Exclusive Interview – MFBTY
Tiger JK is considered one of the founding fathers of modern Korean hip hop, and alongside fellow big names Yoonmirae and Bizzy, who just happen to be his wife and best friend, he is once again at the forefront of Korea’s hip hop revolution.
MFBTY, an anagram of My Fans Better Than Yours, formally joined forces in 2013, but the trio have been performing together for many years. The best qualified to explain MFBTY to you are the masters of music themselves.
“MFBTY is a hip-pop trio. Our leader is Tasha aka Yoonmirae who spits crazy venomous raps and sings like Aretha! Bizzy is a handsome young man that has a superpower that makes any girl fall in love with him. And Tiger JK is Kevin Hart’s friend. Ask him about me.”
Tasha gives us the lowdown on their new album, Wonderland, an album you won’t fit into the hip hop box so easily.
“We released our WondaLand album in March. There’s hip-hop, disco, EDM, R&B, and reggae on it and the album includes guest spots from musicians such as Dok2, Rap Monster from BTS, Junhyung from Beast, EE, Yoo Hee-Yeol, Jeon In-kwon, Kim Ban-jang, and Son Seung-yeon. There’s something for everyone to enjoy on WondaLand.”
Moving from the same label as other popular hip hop acts such as Leessang, and setting up shop in close-knit independent label Feel Ghood Music seemed unusual at the time, an official reason for the move never being disclosed. Though the trio aren’t afraid to speak out about leaving Jungle and going it alone, and how it has affected their collective.
Tiger JK: “We write, produce, make our music, and come up with all the concepts for videos and album art in house. We have total creative control. So it is a lot of work. And making an album is a beautiful and hellish job. We started to go this route after our former label took all of our life savings and ran. They sold us to other labels with forged documents. It was a mess and it still is because those criminals are still around. But we are going to get through it, though. I grew another nose from it. It’s an invisible nose that smells bullshit. Hopefully I learn to love again. And actually this MFBTY project is helping me do that. And my father talks to me every day and reminds me to forgive and love.”
Yoonmirae: “We just got tired of being taken advantage of. When something like that happens over and over again it’s really easy for you to lose sight of the reasons you love music so much. We wanted to create an environment where we could just focus on our music and not worry about the politics that often follow. Although you can never really be free of the politics. But now it’s just a battle between us and the industry and not us and our label.”
It is not just their dealings with Jungle Entertainment that have seen MFBTY suffer, the past year especially has been particularly emotional for both families, the finalisation of Angel, a track that had been sitting around for a fair time, came after the losses of Tiger’s father and Bizzy’s grandmother. Yoonmirae explained:
“We’re inspired by everything. But we work best when we tune into whatever’s happening in our lives rather than picking a topic to write about. You can always tell where we’re at in our lives by listening to our songs.”
MFBTY often cite their lives as their inspiration, but they attribute inspiration to other sources too.
Tiger JK: “My biggest inspiration is my fans. And also the truth and love.”
Bizzy: Feel Ghood Music drives and inspires us.
MFBTY became the trio’s name after a joke from Tiger JK revealed that it stood for My Fans (are) Better Than Yours, and reference that his fans lived in a special type of blissful wonderland, the name stuck. But did this Alice in Wonderland reference return to name the album?
Tiger JK: “Have I gone mad?”
Yoonmirae: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
Bizzy: “What are you guys talking about?”
Bizzy doesn’t seem entirely sure, but we’ll take that as a yes.
The trio have collaborated with ‘idol rappers’ for this album, not an unknown move in the Korean hip-hop world but hot topic of late. There’s been much talk in the KPop world about the abilities of rappers in idol groups, and amongst the diss tracks emerging is the strong will of some to drop the title.
Tiger JK believes that labeled idol or not everyone is someone’s idol.
“I am the idol rappers’ idol rapper. And I don’t take offense to that at all! On a more serious note, I don’t think it’s such a bad term. It’s strange but not bad. These kids are super talented kids that happen to be part of a boy band that’s super popular that makes pop music. But I don’t think you can really compare them with hip-hop groups. Different lanes.”
Yoonmirae has a similar opinion, even encouraging ‘idol rappers’ to embrace their title.
“As with every genre, there are good ones and bad ones. Some are in it for the fame, and some are in it some for the love. I think they should just own the title. I mean, if you have the skills, and you believe in your talent, being an “idol” isn’t all that bad. It’s like calling all pop music bad. It’s pop because it’s popular, no? Imagine having all that talent and not being popular!”
Owning their title is exactly what rappers like BTS’ Rap Monster are doing with collaborations like BuckuBucku.
Despite being an indie-label the trio decided to donate all of the proceeds from their Wonderland album to charity, a way of thanking just some of the people that helped Tiger JK, especially, during hard times.
“It’s my way of giving back to my fans. During the time of my father’s battle with cancer they did so much for me. I love them. I’m donating the proceeds from the physical copies of the album. It’s not like I’m doing something so incredibly generous at all. And we can make money rocking shows … hopefully!”
This isn’t the first time MFBTY have been actively charitable, they are well known for their understandable passion to causes such as cultural awareness. They feel, thanks to their vocality on such subjects they have made at least a little difference.
Tiger JK: “I think we have at least with our fans [inspired change in thinking], so I guess it’s a start.”
Yoonmirae: “I hope so. Every so often someone will tell me or tweet me about my song “Black Happiness” and how it’s given them strength. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Wonderland features a track composed by Jordan, the six year old son of Tiger and Yoon Mirae. Jordan has clearly inherited the musical blood that runs in his family, but does Yoonmirae hope music lies in his future?
“I definitely want music to be a part of Jordan’s life. As for a career in music, it’s not something I necessarily want him to pursue. However, if he does wake up one day and decide that that’s his passion I wouldn’t stand in his way, but I’d have JK or Bizzy be his manager and follow him everywhere!”
This feeling of family, the sense of love and friendship, is always strong within MFBTY, and the trio all hold special memories of their time together.
Tiger JK: “Playing Midem Festival in France and meeting fans all the way out there. Playing Music Matters in Singapore too and just hanging out with fans on the street. Those were both very surreal moments.”
Yoonmirae: “We have so many beautiful memories together, a lot of which don’t even involve music. But I’ll just say the first time we set foot in our new studio and office. We had yet to record anything, but it felt like “Wow, we made it!””
Bizzy may not be the most talkative of artists when it comes to interviews, and that wasn’t unknown to us. Though we through speaking of the MFBTY bond we were able to see just why Bizzy is a strong part of this family.
“After we were left with nothing because our former label robbed us and sold us to another company, it was hell on earth. I got kicked out of my apartment. Everyone turned their backs on us. Only illionare and AOMG had our back. Seeing JK almost becoming homeless with Jordan broke my heart. Like Tasha said, having our own office and studio, although it’s still a basement and not too big, was a great moment. When we set foot in our office, it was like heaven.”
After these heartfelt and moving words from Bizzy it seems only right we end with some of MFBTY’s positivity, some of those words of wisdom they are often sharing with fans.
What is that one piece of useful advice they’d give us today?
Tiger JK: “Please retweet all my tweets! Oh, and don’t take me too seriously. Love is love.”
Yoonmirae: “Love yourself.”
Bizzy: “Be happy, be healthy, and be positive.”