BTS pledges to “tell the story of our generation with our lyrics”2019.04.01
Jimin: For one thing I can’t procrastinate like I used to as a trainee. I used to put things off and tell myself I could do them tomorrow. Now I feel like if I don’t get something done today, something terrible will happen, so I feel more driven.
RM: Also, I never knew the job would be this demanding and tough. A whole day goes by when you wake up at 3, 4 in the morning, go through rehearsal, dry rehearsal, live performance, as well as the meet and greet. I’ve learned that it takes a full day of preparation for the 3 minutes of glory on stage.
IZE: The debut stage must have been especially memorable as some of you have been trainees for quite some time.
Suga: Actually the day before our first on air appearance, we did a showcase event. That day, our casting development team members burst into tears, and so did we. I think that’s why the when we went on air the next day none of us cried or anything. We only felt numb.
IZE: Did you get to celebrate with a dinner outing? (Smiles)
RM: It’s been half a year since we uploaded a song called “A Typical Trainee’s Christmas” on our blog. In the lyrics we sang about how much we longed for “a dinner outing,” but even after the debut the company pretended not to notice. Nothing’s changed (laughter). We want to do it ourselves some day, ideally Korean barbeque style in huge portions. It would be nice to have like 6 portions of beef per person or ask the waiter for “sirloin, please” without asking for permission from the company. I’m gonna work hard and get that sirloin!
Jin: It would be nice if we could order some soft drinks, too. Right now I’m not drinking any because of my diet.
Suga: I figure we can do all that once we’ve ranked first in one of the music programs.
IZE: Despite being new to the scene you don’t seem to be nervous on stage. Did you make any mistakes?
Jungkook: I remember recently on Mnet M Countdown I was dancing when I could feel my hat was about to fall off. I ended up tossing it away not caring how my hair looked on camera.
Jimin: He still managed to look good. Maybe I should do that next time and pretend it was a mistake (laughter).
Suga: We actually practiced what to do in that sort of situation. If our hat felt loose we would kick it or throw it away. I think because we did a lot of monitoring and training, many of those who saw us gave feedback that we handled unexpected situations well. That being said, we still got into trouble with the company (laughter).
RM: In terms of our group identity we needed to compromise between a hip-hop group and an idol group, but we still tried to follow a hip-hop composition where possible. That’s why we had our vocalist members participate in rapping as well. We wanted to show people we’re here to do some hip-hop.
IZE: Tell us about the making of your title track “No more dream.”
Jimin: I knew the rest of the team put a lot into it but had no idea how much that entailed. So when the song came out I simply thought it was “pretty good, alright.” And during the recording all I had was fun. Later I found out that the lyrics had actually been changed more than 20 times.
Suga: We first went back to our PD Si-hyuk Bang with lyrics about “respecting preferences” (for a track like “No More Dream”), but he told us it didn’t suit us. We went through this so many times that the file name went from number 1 to number 29. Rap Monster and I tore at the lyrics from our work studio (laughter).
RM: When we were first given the beat I was sure that “I got it, I can kill it,” but in reality there was so much more to it. It didn’t sound the way I imagined. It was hard trying to reflect the recent trend, our message, as well as rap skills in just 8 bars. I feel as though the title track is filled with both love and hate.
IZE: Each of the songs in the album seems to contain some effort tell the story of people your age.
Suga: We started with topics that all of our members could relate to for our title track as well as for “We Are Bulletproof Pt.2.” We were convinced the only way the younger generation would relate to our music was by telling our own story.
RM: As BTS our slogan is to tell the story of youths in our generation in an easy way to understand. One of our songs is called “I Like It”, which is really about the symbolic meaning of the “Like” button in Facebook and the feelings behind it. So it’s also a topic that anyone in the younger generation can relate to. Kind of like the line “On every picture you post a guy I’ve never seen before likes it… who is he?”
IZE: As for those members who don’t usually write lyrics, how did you contribute to them?
Jimin: What I did is briefly share what I experienced personally. For example, I mentioned things like how many of my peers don’t seem to have dreams and think vaguely of their future without giving much effort.
Suga: For me I tried to do more listening because we were trying to write about people in their teens when I’m already in my twenties. When we hit a wall with our lyrics I would pop questions like “what do your friends want to do in the future?”
RM: Even with one topic everyone has a different experience, so we’ve tried to take into account each of those feelings, empathizing with various views along the way.
IZE: Before you became a team, what was it like meeting each other for the first time?
Jimin: I moved to Seoul for the first time in the end of May last year, and J-Hope came out to meet me. I was dragging my luggage and looking around when someone who looked like a friendly neighbor asked, “Are you… Jimin?”
J-Hope: Jimin was so cute back then.
V: I thought everyone would be working hard on the record wearing berets and necklaces and the like. I crept up to greet them for the first time, but they had all just woken up (laughter). I remember J-Hope’s hair was a mess when he said hello, and Rap Monster was wearing some strange-looking glasses.
IZE: It can’t be easy for people with different personalities to live together in one place.
Suga: In the beginning we all shared one room so we would get sensitive about hygiene or cleaning. We started to put in place rules and a fine of 1000 won. Funnily enough nobody broke the rules as soon as a penalty was set. Now we each clean up so as not to affect others. We also have a rule never to intrude on each other’s beds, which are our own territory.
Jin: The truth is I still have the list of people who still need to pay a fine. Three people still owe about 18,000 won, but I will reveal who they are next time (laughter).
IZE: Cooperation must have been key not only as roommates but also as a hip-hop group, especially when some of the members are not so used to hip-hop.
Jin: As for me, sure I like listening to hip-hop, but I didn’t really get why we needed to go around looking like hip-hop artists. For example for twenty years I was taught to stand up straight when walking, but the other members told me I looked better slouching a little (laughter). But after spending more time together I realized what they were talking about. I think I gradually grew fond of hip-hop that way.
V: Rap Monster recommended a lot of songs to me personally. He hand-picked a list for me to listen to every morning on my way to school. I was engrossed in searching and listening to those songs from our training studio for over half a year.
RM: Back at the studio I would turn on the beat and ask each of our members to write rap lyrics, even if it was only a self-introduction or just a single word. I think by the time we worked on the title track everyone was ready to take on a hip-hop groove.
IZE: What is hip-hop to each of you now?
Suga: To me hip-hop is a culture of being honest. It’s not about bragging about being rich or owning a gold chain, but a genre where we can speak honestly about what our generation and what they think. Also with hip-hop we can fit the lyrics of a whole song in just one verse with 16 bars, so we have more time to tell our story. You can say compared to other genres we have more time to touch others.
J-Hope: I used to listen to hip-hop whenever I danced. It hyped me up. To me, hip-hop in itself is a genre one can enjoy. It’s music that anyone can vibe to.
V: I think songs in other genres contain the story of one person at a time, while hip-hop songs can contain stories of different people.
Jimin: It’s not easy for me to explain since it hasn’t been long since I’ve listened to hip-hop or experienced the culture, but I feel like it reaches out to others with a story and makes that look good. Like some would say, it’s “music that makes you braver” (laughter).
IZE: As both a hip-hop team and a K-pop group, you may have faced an identity crisis from time to time. Have you ever thought of a solution?
RM: I think about it countless times a day. I think about whether I am an idol, or an artist, and if I’m both what kind. I think about how I should behave and how people will see me. It’s sometimes overwhelming, and I think it will continue to confuse me. I think because we aim to kill two birds with one stone, we should bear twice the burden. We need to do what we want while also satisfying the expectations other people. I think we can mature by trying to find the middle ground.
Suga: I also think about it quite often, and have reached my own conclusion. If we have an identity crisis we can write about it. All we need to do is honestly show what we feel. As burdensome as it is, I have confidence in this approach.
IZE: Then as people who do hip-hop, do you each have a direction you want to live?
J-Hope: I want to live without being tied down. For example I look up to Beenzino. I think he has a cool life. I want to be someone who can do what I want and enjoy what I do.
Jungkook: I want to live a life of freedom, doing the music I want.
Jin: I want to be me, without too much decoration. I’m not one for showing off, so sticking out alone in the spotlight is not my thing.
Suga: I think anyone would agree they’d like to be the sort of person who looks good in a plain T-shirt, or looks like designer material without wearing designer clothes.
RM: It’s about becoming a person who isn’t attempting to look good but actually does.
[아이즈] 와 사전협의 없이 본 콘텐츠(기사, 이미지)의 무단 도용, 전재 및 복제, 배포를 금합니다.
이를 어길 시 민, 형사상 책임을 질 수 있습니다.
- 글 | 황효진(Hwang Hyo Jin)
- 인터뷰 | 황효진(Hwang Hyo Jin), 최지은(Choi Ji Eun)
- 사진 | 이진혁(Lee Jin Hyuk)
- 번역 | 심국비(Gukby Sim)