“If I say I’m different from Zico hyung or Bobby, it’s like saying I’m anxious.” BTS’s leader Rap Monster spent 2 years “seriously wandering.” While at an event immediately after their debut, he was criticized by underground rapper B-Free while he looked at [Rap Monster’s] face, and on he received a question about the identity between being an underground rapper and an idol. His diss battle with iKON’s Bobby at the end of last year was the chaotically jumbled climax of his success and anxiety. “Of course I was really angry. Why would he curse me. But after that, I understood. I said that those people could be like that. Sincerely. After that, I thought. Focus on my own self.” And the first released track from his mixtape, ‘Awakening.’ “Whether I’m an idol or an artist, to be honest it’s not important / your attention when you look at me, that was all just me / stuck to the title and hung from a modifier.”
He learned of rap through Nas, and while watching rappers’ interviews and documentaries, he learned both rap and English. His English skills, which became a hot topic thanks to his rap with its particular low-tone accent and his participation in tvN’s [Problematic Men] as an intelligent male idol, were also learned at that time. So he also feuded with the relationship between music and study, and thought he would end his anxieties while doing as much music as he wanted. However, his time waiting for debut was long, and like the lyrics to ‘Awakening,’ those who knew of his time in the underground all said, “You’ve become a moron since entering a company.” BTS’s leader. His name is Rap Monster. But he’s also an early 20s who became anxious at others’ words that kept pouring out. “I said those words as a joke. The people who say ‘I don’t give a fuck’ are the ones who ‘do give a fuck’ the most. People who say they don’t care are the people who care the most. I was like that too.”
In the movie [Amazing Spiderman], there’s a scene where it’s said that all work is just the process of asking “who am I?” The [Amazing Spiderman] series ended without ever answering this question, but the question “who am I?” is always the beginning of creation. Both the decision to release a mixtape using the sounds of Rap Monster’s favorite artists as a foundation, and the use of a cover image in black and white, were done to answer the question of “who am I?” “I left aside all strategies and just thought about what I wanted to do.” The space between ‘I don’t give a fuck’ and ‘I do give a fuck.’ So he listened to India Arie’s ‘Just Do You’ and when the words ‘do you’ were left in his heart, he made ‘Do You.’ From the “Who will hold my hand in the moment of my failure” of ‘Awakening’ to conclusion of “So just do your own thing” in ‘Do You.’ Making a mixtape of 10 tracks in the midst of continuous schedules without rest could be considered obstinance. But the sincerity that led him to start making songs by one with his anxiety as its foundation was even greater, so he tried to find the hope at the very bottom of his anxious heart. “The mixtape is like the final fortification. No matter what people do, no one can come inside here. I’m always worrying outside these lines, but I listened to good music and made it while taking into account only the standards of myself who has always longed for music. Anyway, it’s good, isn’t it? So everything is okay.”
Because he made this mixtape, he was also able to participate without concern and with a light heart in variety programs like [Problematic Men]. He was also suggested for a featuring on the new album of Tiger JK who Rap Monster respects. And, finally, through his song ‘Joke’ he gave tit-for-tat to those who called his fans ‘stans.’* “The votes from your loyal fans at the Hongdae variety shows.” “Even hip hop gods have many women who buy their albums and go to their concerts. But because they attacked me for only the reason of me being an idol, I wanted to turn it back on them and say something. When you look at the reality of it, you aren’t that different, and without those people, you also couldn’t exist.” People who don’t listen to BTS’s music teased them for wearing skinny jeans and doing smokey makeup. At that time, Rap Monster couldn’t sort out his emotions and held a grudge. After working on the mixtape and realizing some things about himself, he could return all of their attention through ‘Joke.’ In ‘Awakening’ he acknowledged his reality, and like in ‘I Believe,’ sought the essential parts of himself who wouldn’t waver until the end, even in the midst of his anxiety. Like ‘Voice’ that relied on only one piano, he also gave a perfunctory try. After expressing his heavy and chaotic heart like that with “coldly and precisely made music,” he could make ‘Joke’ without any kind of burden. The words he wanted to say, as his heart went without concern for formation. “It’s self-regard.” Starting with ‘Awakening’ and until ‘Joke,’ what he gained while splitting his time with being an idol and working on the mixtape.
Rap Monster got excited while talking about Drake, who is “in [his] Top 2 of musicians [he] likes the most.” He likes Drake’s new album, “although I can’t hit his shield.”** “It gave me the hope that I’d be able to do vocals even though I can’t sing well. Haha. The first time I heard it, I was like, what, this song has everything? He also raps really well but I like it as music. Expressing a lot with just one song, just like a painting. I also want to do music like that.” While in the underground, he focused on good rap, but with BTS he began to think of music as a song in total, and now even while writing rap he thinks about the overall image of the song that he’s writing. Even in the songs on the mixtape that’s full of rap, the fact that he could write well-developed and dramatic formations is something that he mastered while working with an idol group and writing songs as a whole. He was anxious because of [the difference between] what he wants to do and what he has to do, and was anxious again because of others’ attention rather than doing what he wanted to do. The anxiety and wounds made him unable to stop worrying. But ironically, those worries are what ultimately made him able to take off. An idol group leader who, two years before, didn’t know who he was, is now able to declare ‘Do You.’ “Anxiety, wandering, confusion, loneliness. That’s me. Even if my team succeeds and I receive recognition as a soloist as well, a different wandering will begin. But how is that? I got it. And of course I’ll keep writing songs. I’m anxious, but I still believe in myself.”