dpr live is the most creative rapper in south korea
i-D talks to the rising artist before his first-ever US tour with the DPR Crew.
Military service is mandatory in South Korea for all males from 18 to 35 years old. The conscription lasts two years, a period of time when your normal life stops and you dedicate yourself to your country. Well known artists, from idols to actors, from rappers to producers, everyone puts their artistic careers on pause while they prepare for the worst case scenario — war.
Everyone in the music industry in South Korea takes precautions so that this absence is the least harmful as possible to their careers. Hong Da Bin, however, used this time to become an artist. “During that time I had grown an interest in writing and I continued to do it even after my discharge — eventually it grew into a natural passion for music”, he tells i-D.
Nowadays he is known as DPR LIVE, a musical force to be reckoned with. In part, that's thanks to his impeccable talent for writing and rapping, and because of the DPR Crew, a creative collective that manages him and produces all of his music and visuals. Originally from the city of Pocheon, the 25-year-old rising rapper and the DPR team (stands for Dream Perfect Regime) have been working together since the very beginning, when they used to have meetings in coffee places or karaoke rooms. The Seoul-based crew creates some of the most hallucinatory and cutting edge music videos that you’ll see coming out of South Korea — not an easy accomplishment when you look at the quality of current productions — by combining their talent for high impact visuals with the sophisticated sounds of R&B and rap from their main artist.
With sold-out shows, and outstanding collaborations with the royalty of Korean rap and hip-hop scene, gone are the days when DPR LIVE was just a new face in the music industry in South Korea. This past couple of years have seen his fame grow exponentially with the release of his amazing first album Coming To You Live in 2017, the sultry following EP Her, his appearance in this year’s SXSW, and now his upcoming world tour starting next week in Vancouver, Canada. We talked to DPR LIVE to know more about the dream he believes in so passionately, the importance of family, not caring about charts, and what can we expect from his first ever North American tour.
Being featured in Eung Freestyle was a turning point in your career. How has your style changed since then?
That was a really surreal moment. Eung Freestyle was a passion project started by us, and to see the response it got definitely fueled my desire as an artist and a member of the DPR collective. I believe that the project pushed me to really start exploring my own lane of artistry.
2017’s Coming To You Live was an impressive debut for a new artist, how long did you and the DPR team work on it?
The team and I spent, I’d say a solid year preparing that album. Every song we took our time with, because this was the introduction for us, so we really made sure to give it our best effort. As for the collaborations, the team and I just envisioned who would fit the overall vibe of the song and went from there. Thankfully, all the artists we wanted to work with ended up believing in the vision, and really, the rest was history.
The DPR collective looks live a very effective creative machine, how did you meet each other?
This is a really long story, to be honest, but just to give a short, sweet summary — DPR IAN and I go way back. We met each other a long time ago in Korea and were friends ever since. Fast forward a couple years, IAN and REM met each other and we became the new trio. From there, the rest of the members came along gradually — CREAM being one of the last members to officially be a part of our team. I can honestly say everyone on this team is family to me, and I’m sure they would say the same. We eat together, work together, party together, and do it all over again every day. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Through highs and lows, these are and forever will be my brothers.
DPR stands out so much from the South Korean music industry, why do you think that is?
In my opinion, I really think it stems from the teamwork we have and the collective passion we all share. For us, this isn’t really a 'business'. Yeah, we want to be successful and all that, but more so, we want to do anything and everything we can think of to the highest quality. If it were just for the money or fame, we would of went about things really differently. However, I think its more about the history — the legacy we can build with all of our efforts combined. That’s the dream.
You had a performance in SXSW early this year, and now you are doing a solo tour in the US, what do the American audiences can expect from your show?
SXSW is wild, and for it to be my first ever show in the US, I'm so glad I was able to perform on that stage. Now that my solo US tour is around the corner, I can honestly say I have way more things I’m going to do this time around because it's OUR show. We’re in full control, and thus, I want to deliver my best to the fans. Because every person showing up is an extension of my family, and just that alone deserves more appreciation than just a 'live performance'. For all the attending members, just know, we have a bunch of things in the works to deliver a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE. Like REM said before, it's not only a show were going to give, this is a family reunion.
Usually, success in the music industry is measure on how well you do in the American charts, for an Asian R&B and rap artist, do you feel pressure to break in the American music market?
No, I think that exact mentality is what kills your creativity/inspiration as an artist. Always pressuring yourself with making it into charts or getting millions of views — I think that’s a waste of effort and time. I'd rather just to make sure I can satisfy my fans –- because they are the ones that matter most. I remember when we first started and we’d get hyped off of a couple thousand views. Always being thankful and grateful for where you currently are — that’s the type of mentality I’m working on these days. I just want to live in the present and deliver to the people I care about. The rest will follow — at least that’s what I believe.
How do you want 2018 to end?
Well, I’ll be on tour for around two or three months — basically till the end of this year– so I just hope I can deliver my best to each and every city. I also hope to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. I hope to keep pushing out our movement to the world. If those three things happen, there’s not much to complain about.
The DPR LIVE Coming To You Live Tour starts next week, you can buy tickets here.