CHANGMO

CHANGMO

  • Birth Name: 구창모 (Ku Chang-mo)
  • Birth Date: 1994/05/31
  • Status: Rapper, Producer, Co-founder of the streetwear brand LIBILLY 031
  • Genres: HipHop, Ballade
  • Labels: Ambition Musik (around July 2016, officially in October -)

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CHANGMO, born Ku Chang-mo, is a South Korean rapper and producer. He officially debuted in June 2014 with the single Gangster featured by the singer Livii. Later on, he is noticed by The Quiett and Dok2, two emblematic rappers of the Korean Hip-Hop scene, that plan to launch a sub-label for Illionaire Records

Ambition Musik is officially launched in September 2016 and CHANGMO is among its starting member along with Keem Hyo Eun and Hash Swan. Following this news, CHANGMO caught the attention of the public with his tracks 마에스트로 (Maestro) and 아름다워 (Beautiful) from his EP 돈벌시간 2 released previously in July. Consequently, CHANGMO won the Discovery of the Year award in the Hip-Hop category at the 2017 Gaon Chart Music Awards.

In 2019 he topped the South Korean charts with the double platinum song Meteor from Boyhood, his first album. With Meteor, he is rewarded with the Best R&B/Hip-hop award at the 2020 Golden Disc Awards and the Hip-hop Track of the Year prize at the 2020 Korean Hip-hop Awards.   

CHANGMO is rewarded with the Artist of the Year title at the 2022 Korean Hip-Hop Music Awards in addition to the Hip-Hop Album of the Year award for his second album UNDERGROUND ROCKSTAR released in November 2021, as well as Hip-Hop Track of the Year and Music Video of the Year for his song 태지 (TAIJI) from the same album. 태지 (TAIJI) also won the title of Best Rap & Hip-Hop Song at the 2022 Korean Music Awards.

In October 2020 he launched the streetwear brand LIBILLY with his friends from Deokso, his hometown.

Ku Chang-mo was born on May 31st, 1994, in Jeongseon-gun, a county in the province of Gangwon-do, South Korea. His family would have moved to several towns until settling in Hanam. When he was about 8 years old they then would have decided to move to Deokso a small city near the cities of Namyangju-si and Seoul, in Gyeonggi-do province where he attended both Middle School and High School.    

It is actually from a very young age that Ku Chang-mo got introduced to music. At age five, he started playing the piano and quickly showed signs of virtuosity. Whether classical music or Jazz, the young artist practiced with passion in order to become a professional pianist. 

Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Chopin… Yet, at age 12, his musical horizons got broader as he listened to Joosuc’s song Hip Hop Music featured by 임정희 (Lim Jeong Hee) for the first time. The young Ku Chang-mo liked Hip-Hop so much that just about one year later he will start to write his own rap.

He explained his interest in Hip-Hop music by the fact that at some point he started to associate playing the piano with playing what composers such as Mozart or Beethoven wrote, and he came to the conclusion that he was more attracted to creativity than to reproduction. In a sense, in Hip-Hop Ku Chang-mo found freedom.

Through Hip-Hop, he also got to connect with other aspiring artists on shows and collaborations. It appears that he would have been part of a crew called Black Pirates along with RM, leader of BTS, but also that he formed the Givenchy Boys with Sik-K.  

He didn’t immediately adopt the stage name CHANGMO though, but first got known underground as LUPE (from at least 2007 to 2009). He also used to be known as Melonius (or Chan the Melonius) for his activities as a producer, a reference to the American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. It’s alone that he developed his producing and composition skills, he taught himself with the internet. Some of his works as Melonius are still available on his SoundCloud, including remixes from Ciara, Big Bang, or PSY.

His earliest known project is probably the track Jungle featured by RM (known as Runch Randa at that time), Supreme Boi, and Yoondal seemingly released in 2007 (or 2008-2009, it depends on the sources).

In 2009 he also took part in the song  94단체곡 (roughly: 94 group songs) along with 삼순 (Samsun), 윤달 (Yoondal), Wildbuck, Suprema (or Supreme Boi), Kyum2 and RM.

First Mixtapes and official debut

It is in August 2013 that CHANGMO released 돈벌준비 (also called DJGB, roughly translated as Getting ready to Make Money) his first mixtape. Just like the three mixtapes that will follow, 돈벌준비 has not been released officially and has since been deleted from his SoundCloud and other streaming accounts, however, those four projects still give a good insight into CHANGMO’s musical evolution and the kind of influences that he could have had early on.

DJGB counts 8 songs, including 2 remixes of Ciara’s songs, B a b y I m S o r r y, a remix from Sorry released in September 2012, and Turn It Off, a remix of Body Party released in 2013 from the album Ciara. He also used a sample of Wee’s Aeroplane, a song from 1977. CHANGMO already conveyed vivid emotions through this song and played with voice effects to bring some modulations. It is also worth noting that Kanye West also sampled it for Bound 2 from the album Yeezus released in June 2013, thus there is a possibility that he discovered the original song from Kanye.

Speaking of Kanye West, 아래 덕소, the second song of the mixtape is based on Christmas In Harlem featured by Prynce Cy Hi and Teyana Taylor. The 3rd song, 덕소 벽산에 들은 햇빛, is on Lord Finesse’s Hip 2 Da Game instrumental from the album The Awakening released in 1996 while the 4th song 자의식과잉, is on the famous beat of Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot featured by Pharrell Williams. For those three songs, CHANGMO’s flow is more on the chill/laidback side while in 서울의 돈 (이쁜이들아), the 5th song, he went for a more incisive flow on Trinidad James‘s Female$ Welcomed beat from the album Don’t Be S.A.F.E released in January 2013. There is a nice rupture in the beat that gives the opportunity to CHANGMO to showcase his versatility. Finally, for the 7th song 노원 Twosome Place he went for a softer vibe on Zion.T’s Two melodies featured by Crush from the album Red Light released in April 2013.

Four months later, CHANGMO released 돈벌시간 (also called DBSG, roughly translated as Time to get Money), his second mixtape. This time the project counts 9 tracks most of them based on existing instrumentals except for the dirty Trap song Don Nena, and 우리 아가에게 쓰는 편지 20살의 아빠가 (Roughly translate to Letter To My Baby – 20 years old dad) that he produced. Letter To My Baby is actually a series of songs that he released as letters for the child he might have in the future. He talks about the state of his life at this specific moment, but also about his ambition, and his wishes.   

Besides these two songs, for the first song 서민을 벗어나기란 어렵지, he used the beat from Terrence Howard’s It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp from the movie Hustle & Flow. Just like its title Dopeman is based on N.W.A’s song Dope Man from the album Straight Outta Compton released in 1988, with an addictive BoomBap vibe.  소문내, the 3rd song is even more incisive, on Akazie and Piggy’s track Throw Ya Hoods Up from The A&R Repz Mixtape 2008.

The 5th song is entitled 내가 and is actually pretty controversial. In Korean, 마 내가 is pronounced ‘Ma Naega’ which can sound like the nword, and that CHANGMO would translate as ‘Brother I will’ according to a story he made in response to the scandal. The problem is that the original song is none other than YG’s famous My N****, therefore, to some people his explanation was suspicious. Was it a roundabout way for CHANGMO to say the nword or clumsy lyrics with no offensive intentions toward the Black community? Honestly… I cannot tell, in the end, only he knows what he meant with those lyrics, but I’m not telling you what conclusion you should make. KHipHop Kvr strictly condemns the use of the nword, regardless of the artist’s status, but in this case, there is for me a lack of context so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt especially as he has not been involved in similar scandals ever since. But once again, the goal with KHipHop Kvr is not to tell you what you should think, this, I must stress, is my own personal opinion and refers only to myself.

The following song, 나에 대한 , is based on Kendrick Lamar’s Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst from the album good kid, m.A.A.d city released in January 2013. CHANGMO’s flow is rather chill with yet pretty perceptible emotions. Opposite to this, 창모처럼 사니 기분 좋구만 (roughly translated as It feels good to live like Changmo), based on Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta from the Geto Boys’ compilation album Uncut Dope.

Finally, the mixtape also includes a longer version of 아래 덕소 from his first mixtape.

The usage of autotune starts to be more noticeable in this mixtape, especially in the melodic rap parts. In an interview from 2021 with IZM, he explained that the use of autotune became popular, whether it was in the US or in South Korea, and that it inspired him a lot. While CHANGMO was getting increasingly known for his technique when it comes to his flow, he couldn’t sing well, and it was frustrating to him as he could therefore not sing along with the melodies. Thus, the use of autotune allowed him to broaden his creative scope.    

A few months passed, and on June 2014 CHANGMO unveiled Gangster, his debut single featured by the singer Livii on a beat by the Grammy Award-nominated producer BRLLNT who would be one of his friends from Deosko. For Gangster to be his debut single is actually rather surprising seeing how much this single stands out from the rest of his discography back then and now. Gangster is on a Dubstep beat, there is a few other occurrences of dubstep influence in his music but this kind of sonority is not exactly representative of his musical universe.

Four months later, on October 2014, CHANGMO released 별될준비 (or BDJB roughly translated as ‘Ready to be a Star’), his 3rd mixtape. BDJB intro might feel familiar, and it’s normal as he is singing a verse of 서민을 벗어나기란 어렵지 from the previous mixtape, this time while playing the piano, for the introduction. For BDJB, CHANGMO produced two songs, D r i n k tinged with house influences, and Skit 2 (취중진담).

Just like its title, for Draft Day Freestyle featured by 얼돼 (Errday Jinju), CHANGMO is rapping on Waka Flocka Flame’s Draft Day, his flow is rather hard-hitting, with a nice punch to it. He is rapping a bit in a similar way in Underground Love featured by D-Hack, even though there is more softness here which makes sense as he is using the ChillHop beat from KanKick’s Love Hardcore (Underground) from the album Artz Unknown released in 2001.

While his flow is pretty intense in 허슬러 음악 as well, there is also a more emotional side here. You might have recognized the beat from Lil Wayne’s Hustler Musik track from the album Tha Carter II released in 2005. He is more laid-back on Hipster Girl, for which he used the beat of Iamsu!’s Hipster Girls released in 2013. 소녀, the 8th song is based on Childish Gambino’s 3005 from the album Because the Internet released in 2013, it is another great example of the use of autotune for the singing parts, an artistic/more experimental intention is also noticeable though, especially on Trophy, the 12th track, based on Drake’s Trophies.  

Finally, he also used the beat and a verse of The Quiett’s Tomorrow from the mixtape AMBITIQN released in 2013 and Zion.T’s Yanghwa BRDG for 비닐하우스, the final track.

It appears that he has not been broadcasted but CHANGMO would have taken part to Show Me The Money 3 aired from July to September 2014. However, he would have been eliminated early on in the show by judge San E.

With 2015, CHANGMO appeared in his first official collaboration, for 마블제이’s (Marvel.J) single 벌러 왔어, an MV is also available.

That year is also characterized by the unofficial release in November of I n c o m p l e t e, his 4th mixtape. Unlike his previous mixtapes, here CHANGMO produced most of the songs, with the exception of 악당 featured by LTAK, VERSACE for which he used the beat of Earl Sweatshirt’s Swag Me Out featured by Jasper, Odd Future, Wolf Gang, Tyler, The Creator released in April 2015, and 느낌 featured by J;Key that is based on  BILL STAX’s First Feeling featured by B.L.X and Cubic (now known as Junggigo) from the album MP Hip Hop 2002 풍류 released in 2002. It is also a possibility for the first track 오직 to be inspired by Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen released in 2014. 말하지도 , the 2nd track, also contains a sample of Kanye West’s All Of The Lights featured by Rihanna and Kid Cudi in the last seconds.

Besides, while listening to the mixtape you might notice that the first half is rather on the powerful side while the second half is smoother. I n c o m p l e t e also contained 지워야해 (Erase You), which had been previously shared in July 2015 and that is the only track of the project to still be up on CHANGMO’s SoundCloud (along with V E R S A C E), and it is actually his most streamed one there, with more than 7.77M listening. 지워야해 (Erase You) has never been officially released but you should definitely give it a listen, the vibe is addictive!

2016: A key year in CHANGMO’s journey

On January 31st, 2016, CHANGMO released on SoundCloud the mixtape WELCOMETOMOTOWN. Among the 10 tracks, only 7 will make it to M O T O W N; a mixtape officially released on the streaming platforms in March. Sonically, you can feel that CHANGMO’s hard work in his previous mixtapes is paying off. CHANGMO produced the whole project and is slowly but surely developing a distinctive musical identity while showcasing great versatility in terms of both composition and flow.

In its own way, M O T O W N is a really touching project. You can really feel CHANGMO’s willingness to succeed, his ambition, but in some way, this ambition seemed to be almost overwhelming as he had yet to gain the public’s recognition.

Looking back, all that I had going for me were my lyric writing skills and my music producing skills. But the reality was that those two skills weren’t enough for me to be confident that I would someday make it.

I didn’t have a single reason to believe that I would someday become a successful musician.

My goal was to make music that musicians would be moved by.

CHANGMO for KOSMONOISE STUDIO | November 2019

Light Me Up, the opening track of the mixtape might be the most representative song in this matter.

In an interview available on the YouTube channel 1theK Originals unveiled in June 2020, CHANGMO explained that the first verse was about him being an unknown artist who has a lot of respect for many other artists.

그댄 가만히 있는데도

어떻게 나의 눈을 데려가

Amazin’ You My Star

I’m Watching You 따르고파

그대는 확신했었나요 미리

No Answer Just Shine

 You’re just standing still

Yet I wonder how you catch my attention

Amazin’ You My Star

I’m Watching You, I wanna follow

Were you certain of this ahead of time?

No Answer Just Shine

CHANGMO – Light Me Up | Translation by 옵티머스황 OptimusHwang

CHANGMO was dreaming of greatness, looking at the sky and waiting for any sort of sign, but in the end, he was alone facing his uncertainties, no one could guarantee him that he would indeed make it.

On the other hand, the second verse was about a successful him that would look back to his old days.

작은 별이 나를 비추어내

비슷한 숨결이 느껴지는구나

작은 불씨가 부럽곤해

세련되진 않다해도

뜨거운 열망

그토록 들어왔던 전달할래

so bright

영웅처럼 품에 가둔 같아

All Of The Lights

그때만 낼수있는 아이야

기억나 나의 소싯적

나또한 쥐고 있던 열정

닿을것 같지 않은 저별

눈물들을 닦고 말을 걸어

그댄 들리나요 나의 말이

물어도 빛이 날뿐 내게 답이

Those small stars are shining upon me

I can feel a similar breath to it

At times I’m envious of that small ember

It’s not sophisticated but you can feel that ambition

I wanna forward what I’ve heard so much to you

So bright

It’s all, I have you in my arms

Like my hero, All Of The Light (a reference to Kanye West’s eponymous song)

It’s only at that time it can shine

I remember the passion I once had

The passion I had too

The star is too far away

I feel like I can’t reach it

Drying up their tears and they speak to me.

Can you hear what I’m saying?

Only light shining for the answer.

CHANGMO – Light Me Up | Translation by 옵티머스황 OptimusHwang

The problem is that despite all this ambition, all this faith, at some point the pressure and the frustration became unbearable to the point that he was somehow drowning his sorrow in alcohol.

“Since I was in my early 20’s, I drank to forget about the reality I was confronting. Now I can drink for pleasure for sure. Back then I think I was alcoholic”

CHANGMO for 1theK Originals |June 2020

A few months later, in July, CHANGMO unveiled six new songs in시간 2 (Time to Earn Money 2), his first official EP. But as he is releasing the project, the artist is actually thinking of quitting music as he confided in the same interview with 1theK.

“This really was the end of me. No regrets, no one is looking for me anymore”

Despite being very active and releasing new projects endlessly, he was only powerless, waiting to finally be acknowledged.   

The hardest thing for me back then was just that things were moving so slow. I would release mixtapes year after year and even though I was a nobody I was becoming more and more experience in the field. But every day I would wake up to find out there was a new star in the hip-hop scene.

Rookies would appear out of seemingly nowhere and become famous

I would look at those people and say ‘Am I really not meant to become famous?’ And I found myself unwittingly comparing myself to them. I would ask myself: ‘Am I never going to make it? Am I never going to become famous?’

CHANGMO for KOSMONOISE STUDIO | November 2019

The fact that he could not attend college might have added to this frustration. CHANGMO applied two times to Berklee College of Music, according to an interview with헨리 Henry Lau in December 2020, he played Bill Evans’s Waltz for Debby for the audition, and he actually succeeded to be accepted the two times. However, he did not manage to get a scholarship and therefore could not attend the school as he was not wealthy enough to support the tuition fees.  

Mentally, 2016 was a tough year for the artist, yet, as he was on the verge of giving up, life suddenly took a new turn.

As he explained in the video with 1theK, about 2 or 3 days before the release of 시간 2 (Time to Earn Money 2) in July, The Quiett contacted him and offered him to sign with Ambition Musik, a sub-label of Illionaire Records founded by Dok2 and The Quiett officially launched a few months later, in September. At that time, it seems that CHANGMO was getting offers from other companies, but he was secretly hoping to join Illionaire Records, thus this chance with Ambition Musik was a great alternative for him. There was one condition though, and it was for CHANGMO to quit Twitter. As explained by Hash Swan and CHANGMO in Tomorrow’s Hangover show on YouTube from June 2019, there is usually not any form of coercion in Ambition Musik, it is more of a family-like atmosphere than business, but CHANGMO was seemingly letting out his frustrations on Twitter too much, hence why they asked him to quit.

On a side note, The Quiett and CHANGMO already collaborated in the past, in April, The Quiett invited him and Chamane for the track Good Saturday from the album Q Train 2.

As a consequence, the announcement of CHANGMO joining Ambition Musik is officially done on October 1st, yet it is not right at this moment that the rapper is going to gain the public’s attention.  

A few weeks after the announcement, on December 15th CHANGMO released 시간 3 (or DBSG 3), his second EP. Just like in 시간 2 (Time to Earn Money 2), this EP is made of 6 songs that he fully produced, including the track Ambition featured by his label mates Keem Hyo Eun and Hash Swan, together they are the first artists to have joined Ambition Musik. There is also a collaboration with myunDo for the song My Mate, but the song that will stand out the most for the auditors is nothing less than 아이야 (AIYA) featured by Beenzino, one of the most respected rappers of the Korean Urban scene and member of Illionaire Records along with Dok2 and The Quiett. The fun fact is that in the interview with 1theK, CHANGMO explained that the collaboration was in fact an idea from The Quiett. He thought that the song was a bit boring and had a feeling that inviting Beenzino could help. CHANGMO admitted that he had been too shy to ask Beenzino himself, so, in the end, The Quiett did it.

This could be it for 2016 but no, an unexpected event is awaiting CHANGMO. On December 31st, Yoo JaeSeok and Dok2 are performing the song Like featured by Lee Hi for the Infinite Challenge Great Heritage and if you look at the video of the live performance, you can notice that the one playing the piano is none other than CHANGMO. And well, you would not be the only one noticing this because it turns out that after the performance, CHANGMO’s name ended up trending on Naver, or at least that is what is stated in his Biography on Namuwiki, a Korean wiki. The attention is on CHANGMO and two songs will especially beneficiate from this new momentum, 마에스트로 (Maestro) and 아름다워 (Beautiful), two tracks from 시간 2 (Time to Earn Money 2). It is to the point that 마에스트로 (Maestro) will peak at the 42nd position and 아름다워 (Beautiful) at the 29th despite having been released a few months prior. In response to this enthusiasm, A Music Video (MV) for마에스트로 (Maestro) is unveiled on January 2017. This is CHANGMO’s first MV.

There is something oddly meaningful with CHANGMO finally getting the recognition he craved with 마에스트로 (Maestro). With the lyrics of 마에스트로 (Maestro) CHANGMO is making a parallel between the classical music world, his former dream as a pianist, and the HipHop scene, his new path, it’s literally his story.

다섯살때부터 나는

피아노를 쳤어 영재였지

베토벤부터 모차르트

바흐 쇼팽 선배였지

허나 나난 접고서

가사를 썼어 열넷이였지

이게 좋아

그건 벌어 그새끼들 모두 엿먹어

베르사체 무한리필 drank

그게 내 1악장

Maserati car 하얀색 대리석 house

그게 내 2악장

Mic바로 나의지휘봉

불러 maestro maestro

I have been playing the piano since 5

Such a gifted genius

From Beethoven to Mozart, Bach and Chopin

They were my seniors

But I put it aside and started writing lyrics

At the age of 14

I like this very much and cannot get rid of it

Fuck those who deny me

Versace and infinite refill

Drank

That’s my first movement

Maserati car and white marble house

That’s my second movement

Mic is my baton

Call me Maestro Maestro

CHANGMO’s hook on 마에스트로 (Maestro) | Translation by Grey K

Sonically the song is also very representative of his musical identity, with how he uses the autotune to add more dimension to the sound, but also the importance of the melody to him that he probably inherited from his years as a pianist.

Besides in 2016 he also released the single 담배 in April and appeared in several collaborations. In June with Futuristic Swaver for 10K a song from the album Futuristic Swaver Vs. The World. A month later, in July with Don Mills for 안겨줘 (Give U a Hug) from the album 미래 (Meerae). After signing with Ambition, 김효은 (Keem Hyo-Eun) and him also collaborated with Dok2 for the track Put it down from the OST 안투라지 MIXTAPE #6 (Entourage MIXTAPE) released in December.

2017: CHANGMO – Hip Hop Discovery of the Year

Following the success of 마에스트로 (Maestro) and 아름다워 (Beautiful), three years after his official debut CHANGMO won the award of Discovery of the Year – Hip Hop at the 2017 Gaon Chart Music Awards. He also got a nomination for the prize of the New Artist of the Year at the 2017 Korean Hip-hop Awards.

Thanks to this surge of popularity, new opportunities arose for artists. In March 2017, CHANGMO unveiled I’m All Ears, part 3 of the OST from the drama 보이스 (Voice). In July he also contributed to part 7 of the OST of the drama 최고의 한방 (The Best Hit) with the song I Always.

In April, CHANGMO also got to co-release the single BLUE MOON with the Idol Hyolyn who used to be a member of the girl group Sistar. An MV has been released the same day.

Generally speaking, CHANGMO is starting to appear in an increasing number of collaborations including Suran’s Wine produced by SUGA from the boy group BTS. The track that has been released in April 2017 won the 2018 Best R&B/Soul Award at the 32nd Golden Disc Awards.

But that year he also collaborated with 마블제이 (Marvel.J), 소지섭 (So Ji Sub), Dok2, The Quiett, Primeboi, his label mate 김효은 (Keem Hyo-Eun), 버나드 박 (Bernard Park), 제시 (Jessi), 사무엘 (Samuel), 허클베리피 (Huckleberry P), Junoflo, 시온 (XION), BRLLNT, jeebanoff (지바노프) and 수퍼비 (SUPERBEE). For more information, please look at the Discography part that follows this article/below. 

Most importantly, 2017 is marked in May by the release of 순간 (Gettin Money Moment), an 8-tracks mixtape. In keeping with the title, through the lyrics, CHANGMO highlights his new status, on the Korean Urban scene but also financially, and this by staying true to himself and his artistic vision.

좆까라, 음악 산업아, 절대 잃어

내게 PB형이 말해, 컸대, 그러니

즐기래, 경제난, 그건 이제는 freedom

The Music Industry can fxck off, I’ll never sell out,

PB, my older brother, tells me that I grew up a lot

So I just want to have fun now

From financial difficulties to financial freedom

CHANGMO – High With Me | Translation by MICROSOPFT

Overall the songs are on the powerful side, especially the title tracks 인기가요 (Inkigayo) featured by The Quiett & Dok2 and One More Rollie featured by 김효은 (Keem Hyo Eun) & Hash Swan. An MV for One More Rollie is released two months later in July. The basslines are deep even on more melodic songs such as BAPE and Wait For Me.

For the collaborations, Sik-K is also present on Show Me Luv.  

This mixtape got an overall nice reception from the public as it peaked at the 26th position in the Korean charts.

Finally, in November with Dok2, The Quiett, 김효은 (Keem Hyo Eun), and Hash Swan they released the song No Switchin’ Sides produced by Prima Vista. An MV is released in February 2018.

2018: DNSG & Show Me The Money 777

CHANGMO will come back in 2018 with The Quiett and Dok2 for the release of the single D.O.P.E. and the track We Bad produced by D.O in April.

Two months later, in June he then released 닿는 순간 (DNSG), a 9-tracks EP, roughly translated as ‘Ready to be a star’. With this project, he reflected on the journey that led him to success, but also his new status.

여기까지 그리 바라던

드림카, chrome hearts, off white 옷,

동화 마냥 이쁜 그런 결말, 허나 끝이라기엔

내가 존나 어려, 락커처럼 숨질까

I wished for money so long

Dream cars, Chrome Hearts, Off White clothes

Just like a fairy tale, a beautiful type of ending

But I’m still too fucking young to call it the ending

Should I die like a Rockstar?

CHANGMO – Selfmade Orange ft. SUPERBEE | Translated by 옵티머스황 OptimusHwang

In keeping with his previous EPs, CHANGMO produced all the songs, except for Neighborhood Guys and Can’t you see I’m a rockstar? that he co-produced with Paul Blanco. Paul Blanco, who is also featured in Can’t you see I’m a rockstar? and 동네 놈들 (Hood Boyz). He also invited 최정훈 (CHOI JUNG HOON) of 잔나비 (JANNABI) for the song 라일락 (Lilac) and SUPERBEE for Selfmade Orange. An MV for the title track Holy God is unveiled the same day.

It is also worth noting that the album cover would have been inspired by The foreign exchange’s cover of their song Be alright (remix).

On a side note, following the release of Holy God, some people thought that CHANGMO was dissing BTS because of the following lyrics:

, , 눈물, , , 눈물 존나 흘린

리놈 불려, 히트친 방탄 소년

Blood, sweat, and tears, shedding blood, sweat, and tears,

This guy from the ri called as the Bangtan Boy who made a big hit

CHANGMO – HOLY GOD | Translation by 옵티머스황 OptimusHwang

However CHANGMO explained in the interview with 1theK that it was in fact a shout-out as BTS’ song Blood, Sweat & Tears became so popular. He didn’t expect those lyrics to be perceived that way.

Three months later, in September, CHANGMO released the double single BOY which includes the eponymous song as well as a live version of his track 아름다워 (BEAUTIFUL).

This project is followed by the release of the single Maserati & Porsche that he made with his friend SUPERBEE.

2018 was also a special year for the artist because he accepted to be a judge along with The Quiett for the HipHop contest Show Me The Money 777 aired from September to November. Together they formed the team Illionaire Ambition and supported Lee Dong-Min, D.Ark, Coogie, and Superbee, the latest making it to the semi-finals but failed to beat Loopy from the team Hi-Lite AOMG run by Paloalto and Code Kunst.

During the show, CHANGMO has been featured in a few songs such as 사임사임 (saimsaim) by 쿠기 (Coogie), 수퍼비 (SUPERBEE) & D.Ark (디아크) and (Uck) by 수퍼비 (SUPERBEE) that CHANGMO produced as well.

That year CHANGMO also collaborated with his new label mate ASH ISLAND that joined Ambition Musik in November. Consequently, ASH ISLAND unveiled the pre-release single DEADSTAR and its MV the same month. But CHANGMO also worked with Don Mills, Hash Swan, 로스 (Los), UNEDUCATED KID, ODEE & VIANN, 트웰브 (twlv), 한요한 (Han Yo Han), The Quiett, DJ Wegun, 릴러말즈 (Leellamarz), 쿠기 (Coogie), and BRADYSTREET. For more information, please look at the Discography part that follows this article/below. 

2019: Boyhood, Diary of an Artist

2019 is a rather busy year for CHANGMO, especially when it comes to group projects.

On May 12th, with his label mates from Ambition Musik at that time made of Hash Swan, ASH ISLAND, and 김효은 (Keem Hyo Eun), they started by releasing the song Bition Boyz produced by TOIL.

Then 3 days later, with The Quiett, Beenzino, and Sik-K, they released The Fearless Ones along with a music video.

One month later, in June, the label mates from Ambition Music were back with the single BAND produced by CASHBANGER. With its lively energy, BAND quickly became a memorable song in the Korean urban scene and peaked at the 30th position on the Korean charts.

But it was not all for June, that same month Leellamarz and producer Way Ched joined Ambition Musik and to mark the occasion Ambition Musik partnered with the media dingo music and released the song Beer with a performance video thus featured by CHANGMO, Hash Swan, ASH ISLAND, 김효은 (Keem Hyo Eun), 릴러말즈 (Leellamarz), The Quiett and produced by Way Ched. Just like BAND, this song met a sizeable success and peaked at the 43rd position on the Korean Charts.

CHANGMO’s last joint project of the year is none other than with YUMDDA for the 3-tracks EP Touch My Phone, a play on words as means ‘money’ in Korean but also sounds like ‘don’t’. On streaming platforms outside South Korea, it is actually entitled Don’t Touch My Phone. Zoorumpug accompanied them for the eponymous title track.

But the main event that year is probably the release of Boyhood, CHANGMO’s first album in November. For Boyhood, CHANGMO explained in an interview with HIPHOPLE that he had not been looking for a hit but rather wanted to make an album that he could look back on fondly years later.

I really tried to portray myself through this album. I honestly wasn’t looking for a hit, but rather an album that I can look upon years later and use as a diary, or storybook, to reflect on myself, I just wanted to leave one album like that.

CHANGMO for HIPHOPLE | December 2019

He also added that he took the title from a movie, probably Boyhood directed by Richard Linklater, released in 2014, and produced over 12 years, which records the life of a young boy until he matures into a grown man.

This album is thus about this young boy who dreamt to become an artist and rose to the top and is sometimes said to be a sequel to M O T O W N. Among the album’s twelve tracks, many have been made since he was about 20 years old. CHANGMO was waiting for the right occasion to release them. 

The project starts with the track 빌었어 (wish) and narration by Hong Soo-Jung which immediately immerse you in a storybook-like atmosphere, something that was important for him because everything that has been happening to him felt like a dream. 빌었어 (wish) is a very meaningful song with a strong feeling of hope, like the sunshine after rain. This song is about the conversation he had with The Quiett, when he offered him to join Ambition Musik, and everything he did after the talk.

제게 말이 되는 일이 일어났어요 엄마

지금 시간은 열두시

작업 실행 막차 끊길 시간

지금 The Quiett 그분 밑에 있어요 엄마

걸어가도 괜찮을 만한 기분이에요

여친한테도 전화했네요

또한 활짝 웃더라구요 저는 울었네요

표현 안돼요 기분이

엄마 보내줄게 italy

유유 걱정하지마

이제 너는 공부만 하면은

형이 계약금도 준대

이건 줄래 엄마께

일단 비밀 아빠껜

아빠가 시장 사람들에게

말씀할 수도 있으니까

일단은 비밀로

밥은 챙기니 걱정 조만간 덕소 갈게

Bye mom

It’s twelve thirty right now,

I start producing when its time

the last bus has already gone

I just left The Quiett’s house mom

I feel like I could just walk back

I called my girlfriend

She smiled brightly but I cried

I cannot explain my feelings

Mom I’ll take you to a trip to Italy

Yuyu don’t worry

Only thing you have to do now is study

Brother says he’ll pay the tuition

Give this to mom for now don’t tell Dad

Since he could tell everyone at this work

So for now keep it as a secret! Shh!

I’m eating well don’t worry

I’ll visit Deokso soon

Bye mom

CHANGMO – 빌었어 (wish) | Translation by Lonnie Kim

But the song, and especially the chorus, also depict the despair that CHANGMO used to feel before this life-changing event, he confided that that night The Quiett gave him money for a cab but he was so short on money that he would have kept the money to buy food and went back home on foot.

평생 꿈만을 꿨죠
알잖아요 꿈은 들잖아
순간을 평생 떠올렸죠
친구들이 대학을
한강에 가서 술을 마셨네
되뇌이면서 세상은 싫어해
그렇지 그렇지 그럴만했어
그때는 몰라 그리고 애써
알려고 하지도 않잖아
눈물을 흘렸지 속에서
눈물 흘려 여의도에서
눈물 맛이 달라

빌었어
빌었어 밤마다
이럴 술김에
오그라들게
손을 모으고 말야
빌었어
빌었어 밤마다
무교잖아
근데 하늘에다가
비는 보면 있나
소원을 들어줄 어떤

I’ve always just dreamed

You know dreaming doesn’t cost anything

I’ve always thought of this moment

When all my friends went to university

I just drank at Han River

Telling myself ‘World hates me’

Yea yea understandable

Back then I didn’t know and I didn’t even try to know

I cried in my room

I cried in Yeouido

The two years taste differently ah

I wished

I wished every night

Since it’s cheesy

Do it while I’m drunk

With two hands put together

I wished

I wished every night

I’m an atheist

But I guess it exists as we make wishes looking at the sky

Someone who will make my wishes come true

CHANGMO – 빌었어 (wish) | Translation by Lonnie Kim

The next song is METEOR, one of the title tracks of the album which has also been adapted into an MV released on December 5th. According to his interview with HIPHOPLE, METEOR was not supposed to be a title track. It is a song that he made in 2017 just after having taken a break in New York, and he confided that even though it was his favorite song of the album, he listened to it so much while working on it that he was not really objective about it anymore. It is actually Ambition Musik that stopped him and advised him to select it as one of the title tracks.

The least to say is that CHANGMO made the right decision by listening to them. METEOR peaked at the 1st position in the Korean charts and is currently double platinum, which means that it got more than 200 million streaming since its release. Not everyone was happy with this success though. At that time, the girl band Red Velvet was coming back with Psycho, a new song, and they got stuck at 2nd place because of the enthusiasm around METEOR. Consequently, a part of Red Velvet’s fans accused CHANGMO and his label of ‘Sajaegi’, a Korean term used to “designate a specific practice to inflate sales of digital songs or chart manipulation”. See this article by Channel Korea for more information (https://channel-korea.com/what-is-sajaegi-in-k-pop/). It is to the point that CHANGMO pretty much begged his fans to stop streaming the song…

It is even more bittersweet when one takes into consideration that CHANGMO himself is a huge fan of Red Velvet, something he did not hesitate to claim on several occasions. He would have become a Red Velvet fan in 2015-2016. As explained earlier, at that time he was still an underground rapper, living in his tiny room, and when saw the MV for Dumb Dumb, it was like a revelation for him, it was art, from the visual to the music. But in a way, people also joked that CHANGMO in fact won as a fan because the group knows for sure who he is now. He even participated in Yeri’s YERIHAN HIP BANG YouTube show, Yeri who is none other than a member of Red Velvet.

Funnily enough, this course of events matched well with the song. In an interview with IZM in April 2021, he explained that whether people want it or not, he will take over the charts with his music, to become a star.

전국 사람들이 외치네

괴물체는 뭘까

Meteor, 거대 Meteor

네게 처박힐 Meteor

별빛이 내려오지

마구 내려오지

경고, 경고

그래도 처박힐 Meteor

Everybody is shouting

‘What is that monster?’

Meteor, Giant Meteor

I’m a Meteor which is gonna crash into you

The starlight is falling down

It’s falling down

WARNING, WARNING

I’m a Meteor which is gonna crash into you

CHANGMO – METEOR | Original Translation

It is also worth noting that there is a reference to his mixtape M O T O W N and more especially to the song Light Me Up, because his vision of becoming a famous artist became true, so he used the same verse.

Motown 1 노랠 기억해 니들?

뭐였지, 뭐였나,

I’m the man in the mirror

그러니 light me up, oh

1절의 별이, 2절의 별이

그래, 모두 나였지

실화가 동화이지

Do you remember the first track of ‘Motown’?

(What was it? What was that? um um)

‘I’m the man in the mirror

So Light me up’

The star in the first verse.

The star in the second verse.

Yea, It was all me

It’s a true story

CHANGMO – METEOR | Original Translation

METEOR is followed by the song 위업 (WE UP) featured by Okasian and UNEDUCATED KID. He explained to HIPHOPLE that like most rappers in the Korean Urban scene, he has been influenced by Okasian, a famous member of the crew Cohort, so he wanted to work with him.

He’s kind of like Beenzino to me. Okasian was one of those rappers I really liked. He was also one of the first to recognize my music back when I released my first mixtape. So I really wanted to work with him.

CHANGMO for HIPHOPLE | December 2019

He also respects UNEDUCATED KID’s artistic vision, and even compared it to Apple in the same interview:

With Uneducated Kid, we tried a lot of things. When he writes music or records, he’s very serious. A lot of people may think his lyrics are too simple but he has a deeper philosophy behind his songs, it’s kind of like Apple, Simple, but filled with a lot. When we were recording together, he was very serious. Shouting really seriously.

Through the songs that follow METEOR, CHANGMO would then show a darker side of himself, as he explained in the interview for HIPHOPLE, those times he drank too much or unwillingly hurt someone. As a matter of fact, there is a whole switch of vibe with 2 minutes of hell featured by Paul Blanco, it’s more on the nocturnal side. 위로 (Da Wero), the second title track, exudes a similar atmosphere, with if you look closely at the lyrics, a decadent feeling of grandeur.

위로 위로 위로

너가 닿지 못할 데까지

위로 위로 위로

신이 나의 손에 닿을 데까지

Higher, always higher and higher

Even higher that no one can no longer reach me 

Higher, always higher and higher 

Higher than even God could touch my hand 

CHANGMO – 위로 (Da Wero) | Translation by Underground Echoes

This intuition could be confirmed by Dearlove (skit), the next song. Unlike one could think with such a title and the tender undertone, Dearlove (skit) is not a love song, or at least not in the traditional sense. Dearlove (skip) is not dedicated to a special someone but in fact to alcohol. Consumed by loneliness, CHANGMO would have ended up drinking alone at home. At some point, CHANGMO would have realized that it was not money or popularity that he needed but to be surrounded by his loved ones.

It would only make sense, then, for the next song to be dedicated to his mother. 세레나데 (SERENADE) is a song that he started making back in 2015 however he kept on postponing working on it because he felt that it was not the right time yet. He wanted to write more mature lyrics.

Time went by and eventually, he was approaching 26 years old, the age his mother was when she gave birth to him and he realized that well, he was still feeling like a kid and that his mother must have felt the same at that time.

I realized I was getting close to my mother’s age. My mother had me when she was 26, and I always thought I was just a kid, A kid that has had a taste of success but doesn’t know what to do with it. But if I think about it, my mom had me at 26 and she must have felt like a kid too at that time, still not completely an adult. So I thought of my mom as a friend around my age and wanted to comfort the girl of 26.

CHANGMO for HIPHOPLE | December 2019

CHANGMO confided in the same interview that he also got inspired by songs such as Kanye West’s Hey Mama from the album Late Registration released in 2005 as well as 2Pac’s Dear Mama from the album Me Against The World released in 1995. This song is dedicated to mothers, so it was important to him for his mother to appreciate the song.

Similarly, there is a nostalgic vibe with 031576, the next song, featured by Kirin. 031 is none other than the area code of the Gyeonggi-do province, the province where Deokso is located. For this song, he also used a sample of the song 왕자와 병사들 (Prince And Soldiers) by the group 모자이크 (Mosaic) released in 1994. Before his mother left for the US, she left him her car, an Avante, and because it was an old car the Bluetooth didn’t work well so he listened a lot to the radio instead. This is how he discovered or rediscovered this song, when he heard it he thought he really had to sample it. Inviting the singer Kirin also made sense because he can convey this ’90s vibe as well, his verse fit well with the atmosphere of the song, better than the hook that CHANGMO initially made.

Unlike the two previous songs, REMEDY featured by the KPop Idol 청하 (CHUNG HA) relates more to his present situation at that time. In the interview with HIPHOPLE, he explained that “this song is about a relationship between a female star and a male Rapstar.” He said that while he is from the hip-hop scene, Chung Ha represents the K-Pop scene. It’s about how they come from very different backgrounds.

Co-produced with Paul Blanco, Meet Me In Toronto is also inspired by CHANGMO’s feelings back then, it is a reflection of youth, about living the moment to the fullest.  

Paul Blanco’s first verse says something like “Will we always stay the same as we are now?”

It’s about our youth, our current position. “meet me in Toronto” is about youth, so I thought even if my fame is uncomfortable, I should do what I want to do while I’m still young, it’s just a part of youth.

So recently I’ve been trying to take public transportation and walk around outside a lot. Just in my slippers and pajamas, I went to the mall yesterday. At the mall, in my PJs, I just wanted to buy Goyard. That’s what I want to do, I just want to enjoy my youth. I don’t care what others may think, I just go my way. I think my mindset’s changed now.

Even if I’m rich, if I don’t live the way I want to then that doesn’t have any meaning. Even if I lose money, or if my fans don’t like the way I am. This one life I’ve been given, I’m going to live it the way I want to.

CHANGMO for HIPHOPLE | December 2019

In the same interview, he also explained that Hotel Walkerhill featured by Hash Swan was actually a song from Hash Swan initially. It was seemingly back in 2016-2017 for one of Hash Swan’s albums and the title back then was Hotel Shangri-La, but Hash Swan did not select it in the end and CHANGMO thought it was a shame and therefore asked Hash Swan if he could do his own version of the song and keep the original hook. Hotel Walkerhill is an actual hotel in Seoul, CHANGMO used to look at it dreamily from his apartment in Gwangjang Dong. When he was a struggling underground rapper he strived to make it and be able to book a room there one day, just as stated in the hook.

I just wanna check in hotel walkerhilla

CHANGMO – Hotel Walkerhilla ft. Hash Swan

While you can listen to 12 tracks in Boyhood, the project was actually supposed to contain 13 songs. After the song 2 minutes of hell, there was supposed to be the song 나의고향서울 (In My City of Seoul). CHANGMO explained that this song was the epitome of the style he liked and was highly influenced by Kanye West and especially his tendency to use samples. As a result, it appears that he used samples from two different Korean songs. One from the 60s/70s and the other from the 80s. However, the songwriters refused to give him the right to use the samples, even for a free release on SoundCloud. But since this song was really meaningful to him, with how it showed the hardships he faced as a young artist in Seoul, he still decided to include the title in the tracklist.

It is also worth noting that the cover is an homage to The Quiett’s glow forever album released in 2018.

In keeping with the previous years he also took part in a lot of collaborations with The Quiett, 이동민 (ICE PUFF), ZENE THE ZILLA, Dok2, LO VOLF & HAIF, ASH ISLAND, 이영지 (Lee Young Ji) for the final of School Rapper 3 that she won, RYL (로얄), 뱃사공 (Bassagong), 비비 (BIBI), Way Ched (웨이체드), 릴러말즈 (Leellamarz), 스윙스 (Swings) & 한요한 (Han Yo Han), 팔로알토 (Paloalto), MAGO (마고), 파사딕 (Posadic), Chaboom, Panda Gomm, Yuzion, Skinny Brown & TOIL, SOMDEF (썸데프) and 트웰브 (twlv). For more information, please look at the Discography part that follows this article/below. 

A collaboration that no one expected though was to hear CHANGMO along with the Nigerian singer Burna Boy for the song Own It by Stormzy, one of the most talented rappers on the British scene. 

2020: BIPOLAR & LIBILLY

Following the success of METEOR and Boyhood, CHANGMO has been nominated for several awards ceremonies in 2020. He was nominated for the Hip-Hop Album of the Year at the 2020 Korean Hip-Hop Awards and won the title of Hip-Hop Track of the Year for METEOR whose music video was also nominated for Music Video of the year. He also won the Best R&B/Hip-Hop Award, again for METEOR, at the 2020 Golden Disc Awards.

Musically speaking, in February, along with ASH ISLAND and Junggigo they released the song PAY DAY with the platform KozyPop. GRAY produced the instrumental and an MV is released in March. 

Three months later, in May, CHANGMO released COUNTIN MY GUAP, a pre-released single for the joint-EP BIPOLAR. COUTIN MY GUAP is an introspective song, CHANGMO’s lyrics are what one could describe as raw. With the success of Boyhood, CHANGMO confirmed his status as a Rap star, and yet it was not without cost as he explained to 1theK:

After this album, I can tell people ‘I’m a rap star now’ and no one would deny it. But for earning that, I lost a lot of things, I regret many things. There are so many. After I became a rap star, I had to give up on many things

He is very transparent about this in the lyrics, and especially in the second verse.

모든 지닌 뒤엔

달라진다 믿었기에 (No)

너무 배신감이 커 (Right)

그대로라는

두려워져, 너가 안아줘도

떠날 같아, 죽은 이를 없이

I believed that when I had everything it’d be different (No)

The feeling of betrayal is so big (Right)

I feel afraid of being intact

Even if you hugged me,

I felt like you’d leave me silently

CHANGMO – COUNTIN MY GUAP | Translation by 옵티머스황 OptimusHwang

As a matter of fact, CHANGMO explained that BIPOLAR was about their current status with Paul Blanco at that time, they wanted to convey their honesty through this EP, thus Countin My Guap totally matches this concept. The eight other songs have been released in July. Among the nine songs, CHANGMO and Paul Blanco are present together in four of them, birthstone, BEBE, the title track BIG LOVE and TOUR DAY 5 FREESTYLE. Paul Blanco worked exclusively on SHOOT featured by Uneducated Kid, 위해 (FOR YOU) featured by 환희 (Hwanhee), and the title track Star Ceiling. As for CHANGMO, besides COUNTIN MY GUAP he also worked on Swoosh Flow, an occasion for him to give a try to Drill, and you can specifically feel a UK-Drill influence that is also noticeable in the MV released 10 days later. In an interview with HIPHOPLE, he detailed that he discovered Drill through Drake and Pop Smoke but that he also appreciated how the British scene rearranged everything, something he also pinpointed in an interview with IZM for which he highlighted how he appreciated British artists and how bold they were.

And it is somewhat for a similar reason that he wanted to collaborate on a whole project with Paul Blanco. He really respects Paul Blanco, his vision of Hip-Hop, and how well-informed he is about what is going on in terms of trends.

If you want to know something you are unfamiliar with but want to know what song is popular abroad, what style is trendy, then you can just look up Paul

CHANGMO for 1theK Originals | June 2020

It was also an opportunity to thank their fans, they work a lot together and are very close so it only made sense to join forces for a common project.

Following the success of Swoosh Flow, in August, CHANGMO released a remix featured by 365lit, ZENE THE ZILLA, Chamane, Paul Blanco, Damndef, Kim Hyo-Eun, and Northfacegawd. This collaboration was nominated for Collaboration of the Year at the 2021 Korean Hip-Hop Awards.

Finally, in November, he released the double single 광장동에서 (GJD) including an MV that has been unveiled one week later and the song D-Day that he seemingly made back in 2016.

Just like the previous years he also contributed to a lot of collaborations such as with BLNK, 수퍼비 (SUPERBEE), 오웰무드 (Owell Mood), 루피 (Loopy), Way Ched (웨이체드), Raiden & 찬열 (CHANYEOL) from the boy group EXO, Rohann (이로한), MAGO (마고), ZENE THE ZILLA, 청하 (CHUNG HA), JAMIE (제이미), 한요한 (Han Yo Han), 김효은 (Keem Hyo-Eun), jeebanoff (지바노프), 호미들 (Homies) and UNEDUCATED KID. For more information, please look at the Discography part that follows this article/below. 

However, 2020 is not a year solely dedicated to music for the artist. In October he indeed launched the streetwear brand LIBILLY with his friends from Deokso, his hometown. The logo is a reference to the Gyeonggi-do province, the province where Deokso is located, whose area code is none other than 031, as explained earlier.

2021: UNDERGROUND ROCKSTAR & School Rapper 4

In 2021 CHANGMO decided to renew his experience as a mentor in a Hip-Hop competition TV Show, but this time for the 4th season of 고등래퍼 (High School Rapper) also known as HSR4 aired from February to April. With the producer Way Ched they supported the young rappers YUNG CHENS (Kang Seobin), TRADE L (Lee SeungHoon), D.Ark (Kim Woorim), and Baegie (Park Kangbaek).

On the occasion of the show, he contributed to the introduction song Mentors, along with the other mentors on the show, that is to say, The Quiett, Simon Dominic, Jay Park, Loco, pH-1, YUMDDA, Way Ched, Woogie but also Nucksal, who was this edition MC.

As a mentor, he also performed with artists from his team on several occasions. For the Team Battle:Group with the song BACKPACK produced by Way Ched and featured by all their artists so 강서빈 (YUNG CHENS), TRADE L, Baggie (배기), and D.Ark (디아크). Then for the Team Battle:Textbook Rap Battle 1 with the songs 경우의 (Numbers of Cases) produced by Way Ched and performed by Baggie (배기), and D.Ark (디아크), as well as 전우치 (Jeon Woochi) also produced by Way Ched and performed by 강서빈 (YUNG CHENS), and TRADE L. Finally he also performed with TRADE L on the show on two other occasions: with the song SUPERNOVA featured by 지소울 (G-Soul) & DUT2 for the semi-final and the song Ooh Wah also featured by 원슈타인 (Wonstein).

It is with this last song that TRADE L won the show.

Following High School Rapper 4, the team led by The Quiett and YUMDDA decided to release an EP entitled 고랩 LOSERS (GORAP LOSERS) and CHANGMO is present on 황세현’s (h3hyeon) 엘리자베스 Remix (Elizabeth Remix) also featured by BRADYSTREET and ZENE THE ZILLA.

It is also worth noting that D.Ark invited his mentor on both SMTM777 and HSR4 for the song GENIUS from the EP EP1 GENIUS released in May.

But 2021 also stands out for CHANGMO with on November 11th, the release of UNDERGROUND ROCKSTAR, his second album. I wrote a full article dedicated to this album already so I invite you to give it a read if you want to know more about it and the process and possible interpretations behind it. You can check it out here.

There is a bit more to say about the title itself though. As he explained in an interview with HIPHOPLE available since December 2021, after the success of 마에스트로 (Maestro) and 아름다워 (Beautiful), he thought that he should come up with an alter and that’s ever since that time that he started to refer to himself as the Underground Rockstar occasionally. People could call him a Pop star, a Rap star, a celebrity, but in the end, he felt like that Underground Rockstar fit him the most, despite the fact that this is quite an oxymoron because, by nature, a Rockstar is not considered underground. But to him underground refers more to culture rather than to status, like performing in clubs in Hongdae, he is what he is today thanks to the underground.

Besides, in 2021 he also participated in writing and composing the song Atlantis for SHINee’s album Atlantis – The 7th Album Repackage released in April. It is seemingly SM, their agency, that reached out to him.

He has also been invited in several projects, by artists such as 에픽하이 (EPIK HIGH), 지젤 (Jiselle), 박봄 (Park Bom), Don Mills, TOIL, 헤이즈 (Heize), Woodie Gochild, 와사비 (Queen WA$ABII), 한요한 (Han Yo Han), 로스 (Los), IODIO (아이오디오), 베이식 (Basick). He was also present on AOMG’s project B.O.T.B. (Best Of The Best) featured by 개코 (Gaeko), Don Mills, 로스 (Los), DeVita, SOLE (쏠), SINCE, BE’O (비오) and produced by GRAY. For more information, please look at the Discography part that follows this article/below. 

2022: Recognition and Enlistment

With UNDERGROUND ROCKSTAR, CHANGMO made a clean sweep in the award ceremonies that followed. Both the songs Hyperstar and Taiji got nominated for the price of Hip-Hop Track of the Year at the 2022 Korean Hip-Hop Awards, Taiji winning the category, but also Music Video of the Year at the same ceremony. But that’s not it for the 2022 Korean Hip-Hop Awards. UNDERGROUND ROCKSTAR won Hip-Hop Album of the Year and CHANGMO has been recognized as the Artist of the Year. Similarly, UNDERGROUND ROCKSTAR got nominated for Best Rap & Hip-Hop Album at the 2022 Korean Music Awards, and while the album did not win, the song Taiji once again won the title of Best Rap & Hip-Hop Song.

Besides, CHANGMO did not have much time for music this year as he enlisted on March 14th, 2022, which means that he should be discharged from military duty on September 13th, 2022. 

He still released a song for 스트릿 파이터 (SMF) Original Vol.1 (Street Man Fighter Original Vol.1), produced by Czaer on March 4th, and 이렇게 둘이 (Just the two of us), seemingly a pre-release single that has been unveiled the day he enlisted.

He also appeared in several collaborations with artists such as Way Ched (웨이체드), Dok2, ZENE THE ZILLA, BIG Naughty (서동현) for the song 낭만교향곡 (Romance Symphony) which also includes an MV, 지코 (ZICO) and 크라운제이 (CROWN J). For more information, please look at the Discography part that follows this article/below.

CHANGMO, an introspective artist who lives for music

It is safe to say that CHANGMO is a music prodigy, however, all gifted that he can be, it would be a mistake not to mention how hardworking he is.

CHANGMO is indeed a perfectionist who cannot settle for anything but high expectations toward himself. In the interview with Yeri from Red Velvet, he explained that more often than not, he is not satisfied with his beats, he tirelessly works on them until they reach his standards.

When it comes to his music, CHANGMO leaves nothing to chance. He can either starts by writing some lyrics or work on a beat, or a melody depending on his inspiration at the moment. If he feels that he is not ready to write lyrics that would fit with the beat then he prefers to wait just like he did with SERENADE from the album Boyhood mentioned earlier. It seems to be a pretty instinctual process!

Whenever possible, CHANGMO even tries to take care of the mixing himself, because of how this final step can have an impact on the sound, and how it can change the whole vibe of a track.

The problem is that sometimes he can be too perfectionist. To the point that it might be counterproductive and somehow destructive.

But you know that saying, “Everything comes at a price?” I honestly feel like that’s true. I do shows on stages that I’ve always wanted to be on but at the same time, this pressure builds up. When I’m at my studio, sitting in front of the piano and I play it but I don’t really feel the music. I feel like I’m the most useless person in the world when I’m having trouble making music.

Making music is the only thing that I know how to do and it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do in life. And when I’m not able to compose, I become the most pathetic person in the world. During these moments I feel utterly depressed and burdened It feels like I just got hit over the head really hard and bad thoughts wash over me in waves.

CHANGMO for KOSMONOISE STUDIO | November 2019

CHANGMO seems to be very self-aware though, whether it is about this tendency or about himself in general, and that is something that you can feel in his lyrics. He never hesitates to show a part of his true self through his songs, it appears so at least. And somehow, this is rather connected to his vision of Hip-Hop.

Hip-Hop is not only about being good at rapping, it does not necessarily have to be about ‘money boasting’ either, especially when some rappers boast about a wealth they do not have in the first place. It is important to highlight that he is not against boasting though. No, to him Hip-Hop is first about conveying a sincere message, and to be able to do this one must live life, make the most of the moment, to embrace oneself including one’s flaws but then, this also seems to imply a work of introspection.

This is something CHANGMO struggled a lot with for a while, especially with the pressure that came with success, and an ascension to a world that was foreign to him since he comes from a modest family.

I guess for me, success for the most of us, just for ordinary people like us, we tend to have an idea of success as something amazing, something on a completely different level, and you expect them to live everyday like that. But honestly, I’ve achieved a level of success compared to others earned money and fame but, the problem is I only saw it from the outside I’m only used to seeing it, not actually living it. I never learned it, so I don’t know what to do. Amidst all that I was really confused.

Just things like people noticing me, having influence over things. Then how do I control this power?

I found the solution now. The solution is actually so simple. When I first earned this fame, I thought I had to show something. I have to show that I am different. Or if I have a flaw, I have to fix it. I used to have those thoughts all the time. But the solution is so simple: Just live as yourself.

CHANGMO for HIPHOPLE | December 2019

Therefore, CHANGMO wants to write lyrics like a poem, he wants to touch people through his lyrics, to make them live a true experience within the time of a song.

I want the music to unfold a scene before their very eyes. I want them to smell what I smelt feel the color that I saw, the atmosphere that I felt

It would be even better if they could relate to what they felt on a personal level.

  CHANGMO for KOSMONOISE STUDIO | November 2019

This willingness comes from genuine respect and a strong sense of recognition toward his fans, as he explained in the interview for HIPHOPLE mentioned above:

I’m always so thankful for my fans. I’m a fan lover, and my fans know that.

How much I love them. And from now on the least I can do for my fans is show them the world in my mind and hopefully that world can help them in some way and when they listen to my music, for that moment come out of their darkness and have happy thoughts and get a taste of a different world.

As a consequence, through his music, CHANGMO tries to capture his own experience, but he also acknowledges the influence he can draw from artists around the world.

CHANGMO’s biggest influence is undoubtedly Kanye West

I am an extreme fan of Kanye and I copied his style of music a lot. When I listened to the original songs that he sampled: I wondered, “Would he have listened to this whole album?”, “Is that how he came up with the sample?” and would dig deeper like that, because I respected him so much. I analyzed Kanye. I basically majored in Kanye. I only graduated from highschool, but my major is Kanye.

CHANGMO for HIPHOPLE | December 2019

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy released in 2010 would have had a very strong impact on his vision of music and art, from the music, the visuals, the performance, and even this sense of border pretentiousness that is proper to Kanye West. This album seemingly opened a whole new world to him.

His favorite album from Kanye would be Late Registration, Kanye’s 2nd album released in 2005 though, he especially liked the sound of the string in this album in songs such as Bring Me Down featured by Brandy, Diamonds From Sierra Leone, Celebration, Gone featured by Consequence and Cam’ron as well as in Late.

The fact that his music can remind people of Kanye West is an honor for him, he listened to him so much that it only makes sense that people would feel it while listening to his music to some extent. However, his goal has never been to copy Kanye West but once again to show real sincerity through his music, to do his own music.  

But Kanye is not his unique influence. He used to never miss a release from Big Sean for instance or listened to Dr Dre and 2Pac a lot. In an interview with IZM he highlighted how he would have understood Hip-Hop grammar thanks to 2Pac’s All About U featured by Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Hussein Fatal and Yaki Kadafi from the album All Eyez on Me released in 1996.

He also learned a lot from Korean artists, especially from rappers from older generations such as Okasian, G2, Swings, and obviously from Illionaire Records. To him Dok2, The Quiett, and Beenzino have their own freshness and one of his goals is to perpetuate the legacy of Illionaire.

It seems that he also listened to Korean Rock, possibly when he started to play the piano for a band in school. This is where he would have properly paid attention to Seo Taiji’s music but also groups from the 70s/80s like 산울림 (Sanulrim) or 들국화 (Deulgukhwa). This is from this experience that he would have realized the importance of melody as well.

In keeping with this, ever since Boyhood he has been trying to sample Korean Music more frequently. He has a lot of respect for the original songs that he uses, so sampling is something that he takes very seriously.

In a similar way, he sees collaborations as a way to enrich his music, people that can add something to his music. Before joining Ambition Musik he was not so familiar with collaborations, but he realized how this can contribute to mutual growth when it comes to creation.

This is for this reason that he loves collaborating with Paul Blanco for instance, because he feels that there is so much that he can do with him, because of how creative and creatively bold he is.

In the same spirit, collaborating with SUPERBEE has an effect on the way he is rapping, and on his fervor. Because it’s one of his closest friends and they are the same age he tends to become competitive.

When I work with SUPERBEE, he’s the same age as me, I become competitive, I can’t let myself lose to SUPERBEE, we have to at least tie, that’s what I feel at the moment and my rapping gets better.

CHANGMO for 1theK | June 2020

They have been working on a joint album for a while now, but there is no date of release so far because of how busy they both are. He would love to collaborate with Red Velvet too.

There would be a distinction between the collaborations he does for his own projects and the featuring that he does for other artists though. Working for other artists is more of a way for him to challenge himself.

It is for a similar reason that he would like to produce for other artists, especially for rappers from the younger generations, to him it would mean that his music is still fresh. He did not produce much for others yet, but he mentioned several times that it is something that he would like to develop in the future, a new challenge in his journey as an artist.

During High School Rapper 4, CHANGMO also implied that he would be interested in launching his own label, he would even have his eyes on some artists already.

Guess that we can only wait for CHANGMO to come back from his military duty to see what the next chapter is gonna be! But it’s sure that he won’t stop surprising us and on inspiring generations of artists.

Articles

IZM

http://www.izm.co.kr/contentRead.asp?idx=30644&bigcateidx=11&subcateidx=13&view_tp=1&view_sort=1 

http://www.izm.co.kr/contentRead.asp?idx=30975&bigcateidx=11&subcateidx=13&view_tp=1

Namu Wiki

https://namu.wiki/w/%EC%B0%BD%EB%AA%A8

HIPHOPLE 

https://hiphople.com/interview/15876848 

 

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HIPHOPLE

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덤덤 스튜디오 / DUM DUM STUDIO

 

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