Welcome to the world of hip-hop, where its rap is all about the realities of life. It is therefore honest, without reserve, and appeals to the listeners’ sympathies. In the same way, the story of national hip-hop musicians and married couple-Tiger JK (38 years old, real name Seo Jung Kwon) and Yoon Mirae (also known as Tasha, 31)-is like a rap right up to its very end. Although they are a celebrity couple, their conversation reveals how worries like exhaustion due to the caring for a child, the dream of purchasing a house, and issues pertaining to music, have worked their way into their lives. As Yoon was listed as one of ‘The 12 Best New Female Emcees Dominating Mics Everywhere’ by MTV Iggy (the website for the American music television channel MTV) in September 2011 and JK picked out by American magazine Rolling Out Magazine as one of the ‘10 Hot International Hip-Hop Artists You Need to Know’ in October 2011, ‘rookie conversation’ with them is unnecessary. Both did not have much to say at the start, but as the interview progressed they caught onto the rhythm of conversation, and talk was easily kept alive. As comrades in music, each other’s significant half and friend, the couple honestly aired their thoughts about making a living [through music].
Bringing up Jordan has been driving the couple out of their minds
As soon as we met, the words “driving us crazy” and “tired” tumbled out of the couple’s mouths. In 2008, the couple revealed belated news of their marriage (they were married in 2007) and the birth of their son. Yoon reveals they cannot sleep at night because “Jordan falls asleep at 8am in the morning. He waits up for his father and mother who return home only late at night, fighting off his sleepiness to play together with [them]”. Usually reticent, Yoon speaks up instead of Tiger JK, saying that being unable to sleep at night has brought her to the verge of having a “mental breakdown”.
Time spent indulging in music has decreased
Tiger JK and Yoon Mirae’s 4 year-old son Jordan “asks why everyone is not coming out with albums [and] why whoever is fascinated by music does not do so. The truth is bringing up Jordan has been driving me out of my mind. Jordan does not sleep at night. Keeping promises to swim and go to the playground in the daytime does not work. He wants to wash up using cold water at dawn and play with [me,] his mother.”(Yoon)
JK had lots to say about this as well. “In the old days, we were seldom home when we were working on music. We stayed in the studio because we and our friends never slept. Nowadays, it is different. Upon reaching the studio, we will give a call to mother-in-law, and if she says “the milk has split”, we hang up quickly so as not to be too bothered by it. Yoon has a more motherly side than I do, and she will return home [to check if everything is fine]”.
It seems like there is no one who can help with looking after Jordan.
(JK) We live together with my mother-in-law. However, Jordan is [mentally] older than those of the same age and looking after him for 2hours is the most one can do before collapsing. (Laughs)
Even so, you have been working steadily on your activities.
(JK) I don’t memorize my schedule. When my manager gives me a weekly update, it has come to the extent where all I can think of is “what’s this?” I have really been living without any wits.
Bringing up a child has not affected the making of music.
(JK) After Jordon’s birth , one’s way of talking, activities and music have all changed. When we watch Pororo or Power Rangers, I listen to that type of music. After swimming and playing with Jordan, going back to the studio to write and think about concepts like ‘resistance’ is difficult. Even the lyrics would sound as though I was talking to Jordan, haha. Thus, the idea of making a hip-hop song for children came to my head”.
Yoon shook her head in response to this. She said, “I knew I would change but my music remained like that. It did not change probably because I’m cool-headed”.
The music scene expects much from Jordan in future, as he is the son of two renowned musicians.
(Yoon) Jordan loves music and his talent is obvious but he has said that he would not pursue music. It seems that he thinks it is because of music that his parents have drifted away from him. I do not want to obstruct him if he wants to [pursue music] next time, but this is really difficult. Just the intent [not to do so] is good enough. (Chuckles)
Commonly one would think that a “celebrity couple=moneybag”, but the couple does not seem to fall into that category. Having lived [with Mirae’s family] in Gyeonggi-do Uijeongbu for 5 years, their dream of “buying a house” has yet to reach realization. “Publicly, we drive a Bentley and build a villa in Uijeongbu and live there, however we live like Buddhist monks who have been dropped out of the secular world”, said JK.
The limitation of the hip-hop genre is probably its inability to make money.
(JK) “I fell in love with music and was ignorant. Like a child I purchased entertainment worth only 15,000won and played with it. There were many instances where I performed and regardless of how much I earned, I did not register for copyright. Jordan’s birth brought me to my senses. Even so, activities cannot be rushed.”
Why is that so?
(JK) “I think that doing things alone too much robs me of opportunities of meeting other hip-hop musicians. Truthfully, if the sound and lighting is not perfect when I’m on stage, it is not enough [money] for me and it is strenuous.
Upon hearing this, Yoon said “When I enter more [money] into my bankbook, I can do [the events] happily. I would even think of the second event and the money I can save from it because of the prices of milk powder and diapers. (Laughs)
Overseas artistes sent a love-call first
The topic finally changes to music. At present, the couple are considered to be quite ‘global’ musicians, although using different means from idol groups who take the lead on board the ‘Hallyu’ wave. Collaborating with overseas artistes resembles more an exchange of labour, where both parties take on the job of helping each other with their individual music activities. As a singer who is recognised by name alone, introducing oneself would usually result in a shower of requests for collaboration. Recently, 4member hip-hop American group Far East Movement’s fourth album Dirty Bass has reached No.1 on the Billboard chart, and their song Live My Life featured both JK and Yoon. On the 11th of August, they would hold a joint performance on stage at the World Electronica Carnival 2012 in Korea.
What kind of relationship do you have with them?
(JK) “Among them, there is an interesting compatriot who said that he grew up listening to Mirae’s songs. After meeting at the overseas performance and getting to know each other, they felt that it would be great if we could feature in their new album, and hence requested for it. In America, it is common for artistes to have a remix in their album, and even Mirae is one among many who has done so.”
Since then, talk of a debut in America has also been heard.
(Yoon) “In the past, overseas activities required artistes to go to the country for interviews and there was also a need to attend broadcasts. However, with the development of the internet, this has become unnecessary. If [we] receive interest from people in America and Japan for example, [we] would be grateful. However, I do not want to particularly wish to adjust [my music] to suit a certain market. Wouldn’t [we] be recognised just for making good music.”
Being picked as the top ten artistes known overseas.
(Yoon) “It is great but it also becomes burdensome. There are many female rappers so being in the spotlight on my own is pressurizing.”
Already, the Hallyu wind is already rising.
(JK) Certainly the interest in our country has grown. It was unthinkable but artistes now know of [our] idol groups. We have benefitted thanks to them. Only recently, we went to Singapore and found out that we had a fan club there. There I saw [Hallyu’s] potential. I finally came to understand that Hallyu is not just limited to idol music. However, even with that culture, I feel that global standards must still be met. If issues like racial discrimination, sexual exploitation of underage artistes become real problems, it can be the death of [Hallyu].”
The album project that the couple is currently working on
The couple are not typical ‘lovebirds’ who only shelter, protect and encourage each other. One word can set them off, finding fault and bickering with each other, then smiling again and for some reason start to look askance at each other. Even then, JK and Yoon are able to know what each other is thinking from one word alone and can pick up each other’s story from there. When JK or Yoon gives the wrong answer, they do not rebuke one another, instead, they respond to the wrong answer and correct the other party. The term “best friend” accurately describes their relationship.
What is good about making music together as a couple?
(Yoon)“From the time we first met, we did our music together, and after marriage, there was nothing that we could do better together. Our music was very similar right from the very start.”
JK agreed, saying,“I know. If not for a wife that does music as well, she would not understand the reasons for going to the studio in the middle of the night to do recording”.
Do you two bring out the the spirit of competitiveness in each other?
(JK) “Mirae is a born musician. There are times when someone like me, who has to endeavour and work hard, feel provoked upon seeing her. Up till now, she has not needed to do any recording more than twice for any of her albums. When she records, she takes no more than 20 minutes and is then able to leave. I do think that I seem to fit the role of Mirae’s manager more, don’t I?” (laughs)
The couple’s plan to release their album
(JK) “Together with our friends, we are making an album with three project groups. As of now, we are each working on our solo albums so we are working on them together. The albums will be out in the middle of next month, but I do not know which album will be out first.”
It took slightly more than an hour to share their stories, and this interview has given the public a deeper insight into how they think. Hip-hop and performances, bringing up a child, and financial matters, whichever way you look at it, it is not quite the usual mix of things to handle. As the saying goes, life begins at forty, and the couple can and endeavor to make progress in their hip-hop journey. “If people give us the support by listening [to our music], we want to continue doing it”, said Yoon.
JK agreed with her, saying, “Mainstream activities might be strenuous but we will continue to do so, following in the footsteps of our seniors. In other words, we want to live youthfully like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and EMINƎM. Even so, I honestly do not have confidence in my rap. Like sports, I do not know when it needs a turning point. However, I have yet to unleash the beast (in me), haha.”
Don’t you agree that the couple deserve the titles of King and Queen of Korean hip-hop after reading this interview?
Picture source/Source: Naver