Choi Seok Bae aka Nafla is a Korean American rapper who belonged in turn to Young Creation (2012-2014), and then to the 42Crew (2014- from time to time) and Mkit Rain (over 2015). Mkit Rain is an independent label launched in January 22nd, 2016, and in which he fully gets involved with Loopy, Bloo, Owen Ovadoz and Young West.
Choi Seok Bae was born in February 28th, 1992, in Pasadena, a city at the East of Los Angeles, California. Born in a Korean family, it is around 11 that he starts to master Korean and it is around 13/14 – or 8th grade – that he started writing his own bars.
It was thanks to a piece by CB Mass that his passion starts (Ed: CB Mass was a group from 2000 until 2003 in which there were Curbin and members from Dynamic Duo: Choiza and Gaeko). Starting from this day, rap became a real passion to him, a stress reliever; a deep-rooted need. However, his parents thought that this passion was just a hobby, a passing fancy. Nafla himself didn’t know that he would work in music, he was just doing what he liked as a student, simply enjoying the moment and, finally, never stopped. (Ed: He was, for a while, in the same university than Killagramz and they were sending messages to each other via Facebook).
Even if the rapper doesn’t express himself a lot about his family, we know for sure that the rapper was well supported. In his song Smile in his last album Angels released in October 2017, he talked about his regret to not be as there as he used to be for his mother and paternal grand-mother. But he also lets us think about a dad really busy because of his job. However, the rapper has always been well surrounded.
Nafla had his first steps in the musical world as a rapper in 2012, and released his Platonixtape on August 16th. The tone used in that project is more R&B, far away from the current rapper’s incisive style, however, he already had Old-School and West Coast influences.
These musical influences Nafla grew them through his friendship with Young West. Biggies, Big L, Tupac, the Wu tang Clan or more recently Kendrick Lamar; indeed, Nafla said in an interview that he will always be thankful to his friend who made him listened a lot of American rappers.
Young West like the other members of the Young Creation Crew (EK, Lunick, Holic, Ehwhenkeem, Niahn, MacKwon, AP, Daniel Prynne aka Bloo nowadays, Neil the forehΔd, 막내 and Fran) grew up in the same neighbourhood and became friends and partner thanks to their shared passion for the rap, spreading their own musical colors (Ed: You can find more information in the 42Crew article).
Funny story, it is Niahn who found out Choi Seok Bae’s stage name. Both were drinking some Sierra Mist and the rapper was looking for the way he would introduce himself to the audience, Niahn noticed an inscription on the soda can, “100% Natural Flavor”, Natural Flavor, Na – Fla. And Choi Seok Bae became Nafla!
But let’s get back to the topic: Young Creation. Nafla, beside and thanks to the Most Definite Family (MD Fam) and especially Souleaf (with Sean Won-J and Haru), got a chance to perform and expose his rap. Those experiences lead him to two projects in 2013:
First, one mixtape in collaboration with Neil the forehead called Keep-On that was released in June, and then, in October; the project Buttafla effect which was promoted through Souleaf social networks. Thanks to this, his rapper’s identity begins to be more asserted.
With EK, Young Creation’s leader leaving however, the Pasadena rapper had to move on, nevertheless he kept in touch with the members of the crew.
He continued to be close to Bloo, Young West, AP and Neil, the Forehead childhood friends from who he spent all his youth in “La Crescenta” neighbourhood. And, in 2014, the fifth of them decided to start a new adventure: the 42Crew. Why did they choose 42? Just pick a look to the article we wrote to know it.
In 2014 September 5th a mixtape is released: Life is 42 with the emblematic song Bae (Eli’s Ed: A song is emblematic if we find cheap translations on Youtube ToT. /Ed: you can notice the endless pain of this person!!)
During that period, the artist continued to reinforce his rap skills and this is in January 2015 that his career took a whole new dimension thanks to his mixtape This and That. The project is crearly accomplished, and the critic is unanimous. This and That allows him to win the first “HipHopLE Mixtape Awards” organised by the eponymous magazine with the “Best Mixtape Performance of the Year” and the “Best Mixtape of the Year” rewards.
This is all the more understandable when you thoroughly listened to his project. Through his piece Swings he had already rapped in 2013 on the mythic instrumental of Control, dominated by Kendrick Lamar (in collaboration with Big Sean and Jay Electronica), here with Big Dusty Remix and Boy Exhibition he dared to confront others really good beats like those from Fromdatomb$ and Big Dusty by Joey Badass, but also Hot Nigga by Bobby Shmurda or Insomniak by Mac Miller.
Worth noting that a short time afterwards XXXTentacion used the same beat as the one from Nafla’s You Gon need it produced by Luke White for his song Riot.
The rapper is now determined to assure his place and his strategy back to that time was simple “Single, Single, Single” as he was saying beside Loopy in an interview guided by Dumbfoundead in December 2015. He kept his words and was really prolific that year, among his noticeable projects there is another cover, from the instrumental Grown up by the rapper Danny Brown released in April on SoundCloud. But M/V too. A lot of M/V. Soon in his career the rapper has indeed understood the importance of the video and the image work he had to do in order to make a breakthrough.
As a solo artist firstly, in April, with the M/V Foothill – in which we can see the other members of 42 – and in May, with Wu whose instrumental take a sample of the piece C.R.E.A.M of the Wu Tang Clan :
“Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M, Get the money, dollar dollar bill, y’all”
(Ed: back to that time he was listening a lot to the Wu Tang Clan and particularly their rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Influences that we can hear on his single) or also in December with the really good Stanky, faithful to his Boom Bap tones.
But also a lot of collaborations:
In April of 2015 he released the so famous and now-classic Locked and Loaded which unveiled his friendship with Owen Ovadoz (Ed: you will find more information about the why and what of their collaboration on Owen’s article – currently in translation), in October Vegas on Loopy’s mixtape called King Loopy – however the M/V is only released in 2016 – in November J.O.T.S with his teenage days idols: Dynamic Duo. And the powerful Mijangwon in December with Loopy and the veteran of the Korean American rap scene: Dumbfoundead.
The rapper really starts to be known and, and we can say that today he is undeniably one of the strongest rappers on the Korean Hip-Hop scene – if winning Show Me The Money 777 is a proof – some even called him the “Boom bap King”. However, this consequent success would not have been the same without his decisive meeting with Loopy.
The Mkit Rain, a new era
Collaborations between Nafla and the native rapper from Seoul started in 2015. Both of them met in L.A, during a little show. If at first it was just greetings, they quickly began to interact while Nafla was still fully involved into the 42Crew.
For a while things stayed like this, Nafla kept up on his projects with the 42Crew and Loopy his own solo career but still they were talking and exchanging about music. In 2015 Nafla was even saying in an interview that Loopy has a “positive vibe” and he would have brought a lot to the 42Crew, that it was a mutual enrichment.
This trusting relationship lead to change things for both of them, moreover when Loopy decided to launch his own label. Nafla first hesitated in front of that huge project but he finally accepted it.
This decision put in brackets his contribution with the 42Crew and, in 2016 January 22nd, the independent label is officially launched to the audience thanks to the song Come Thru performed by Loopy, Nafla and Bloo, the only three rappers of the label back at that time.
Quickly, Owen Ovadoz and Young West took part to the MKIT RAIN. The label is producing more and more singles like the M/V Weathermen. Nafla, in March, released Dopeboy and in July the same year the great EP New Blood represented by the deafening Mercy M/V in which there is AP, his 42Crew’s friend. Moreover, there is the powerful Takeover or the pieces King and Maserati. In these songs, there are more Trap tones than in his previous works.
In November 2016 with Holy he performed on a sample that we can hear again on the really known Look at me by XXXTentacion released in 2015 December.
Through his hard work he won the reward of Rookie of the Year 2016 in the Hip-Hop Gallery Awards.
In July 2017, he released, with Loopy, the M/V Internet War which is a cover of the eponymous title interpreted by Seo Tai Ji within the scope of the Time Traveller project celebrating the 25th career anniversary of this huge Hip-Hop scene character.
Nevertheless, people have to wait until October 31th, 2017 to listen to his first real album named Angels with the very personal Smile (Ed: as I talked about sooner) and three pieces adapted into an M/V; Jail; Fly High; and Apple box featuring Loopy.
The same year he collaborated with the singer Heize for his song Dark Cloud, he was in the song I’m good by Henry member from Super Junior but he was also on the track S.S.W.F by Babylon or on the track New Waves Attitudes by Sous Chefs (pH-1 and Owen Ovadoz) beside Jay Park and Kim Hyo Eun.
2018 is, for now a year as fertile as the others for him, indeed in February he released the M/V Rough World with Loopy. In March he had a collaboration with the producer Gray in the track Flower which looks like a Korean society’s satire about superficiality and especially the obsession for beauty who girls give themselves over to (Ed: or either it’s a sexist track, as you want…). In April, besides Bewhy and Zico in the freestyle track Keep Going by Swings. Or the single B.I.G in June.
Not forgetting also, in May the Mkit Rain first album Public Enemy. First album in which he raps on 10 tracks among 13 whom their M/V Don’t Move.
He also won fame by other collaborations or tracks that we will not talk about here, but you can find all of his more detailed discography.
And yes, obviously he won Show Me The Money 777.
In any case the rapper’s formula for the future is like, regarding to what he said, being humble and trying every time to surpass himself. And for some collaboration he would like to do, he used to mention Frank Ocean and more recently the Korean female rapper CL. According to him, her voice and charisma could really fit to one of his ongoing projects; Wait and see.
Nafla in a few words
If we had to just define Nafla as an artist, the simplest would be to look for his influences. He said in an interview that Biggie (aka The Notorious B.I.G) inspired him the most. According to him, the ones who wants to learn how to rap should listen every day to Ready to die by the New Yorker rapper. Nevertheless, Nafla cannot deny his Californian origin and he is a huge fan of Kendrick Lamar whose journey is a source of motivation.
The rapper is trying different styles but stay loyal to Boom Bap and Old School style, some musical colors that we can observe through his creative process. Not only Nafla granted a great importance to the beats; he, himself, is producing; also, he is very spontaneous in his writing. He used to listen an instrumental and, if he is inspired by it – through a flow – he keeps going on his momentum. He even revealed that it is the same for video clip. He listens to the track until there is a picture coming up in his mind.
Overall his lyrics are mostly Egotrip, even if there are some exceptions like Flower or Smile and other, which is in tune with his incisive style even if he does not hesitate to sing along some of its tracks like in his mixtape Dali made in 2015 but only released in 2018.
What is clear, is that Nafla and the Mkit Rain members do not fail to have ambition and they will continue to multiply projects and live performances as well as to flood our playlists.
Interview Mkit Rain – The ICONtv International