- Name: Kwon Hyuk / 혁권
- Other stage name: Deanfluenza / Deantrbl / DEAN
- Date of birth: 10/11/1992
- Status: Singer, Compositor, Songwriter, in activity
- Starting career: 2013
- Genre: Hip-Hop, Alternative R&B, Indie
- Label / Agency: Joombas Music Group (2013), Universal Music (2016), you.will.knovv (2017-)
- Belongs to: CLUB ESKIMO (2016), FANXY CHILD (in activity) (2016), you.will.knovv (2017-)
Artist’s Social Networks
Kwon Hyuk aka Dean is a Korean musician who made a name for himself in the urban scene. Since 2013, he has been a compositor and songwriter for Joombas Music Group.
It’s only in 2015 that he really started his career as a singer with three collaborations. At the time the aim was to target the American market.
It’s only in 2016 that he debuted in South Korea and signed with Universal Music group. The same year he joined the crew FANXY CHILD and with his friend MILLIC they created the collective CLUB ESK*MO.
In 2017 he also founded the collective/label you.will.knovv
The singer quickly established himself on the Korean R&B scene and collaborated a lot. From Rookie to be called “New R&B prince of Asia” by 88Rising, DEAN became a prominent artist of the Korean urban scene.
A deep-rooted passion for the urban culture…
Kwon Hyuk was born on November 10th, 1992, in Hongeun-dong, a neighborhood at the North of the Han River in Seoul. Unlike what people might think because of the ease in English that he showcases in his tracks or the fact he started his career in the United States; he is not Korean-American. Kwon Hyuk spent the first twenty years of his life in Seoul with his parents and his little brother Kwon Hyuk-Beom. He is, for that matter, still in contact with them.
Like a lot of teenagers, Kwon Hyuk had eclectic musical tastes but, at the age of 16, he developed a true passion for Hip-Hop to the point that he started to copy the rappers’ style. It was to the extent that he was wearing shoes and clothes that were too loose for him. Back at this time, while most people of his age were interested in gaming, Kwon Hyuk was looking for another way to relax and it was through Hip-Hop that he found it. However if once again this goes for a lot of teenagers, in Kwon Hyuk’s case, this new enthusiasm took a singular turn.
In some interviews, Dean explained that what attracted him first to hip-hop was how it enabled conveying strong messages. He has been especially touched by Epik High’s tracks. He related that he had been really impressed by how the group was able to convey a relevant message through a three-minute song.
Therefore, when he started to listen to Hip-Hop he quickly began writing his own songs as well. He already had prior experience in writing, by writing short stories about martial arts. But through Hip-Hop and especially R&B he also widened his musical culture.
One of his first compositions is none other than a collaboration with Keith Ape. They respectively were 15 for the rapper behind It G Ma and 16 for Dean (N.d You can find most of the songs in his discography below).
Even though the artist hid that growing passion for HipHop from his parents or that he didn’t choose music as a Major either; he, however, used to spend time on the Jungle Radio community, an online platform where amateurs could meet and perform. It’s on that platform that, at the age of 17, he met MILLIC. To be more precise, Millic would have contacted him first, sharing with him his wish to become a rapper as well.
…which first materialized through composition
However, even though he already started to rap and that he was confident about his will to develop his own career, it was first with the composition that things took a quite serious turn for him. Inspired by Pharell Williams who is both a singer and a compositor, at the age of 19 Dean composed a demo and got himself noticed by the CEO of Joombas Music group (JMB) founded in 2012 by Shin Kyuk (with Sen Hamilton, under the duo A-Rex, they for instance composed the track One Less Lonely Girl performed Justin Bieber) where he signed as compositor and songwriter at the age of 20. The label is also known for its involvement in the Kpop industry because of its regular collaborations with the agency SM Entertainment. For Growl, performed by the boysband Exo, for instance, but also with Girls’ Generation, SHINee, and F(x), or even some groups from other agencies such as VIXX.
Joining JMB influenced his vision of music a lot. Rubbing shoulders with professional compositors, he realized the difficulty of making music professionally, to make a living from it. It had been hard to accept, and it took time, but it would be now an asset as he explained during a Facebook live in 2016:
« There’s a difference between interest and work so initially it was tough but now I feel that I had to go through that process ».
As a consequence, Dean started to contribute to multiple projects under the name of Deanfluenza. The prefix Dean, his stage name, that he wanted to differentiate from his producer name, and the radical -fluenza which comes from the word “influenza”. He said in an interview that the idea came from a time when he had to go to the hospital. He saw the word “influenza” shining, catching his attention. This radical added to his artist’s name, he thought that it could also be a way to mean that the Dean virus was going to spread.
Among the most famous pieces he took part in, there are for instance the tracks Voodoo Doll (2013) and Eternity (2014) performed by the Boysband VIXX. For Exo he had been called to contribute to the composition of the instrumental of the song Black Pearl (2013) and he’s also the composer of their single Unfair (2015). He was also involved both in the music and the songwriting of the tracks World Tour and Video from Lee Hi’s album Seoulite released in 2015 or even for the tracks Shut up & Groove and And July from Heize’s eponymous album in 2016 in which he’s also featured.
When he’s composing/writing for other artists, Dean isn’t in the same mindset as when it’s for his own creations. He has to take their image into consideration, their voices too; he would put himself into their place, would try to understand at best who they are. About his work with Lee Hi, he said for instance that it was really easy to work with her because she has her own musical identity and, above all, a deep voice that makes her sound like she’s lived a lifetime, even though she’s still young. For World Tour that he wrote on his way to the airport, he pictured a wandering character, weary of life.
His work with Heize was different as she was just starting her career. Not only did he contribute to some tracks of her album, but he also helped her to find her own color, to define her image. Nevertheless, Dean said that he learned a lot through this collaboration as well because Heize is really talented and would deserve more recognition.
Prestigious collaborations at the beginning of his solo career
If Dean found some fulfillment through production, he didn’t forget his dream to spread his own songs.
“I wanted to become a singer when I was 20 and began writing music. It was a dream in a corner of my head that I could become an artist”
Words from an article dated December 2015 on the website koreatimesus.
In this way, while he was composing for other artists, he was at the same time thinking about his own music. But his experience in composition also allowed him to give an insight into his own singing skills and it’s thanks to this that he has been offered a feature with Motown’s artist Mila J in the track Here and Now. Released in June 2015, this track was already an opportunity for Dean to express his admiration for the musical universe of artists such as Michael Jackson, Aaliyah, and more generally for the 90’s R&B thanks to all the work 2xxx! made on the beat (he then became a member of CLUBESK*MO).
However, Mila J wasn’t the only one to notice the young prodigy. Eric Bellinger also contacted him to collaborate on the track I’m not sorry. The audio version has been released in July 2015, while the M/V has only been released in April 2016. This collaboration is his first track as an artist from the label Universal Record, concurrently with his contract with Joombas.
Working with such renowned artists was already more than impressive for someone who only started, yet Dean kept on establishing himself further on the R&B scene as he unveiled a collaboration with Anderson .Paak on the track Put My Hands on You. The audio is unveiled in September while the M/V has been revealed in April 2016 (Ed: Anderson .Paak is a long-time friend of Dumbfoundead, and if you don’t already know it, you should definitely check his discography, especially the album Malibu, a classic). DEAN ceaselessly repeated in interviews how much he had been marked by this collaboration. First of all, because he deeply admires Anderson.Paak (Ed: his favorite song from .Paak would be Silicon Valley), for his unique vocal tone, but also and foremost for the artist’s approach. Dean explained that he has been stricken by the almost animal/instinctive side that .Paak could showcase in his creative process.
« I felt that’s how an artist should make music. With Passion and Joy »
Dean in an Interview for sbspopasia, July 2016
It’s also worth noting that the track was produced by Mr Carmack and Esta, both signed with Soulection which is clearly a reference label when it comes to Beat Music. While Esta is maybe more into Soulful/R&B sonorities, Mr Carmack is one of the figureheads of the Hip-Hop/House Trap scene (Ed: well personally it’s on this scene I first found out about him)
However, it’s also worth noting that where Dean stands out as a Korean artist is in how he started his career in the American market. The aim was to win over this public. Therefore, it was much to his surprise that his music caught the attention of the Korean public as well.
As a consequence, when DEAN took his first steps on the Korean scene in October 2015 with I love it MV featured by the rapper Dok2, he already had some notoriety. Debuting in South Korea was still a challenge though, and DEAN made sure to stack the odds in his favor. The artist surrounded himself with the American producer B.A.M who had for instance worked with Chris Brown and Ne-Yo. A few days later, the singer Junggigo released 242 featured by DEAN, as well as Zion.T and Crush. DEAN doesn’t hide his respect for those 3 artists. For him, they would have largely contributed to the development of the RnB scene in South Korea, so it was a true honor to collaborate with them.
Those successes are followed in November by Pour Up M/V. This time the instrumental has been made by Count Justice, a producer who also worked with Chris Brown. This track also had a special meaning because it was the first of a long series of collaborations with the rapper Zico, also the leader of the group Block B. But most and foremost the beginning of a real friendship.
The two artists met through the producer Delly Boi also signed with Joombas. Delly Boi was indeed part of the crew working on the track Nalina by Block B. He’s the one who suggested Dean get in touch with Zico. From then on, Zico and DEAN started out to frequently hang out together, just for the pleasure to spend some time together or talking about music.
In Korea, DEAN also captured the attention of the group Dynamic Duo. Gaeko and Choiza hence decided to invite Dean to join them on the track 요즘어때? (How You Doin’ ?) from their album Grand Carnival released in November 2015. This event is really symbolic for the artist as Dean had a lot of admiration for the two Dynamic Duo’s members and yearned to meet them when he was not part of the music industry yet.
2016: More and more collaborations, 130 Mood: TRBL, Fanxy Child, and the Club Esk*mo
Thus, If DEAN had the odds in his favor in 2015, it was just the beginning.
He started the year in January with the single What 2 do featured once again by his friend Crush but also the singer Jeff Bernat. The M/V is unveiled only in April of the same year. About that collaboration, DEAN explained they met several times with Jeff Bernat to try some things out before finally releasing this song tinged with nostalgia.
That year is also a major one for Dean because he had the opportunity to perform at the SXSW festival taking place that year from March 15th to the 20th in Austin, Texas. It was impressive because SXSW has a lineup of more than 2.100 artists. For this edition there were for instance to you an idea: 21 Savage, 2 Chainz, Steve Aoki, Joey Bada$ and Denzel Curry, Desiigner, Dj Khaled, Flatbush Zombies, Kirk Knight, KOHH, Lil Uzi Vert, Metro Boomin, NxWorries, Open Mike Eagle, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Iggy Pop, Rich The Kid, SBTRKT, Travis Scott, Troye Sivan, Skepta, Rejjie Snow, Rae Sremmurd, Vince Staples, Stööki Sound, Stormzy, Suicide Boy$, or also Swizzymack, but also Korean artists like Deepflow, Keith Ape, Zion.T or the girlsband Mamamoo.
So yes, SXSW is clearly no joke and it was pretty huge for a first performance on the international scale. Fun fact: to relax before a performance, Dean often explained in interviews that he drinks a shot, and more precisely a shot of Whisky!
More generally, Dean loves to be on stage and SXSW gave him the opportunity to see different styles of performances and also different stage configurations.
Nevertheless, in 2016, March 24th to be more precise, he also released his first album 130 Mood: TRBL. Dean actually took inspiration from Lil Wayne and his Tha Carter’s series for the title of his projects, so here, the 130 Mood series. You can once again notice a reference to James Dean as well.
Before talking more about the album, let’s do some clarifications. James Dean had a 550 Spyder Porsche on which he added the number 130. The actor was deeply emotionally attached to his car to the extent that he used to call it “Little Bastarz”. However, according to several engineers, the vehicle wasn’t reliable and even dangerous (Ed: after some research, it looks like his ex-girlfriend would have cursed the Porsche, a car which would be linked to multiple tragic events. But anyway if you are interested there are a lot of articles about that topic) but James Dean persisted in keeping the vehicle and experimenting with it. To top it all, it’s actually in this car that he died on September 30th, 1955, during a race in North California.
Therefore, if DEAN took the number 130 for his album series, it’s not because he would have had a consuming passion for cars but rather because he was kind of fascinated by James Dean’s story with his car, and his stubbornness. 130 Mood series’ guideline is none other than this desire to experiment, to experiment like James Dean stubbornly did with his car.
To go back to the album, in the title 130 Mood: TRBL, TRBL stands for “Trouble”. It’s interesting to underline that Dean wanted to give that album a B-movie atmosphere. A B-movie is none other than a full-length feature film with a low production budget that can gather different genres such as western or sci-fi. The B-movie term is also used in a pejorative way to talk about a film without tremendous artistic ambition (Ed: this information comes overall from Wikipedia). In this way, here he more specifically wanted a dark, melancholic, and sorrowful atmosphere sort of inspired by European art films. This album narrates the story of a deteriorating love relationship. However, DEAN caught us off-guard and reversed the classic order. He chose to start the album with the Outro And You that he describes as an open ending while 21, the last track of the album, might illustrate this moment when people are falling in love. This track is, indeed, really fresh with funky and pop influences and also some rock notes.
Deantrbl is another name of the artist (Ed: He has this name on some of his social networks) and if he decided to build this album upside down, it’s simply because he is aiming to do things upside down, to be at odds with the norm, to make things his own way and as a consequence, he strives to deliver this feeling through his music.
More generally, there are seven tracks in this album with some pre-releases like for instance, Pour Up featured by Zico or I Love It featured by Dok2 both released in 2015. But there are also two new collaborations: What 2 do with Crush and Jeff Bernat, but also D (Half Moon), his second collaboration with Gaeko from Dynamic Duo. An MV has been released in April. D (Half Moon) conveys a melancholic feeling because it’s about this moment in a relationship where it starts to have an empty space in the love. When the love which was uniting people doesn’t have the same intensity anymore. The feelings emanating from the song are a direct reflection of DEAN’s state of mind when he composed it. He explained that he wrote D (Half Moon) when he was in the USA for music but started to feel homesick.
And, indeed, this dual interpretation goes on in the track What 2 Do: this emptiness presents as much in the relationship as in the artist’s homesickness which progressively turned into weariness. A weariness of love for the album storyline, a weariness of the USA for DEAN.
The album clearly made noise in South Korea. 130 Mood: TRBL was nominated in the “Best R&B and Soul Album 2017” category of the Korean Music Award. And also, for the “Album Of The Year 2017” of the Korean Hip-Hop Awards. His song 21 was also nominated for the “Best R&B and Soul Song 2017” of the Korean Music Awards.
DEAN himself is one of the artists nominated for the “Best Vocal Performance Male Solo 2016” at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, as well as for the Korean Hip-Hop Awards’ “Artist of the Year 2017”. However, if D (Half Moon) only ended up being nominated for the “Song Of The Year 2016” of the Mnet Music Award, the track was awarded the “R&B Track of the Year 2017” title during the Korean Hip-Hop Music Awards. Pour Up also stood out for the “Best R&B and Soul song 2016” for the Korean Music Award.
In short, over 2016/2017 Dean had three nominations and among them an award at the Korean Music Awards. Same for the Korean Hip-Hop Music Awards while he has been nominated twice at the Mnet Music Awards.
Let’s also add that the EP has been ranked 10th on the Gaon Album Chart, 3rd on the Billboard World Album chart, and 22nd on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums Chart.
Besides his solo project, Dean has also been invited to some tracks. For instance, he was contacted by the management team of Taeyeon from the SM’s girlsband: Girls Generation for the Starlight M/V released in June 2016. For that matter, the track is nominated at the Gaon Chart Music Awards in the “Song of the Year – June 2016” category.
As for his collaboration with the female singer Heize previously mentioned, the track And July has been nominated at the Gaon Chart Music Awards for the “Song Of the Year – July 2016” title, but also at the Korean Hip-Hop Awards for the “Collaboration of The Year 2017”.
It’s also worth noting that Zico’s Bermuda Triangle also featured by Crush with an M/V unveiled in November 2016 has been nominated in the same category but also at the MelOn Music Awards for the “Best Rap/Hip-Hop Award 2017”. Dean, as often happens, did not only sing but had once again contributed to the production of the track which is now considered as one of the classics of the Korean Hip-Hop scene.
I won’t come back on his work as composer that year, except for the fact that he also contributed to the mini-album WELCOME 2 BASTARZ from Block B’s sub-unit BASTARZ. Or that he appeared as a producer in the show Two Yoo Project Sugar Man. He contributed to the arrangement of the song It’s Love performed by Ikon and Je T’aime performed by Winner. He also prepared two tracks for the contestants of the 3rd season of the show Unpretty Rapstar.
In light of all those events, 2016 confirmed DEAN’s recognition, and it quite changed his life as well. D (Half moon) especially, and its success, had been quite a breaking point as DEAN explained in some interviews. Thanks to this, he has been able to pay back all his mom’s debts and also bought a new bigger studio, a better place to create. It was also a breaking point because it gave him the opportunity to create bonds with talented musicians as proved by the previous-mentioned collaborations.
However, more than simple collaboration, those friendships also took the shape of collectives: Fanxy Child and CLUBESK*MO, and now you.will.knovv.
It’s indeed with the M/V of Bermuda Triangle released in November 2016 that Fanxy Child made their public debuts. But the collective has only been on its full configuration since June 2017 with the track Paradise from MILLIC‘s album Vida. Fanxy child is not only a crew consisting of Zico, Crush, Penomeco, the producer Staytuned, and Dean (Ed: They are all 92s liners except maybe for Staytuned because I didn’t find a lot of information about him), Fanxy Child is above all friends who meet as often as they can to spend some time together, to relax, drink, or help each other out in their respective creative process.
Simultaneously, Dean also dedicated himself to the CLUBESK*MO. And it seems that CLUBESK*MO has been created before Fanxy Child.
If many are familiar with Fanxy Child, some might only have a vague idea or even a complete lack of knowledge about CLUBESK*MO especially since now it seems that the crew is no longer active. And for those who might know already about it, you still might learn some things.
What’s CLUBESK*MO? It’s quite simply an artist collective that was aiming to bring a new momentum, a new color to the Korean urban scene. However, unlike the usual common belief, DEAN was admittedly its founder, but not the only one. No, he didn’t found it alone. CLUBESK*MO was an initiative from both Dean AND MILLIC. As previously mentioned, Dean and MILLIC met each other almost 10 years ago through an online music community. Yet, it turns out they might have met each other for the first time in real life in L.A, California. While MILLIC just had turned 20 and was in the USA for his studies, Dean was working over there. It had probably been around 2013 and since then the idea of creating a collective just grew up. As a consequence, if there was a palm tree on the crew logo, it’s because both of them started to make music in L.A. It’s from then on that they began to recruit artists from various horizons. Crush, the duo OFFONOFF, Punchnello, 2xxx!, Campergraphic (or Rad Museum), Miso, Jusén, and Chekparren have been Members of the crew. The has probably been founded over 2015/ 2016.
2017: An artist who asserts his position on the Korean Urban scene.
More concretely, it was in 2017 that CLUBESK*MO really started to stand out. First of all, some crew members (and therefore Dean) were in the track IGLOO from MILLIC’s album Vida released in July. But also, because the members did a lot of collaborations within the collective. The same month the duo OFFONOFF released the M/V of the song Gold featured by DEAN from their album Boy. This groovy track enabled them to be rewarded with the “R&B Track of the Year” prize at the 2018 Korean Hip-Hop Awards. In October he accompanied Rad Museum on his track Tiny Little Boy from the album Scene. Rad Musem and DEAN’s chemistry on this track resulted in an atmosphere that can give a Latin-influence feel. Dean’s voice is just heightening that paradoxical mix of feelings of serenity and melancholy already brought by the prevailing guitar in the track. Finally, with Punchnello they performed together Piss on Me, a track with a strong jazz vibe from 2xxx!‘s album Life released in November.
As for Fanxy Child, people can once again listen to the crew in July for Zico’s EP Television with the eponymous track Fanxy Child.
However, Dean didn’t restrict himself to those collectives as he also worked with the crew Dream Perfect Regime and their rapper LIVE on the sublime M/V Know Me released in March. In May, he was present on the M/V Too Much from Loco‘s album Bleached. Produced by Gray, the track is mainly groovy. Finally, he also accepted to take part in Suran’s album. Dean had already noticed the singer’s voice and her artistic vision during the third edition of Unpretty Rapstar in which he was a guest producer while she was a candidate. Hence, it’s quite naturally that he offered her the track 1 + 1 = 0 for her album Walkin’ released in June. Interesting fact, here 1 would be for work and as a consequence, the freshness of the track is supposed to remind us that relentless work isn’t synonymous with personal development and then that dedicating his whole life to work isn’t compatible with self-fulfillment.
Yet, when it comes to his personal projects, Dean wasn’t one to be outdone. In February he released the EP Limbo inspired by the universe of the movie Inception with the track The Unknown Guest but also an M/V featuring Ye Rin-Baek entitled Come Over. The animation is indeed quite dreamlike but is also about the painful return to reality.
In May, he signed his latest international collaboration with the single Love featured by the incredible Syd from the rap group The Internet. Dean said in an interview that he had been nervous about this collaboration since he had a lot of admiration for The Internet but also for Syd as a solo artist as well:
“I really love The Internet. I like Syd very much too. It’s a bit to the extent that I will have fanboy feeling for them. They are artistes that I really really like. […] I already have fanboy feeling for them before this”
Dean in an Interview with epopTV in July 2017
In another interview from 2017, Dean explained that even before this collab, Syd was already a huge influence to him and the Club Esk*mo, and in the end, they made the collaboration in a relaxed atmosphere.
” We basically just drink Jameson (Whisky) in the studio for two days and that song came out, at first I wanted to drink to relax but it was so confortable so we just kept drinking and having a good time and wrote a great song “
Dean in an interview for Beats1 Radio
As the title suggests, with this song Dean wanted to tackle the topic of love or more precisely Youth and Love. From the fragility of this feeling but also the uncertainty that it can entail and especially for those young people who already have to deal with the uncertainty of the future. This track is also about the paradox of Love. This feeling can as much be diverting, exciting as dangerous, and risky. The artistic direction of the MV is based on that ambiguity by the way. They tried to convey this feeling throughout the M/V. As a metaphor, both artists are dancing on the wings of a plane coming straight from the 20/30s which is totally in keeping with the retro patina you can hear in the instrumental.
That love topic can also be found in the M/V Instagram released by the end of December 2017. In an interview Dean tacitly admitted that the song would indeed talk about his ex-girlfriend by some point. Or, at least he realized that it’s really commonplace for people to keep on stalking their ex on Instagram.
” We have to stop snooping around our ex’s instagram page “
Dean in an Interview with 1theK, December 2017
Overall, with that track both full of feelings of nostalgia and bitterness accompanied by a more than puzzling artistic direction, Dean, indeed, wanted to deliver a more intimate song, a song people of his generation could relate to. He also explained that he would have done a real work of introspection and finally came to understand the unhealthy dimension Instagram and social networks could have. From the waste of time to the stress they induced.
” I follow people that I look up to and people that I like, compared to those people, I feel infinitely small and lacking and see how many pretty, handsome and cool people there are on Instagram, I kept compared myself to them, and my friends going to these cool places while I was worn out from working in the studio. It felt like I was a lonely island placed away from all those people “
Dean in an Interview with 1theK, December 2017
And actually, who never had a similar inferiority complex?
In this way, he wanted to write a song based on the imagery of an urban Robinson Crusoe.
Then, it’s not really surprising that his song has been rewarded with the “Song of the Year – December” title at the Gaon Chart Music Awards 2018.
Nevertheless, 2017 also meant Dean’s participation as a producer in Show Me The Money 6 along with Zico. Together, they led Hangzoo to victory. The artist only said good things about this experience, he just admitted that it had been a first for him to be that much under the limelight and thus that he had not really been at ease during the first episodes. Concerning the musical aspect, if Dean contributed to the composition of several tracks for the show, the song standing out the most for him would be Where U At composed for Killagramz and featured by Zico and Dean. He especially appreciated the Hip-Hop/Trap combination of the track but also the freshness it exudes.
His different experiences gave him the opportunity to participate in several ad campaigns that year: KOLON SPORT with the M/V FLOWER POWER, the application Kakaopay for the messaging service Kakaotalk with the M/V Get The Feeling, and PUMA with the M/V Run The Street.
2018: A year dedicated to the production of an upcoming project
2018 had mostly been a year of collaborations for Dean.
Francesca, a song with a Hispanic vibe from Hash Swan‘s album Alexandrite released in February. The album Upgrade III by Swings unveiled in March with the almost mystical Jon Snow but also this same month his remix of the song Dante’s Creek from the RnB duo THEY. with its own M/V adaptation.
He is also the face of the What’s your favorite campaign from the beer brand Guinness.
The only exception has been dayfly released on November 9, 2018, with Sulli and Rad Museum. This track which is a fascinating mix of softness and melancholy has been adapted in an MV released on March 28th, 2019 (Analysis of the project here).
However, if the artist had not been that active in 2018, He still has been nominated three times at the Seoul Music Awards 2018, for the Bonsang Award, the Popularity Award, and the Hallyu Special Award.
But most of all, the artist had a lot of projects.
Those past few years he kept on sharing his desire to work with artists from really various musical universes like one of the references of the Korean musical scene: Kim Gun-Mo or artists he admired when he was a child such as Music Soulchild. He’s also really interested in Woo Wonjae’s musical universe and would like to make a collaboration with Oh Hyuk from the group Hyukoh or even PARTYNEXTDOOR and KAYTRANADA. He would have made several sessions with the artist Gallant as well who released in 2017 a song featured by Tablo and Eric Nam. Let’s see now if something will come out from those sessions since Dean already talked about it in 2016!
In 2015/2016, Dean was also talking about an album project 130 Mood: JNGL. It seems that he would have given it up or put it aside, anyway he doesn’t talk about it anymore but would rather be on another project: 130 Mood: RVNG.
The storytelling concept should be even more pushed. That album would take some time because he would have decided to write a real scenario before getting into the composition and actually starting to work on the songs. With that album, he would aim to truly follow the creation process of a movie. Unlike with his latest album, he has now true stage experience. As a consequence he decided that this album would be less focused on the vocal technique, he is lowering the vocal range. Dean’s songs are, indeed, really demanding when it comes to singing, only a few singers are able to reach those notes, and 130 Mood: TRBL is more suitable for a studio performance rather than a live one. Yet, if Dean loves to compose, he admitted that what he likes the most is to perform. For him, there is nothing better than the excitation and energy an artist can feel during a live performance. He loves to express his feelings on stage and to feel connected with the public. It’s by taking all of this into account that he would have produced this new album, he would be already thinking about the stage direction and really would like to offer an unforgettable experience.
Dean, an artist with an insatiable curiosity…
If you’re familiar with my content, you probably noticed that yes for now it’s clearly one of my longest articles even though Dean isn’t really a veteran of the Korean Urban scene. However, he’s an artist who always tries out different things, is inspired by many influences and is constantly looking for new ways to improve his work.
Dean’s references are really interesting especially because of their diversity. If he wishes that everyone could have a unique experience through his music, he thinks at the same time that people would enjoy his music a lot more if they are aware of all of the influences enriching his music, every single detail he took the time to add.
Among those references, there is obviously Afro-American Urban music but also genres such as Punk, Rock, or even House. More precisely Dean is listening to artists from really various backgrounds like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Drake but also Zak Abel, Phony Ppl, Mild High Club, Cashmere Cat, Tom Mish, Bryson Tiller, Gallant, PARTYNEXTDOOR, KAYTRANADA and of course Syd, The Internet and Anderson .Paak.
Nevertheless, like others, Dean doesn’t draw his influences from music exclusively. Photography, drawing, painting, and cinema are also for him great sources of inspiration. Concerning his artistic direction, for instance, he uses to listen to movie dialogues with his earphones on and then thinks about how he could convey that atmosphere, and these sounds/tones visually. He also made a reference to the French director Michel Gondry (Ed: among others, Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, The We and the I, Mood Indigo). He’s also thinking about getting trained in acting, not for being an actor but as a way of improving his musical expression!
Despite this, Dean still underlined that his songs are above all coming from his own experiences, and what he thinks, and feels.
Self-expression through music
Dean indeed aims for his music to be in tune with who he is. He wishes for his music to be different music, to break with what already exists and that is why he chose Dean as a stage name.
But more precisely, why Dean?
Sometimes, a stage name can bear a significant meaning for the artist and it’s the case for Dean. When Kwon Hyuk started to look for a stage name, he wanted something in tune with the music he was aiming to make. As luck would have it, his neighbors used to call him James Dean when he was a child because he would have shared some physical resemblances with the American actor. And the thing is, James Dean is actually a rebel icon. His image perfectly matched what Kwon Hyuk wanted his music to be, new and experimental.
Therefore, at the beginning of his career, he tended for instance to adapt his creative process depending on his public. So either the American or Korean public, such as artists like CL or Keith Ape have done. Quickly he realized that more than income and ranking what mattered the most to him was to express his own color, to focus on quality, on the expression of his own musical identity. For him, this is the key to success for an artist; to stay loyal to your universe, to work hard, and above all to believe in yourself.
” Regardless of whether it is Korean or American, I believe good music will always connect “
Dean in an Interview for Hello Asia, March 2016
This musical identity is overwhelmingly influenced by the cinematic process which is quite different from what we already discussed. Dean doesn’t only draw his inspiration from visual imagery. What he actually wants is to produce music that can be visualized. Music that would stimulate the imagination of his listeners. He wants to be able to surprise. To quote him, his music would be like:
“The creaking of some insects, which would make a sound like “beep” out of nowhere”
Dean for 101Kimchi Radio
For this purpose, he tends to add sound effects like television noise sounds, a knock at the door, and so on.
In this way, Dean is exclusively dedicated to his music, it‘s really what motivates him and he would not see himself doing anything else. He wants to produce music reflecting him, music that he could listen to with pleasure.
” I really like my own music, it’s not narcissist but I just want to make music that I like to listen to, like those music that will survive on my playlist. That has been my initial dream since I was young, I’ve been producing music in order to realise my initial dream. It must be song that I like too. If we were to compare this to food, it’s like selling my favourite food to people too. “
Dean in an Interview for Pikicast, March 2016
Thanks to all this artistic research, Dean wants to show that Hip-Hop doesn’t have to be all about dissing each other and being rough and tough, but that softness, and gentleness also have all their place. It looks like the bet was won.
In spite of all the attention he gets, Dean is staying humble and shy and above all grateful for his success.
” I feel Shy that they call me the big trend, I’m just constantly doing what I like to do, I don’t really care much about other things, I’m shocked that everyone would like it too, and I’m thankful “
Dean in an Interview for Pikicast, March 2016
These feelings are also visible in his relationship with his fan, with his need to be on stage previously mentioned. At the SWSX he even signed autographs for fans who were not old enough to go to the festival and were waiting outside on top of cars, trying to steal some glances.
And if this interview and that event are a little bit old today, in an interview from December 2017 with 1theK for the release of his M/V Instagram he explained that he had removed all the pictures where he is acting handsome in order to favor those in which he’s natural. What does it have to do with Dean’s music approach? Well, for Dean what truly matters the most is his music hence this is what should come first. He doesn’t want to be liked for his appearance or his look but because of his work.
” I hate posing like how I know handsome I am, I erase photos that I get that vibe from them, It’s supposed to be a musician’s Instagram page, It feels degrading when there’s too much about my look “
Dean for 1theK December 2017
This is with the same mindset that Dean is approaching collaboration. As he explained, if he had been able to create with so many artists, this is mainly because his collaborations had always been based on mutual respect for the creative process of the other. Because with all the artists he collaborated with, they had been able to combine their musical colors and hence compose unique and interesting tracks.
So yes, more than a look, Dean is first and foremost an artist who seems to be animated by an endless thirst for creation. Whether you like his work or not, his projects are indubitably creative and he succeeded in developing a musical universe as much rich as various. In short, a musician who truly deserves all your attention!
Dean’s Live Facebook – Trad deanfluenza subs
Youngstreet – Trad deanfluenza subs
Valley Rock – Trad deanfluenza subs
Blue Night Radio – deanfluenza subs
Pikicast – trad deafluenza subs
LIFESTYLE TV – trad deanfluenza subs
3CTV – Trad deafluenza subs
IOA Cut on MTV Taiwan – Trad deanfluenza subs
WAVE 89.1 (Philippines) – Trad deanfluenza subs
106.7 EnergyFM (Philippines) – Trad deanfluenza subs
MYX – Trad DΞΔN Philippines
KBS World Radio – Backstage Chat – Trad deanfluenza subs
DEAN X NANA INTERVIEW – Trad deanfluenza subs
epop – Trad momokokazumi
Get the Feeling – DEAN 딘 X kakaopay – Trad momokokazumi
171018 Dean’s Instagram Live – Trad WIC Dean
TofuPopRadio – Trad Dean Thailand
The Seoul Story
The Icon TV – Trad deanfluenza subs