[INTERVIEW] Rapper Zico's 'double life' - The Korea Times

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[INTERVIEW] Rapper Zico's 'double life'

Rapper Zico will release his first studio album
Rapper Zico will release his first studio album "THINKING Part.2" on Friday afternoon. Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

By Dong Sun-hwa

Rapper Zico used to live a "double life."

He was rough and free-spirited on stage. Sporting glamorous outfits and accessories, Zico overwhelmed the audience with aggressive raps and outspoken lyrics. But when the rapper went back to being ordinary man Woo Ji-ho (Zico's real name,) he was utterly different.

"I looked quite delinquent on stage, but in reality I was reserved and passive," Zico said during a recent interview with The Korea Times at a restaurant in Hannam-dong, Seoul. "I don't want to deny my wild image as it has highlighted my previous music style. But from now on, I will exhibit my authentic characters."

In fact, most songs that propelled him and his group Block B to stardom ― such as "Nillili Mambo" (2012) and "Her" (2014) ― were bold and vibrant.

But Zico, 27, revealed he has been locking up Woo Ji-ho. The rapper has been a workaholic who devotes himself to music and gigs.

"I was excessively into 'Zico' and wanted to satisfy 'him.' So I virtually neglected 'Woo Ji-ho,' not even knowing how to live as Woo," he said. "But now I am seeking the balance between the two identities. As I continued ignoring Woo, I reached an unbearable point where I realized there would be trouble if I didn't open up my genuine emotions."

Hence, he unveiled his hidden sides on his first studio album "THINKING Part.2," which will hit shelves Friday afternoon.

"The album is less energetic and wild than my previous tracks," he said. "Some people might expect me to release the numbers that match my original image, but I couldn't continue what I used to do in the past. I wasn't in the mood for it."
Zico was an underground rapper before debuting as a member of K-pop boy band Block B in 2011. Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment
Zico was an underground rapper before debuting as a member of K-pop boy band Block B in 2011. Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

As he said, most tracks in his new 10-song EP are gloomy and maudlin. The PBR&B-flavored "One-man show" revolves around futility, while the groovy "Dystopia" centers on pessimism.

The calm lead song, "Being left," is a narrative of a man feeling an irresistible yearning after a breakup. The lyrics suggest that his life has virtually stopped since the separation. They read: "Time seems odd these days. I am still living the day we parted. It's right, I am not being cool but I will alone keep the promise that we will stay here." The lines are poignant, but the melody is gentle.

"I would give 90 points out of 100 to my product this time," Zico said. "It is composed of the numbers that suit my taste and I'm content with it. Although I was not generous about my performance in the past, this time, my greed has been reduced."

Still, the rapper is agonizing.

"As I worked on the EP, I distressed myself over my thirst and happiness, but haven't figured out the answers. I still can't define them, but discovered some clues." But he did not elaborate.

When it comes to Zico's musical prowess, he has been acclaimed since he was an underground rapper. Dubbed one of the best rappers on the K-pop scene, many people pick his ear-catching rap and skillful beats as virtues. Nonetheless, as a celebrity, he also has fallen prey to rumors and malicious comments.

"Life as a celebrity is sometimes demanding, but this is what I have to take," Zico said. "I think everyone has their own hardships."

Early this year, the rapper tackled a fresh challenge as well. He established music label KOZ Entertainment and became a CEO, after leaving Block B's agency Seven Seasons in 2018.

"Now I go to my office every day to work on music," he said. "Pressure is a luxury as of now. It is premature to talk about my burden since I am still figuring things out."

He mentioned his bandmates too.

"I am in touch with the members ― P.O., Taeil, B-Bomb, Jaehyo, U-Kwon and Park Kyung. We recently had a gathering. But we are currently focusing on forging our individual careers," he said. "Although we don't have a specific comeback plan yet, we can discuss it after the members finish their compulsory military service and get ready."

Zico will join the army in the near future as well, but the date has not been fixed, he said.

The rapper also hinted at his future during the interview.

"In 2020, I will attempt to return with hopeful and encouraging music," he said.


Rapper Zico will release his first studio album
Rapper Zico will release his first studio album "THINKING Part.2" on Friday afternoon. Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

By Dong Sun-hwa

Rapper Zico used to live a "double life."

He was rough and free-spirited on stage. Sporting glamorous outfits and accessories, Zico overwhelmed the audience with aggressive raps and outspoken lyrics. But when the rapper went back to being ordinary man Woo Ji-ho (Zico's real name,) he was utterly different.

"I looked quite delinquent on stage, but in reality I was reserved and passive," Zico said during a recent interview with The Korea Times at a restaurant in Hannam-dong, Seoul. "I don't want to deny my wild image as it has highlighted my previous music style. But from now on, I will exhibit my authentic characters."

In fact, most songs that propelled him and his group Block B to stardom ― such as "Nillili Mambo" (2012) and "Her" (2014) ― were bold and vibrant.

But Zico, 27, revealed he has been locking up Woo Ji-ho. The rapper has been a workaholic who devotes himself to music and gigs.

"I was excessively into 'Zico' and wanted to satisfy 'him.' So I virtually neglected 'Woo Ji-ho,' not even knowing how to live as Woo," he said. "But now I am seeking the balance between the two identities. As I continued ignoring Woo, I reached an unbearable point where I realized there would be trouble if I didn't open up my genuine emotions."

Hence, he unveiled his hidden sides on his first studio album "THINKING Part.2," which will hit shelves Friday afternoon.

"The album is less energetic and wild than my previous tracks," he said. "Some people might expect me to release the numbers that match my original image, but I couldn't continue what I used to do in the past. I wasn't in the mood for it."
Zico was an underground rapper before debuting as a member of K-pop boy band Block B in 2011. Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment
Zico was an underground rapper before debuting as a member of K-pop boy band Block B in 2011. Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

As he said, most tracks in his new 10-song EP are gloomy and maudlin. The PBR&B-flavored "One-man show" revolves around futility, while the groovy "Dystopia" centers on pessimism.

The calm lead song, "Being left," is a narrative of a man feeling an irresistible yearning after a breakup. The lyrics suggest that his life has virtually stopped since the separation. They read: "Time seems odd these days. I am still living the day we parted. It's right, I am not being cool but I will alone keep the promise that we will stay here." The lines are poignant, but the melody is gentle.

"I would give 90 points out of 100 to my product this time," Zico said. "It is composed of the numbers that suit my taste and I'm content with it. Although I was not generous about my performance in the past, this time, my greed has been reduced."

Still, the rapper is agonizing.

"As I worked on the EP, I distressed myself over my thirst and happiness, but haven't figured out the answers. I still can't define them, but discovered some clues." But he did not elaborate.

When it comes to Zico's musical prowess, he has been acclaimed since he was an underground rapper. Dubbed one of the best rappers on the K-pop scene, many people pick his ear-catching rap and skillful beats as virtues. Nonetheless, as a celebrity, he also has fallen prey to rumors and malicious comments.

"Life as a celebrity is sometimes demanding, but this is what I have to take," Zico said. "I think everyone has their own hardships."

Early this year, the rapper tackled a fresh challenge as well. He established music label KOZ Entertainment and became a CEO, after leaving Block B's agency Seven Seasons in 2018.

"Now I go to my office every day to work on music," he said. "Pressure is a luxury as of now. It is premature to talk about my burden since I am still figuring things out."

He mentioned his bandmates too.

"I am in touch with the members ― P.O., Taeil, B-Bomb, Jaehyo, U-Kwon and Park Kyung. We recently had a gathering. But we are currently focusing on forging our individual careers," he said. "Although we don't have a specific comeback plan yet, we can discuss it after the members finish their compulsory military service and get ready."

Zico will join the army in the near future as well, but the date has not been fixed, he said.

The rapper also hinted at his future during the interview.

"In 2020, I will attempt to return with hopeful and encouraging music," he said.


Dong Sun-hwa sunhwadong@koreatimes.co.kr


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