNK, who was a rapper on the time, got here throughout Ximya’s music and admired the content material he was placing on the location. “I wasn’t superb at rapping and I didn’t actually wish to rap full-time,” FRNK tells Billboard about their first encounter. “But I believed Ximya was actually good at [rapping]. I figured I’d produce and we simply joined forces.”

In 2016, XXX made their introduction with their debut EP KYOMI. The seven-track effort was a step away from the standard Korean hip-hop sound, because the duo fused rap with parts of digital music to create a sound that Korea had by no means heard earlier than. Ximya’s no-nonsense lyrics of real-life tales and FRNK’s revolutionary, distorted beats on KYOMI made XXX certainly one of South Korea’s most experimental and daring musical exports. It was solely a matter of time earlier than the world took discover of the rebellious twosome as their creativity caught the ears of a number of music shops, together with Maison Kitsuné, HYPEBEAST, and SXSW.   

Their newly launched sophomore mission, LANGUAGE, is much more daring than its predecessor, as Ximya and FRNK proceed to raise Korean hip-hop with an improve to their groundbreaking sound. The 10-track mission is a direct opposition to the established components of creating music in South Korea and it has unfold the XXX identify even farther throughout the globe. The standout single “Sujak” was included in The New York Times’ The Playlist and the group has obtained reward for the confrontational, aggressive method on the album.

With their identify buzzing on American soil, XXX is hoping to depart their mark whereas disrupting the music norm again of their homeland. Billboard sat with XXX to debate LANGUAGE, South Korea’s hip-hop scene, getting acknowledged by The New York Times, and why they’re indignant with the best way artists are making music in South Korea. Check it out under.

Who are a few of your inspirations and the way did you guys uncover hip-hop?

FRNK ( translator): My inspirations are J Dilla, Radiohead, James Blake. My youngest uncle liked music. Whenever I'd go to his home I'd discover all these CDs and simply take heed to them. That's how I discovered hip-hop.

Ximya: Jay-Z, Eminem, Yelawolf, and Isaiah Rashad. In center college, certainly one of my buddies who was a drummer had entry to music, primarily Korean hip-hop. For me, it was really me discovering Korean hip-hop first after which American hip-hop later.

What’s the story behind the identify XXX?

Ximya: We put collectively a mixtape earlier than we acquired signed to our label. The mixtape was known as XX. When we acquired signed, we would have liked a bunch identify and we simply by some means added one other X to that mixtape title. That's actually it. We know in the event you sort XXX into Google you’ll see express content material however it wasn’t an issue that occurred to me that we should always change our identify.

We're within the begin of our profession and I didn't assume it was an enormous deal to vary our group identify as a result of again house in South Korea, they know us however right here they don't. I thought of it, however I don't know. The identify doesn't have any type of which means behind it. If it turns into an actual large drawback then we'll take into consideration one other approach to method the United States. But if it's not an enormous deal, I don't assume there might be a change.

What’s the hip-hop scene like in South Korea?

Ximya: It's commercially profitable however in the event you have a look at it as a style the place the historical past issues and the legacy issues, I don't assume it's on the right track. We are making music that the label has completed loads of work to redirect the purpose in the direction of however it's actually arduous as a result of large firms have essentially the most energy.

I don't learn about different genres in Korean music, however for hip-hop, there was an underground scene. There's this present known as Show Me The Money that took the underground scene and made it overwhelming by making a ton of cash off it. I don't assume there's really an underground scene proper now. The earlier one acquired too mainstream and nobody is coming again. They're staying within the mainstream.

It looks like that’s the explanation for XXX’s opposition to what Korean hip-hop has changed into. You guys are indignant at how industrial the tradition has change into.

Ximya: Yes. We're very indignant. When I began making music, particularly hip-hop music, I realized that while you write lyrics, it must be what you could have completed or felt. It must be particular to the author who wrote the lyrics. It cannot be a lie or a fraud and for many of the Korean rapper inhabitants, I really feel they didn’t write about what they really felt or what they have been really doing. They have been making music they thought individuals wish to hear.

That made me indignant as a result of I felt I used to be sacrificing some stuff to jot down these sorts of lyrics. If I wrote lyrics which have a very good response with the general public, all these rappers do is simply write one thing based mostly on my expertise that’s getting a buzz that they haven’t skilled and that's how just about everyone seems to be making music again there.

What was Korean hip-hop like earlier than this period it’s at the moment in?

FRNK: The Korean hip-hop historical past was principally began by quite a lot of the Korean-American rappers (Korean rappers who used to reside within the USA) or rappers who have been wealthy sufficient to afford albums or CDs from American rappers. Those are the blokes who mainly began the entire Korean hip-hop scene. As the web took over the brand new technology's life-style, they might have extra entry to rappers within the states and alternatives to vary the style.

Ximya: When the web technology kicked in, it was fairly just like the US. Everyone was doing the identical factor again and again. It acquired to be an excessive amount of. But earlier than then, Korean hip-hop had a time frame the place individuals have been really writing about what they felt. I don’t assume we're attempting to essentially convey that again. I don't assume it's about what sort of music we're making, it's about what we identical to to make.

What was totally different on LANGUAGE in comparison with KYOMI?

FRNK: Sonically, as a producer soundwise, I used quite a lot of the industrial, mainstream sound sources. Those which might be type of pleasant to the viewers. With these relatable sounds, I made it into one thing enjoyable that the general public might expertise. For this album LANGUAGE, it was type of the opposite means round. I took non-commercial, very recent new distinctive sounds that haven't been heard earlier than and took that into one thing pleasant and approachable for the viewers.

What made you wish to incorporate a extra disruptive, aggressive sound?

FRNK: I consider all tracks haven't been made this manner. But, basically, as a producer behind the group XXX, it was my means of conveying the message I needed to convey to the general public by distinctive beats which you could hear on the album. The message I wish to convey is anger, melancholy, darker parts. There's quite a lot of private experiences I’ve which might be mixed and expressed by my beats.

What are a few of the stuff you rap about on this mission?

Ximya: It's just about about how I lastly acquired to see the precise system and the way the system works in Korea.  I’m seeing how painful it’s and realizing how the system goes whereas individuals are ignoring it. It's like in the event you're lactose illiberal however you’re keen on cheesecake — you simply eat it. If you want cheesecake so dangerous you're going to eat it. I believe it's about me loving cheesecake however I'm lactose illiberal. I like South Korea however the system isn’t good. It's additionally extra about how arduous it’s to earn fame and wealth the best means. I actually don't just like the system again house however I actually don't like being poor greater than I hate the system.

Are there individuals who don't like how rebellious your music is?

Ximya: Yeah. We respectfully ignore them, although. Before the earlier album, we have been checking all of the feedback and every part however it wasn’t actually good for our psychological well being. For this one, we went by the feedback and there's really quite a lot of compliments. But we are inclined to not have a look at the damaging feedback. If the older, aged are musicians, I assume it's a unique story. But in the event that they're simply listeners, I assume identical to everybody else, we should always take heed to what we like and depart others in peace.

What was going by your minds realizing you guys made The New York Times Playlist?

FRNK: I couldn't consider it. I didn't develop up within the states however I've heard in regards to the affect and the impression The New York Times has. It took me a while for the fact to hit. But I'm grateful and I would really like the music to be uncovered to a wider viewers hopefully by The New York Times.

Ximya: For me, it was really a tragic second as a result of I needed to explode again house first after which come to the states. But the order wasn't proper. If the states had curiosity in our music, it's clearly a good selection to return right here and begin a profession. We did what we needed to do however it's not a very snug alternative. I actually needed to interrupt the system first again house however aside from that it's an honor and actually stunning.  

You guys are doubtlessly being a task mannequin for the youngsters in South Korea who’re additionally fed up with the system. What’s it like realizing that?

FRNK: I'm grateful to see extra individuals wanting to interrupt the system with their music however I'm hoping those who wish to change it or break it, I hope they’re rich as a result of cash will get entangled. Those who cannot afford to vary the system would hand over fairly rapidly. Thank you for these keen to do it.

Ximya: It's not about being wealthy, it's about being born wealthy. You gotta keep within the sport. They gotta be rich.

What impression do you guys wish to have?

FRNK: The benefit of hip-hop is that it may just about mix, take in, fuse another music fashion. I wish to present that hip-hop isn't restricted to only one style, it may be blended with something. It's the widest, most unfold out style.

Ximya: I assume I wish to erase individuals's prejudice and stereotypes about Ok-Pop. Obviously, I'm not a fairly man however individuals assume Ok-Pop is all about being fairly and dancing and being excellent. So again house some artists don't just like the phrase Ok-Pop as a result of it has the stereotype about making factorized music and music that has completely no which means. But I believe we should always not keep away from utilizing the phrase Ok-pop however change the picture and impression that it has.