[Next Wave] Without gimmicks, ‘Show Me The Money’ finalist Nucksal pursues warm, encouraging hip-hop

By Hong Dam-young

The Korea Herald is introducing Korean singers, musicians and actors poised to join the next wave of top stars in a twice monthly series. -- Ed.

  • Published : Oct 2, 2017 - 14:53
  • Updated : Oct 2, 2017 - 14:53

Only a decade ago Nucksal, the runner-up of the sixth season of Mnet’s hip-hop audition program “Show Me The Money,” was just an ordinary young man spending most of his time in his ever-changing part-time jobs. 

But the rapper said there’s always been a flash of light that brightened up his insipid life: Scribbling down hip-hop lyrics and practicing rapping whenever and wherever he was.  

Rapper Nucksal poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)

“I just had a rough dream of becoming a writer, but I didn’t really have a specific dream, come to think of it. All I could do was part-time-jobs and rapping, since I didn’t learn anything other than those two,” said Nucksal during an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul.

“I absolutely had no plan for having a real job, but I had this vague confidence that I wouldn’t starve to death. For me, the procedure of finding a dream was more valuable than the result itself, and I believed whatever future it might be, it will reward me in some way.”

Rapper Nucksal poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)

Before appearing on the hip-hop audition program and gaining public recognition, Nucksal was considered one of the most prominent underground rappers in the country, widely known for his distinct vocal delivery that could be easily understood even by those who had no interest in hip-hop. He debuted in the underground scene in 2009, but Nucksal’s life as a rapper started to bloom after he joined a hip-hop label Vismajor Company, founded and headed by seasoned rapper Deepflow, in June 2014.

Under the label, he dropped his first full-length album “The God of Small Things” in February last year. Nucksal also competed in the second season of “Show Me The Money” in 2013, but failed to get through the preliminary round.

For some, Nucksal may not appear as a typical rapper in the hip-hop scene, where wearing golden necklace chains, covering one’s body with tattoos and spitting words related to sex, money and drugs are common. Apart from a simple cap he wears daily, he rarely wears accessories nor imprints tattoos on his body. Most of his lyrics are composed in Korean, rather than in English, and they are full of warm and encouraging messages, rather than offensive swear words against unspecified individuals.    

Rapper Nucksal poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)

“I’m one of the rappers who doesn’t wear gimmicks. Some rappers wear masks and cover themselves with gimmicks to appear fancy and aggressive, but I don’t fancy those. In the same context, I don’t prefer dissing each other in a rap battle. Why do I have to say bad words to a person I don’t even have bad feelings for?” Nucskal said.

He also made critical comments on Korean society, which he thought was mired in the “one-size-fits-all” mindset. Nucksal said he hated when media always tell people to “have a dream” and lionize only successful people.

“It’s like all they care about is a result, brushing over one’s hidden efforts and procedures. Getting lost is a privilege of the youth. So I try not to be too condescending in my lyrics. Instead of merely encouraging people, I want to tell them that it’s okay to get lost, get hurt and drink as much as you want, but remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he said.

“I want to tell them with my music. ‘Look at me, I walked a similar path with you, and I’m standing right here. So don’t be afraid and follow your dreams.” 

Since the show ended in early September, the rapper said it was as if he was walking in the clouds. Rubbing his tired-sleepy eyes, Nucksal revealed he’s been deprived of sleep and free time due to his jam-packed schedule of events. Asked if he plans to compete in the show again in the future, the rapper said, “No, I don’t. Competing in the show was hard, since I’m not very comfortable in front of cameras and acting. I just consider the experience as a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Sharing his plan to drop a new album next year, Nucksal said, “’Show Me The Money’ made me famous for sure, but it doesn’t really mean much to me. After all this wave of fame from the show calms down, I’d like to go back to my own cycle and concentrate on my own music. These days, oh my god, I feel like I’m losing myself.”

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)