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[Video] Rebellious Swings is ‘confident’ despite ‘haters’

Once a stray kid, controversial Swings shares his turbulent life, how he overcame media attacks and haters

[Herald Interview]

Admittedly, Swings, whose real name is Moon Ji-hoon, is one of the most talked-about, controversial and rebellious figures in the Korean music scene. This outspoken rapper, whose words are often unpolished and raw, is used to being a target of public criticism for fearlessly unleashing his rough nature. To name a few, he cusses in front of a camera, talks about sex and was once slammed by the media for revealing that he had kissed random girls in a club in the past.

But still, it’s an undisputed fact that Moon, a talented rapper infamous for his unique swagger and wordplay, is the one who ignited the flame to the burgeoning local hip-hop scene. Despite his vulgar image, his music is widely appreciated by hip-hop enthusiasts. The rapper also heads a self-established hip-hop label Just Music, nurturing hip-hop artists and picking up wannabe rappers himself.

“As I made a transition from being just a musician to a CEO, it made me a more serious person. I don’t mess around like I used to. Before I had nothing to lose. But compared to my reckless past back then, my craziness and stupid silliness are kind of being numbed out with responsibility,” said Moon during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. 

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

The king of wordplay -- or “punchline” to use his language -- said such a position has influenced his music as well.

“I think I’m losing my sense of humor. (Laughing) I really stopped making punchlines because I got tired of it. And I am capable of so many other songs that have nothing to do with punchline. Punchline, it’s more about being cocky and showing people that I’m a genius. I understand people criticizing my music for losing such traits. But I don’t care about being a punchline king anymore. For me it’s stupid now. I’ve grown to the next level,” he said.  

Rebellious kid drowns in depression

Although he now leads a rather calm life, Moon’s childhood was uncontrollably dark and stormy, from which he had to crawl out to survive. He was born in Seoul and spent his childhood in the southern part of the US. When he first came back to Korea, the rapper’s rebellious allure landed him in trouble. An emotional and sensitive kid by nature, he couldn’t handle being told what he could and could not do and found it hard to fit into a society that emphasized unity.

“I remember, teachers hated me. If the majority decides to go one certain direction, I said, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t want to go into that direction.’ That’s when you become a recluse, that’s when you get criticized. I liked to eat alone, be alone. I enjoyed going to a bar to read a book. That’s who I am, a nail that stuck out. But people would look at me and treat me weird.”  

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

He was depressed for a very long time, the time he called the “dark age of my life.” He started drinking early in high school and soon became a “street kid,” getting into fights, always. But the stray kid was also depressed to the point where he went to see a doctor all by himself for feeling suicidal and having nightmares every night.

“I was out of control, like a balloon tied up to a rock under a storm,” said Moon. “Each night I was tormented by monsters and ghosts in my mind. I was always drunk and couldn’t handle myself. I needed some guidance. When I look back at those times, I can’t smile.”

Another controversy and ‘Home’

A light of salvation came in the form of college. After meeting people at Sungkyunkwan University, which he refers to as an era of his personal Renaissance, Moon could finally stand on his own and take steps toward becoming a hip-hop musician. Gaining widespread recognition and appearing on TV shows, it seemed things were going well for Moon -- until he once again landed in hot water for not finishing his mandatory military service. Moon said he has been receiving treatment since he was young for mental disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and bipolar disorder. In 2015, Moon was discharged early from the military after being diagnosed with mental disorders. Yet, he was lambasted by the media.

Moon’s latest single, “Home,” released in November, revisits the time he hit rock bottom after the media attacks. 

A scene from
A scene from "Home" (Screencaptured from YouTube)

“When I wrote ‘Home’ a year and a half ago, I was going through hard times again. In Korea, if a male doesn’t finish his military service, it’s such a public shame, something you can‘t even talk about. People didn’t believe that I have problems up here (head) because it doesn’t show,” said Moon.

“I was always under this big microscope, people scrutinizing me. But people thought of me as a liar and a fraud. At the time, I often thought about jumping out of my apartment window. I was also a CEO of my company, but not a trustworthy leader. It’s still hard for me to listen to that song. That’s why I released it; because it shows who I am and what I was going through. Right now I’m glad I’m not that person anymore.”

Taking back control

After causing a plethora of controversies, Moon has finally decided to face the media. Taking a step further, Moon has also been making speeches about “confidence” in hopes of enlightening others through his own stories.

“I’ve been slammed by the media so many times and I hated it. I remember, I slowly became a robot. Always calculating what to do next, thinking a couple of times before giving answers to journalists. I’ve apologized to the public so many times and finally realized that some people have no intention of actually listening to me and forgive me at all,” he said. 

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

“At last, I was like, ‘How dare you judge me?’ They don’t even know me. So I’m just going to be me, who talks about sex a lot, sometimes can be vulgar or be rude. If you don’t like me, then fine. But I know I will be an inspiration to some people out there, and I want to be known as a person who can love myself despite my flaws.”

Moon has learned how to laugh back at his haters and the media that try to get under his skin. But that doesn’t mean that he feels comfortable with them. It’s just that he has no intention of fighting his haters.

Will he stop causing controversies on media? Nobody knows, said Moon. But one thing for sure is that he will keep making good music and become an inspiration for people who need to overcome their obstacles. He said he wants to help people like him, because he knows how they feel. One of his dreams is to build a school to teach kids how to survive in this world, he said.

“I’m probably one of the most hated celebs in Korea, but I don’t want to be fake and be loved. I’d rather be hated and be respected. I am truly happy right now. One good thing about being hated is that I have influence on people and they listen to my music. So, I will keep ‘shining.’”