|Hip-hop artist Kebee|
This is the 19th article in a series on producers, MCs, DJs and artists working in the Korean underground hip-hop scene. ― Ed.
For hip-hop artist Kebee, this latest album has been a long time coming.
It is his first in four years. During that time, his label, Soul Company, disbanded in 2011 and he completed mandatory military service. The 30-year-old said he hoped to prove with “Lost and Found,” which dropped on Dec. 12, that he still has what it takes to be a hip-hop artist.
“In a way, I’m reentering the industry solely as a musician. I don’t have to worry about the management part of it but just solely as an artist, which is a new challenge for me. I’m re-challenging myself to step up again and take ground again as an artist,” he said.
He said the album’s title represented all that he had lost: The lost time from all the things he was dealing with in the past, lost thoughts and lost opportunities. But at the same time, he has found a new determination to take on the challenge of gaining them back.
Kebee first discovered hip-hop in middle school, though it was watching first generation hip-hop artists at club Master Plan that made him want to rap. In the early 2000s he started Soul Company, which grew to have almost 20 artists at one point. He said during that time his own creativity had to take a backseat while he helped build up the other artists on the label. He said that was his biggest challenge.
“When I was managing Soul Company, I was an artist myself, but I also had to manage the company. So balancing out the responsibilities with that was a big challenge back then,” he said.
He said he started Soul Company to bring a new approach to Korean hip-hop. He watched the first generation of hip-hop artists set the stage for hip-hop, and as part of the next generation, he wanted to bring a bit of change. He added that this was also true of other labels that came out at the time, such as Big Deal Records.
“With the first generation, the focus was on making hip-hop known. Talking about what Korean hip-hop is,” he said. “With my generation, we started becoming more personal. We started telling our personal stories through the lyrics. We talked about our lives, something the audience could relate to.”
He added that in the beginning, he was influenced a lot by first-generation hip-hop duo Garion. Kebee is currently a part of the Bulhandang crew with the two, MC Meta and Naachal, along with other first- and second-generation artists.
He said MC Meta used to tell him stories about Korean hip-hop and taught him a lot about the attitude he should have toward music and hip-hop.
“The passion (Bulhandang) had when they first started music, that passion is still with them. To make music together … they’re always trying to expand the industry to make more ground for performers,” he said. “So I also carry that responsibility with me to carry on with that.”
When Soul Company disbanded in 2011, Kebee joined Standart Music Group right before fulfilling his mandatory military service. It was around that time that he also joined Bulhandang.
Now that he’s back in the scene, he said he’s learned to embrace the new artists and new styles.
“I guess in a way, my first glory days, they’re kind of gone. There’s new music, so I have to show with my music now, prove to them (the audience) that it’s not just about, ‘Oh yea, back then I did this and that, so I’m just going to show you this much,’” he said, adding that he wants to show them something new and better.
“Just to step out of my box, my comfort zone, and show new things and show them that I can do this, not just stick with my glory days back then,” he said.
He said he was approaching this latest album as his first album as a new artist. He hopes the audience will listen to the message he’s trying to send out, since it’s his personal story but yet something he hopes is relatable.
Now that the album is out, he hopes to perform more and continue to spread his message. But he said he also had something up his sleeve with his project group Eluphant, which he started with labelmate Minos while at Soul Company.
“I want people to sit tight and expect something out of our music as well. And just wait for that,” he said.
By Emma Kalka (email@example.com)