“Having been through a myriad of experiences, it’s my mindset today that when you gain something, you lose something else,” says Korean rapper, singer and producer BI “I’m very careful about maintaining and deepening the connection I have with my fans because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
BI released the first part of their new album “Love or Loved (LOL)” on Friday. The project was highly anticipated by its fan base; the 26-year-old creative boasts over 4 million followers on Instagram alone. While he made his solo debut last year with “Waterfall,” his career began over a decade ago as a member of popular K-pop group iKon under YG Entertainment. His exposure exploded as the band’s leader, producer and songwriter.
BI’s outlook – and commitment to his music – has undeniably been shaped by the ups and downs of recent years. He left iKon in 2019 amid allegations of buying and using marijuana. Under Korea’s strict drug laws, he was sentenced to four years probation and community service.
While his career was temporarily put on the sidelines, BI has since worked to prove his talent as a solo artist while building his indie label 131. Earlier this year, he performed for the Grammys’ Global Spin Series , expanding its reach into new music markets and has collaborated with bag brand Ojeito. Fans are happy to see him back on the scene, to see him flourish, and to let their unwavering support known in the comments on social media and video platforms.
He describes his approach as a solo artist as bolder and more experimental than what he was able to create within a larger collective. “These stories are personal yet limitless. I can’t say that working as a solo artist doesn’t come with difficulties, but I try to overcome them,” he says.
The songs on “Love or Loved” are upbeat, and the album “emphasizes love above all else when it comes to youth,” he describes. Youth is a common theme in all of his projects, with his music label 131 described as a musical archive with “youthful feelings”. It is also an opportunity to support and shape other artists.
“This decision was born out of my desire to embark on an uncharted journey,” he says of creating his own brand. “Many like-minded people are gathered here at 131 and we are constantly taking on new challenges together,” he adds. “We welcome any artist who knows and presents their strengths to the world and likes to tackle the unknown.”
As a songwriter, BI has written for other YG talents, including Blackpink (he wrote “Whistle” on their 2016 album). Last summer, BI collaborated with American rapper Soulja Boy on the single album “BTBT,” featuring a tightly choreographed performance video that has garnered over 37 million views on YouTube. “[Soulja Boy] is an awesome artist whose talent I’ve admired since I was little, and that definitely contributed to the great synergy we had,” BI says of the bond. “When it comes to working with other musicians, I strive to make every collaboration a seamless process where all the different styles of each artist blend together nicely.”
As an artist, BI wants to be defined by “freedom and passion”. His goals for the coming year?
“I hope to become a better, improved individual from the year before,” he says. “For the remaining time of 2022, I want health and safety. This goes for me, my team and my dear fans.