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MYK finds rebirth in rock as Saltnpaper

Hip-hop artist lends his voice to a new sound

From hip-hop to alternative rock, rapper MYK is looking to find his place in today’s music scene. Best known as a hip-hop artist who performed alongside greats such as Epik High, MYK has taken a shift in his musical career with his newly released side project album in which he has reinvented himself under the name Saltnpaper.

The new identity in Saltnpaper is meant to convey the message of encompassing the most stripped down and bare form of music.

“It gives you a sense of rawness,” said MYK. “Salt is just the oldest, simplest form of seasoning and a blank sheet of paper is the rawest form of a canvas,” said MYK.

As a Korean-American originally from Mountain View, California, MYK has always been a budding musician ― from forming a band in high school to leaving for college in Los Angeles only to find himself constantly staying in his room and making music. He later decided that he needed a change in his life and moved to Seoul in 2004.

“I moved to Korea with no plans, just with the thought of something happening,” he said. 
Hip-hop artist MYK, also known as Saltnpaper, poses at his studio label Dream Factory Club office in Sungnae-dong, Seoul. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Hip-hop artist MYK, also known as Saltnpaper, poses at his studio label Dream Factory Club office in Sungnae-dong, Seoul. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

After making his rounds teaching English and trying to find ways of meeting people who could help out in his musical career, MYK had the opportunity to meet rapper Tablo of Epik High. Tablo’s discovery of his talent helped launch his dreams of becoming a musician and led him to join Epik High’s independent hip-hop label Map the Soul Inc.

“Because of Tablo I started learning about the music business in Korea and I started meeting musicians and people in the industry,” he explained. “Not only that but he helped me figure out what I wanted to do musically.”

In 2010, MYK independently released his first EP titled “Lost in Translations,” a 13-track hip-hop album which he produced himself. However, after spending his time in the local hip-hop scene, the artist found himself going through some creative changes and becoming conflicted with feelings of not fitting in with the way hip-hop was changing into a more dance and “swag”―oriented style.

“At a certain point the hip-hop music that I was making, the lyrics I was writing didn’t seem to really click with the current state of hip-hop music,” said MYK. “I felt a little bit out of place.”

During this period of conflict and growth, he decided to take a change and to indulge himself in a side project of creating a non-hip-hop album. Because MYK had previously had a background in rock music while he was in the U.S., he made up his mind to put out a free-style acoustic album under the name Saltnpaper. The album was released in April.

MYK’s new nine-track album, for which he wrote, composed and arranged every song, has a very soothing, earthy rock tone. Although his album is almost a complete change from the image and music that he was previously known for, it was an attempt to find a balance between his love for both hip-hop and rock.

“Every song started off with just playing around on the guitar,” he said. “I’m not in any way classically trained. I don’t know how to read music, I just know how to make the sounds that I want it to make.”

Whether he is rapping as MYK or singing as Saltnpaper, the musician explained that both styles of expression carry the same emotional effect and that he has no plans to simply stick with one style of music in the future.

“I will definitely end up doing hip-hop again,” he said. “I haven’t completely found what should be my musical style but I think it will be hip-hop and it will be a blend of what Saltnpaper is.”

By Julie Jackson (