From mixtapes to….


Zico recently had two interviews where he talked about his solo releases.

From the 1theK interview:

Click the CC button for English subs.

And the 10Asia interview that MoonROK translated:

Q: You’ve gone number one on the charts from “HER” to “Tough Cookie.” You’ve gotten #1 with songs that have a totally different character.

Zico: To be honest, “Tough Cookie” isn’t a song that I released in order to make money. It’s not a song that I made to release, but a song that I made because it seemed like a good song to perform as a solo at our concert. However, after making the song it seemed like if I didn’t release it, it would be unpleasant….

It was interesting to me because one of the things about Block B that I find kind of frustrating is that the members come up with songs that they perform but never release.

Or they do covers that they never release. And of course the rappers have tons of mixtape songs.

The mixtape thing seemed better to me–at least you can put those on your iPod!–but I realized something with the release of “Well Done”: The vast majority of English-speaking K-Pop fans/critics have never listened to the mixtapes, and they probably never will.

Part of my frustration with the response to “Tough Cookie” was that people acted like the language was something utterly shocking and unexpected, which is just stupid if you know Zico’s mixtapes. (“Pilophone is dirty rapper fuck-up bullshit, yeah yeah” will live forever in my heart.) Now with “Well Done” people are responding like 1. it’s a totally new thing for Zico to rap about his life, and 2. it’s a totally new thing for Zico to experiment with different musical genres. Again, if you know Zico’s mixtapes, that’s just laughable. (And who do they think wrote “Jackpot” and “Her”? The same magical elves that produce all SM songs, I guess.)

Some of it is just idiocy (I never thought I’d see a song with the line, “Money, fame, and bitches,” lauded for its political correctness, but hey, that’s the magic of “problematic”). But I think a big part of the problem is that, in the minds of a lot of these people, “Tough Cookie” is the only song Zico has ever done.

So I think it’s really a good thing that Zico is releasing these songs commercially instead of just as mixtapes. Even if they don’t make a ton of money in Korea’s shitty digital market, they get him recognition outside of Korean hip-hop circles.

Let’s put it this way: In recent months, Zico released two songs that have received a shit-ton of press coverage. One of them has been performed repeatedly on television.

And Park Kyung released four songs. Did you even know that?

* * *

Obviously one advantage that commercially-released songs have is that their success is measurable. Both “Tough Cookie” and “Well Done” charted well (which, as those links show, gets the songs additional publicity), and download numbers give a sense of how the songs perform over time. (The “Well Done” video only has about half as many views as “Tough Cookie” did at this point, though–ah, the sad lack of controversy! Well, it was probably cheaper to make.) Not only is that stuff quantifiable, it’s also visible internationally.

Mixtapes are a different story. They aren’t sold, so you have no way of knowing how popular they are. The ones that are popular unquestionably have an impact: Even before the release of “Tough Cookie,” successful mixtapes helped Zico become a headliner at a lot of Korean hip-hop shows

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but you can’t measure that, and if you’re not in Korea and plugged into the hip-hop scene there, it’s easy to be oblivious.



12 responses »

  1. I wonder why Taewoon is not out at these concerts more. He’s released at least two mixtapes and he’s had so much time off from MBK, plus, he’s possibly not in SPEED anymore.

    Okay, I’m rambling. Just want to say, I’d like a Park Kyung mixtape.

    • But if Taewoon’s still in Speed, then he’s probably been roped back into that at this point. It seems like he was doing a lot of stuff with Royal Class, then he released a mixtape, and then…silence. He may be trying to get out of Speed, or he may want to stay in–either way, I think that’s where his focus is right now.

      I think Park Kyung needs to follow Zico’s example and do a commercial release! He’s a good musician, and I’d like to see him capitalize on it more. Even random singles have value.

      • I don’t know how much Zico shares profits from what he does, but, especially if he does share something, then he would be the commercially viable member to push. 😛

        Was Taewoon doing a lot of these shows with Royal Class?

        • Yeah, but on the other hand, the others can’t just hook themselves onto the Zico locomotive forever….

          I don’t keep as close track of Taewoon as I do of Block B, but I know he did Speakshow, and then he was doing these “Royal Class TV” bits on their YouTube channel, as well as participating in group singles.

          • No, they can’t, but until we get some explanation for why they do as they do, we won’t know if their reasoning is sound or not. 😛

            However, I really do not see why each and every member cannot produce a single if Zico has so many songs. I’m not even convinced producing takes that much effort based on the Yuk Jidam BTS video.

            • I wouldn’t trust the BTS videos for that show–the Cheetah/Jessi/Kangnam one was clearly staged. I think the “Jackpot” BTS where people are sleeping in shifts in the background is a lot more realistic.

              The members are still figuring out what to do in this new environment–it’s a big shift for them just to be in a position where they’re able to do what they want. But I’m also hoping that Zico’s success encourages the rest of them to be a little bolder. I was kind of frustrated by U-Kwon’s interview where he said the CEO of Seven Seasons had to talk him into taking on “All Shook Up.” It’s always hard, and I totally understand the intimidation factor, but in the arts if you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never get anywhere.

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