Bang Yongguk: «I am my biggest inspiration»

Having spent over a decade shaping the K-music industry, Bang Yongguk - who you might recognize because he was the bold leader of the k-hip hop group B.A.P. - is considered an industry legend. Thirty-two years old, with a star-studded career, Yongguk has a sharp view of what he wants and what the music industry needs right now. His last album, [2], is a spellbinding EP. Composed of six tracks, you can’t miss Up, the title track he produced alongside Coup d’Etat, JUNIK, and N-Soul. This dark hip-hop/rap song, layered with resonant synth and trap beats, comes with a music video that is the full expression of the magnetic attraction of Yongguk. His low rap delivers a sensual atmosphere and perfectly opens this album, which - as the artist states - comes straight from his heart and narrates his journey until now.

Panorama.it spoke with him.

In your new mini-album, you are finally telling your story. Who is Bang Yongguk?

I think of myself as an unchanging person. I don’t see that many differences when comparing myself at the time of debut and at present. I always make music based on the person Bang Yongguk, and I continue writing lyrics based on what I want to say.

Your album focuses on emotions like love, hate, sadness, and the unpredictability of life. What was it like working through all those emotions and putting them into music?

I always look back at my own experiences and emotions. Sometimes I take time to bring back forgotten memories one by one. I try to keep the motif of my music solely as ‘Bang Yongguk’, and I believe such efforts truly complete my music.

Can you tell us more about the title track Up?

It’s a song about a man who is in love and full of desires. This song directly narrates the story of a man in love without decorative or complex expressions. I’m actually not a very direct person, but I wanted to make myself one on this track.

Your album has two concepts, Chaotic and Wandering. Which one do you think represents you the best?

Both words describe my ego. Sometimes I ask this question to myself, “Who am I? What kind of person am I?” Every time I think about it, it is very hard to define because I have both a very gentle ego and an extremely evil ego. I don’t enjoy being philosophical but when I daydream, I can’t stop continuing self-exploration. It is actually one of the processes to fight through when making new music.

In the music video for Up you are shown tied up as he is trapped in a dangerous love. Has that ever happened to you?

Well, I don’t have such experience. That particular scene was a mise-en-scène to represent myself trapped in desire. The characters in this music video represent feelings and cells of love and desire. I was imagining that my inner self full of desire could speak the lyrics of “UP” to a loved one.

Is there a particular song on the new album that you like?

I particularly like the track “OFF” because it is based on myself working in the studio. I really want to perform this song in front of fans soon. This track excites me every time I listen to it.

You have always been open about mental health and even in your first single “Hikikomori”, you talked about anxiety and the fear of facing the stage as well as the world. Has your perception of life improved?

I wouldn’t say I got over it, but I think I have accepted myself with anxiety. I thought it would be better to befriend depression if I can’t stop it from taking me over, so I decided to rather accept that side of me. I don’t know when I’ll reunite with the anxiety that made “Hikikomori”, but if I face it now I think I can take it in with a big smile.

With your group B.A.P., you have been credited as one of the idols who initiated the Hallyu Wave. What do you think about the impact of Korean music all over the world?

I’m very impressed and happy to see so many talented K-Pop groups are loved and are sharing our culture around the world. Watching their amazing talents blossoming is something to celebrate as a person in the industry. I hope more great artists who are not shown yet step out to the bigger world, and I wish I can help them to do so over time.

You opened your own agency in 2021. What was it like embarking on this new adventure?

Very exciting, but also scary, to be honest. I’m still not sure what else I can do, but I want to grow with my label as an artist with a certain territory. To do so, I definitely need to work harder.

Do you finally feel fully able to express yourself?

Yes, because I have aged and now I have my own label. I think I have more freedom of expression not only in music but also in other areas, so I want to make what I want to make freely. Something I really wanted to achieve without caring about other situations. Please stay tuned.

What music genre would you like to experience next?

Spoiler alert, but easy-listening jazz hip hop is something I really want to present for everyone. Hopefully, I can make it come true soon.

You mention an interest in acting. What is your ideal role?

Acting is another way of expression than music, so I want to find my new side through acting. I’m not looking for any specific role, but I continue studying so one day I’ll be able to really dive into a good scenario and picture. It requires a lot of effort because it is so different from music.

You were the leader of a second-generation group. Is there any newcomer you find particularly interesting?

There are so many talented groups in K-Pop. I helped the group Just B when they debuted so I always wish them the best. I also keep my eyes on and cheer for all new groups who are just starting to grow. I just want the best result for all talented artists.

Who are your inspirations while making music?

I am my biggest inspiration. I get inspired by constantly looking back at myself while making music.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ll start working on a new album in April, and I’m also preparing for having performances or concerts. I really hope to meet my fans on stage as soon as possible. I hope you continue watching what’s next for me. Thank you.

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