Korean Hip Hop Interview: B Free
With over 15 thousand twitter followers, acknowledgment from senior rappers as one of Korea’s top ‘underground’ rappers and a fixed position at Hi-Lite records (one of the countries premier indie labels) it’s not difficult to see why fans and critics alike love B Free. Formally known as the ‘slacker rapper’ he has continuously shown himself to be a hard hitting and honest member of the Korean rap community, making him stand out amongst his more hallyu wave riding seniors. We were lucky enough to throw a few questions his way recently.
You moved from your hometown of Honolulu to Seoul in order to pursue a career in hip-hop. What made you decide to take that path?
Well I had no plans on becoming a rapper actually. When I graduated from high school my dad bought a plane ticket to Korea and told me that I should go on a vacation. It’s a long story but when I got here, he told me that I shouldn’t come back and should just start a new life here. I could barely speak Korean, had no friends and no idea what I was going to do. I’ve always written rhymes and made beats and when I got out of the army in 2007 I met a rapper named Snacky Chan. He is the one that told me that I should really try rapping so I listened to him and recorded my first song. I guess the rest is history.
Which artists influence your music and who are you currently listening to?
When I was in high school I was really into Jay-Z and DMX. I had all their albums but it was DMX who was my influence to really start writing. I didn’t listen to too much Korean hip-hop when I got here but when I was in the army a friend introduced me to Dynamic Duo and that’s when I started writing in Korean. Nowadays I listen to everything from Drake and J.Cole to Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar. Lately I’ve been digging into old school rappers like Three 6 mafia and 8ball & MJG. Other than that I really like Travi$ Scott.
We’ve all seen the recent ‘diss’ songs being released by rappers slating one another. What is your perception of this and what do you think it will do to the way the hip-hop community is perceived by the public?
It’s been really fun to watch and a lot of people are talking about it even if they aren’t familiar with hip-hop. But I just look at it as entertainment and nothing more. It’s a great way for an artist to create a buzz and promote themselves because everybody likes to watch a good fight but I also think it’s childish because the things they are talking about don’t seem to be that serious to me. They are going on about how the other person has hurt their feelings and it sounds like high school drama to me at times.
Fans are always the largest critics of music and there was recently a backlash of fans online calling you a sell-out. How do you feel when you read negative responses towards your music?
Wow, I didn’t even know that but I appreciate every criticism. I really don’t pay attention to what anybody says especially if it’s a comment online. I have no time to read those…
Your music is blunt and real, a trait which many rappers music seems to be missing. Do you feel this is one of the reasons you have gained such a firm standing within the k-hip-hop community, with both fans and artists alike?
Yes I often wonder myself why it is that people like my music and I think that is probably the main reason.
When you first became apparent to fans you were known to some as the ‘slacker rapper’. Do you think this title has allowed you more freedom as an artist and let you flow more easily into your own style?
I don’t know about that but I always liked slower raps. Nowadays I’m into rapping a bit faster but it just varies from time to time and depends on the beat.
To some fans it appears that there is a fine line between rappers from idol groups and underground rappers, with them often being compared to one another. How do you feel about this comparison and what is your general opinion about idol rappers?
I think if you are familiar with my music you would know the answer. (I am very familiar with your music but do enjoy asking people this question as the answers are always funny – Sasha) I really have no respect for any K-pop groups or idols because they are all products and an image of what their companies needed and wanted in order to sell them. I don’t respect pretty boys or girls for this matter and the fact that they are making money off of music and an image they didn’t create themselves. To me idols and most K-pop singers are just slaves and puppets for their companies. And idol rappers ha…I don’t even wanna waste my time talking about such things.
Your mix tapes are often passed around alone amongst the Korean hip-hop fan base, meaning they are based throughout different countries. Which countries have you been surprised to discover you have fans in?
Anywhere outside of Korea and America is surprising and I’m thankful for any K-pop fans that like my music. I hope my opinion of K-pop groups don’t make them too angry lol.
Do you think more media time should be spent on artists outside of the pop genre?
It would be good but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think the important thing is how we are shown by the media. Do we come on like idol groups with dyed hair and make-up and say what they want us to say or do we come on as artists saying and doing whatever we want? In Korea in order to be on TV the company has to pay the networks or have a special connection but I think in due time, if we just work hard enough, they will have to have us on.
What does hip-hop mean to you?
Hip hop is just my life, just a way of expressing who I am and also my job. Without hip-hop I don’t know where I would be. I love my culture and always represent it wherever I go. Thank you.
Thank you to B Free for taking the time to answer some of our questions!