This is the 12th in a series highlighting women and their accomplishments in the various facets of the Korean entertainment industry. ― Ed.
While Toy may not yet be a household name, fans of Korean hip-hop have certainly become more curious about her after a recent stint on Mnet’s rap audition program “Show Me the Money 3.”
She is the first foreigner to make the last 16 on the show and despite getting a disappointing amount of screen time, she made it to the top 12. After the surge in interest, a video she uploaded this week exploded on the Internet.
“People were always kind of curious about my rap, because they never really saw it on ‘Show Me the Money’ yet. So when I uploaded it, they were like, ‘Oh, this is how she raps? Oh, she’s actually really good!’” she said.
But her time on the show comes after four years of hard work and dedication. When she first arrived four years ago, fresh out of university, Toy didn’t speak any Korean and hadn’t had any training in vocals or dance.
But she did come with a goal in mind: To get signed with YG Entertainment.
|Toy (Toy-Anna Brown)|
Four years later, she still hasn’t been signed by the major label, though the passionate rapper has had several auditions with them. She hasn’t completely given up on working with YG, though she says she’s now open to other opportunities and has been knocking on the doors of several other companies.
Her life over the past four years has been hard work, and building up connections, all to reach her goal of being a singer-rapper in Korea. Toy said she always knew she wanted to be in music and not in America, but it wasn’t until she came across Taeyang’s “Wedding Dress” and discovered YG Entertainment that she decided to come to Korea.
That first year unfortunately didn’t allow her time to train with her work hours, but she was determined and focused on teaching herself Korean and making connections.
“I knew that I needed connections. So, what I would do, I would just go out and research where hip-hop places and hip-hop people were in Korea. And I found Hongdae, so I went out to Hongdae. And I would just talk to random people,” she said.
Random people turned out to be hip-hop duo the Geeks, which she met by asking them for directions to the subway. That friendship then led to meeting most of the artists in the Korean underground, who would end up helping her out on her journey, something she said she is really grateful for.
After changing companies, Toy was able to start training in voice and dance, but with her full-time job, it started straining her voice. She admits that she barely slept during that time, and after a while, she decided to give up her dance academy at the suggestion of her voice teacher, and take time to relax. Something that didn’t come natural.
“It’s so hard for me. Because whenever I have free time, I‘m like, oh I need to work, I need to work,” she said. “And, whenever I have vacation from work, I finally have free time to work on raps or make things like that. So it was always hard for me to relax.”
She said she also needed the time to figure out a new plan since auditioning for companies wasn’t turning out results. She said that for whatever reason, they would like her, but no one was signing her, so she needed a new approach.
Toy had previously made it to the top 21 of the first season of “Show Me the Money,” so was no stranger to the show when she auditioned for season three. But she said back then they had allowed her to rap in English. This go round was much more difficult because she had to rap and speak entirely in Korean. The long hours of filming also took their toll as well, even though she was accustomed to pulling all-nighters.
However, she said the judges were very understanding about the fact that she was rapping in her second language, and encouraged her along the way. She admitted that it is frustrating having to translate her raps into Korean right now, since she hasn’t fully grasped the language yet and it loses some of its meaning. But it pushes her to continue studying and improving her Korean skills.
She said that, while she is happy she has Korean fans, she wishes they could understand her lyrics, which she says are more complicated and “painted” in English.
Toy said what pushed her through the show and long filming hours, and even through life in general is her passion. She knows that she wants to be a rapper in Korea, and she isn’t going to give up.
“I know that most people who make it far in the industry, they’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s not easy, it was definitely harder than what I thought it was going to be, but, I was like, if I give up, there’s nothing else that I want to do in life anyways,” she said.
Toy believes that nothing in life is impossible, and she’s going to be the one to prove that. She said that there hasn’t been a non-Asian foreigner to debut in the music industry here, and she plans on being the first.
“I’m going to show them ... I’m a foreigner. I’m not fluent in Korean. But I can still make it in Korea. I think that’s part of my motivation. I’m going to change their thinking. I’m going to open doors for people. And show them that nothing’s impossible.”