Thanks to the international reach of the internet and JK’s Twitter addiction, JK has developed a strong fanbase in some surprising places in the world, most prominently Brasil (this is the proper Brasilian spelling of the word). In an effort to make himself more tangible to his growing fanbase, he conducted an exclusive interview with DrunkenTiger Brasil‘s webmasters.
[The following interview was conducted in English, for the purpose of translation into Portuguese. The original English version was edited by DrunkenCamp.]
In the beginning of your career, were you afraid of not being accepted by the public or not being successful?
I was young, stupid, smiling fool at the edge of a cliff. I did it because I loved it. All I wanted to do was show people that there’s something else other than what’s been shown to them. Not to sound arrogant, I was actually excited about the challenges and obstacles I was facing. I felt invincible, a rebellious punk who thought that going against the system was cool. I wasn’t even that good, but I thought I was (haha). I know that I am still learning and I have more room to grow musically and spiritually. I haven’t reached the top yet, but I am afraid of where this interview will take me.
Which phase during your career was the most outstanding?
I was never the center of attention throughout my career. There’s always that group that sensationalized the industry like these boy/girl groups these days. I never got the spotlight. I didn’t do a lot of TV, which people thought was mandatory in order to reach that stardom. I just did my own thing. I rocked shows–many many shows–places that not many stars even knew existed or would never even attempt to visit. Sometimes there would be a karaoke machine on stage and no speakers. I rocked shows with megaphones. One time I folded up a cardboard box and rapped with it. I got into a bike accident once, flipped in the air like Jet Li, hit the ground, and still had to go on stage. I was diagnosed with this rare incurable illness, transverse myelitis. I was getting paralyzed, but I flew out to Taiwan to rock shows in front of foreigners that didn’t even know who I was.
This is just a fraction of my past to let you know how I got here, to the present moment. Looking back on it, the good and bad, all the phases that I’ve been through helped make me who I am. Actually, I think the most outstanding phase is going to be after this interview! LOL
The current Korean music can sometimes be hard, especially for those who are still trying to break into it. Except your passion for music, what motivates you to keep creating your songs?
Love. It could be love for my family, my son, and all the fans that stuck by me through this incredible journey. And now, there’s new friends that I meet along the way unexpectedly.
The infinite possibilities of the unknown. I’m very intrigued by nature’s way of putting things in front of me. Of course, I don’t want to be in harm’s way, but I love running into new places. Tiger in the wonderland. When people write me about how my song changed their lives in a positive way, or a line from my rap made them cry, I feel like I was meant to do this.
Having said that, to be completely honest, love for the money is also a factor. LOL
You and your wife recently were guest judges for Superstar K 2’s LA auditions. What was that like? What was the criteria you used to judge the contestants?
I don’t like being a judge. When I first started out, almost every labels and A&R ass**** told me my music was terrible. They called me all kinds of things, critiquing what they could. My height, weight, the way I walked, the way I talked, etc… but I’m here laughing at them now, so who am I to judge?
T and I refused to do the show a couple of times, but thought that it was cool to be out there and see what was going on. We didn’t take it lightly though. Some folks just wanted the TV time, and some folks were dead serious about their music. I just went with my gut feeling and hoped that they get to wherever they wanted to get to. One of the dudes that we picked got to the top 2 [John Park, former American Idol contestant], so it wasn’t so bad I guess. There are some folks that were really fresh that did not get picked. Hopefully they don’t quit.
Together both you and Tasha make the most famous hip hop couple in the Korean music industry. She’s also considered one of the top hip-hop artists there. How is it like to live with her?
I just hold her purse for her when she signs autographs, and adjust the mic for her when she’s about to record. I don’t do much.
Tasha is the truth. She is the real deal. She’s the one person that deserves more respect and fame and all that good sh*t that come along with it. No disrespect to any female artists who’s doing it out there. But to me, male or female, she is the best. It could be her fault also for not showing what’s she’s got. She is content with her life. I’v never seen her be greedy or being bitter. She ain’t a hater, she loves. Now she in love with baby Jordan. I do not exist for now haha. She’s low key. She’s shy and doesn’t like attention too much. I’m about to change all that. She could be the idol. Like I said, she’s the truth and I’m a lie, therefore we need each other. It gets hectic sometimes because we got to put on that game face. Always traveling, rocking shows, being away from the family… Girls be loving the Caliente tigaro too, but she understands that I am the king and she’s my queen forever.
What’s the process like when you make music? Do your songs follow a line of reasoning on each record? What do they talk about?
I like to break down my album like a movie. From the 1st track to the last track, even the skits have a purpose in the album. It’s like I’m writing a script for a movie.
I do a lot of storytelling. Too bad that ya’ll can’t understand because it’s fresh haha. I guess like any other artists, I write about what I’m going through, mentally, spiritually, physically, and financially at that time. My 7th album, Sky is the Limit, is a very honest record. I wrote “8:45 Heaven” the day my grandma passed. If you listen to the record, you can hear me crying in the booth. You can hear my voice cracking and I’m off beat at times, but I let it go.
In the song “I Hate Myself,” I talk about how I hate everybody. I was really ill then, and I was hating, but Tasha comes in the hook and balances hate with love. It’s cliche, but an honest record.
For my last album, I split it into two sides, good side (Feel Ghood) and hood side (Feel Hood). On the Feel Ghood side, I talk about how everything started with love. My hopes and dreams, sex, mating, dating, being a father, battling with myself and battling with my illness. I make fun of it all, even dealing with my pain. On the Feel Hood side, I talk about the other part of me, the dark side. Loneliness as a disabled man, trying to find the answer to “why me?” ,why God chose me to go through this pain, and I get into thug mentality. “JET PACK” and “QUESTIONZ” “TRUE ROMANCE” and “MONSTER,” it’s an actioned packed B movie.
GOOD AND HOOD–it’s ME stomping on all of them demons and evils. I’m a monster.
In 2010 January you discovered your fanbase in Brazil, who responded warmly to all the attention you paid to them. What is the biggest difference you feel between the Korean and the Brazilian fans?
It’s only been maybe a year, and I realized I had some people that knew who I was and were digging my music. It all happened coincidentally, when I started tweeting.
I thought it was corny texting and reporting what I’m doing in that box, but I didn’t really understand what it was. My homies were all into it, and actually one of my homies set up the account for me and told me to write something. In the beginning, people from Brasil were the most receptive to my drunken ramblings. They tolerated my spam haha. I also realized that they weren’t all my fans. They just followed me because I knew some of the artists that they digged.
Anyway, although there weren’t many, fans from Brasil were the first ones to set up my fansite overseas other than the States [DrunkenCamp]. They were very passionate about letting me know that they have my back. They got Paulo Coelho to follow me and that was amazing. They made me a trend topic twice in Brasil just for fun. I don’t wanna’ get hated by peeps out there though, because I know there are more important things than #Brazil<3TigerJK (haha), but i ain’t gon lie. I loved every moment of it. Sending me letters and gifts all the way from Brasil, them packages travelled from far away to get here. It’s probably my ego tripping, but this motivates me to think bigger and dream more. With music, I can reach people all over the world. Fame I don’t mind, but I could live without out. When I can move people with music, we could do great things together. I’m trying to give back. I am going to be that idol and make them proud. I am going to make it out there to show my appreciation. I’m just waiting for me to get that big so I could get the ticket to make it out there haha. It’s gonna’ take some time, but it will happen.
I want to visit where my fans are. It doesn’t matter if it’s just three. I want to meet the people that had love for me from the beginning. I want to visit The Paulo Coelho Foundation and those 300 kids. Hopefully they can show me around.
What are your biggest influences? Besides North American artists, are there any Korean artists that have influenced you in your career?
I listen to old Korean funk music, 70′s 60′s music. They got soul and their lyrics are so real, like Slick Rick style. I listen to all kinds of music all the time. It’s always on in my crib. Jordan won’t let me press the stop button. I’m even influenced by nursery rhymes and cartoon theme songs. Personally I’m into reggae music. If you listen to my album, you could hear mad influences from reggae music.
Do you have any musical influences from Brazil? If yes, would you like to collaborate with any Brazilian artists?
From samba, bossa nova, to jazz music. They are so many artists that I look up to. I listened to the CDs you sent to me, and I’m following a few hip hop artists on twitter as well. Hopefully, one day I could do something with them. I would love to work with some of the singers out there. They got beautiful voices. I’ll rap in Korean and they’ll sing in Portuguese. It’ll be world music.
Recently you did a collaboration with the Japanese rapper, ZEEBRA. What was that experience like? Do you have any plans to collaborate with any other foreign artists?
Zeebra’s my dude. He’s the OG in Japan. We rocked shows together and just respected each other’s music. We’re planning something right now. Link up all the OGs representing their countries. Zeebra and his crew from Japan, Titanium from Thailand, Roscoe Umali and his homies from Philippines, and us. I’ll let the music speak for itself when it comes out. I don’t want to give away too many names yet. With that, I’d like to give a shoutout to Rakim, the living legend, and Rakaa from Dilated Peoples for jumpin’ on my record. I was honored to have worked with them. Ya’ll should check them out as well.
For you, what was the most unforgettable moment from all your concerts? How do you feel on stage?
The most unforgettable moment is when I filled a stadium. I didn’t think I could fill up the whole stadium. Hip-Hop music has come a long way and I came a long way with it, but compared to these pop music acts, it’s still underground. I was also in bad shape then due to my illness. I hated getting up on stage with a cane. People thought that it was my stage prop or my new style or something.
Concerts are highly addictive. You feel like you are aviating, hearing almost 10,000 people rapping my verse and singing the hook. As I move my fingers, they move with them. The crowds are like an extension of my soul just wilding out. Pure madness in the most elated state. After a show like that, your body’s aching from jumping around and your voice is all gone. When it gets silent, just me in the car going back home, it gets depressing.
We know you are busy now with the final details for Tasha’s new album. However, what are your plans for your next album?
Tasha’s album is going to shake the world. She’s taking her time with it. I’m not saying that taking a long time to build the record means a dope record, but she’s taking it to the next level. I’m just being patient with it. Tasha is going to be the new idol of the world. I promise ya’ll we’re going to make it happen haha.
We’re working on another project with Illmind, Roscoe, and Styliztik Jones as well. Rakaa from Dilated Peoples solo album’s about to drop under Jungle Entertainment. We did a posse cut on it also. It’s a limited edition with a bonus track produced by Illmind and featuring me, Tasha, Roscoe, and Stylez.
K-Pop is big and it’s opening doors for all of us. I’m connecting with people from all over the world because K-Pop’s blowing up, so I appreciate that movement. Hopefully ya’ll invite me as well so I could walk through that door.
Finally, do you have any plans for a world tour? What countries would you like to visit?
After Tasha’s solo album and this project album’s done, we’re going to tour worldwide. We’re going to tour about ten cities in the States. Hopefully by then I’ll be doing interviews in Brasil. I’m leaving Tasha at home when I go to Brasil. It’ll be a different country code. I get to party, word!
I also want to go to Indonesia. So far Brasil and Indonesia have been showing me mad love. I will be there, even if it takes a backpacking adventure to meet a few people. Watch what I do, and thanks for this opportunity to connect with yall.
Love and peace from the DR, unk the suvaco funk aka Caliente. May the force be with yall.
[Interview Credits to DT Brasil]