MFBTY recently dropped their first album, “WondaLand“, and Asian Junkie had the opportunity to talk with Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae, and Bizzy about a variety of topics, ranging from their album to being blacklisted to learning about Twitter to their thoughts on rap reality shows and variety appearances to ghostwriting for idols.
Check out the entertaining yet revealing interview below!
Asian Junkie: Hello, MFBTY! We’re very familiar with you here, but for first-time listeners could you please introduce yourselves.
Tiger JK: Hello ghood people! I go by the name Drunken Tiger, my fans call me Tiger, and my mom calls me JK.
Bizzy: Hi, my name is Bizzy and I’m from New Zealand. I moved to Korea because my father needed me to work with him. I used to DJ here and there, Yang Dong Geun and I were sort of like a group. We were big fans of Drunken Tiger and would go to where Drunken Tiger used to hang out. We would catch them in a circle of rappers having a freestyle session. Me and YDG would jump in from time to time and naturally we all became a family. I also worked as a ghostwriter for many idol rappers, but I’m not allowed to say their names!
Tiger JK: Fast forward to now — we’ve been through some hardships like dealing with shady folks, losing everything we built, you know them good ol’ cliché rapper stories. From making it, to getting robbed and stabbed in the back, being betrayed, losing loved ones, and dealing with health issues. You name it, we have been through it!
We were getting turned down for TV shows when K-pop started jumping off as well. Most of the shows were K-pop related. We tried to book things but were being told, “Sorry, this is a K-pop show and these kids do not want you.” To make a long story short, we were going through a dark period in our careers, we were all kind of jaded, tired, and not inspired.
I started tweeting one day and got hooked on chatting with random fans of other groups and artists. I thought Twitter was like a chatting lounge. I was very ignorant about it and got lots of complaints. People kept saying things like, “Please shut the fuck up, you’re fucking up my timeline,” and things like that.
Anyway, to make a long story even longer, MFBTY was created by those who chatted with me and had fun just talking about anything. That led to us making a single and then our new full-length album, ‘WondaLand.’ Doing this has been a breath of fresh air for me. It’s been therapeutic and fun making these songs.
AJ: You just released your first full-length album ‘WondaLand’ a few weeks ago. For people who haven’t had a chance to listen to the album, can you shed a bit of light on the overall sonic experience? Because it’s quite the ride…
Bizzy: Thank you! I guess the word I would use to describe ‘WondaLand’ is eclectic. It’s funny you said “ride” because that’s exactly how I feel about the music. It’s like being on a musical rollercoaster. There’s a little bit of everything — dance, hip-hop, R&B, and even disco. I think the album flows really well.
Tiger JK: It’s a pop album that I enjoy. It’s something I can dance to, something I can make breakfast to, and something I can fall asleep to as well. It’s something, perhaps, that I shouldn’t have dragged these two talented artists into. What have I done?
AJ: What is the meaning behind the title ‘WondaLand’?
Tiger JK: We wanted to create music that makes us happy and not be confined or pressured into making what we thought might sell or doing what people thought we should do. I like to think a lot of strange yet beautiful things happen in ‘WondaLand.’
Bizzy: Peace, love, and fun. A land where everyone wishes nothing but goodness upon others. A land where hate and war is accepted in a sense that as long as you can dance it out, no harm is done.
AJ: At what point did the album start to take shape? Did you have the title tracks set in stone before the album’s completion or did deciding on those come later in the process?
Bizzy: Definitely later. Recording for us is always the easy part. Everything always happens organically. We’ll just be listening to or making beats and one of us will be inspired and start to write and the rest of us will just feed off that. We eventually ended up with about 30 songs, and that’s just from the songs we recently recorded.
Tiger JK: We just got lost in the studio. We worked like we were three jazz musicians jamming and improvising off of each other’s solos. There were no rules. We all just went in and freestyled a lot of the stuff.
Post-production is always hell for me. Rearranging and mixing things right sonically. Making sure all the instruments or vocals stand out the right way and at the right moment. And also getting rid of some great parts to make things fit better or flow more smoothly. When we record, we also have dancers and music video directors around as well. They offer their input and perspectives too. We party when things click magically, and other times we argue like children! Making an album is sort like painting a big mural or playing Jenga, so to speak.
Picking singles is when things get real awkward. People in suits come through from our distribution company and they all want a radio hit. This time they were all strongly against “Bang Diggy Bang Bang.” But we had already shot the video at that point. Those people in suits were shaking their heads and waving their fingers at me.
AJ: ‘WondaLand’ features a long list of artists from different areas in the music scene in Korea right now. What was it about these individual artists that made you decide to feature them on this album?
Tiger JK: Everything happened organically except for “Let It Go.” For that song, someone was a good friend with Cube Entertainment’s PR team and I guess they played the song for them. And one thing led to another and I got a text from Yong Junhyung from BEAST. I was like, “Word? Cool! Everyone’s welcomed in ‘WondaLand.’ Do whatever you want with the song.” He was a bit stressed out regarding which direction to take with the song. He sent me his first version, we listened to it, and we dug it. He didn’t believe me that we liked it. He wouldn’t send us the verse till right before the deadline. Later we talked and he loved that we loved it. Tasha especially likes this song.
The rest of the guests on the album were just family. They all came to our basement studio next to where we live. We don’t live in Seoul. We live pretty far from the limelight. But everyone just came to our hood and vibed. They breathed the air we breathe and kicked it. They jammed, gave us their two cents, and treated our project as theirs.
AJ: What other artists would you like to collaborate with in the future, given the opportunity?
Tiger JK: In the past, I’ve collaborated with the rap god Rakim. After that alone, I can happily retire. I’ve also collaborated with Rakaa from Dilated Peoples, Illmind, Chops from Mountain Brothers, Bambu, Dumbfoundead, and Styliztik Jones from the Likwit Crew. But I think all of these great collaborations were slept on. Or maybe people didn’t care. It’s my fault. Times have changed. Please pardon my ramblings, I tend to get sidetracked during almost every interview. Tasha hates it!
As far as MFBTY is concerned, I would love for Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, or Timbaland to do a record with Tasha. Although the chances of those happening are slim, I really think Tasha deserves a chance to be introduced to the world. She has been seriously hushed by industry politics, although I know it may not seem that way.
The Far East Movement cats are good friends of mine. I feel like we can do some fun stuff with them and MFBTY. There are so many people I would love to work with. Erykah Badu, Slick Rick … I feel like Redman and Method Man would be a great collaboration for MFBTY. It would be awesome to work with Chance The Rapper and Flume too. I talked to Jinu a while back about maybe doing a record together. I think that would be fun. I love Park Bom from 2NE1, she’s always been so kind. I want to rock with SNSD too. If I ever get the chance, I already have this song that’s super catchy. AOMG and Illionaire are like family. So that’s definitely going to happen when times are right.
Bizzy: I want to make a record with Rap Monster and Beenzino. And all my people from New Zealand too. I’ve mentioned that I’d like to work with Bobby and Park Bom, maybe by the time my solo album drops we can make that happen. And Slick Rick would be a dream!
AJ: To Tiger JK and Yoon Mi Rae, your son, Jordan, contributed to the album track “방귀 Dance”. How special is it to you to have music be a part of his upbringing?
Yoon Mi Rae: Have you ever tried to imagine a world without music? I’ve tried and I simply can’t do it. That being said, I don’t plan on pushing my son towards having a career in music. The politics involved in this industry make it a pretty cold and hard environment. However, should he one day decide that music is what he wants to do, I wouldn’t hold him back from it either. I’d just have JK be his manager or I’d follow him around as a stylist or something!
AJ: We hardly see any of you on Korean variety shows. Is it a comfort thing or do you not want to appear in them?
Yoon Mi Rae: A little of both. Despite our demeanor on stage we’re all extremely camera shy. We’re also used to rocking shows that don’t really require us to censor ourselves, so it’s really hard to answer questions with complete honesty, let alone be funny, when you have to stop and think about what you can say or do on TV. Most of these shows take forever to shoot too, which normally wasn’t a problem for me, but with my son now going to school it’s really hard to stay away from him for so long.
Tiger JK: I was blacklisted most of the time. Like Tasha, I’m very introverted and am constantly censoring myself in my head. I’m not really with them rapper dudes that are acting or talking in certain ways just to be provocative. But to each his own, and in my adolescent days I went through that stage, so I can’t knock anybody. Back then, the perception of hip-hop and the preconceived notions about Drunken Tiger were very negative. And most of the time TV appearances led me to do some very stereotypical things that I hated doing. And it showed. At the end of the day, after six long hours of taping, it was usually those little parts that got aired. But the irony is, with MFBTY I am ready and willing to go on TV and act a fool. I love making people laugh. But we are considered to be sort of rebels in the industry. They are uncertain of what we might pull on them. I’m telling them now we are safe and well-behaved.
AJ: Korean hip-hop has seen an increase in popularity in the last few years through social media and shows like ‘Show Me The Money’ and, most recently, ‘Unpretty Rapstar’. Larger entertainment companies have also started housing rappers and trainees of their own. From your perspective, what effects from these changes in the mainstream, if any, have you seen in the underground hip-hop landscape in Korea?
Tiger JK: Most of the people I know personally that go on these shows do it to gain exposure so they can make money. It’s a business for my homies. So I salute them and it’s cool that there are more outlets for hip-hop artists to express themselves and to try to make a living off of it. However, culturally, I think their representation of hip-hop is more negative than positive. It’s frustrating having to explain time and time again that hip-hop isn’t just about obscenities and dressing a certain way. I doubt the producers of these shows care about the culture. I think they are only concerned with their ratings. They are using these beautiful and pretty young souls only as their tools to manipulate the masses and instigate beefs among artists, promoting sensationalism and gratuitous verbal violence.
But that’s all just my personal opinion. I’m not saying I’m right. And I wish all of them the best and much success!
AJ: With female rappers being a hot topic in Korea nowadays, do you have anybody you have your eye on for your company?
Yoon Mi Rae: If you can sing or flow and have a passion for music our doors are always open regardless if you’re male or female!
Tiger JK: We’ve got some people kicking it with us, building relationships. Hopefully Tasha and Bizzy get their props and then I can retire soon!
AJ: Having worked together as MFBTY for several years now, how has the music you worked on under MFBTY influenced your own separate solo music?
Bizzy: I believe it has helped me grow as an artist and has helped with producing and writing. Hopefully it’ll shine through in my own music too. Our solo albums will obviously reflect who we are as individuals, but I think we’re all going to have a little bit of that MFBTY vibe on them as well.
AJ: Many great artists reinvent themselves and figure out new ways to express themselves over time. Is that what MFBTY has become for you as individual artists, or how would you describe the MFBTY chapter in your musical careers?
Tiger JK: We made an album that we love. We love bumping this album when we ride around the city. But commercially I failed my group in a sense because the album is not charting. I feel terrible for Tasha and Bizzy, and of course my fans who have been giving us such heavy support. But it reminds me a bit of the past too. When I first came out with Drunken Tiger, 98% of industry folks told me they would light their hands on fire if I ever made it. But then most of them were clapping for me later on. Basically, to answer your question, I am very discouraged and inspired at the same damn time. It’s good for me.
AJ: Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae, and Bizzy, when can we expect a new solo album?
Bizzy: We hope really, really, really soon.
AJ: Any parting words for Asian Junkie readers?
Tiger JK: Thank you for reading all of this without quitting. Throughout my life, a lot of people have quit on me. Tasha was just so kind to hear me out all the way. But it turns out she had earphones on and was rocking that good ol’ Pharcyde album. I love y’all for letting me vent a little. Hopefully we can all become friends. And when you get a chance, please listen to our MFBTY ‘WondaLand’ album, and if you dig it then tell your friends. Peace and love!
Speaking of their ‘WondaLand’ album, I know a bunch of you have already got it, but for those that haven’t, here’s the iTunes link to buy it. In my opinion, it’s well worth it.