The world of hip hop is currently evolving in Korea. Since the 1980s, Korean hip hop has been evolving by moving between the boom and bust and mainstream and nonmainstream cycle. We have met musicians who have been there since the beginning of Korean hip hop as well as the artists who are currently making hip hop trendy. We met these artists to better understand the world of hip hop that is evolving in Korea. The third guest of our ‘Hip Hop Now’ corner was Killagramz. Let’s Get It!

Rapper Killagramz, who claims hip hop is his weapon as well as a place of comfort / Photograph=Reporter Kim Yu-Jin fun@tenasia.co.kr

10. Rumor has it that you went to nursing school.
Killagramz: That is not true. (Laughs) It was not a department of nursing, but a Physician Assistant (PA) major, which helps you become a doctor who carries out the first round of examinations. Originally I was in civil engineering but I did not feel the passion and so, I came to Korea to pursue rap which I always loved. Then I went back to America and transferred to PA. I have not been able to talk about it before because it is a long story but I will use this opportunity to correct any misunderstandings. (Laughs)

10. From medicine to engineering, and now rapping. You are very gifted in many ways. When did you first dream of becoming a rapper?
Killagramz: I began to enjoy listening to music that had a beat since I was a kid. There is a home video of me when I was 3 or 4 years old that shows someone turning on a ballad and me asking them to switch it to something with a faster beat. (Laughs) Even my lullaby was Seotaiji & the Boys’s ‘I Know’. I also like to beat box and I was famous for being a beat boxer in my neighborhood. When I was a high school student, I was good enough to be a judge in a beat boxing competition. But because I wanted to try performing as a rapper, I naturally came into this path.

10. Was there a hip hop musician who influenced your development as a rapper?
Killagramz: I really liked Kebee who was the top of Soul Company. I have almost all of his albums. I started composing lyrics when I saw how Kebee wrote his lyrics as if he was writing a fairy tale by making it optimistic or funny.

10. During your time on Mnet’s ‘Show Me the Money 6’, the producers praised you for your unique style. When did your music start becoming unique?
Killagramz: It started to become unique as my perspective on the value of life changed. It was between years 2013 and 2015. Before, I was worried if the audience would like the music that I made, lowering my level of confidence. Then I changed my way of thinking and decided not to worry about what other people thought but I started to do what I wanted to do. From then on, things got better. Now I am confident and I have a lot of love for myself.

10. The way you portrayed your rap on ‘Show Me the Money 6’ was also different. Why did you rap in a slow manner with moments of emptiness unlike the other competitors’ upbeat performances?
Killagramz: It was an expression of my confidence. I wanted to show everyone that I was confident enough to do different types of rap while everyone else showed off the same fast-paced and strong forms of rap. Also, I felt like I had already shown enough upbeat raps on ‘Show Me the Money 5’.

10. You were selected over Hash Swan on ‘Show Me the Money 6’ to go on stage with the microphone. How did you feel at that moment?
Killagramz: The moment I was selected to take the microphone, I felt like something was stuck in my throat. It actually got better after the performance. The psychological impact was bigger because Hash Swan was eliminated right next to me. Up till that point, we had always prepared our performances together. I am very close to Hash Swan.

10. When did you get to know Hash Swan?
Killagramz: I got to know him 5 to 6 years ago when there was a ‘self-recording’ bulletin board for amateur rappers in a hip hop community. At that time, Hash Swan and I competed for the first and second place. But we did not know each other because we both performed with different names back then. When I first saw Hash Swan at a concert, I first called him by his rapper name. At first, he thought that he had misheard me. (Laughs)

10. You must be very close considering that you were with him when he got eliminated and even released the song ‘Things These Days’ together.
Killagramz: I pitched the idea of composing ‘Things These Days’ to Hash Swan last year. In this song, Hash Swan calmly begins the rap section with me creating an explosion later on. It’s simply amazing how we were able to implement similar ideas in this song.

10. You earned the nickname ‘Friendstergram’ for having an unusually friendly atmosphere. Are there any rappers you were especially close to?
Killagramz: I became close with the members of Zico’s & Dean’s team. While Junoflo was a member of Park Jae-Bum’s & Gonzo’s team, we are close because we were classmates and performed together in Itaewon before.

10. How far did you think that you will go in ‘Show Me the Money 6’?
Killagramz: My goal was to get the best and much more than that. I was aiming to win the whole competition. Who would enter a competition and just think, ‘I will just aim to get 5th place’. (Laughs)

10. Killagramz, Los, and other rappers from Cycadelic Records have received a lot of attention in this season of ‘Show Me the Money’. What are the differentiating points of the artists from Cycadelic Records?
Killagramz: They all have a definite personality. There are a lot of rappers who want to reveal themselves for who they are rather than show off their rapping skills or look cool.

10. On June 10, the mini album ‘Faint’ that you released was also unique and fresh. How did you come up with the title song, ‘Faint’?
Killagramz: Actually, I wasn’t in a good mood on that day. Then, I got to hear a nice beat in a taxi which I fell for. I did not lose time to start writing the lyrics to the beat and completed everything in 2 hours. And of course I felt better afterwards. (Laughs)

10. What do the lyrics ‘202 has flipped me over’ in the song ‘Faint’ mean?
Killagramz: 202 is a group that once worked together as a crew. The room number of our production room was 202. Junoflo was also in the group.

10. You also contributed to the OST for ‘Crime City’ to show off the sophisticated and entertaining song, ‘Dirty Dog’. Is ‘Dirty Dog’ a title you came up with?
Killagramz: Yes. It is a detective action movie and so I thought that it could seem immature if I used the word or theme of detective in the OST as well. So I portrayed the image of the great detective character played by Ma Dong-Seok through ‘Dirty Dog’. It is also a word that can be compared to my rap career. In order to enhance the quality of the work, I reworked on this song several times. The lyrics were edited more than 5 times.

10. Which aspect of your career as a rapper resembles a ‘Dirty Dog’?
Killagramz: I wanted to show a rough side through the name ‘Dirty Dog’. It portrays the message that says, ‘You can put everything on the line,’ and you will succeed to ‘take an ATM machine by the roots.’

10. What is hip hop to Killagramz?
Killagramz: Hip hop is my weapon as a place I can lean on. I don’t get lonely because when I am down, I can get rid of the hard feelings through my lyrics. Also, because of hip hop, I have no time to even get bored.

Translated by Choi Na Ri