Korean Hip Hop Interview: Wutan
Any fan of Korean hip-hop knows that good Korean rappers are easy to find in Korea at the moment. Finding good rappers who stand out from a crowd is an entirely different thing. In a sea of big sharks, small fish either get eaten or swim towards the reef with all their strength whilst growing stronger and wiser: Wu-tan is most definitely one of these. Back in 2010 any K-pop fan worth their salt was in a frenzy about a mixed gender crew of MCs and R&B crooners, all in their mid to late 20’s, that were hitting the scene with ‘barrier breaking’ music. Thus the New Block Babyz was born. Featuring many great talents (New Champ, Gimm) it was easy for many, including myself, to take little interest in the talents of Wu-tan. However every ‘underdog’ has their rising and he definitely gets just that within the Vismajor Crew. Here fans are able to experience the full force of a knowledge and talent that strengthens along with his fan base. We were lucky enough to interview him on his thoughts on the Korean hip-hop scene and just what hip-hop means to him.
Firstly can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Nice to meet you! I’m Wutan, an underground rapper of Vismajor Crew.
Which artists (korean & international) influence you?
I grew up with the music of Deep Flow who is also a member of Vismajor Crew and I was a big fan of E-Sens of Supreme Team. These two have probably influenced me the most.
Which musicians would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I had dreamed of collaborating with those two musicians (Deep Flow and E-Sens). Now I’m working with Deep Flow in the same Crew and we produced an album together so my dream came true. I really hope that I can work with E-Sens someday too. Also there is a new vocal called Crush who seems talented so I want to work with him too.
Who are you currently listening to?
It seems like I listen to my unpublished songs the most when I’m mixing and mastering them. I’m sensitive to the sound. Although recently I listen to Vinny Chase a lot who make amazing music with great rap. I’m also interested in imaging and their images are outstanding. DOPE!
How would you describe the Korean underground hip-hop culture to a outsider?
In my opinion, the nature of the fandom doesn’t vary much. Speaking only in terms of music, each musician can play the music he/she is attracted to. No more, no less. There’s still business involved. We get more freedom in our music but some music is bad in quality for that reason. So I think, even in this culture, there is a division between underground and amateur artists.
What does hip hop mean to you?
Hip hop is just myself. I don’t mean ‘I’m hip hop’. Rap lyrics have a lot more ways to express yourself than other genres have, you know? Like with tones and wordplay. Because of that we have more topics we can talk about. What matters is how well I express myself. About my daily life, personality and stories. That is why hip hop is the music that expresses me. People say it’s macho, strong music and the music of men and I know what they want to say but it’s a bullshit. There are a lot of men with sensitivity who have listened to ballads since childhood. It would be more ‘fake’ if those men played or sang strong.
Recently you released ‘Ant Ant Ant’ (‘개미개미 개미’), featuring Deepflow and DJ 짱가 as part of a new venture Project WV (Project Wutan & Vismajor). Overall what was the fan reaction to this project and will you be working on similar projects in the future?
There were some fans who felt deep regret about us doing it as a single project since we had been preparing for an album. But others seemed to like works being released once in every two weeks after a long break. ‘Ant Ant Ant’ has been more welcomed by senior musicians. Perhaps they felt nostalgia because it was more like late 90s to early 2000s’ boom-bam hip hop than other recent ones. 2012 saw an international increase in interest for Korean hip hop and this has continued into 2013.
Do you think more media time should be spent on underground artists than on idols?
Of course it is a good phenomenon that more hip hop musicians being introduced overseas. Idol music and the Hallyu wave has been publicised a lot but I hope people will find out that there are also musicians in Korea who make this kind of music.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Well, to be honest, I’m not the kind of person who looks far into the future. I just want to live today to the full and do my best with what I’m given. Even if I did make a long-term plan, it could be destroyed the very next day.