There are two prominent types of Korean hip hop artists; the one group of artists who are lyrically deep and poetic in their rhymes and the group that’ll immensely try to mimic and imitate American hip hop. Korean hip hop artists are either swagged out from head to toe — rocking snapbacks, sporting various designer brand name clothing, an array of tattoos running down their arms and across their bodies and with the occasional ones that wear their custom made gold grill sets — or chill and solely focusing on producing impactful pieces with meaningful lyrics caring less about the new Air Jordans or whether they’re seen around town driving in an adorned Maybach.
So let’s make this more specific. What are your immediate thoughts when you take a first glance at Beenzino? Is he some hard ass wannabe American rapper? Does he prance around showing off his notoriety? Does he keep his sunglasses on at all times, whether indoors or outdoors? Or is he a delicate flower? Does he shyly look away when he’s being made direct eye contact with?
Beenzino, along with the likes of Tablo and TigerJK, is one of the rare few artists in the hip hop game that fall into his own class. He doesn’t need fancy shiny jewelry draped around his neck and fingers nor does he need a luxurious motor vehicle. Heck, he’ll take public transportation if he wants! But this doesn’t mean he lacks any of “hip hop” quality. You may not catch Zino showing up to an event/concert in a suit and tie with polished oxfords, decked out in diamonds, but he is definitely a man of style. He shows off his swag side with the occasional Boy London and colorful Supreme sweaters, but he keeps it rather simple and classy with the darker denim, skinny jeans, and white Nikes. But when the man has to dress up, he’s all about that high fashion. From the oversized trench jackets, multi-printed collar button ups to leather harem pants, Beenzino have the figure to rock it all.
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But it’s not just about the fashion or the lifestyle, of course. Musically, Beenzino doesn’t write and perform for the sole sake of the songs becoming top charters and award winners, although what artist doesn’t have that as their goal whenever producing a song? Instead, he writes what he feels. He writes about whatever it is that’s going on in his head, whether it’s filtered thoughts or not. Zino is already known as a musician who does pretty much whatever he wants, when he wants, and however he wants, and yet he still finds ways to surprise people with his crazy but comprehendible shenanigans. Even with that said, although he likes to freely express his mind and rhyme about relatable real life situations that other artists may be hesitant on rapping about, he does it all respectfully, for the most part. While other rappers may be rapping about money, cars and materialistic things, Beenzino gets rather artistic and factual with a handful of his raps.
In “Dali, Van, Picasso,” for example, he talks about wanting to be remembered for something… Something as big and monumental as what the famous artists that he mentions in this song had done. And he’s not looking up to the likes of Jay Z or Biggie or Tupac, he’s listing Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso; his artistry transcends music. Even if he’s not a major hit during his time, he wants his work to live on and to be cherished even after he’s gone. Or let’s take “So What” for example now. There’s a part in one of the verses that says:
And if I fall in love with someone
Whoever that may be
I will continue to date that person
Whether you all start criticizing me or not
I’ma do what I wanna do.
People may or may not know, but this past year Beenzino went public with his relationship with German model Stefanie Michova. Actually, “public” might not be the right word, considering Zino was never really trying to hide it in the first place, he just never made an official statement nor did he feel the need to publicly broadcast the relationship. But once both parties acknowledged the relationship, a number of people, whether they were fans or not, voiced their opinions, good ones and a whole lot of bad ones. Even though he didn’t come out and announce the relationship, he did address that it was a personal matter, basically insinuating that it was no one else’s business.
With any celebrity status, once you’re in the slightest of the limelight, you’ve kissed your privacy goodbye, whether you “signed off” on it or not. Regardless of all that, at the end of the day, Beenzino doesn’t care about how you feel about his relationship. Like he states in his lyrics, if he happens to fall in love, which it seems like he is, no matter who she is, it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s opinions become irrelevant because it’s his life and he’ll do exactly what he wants.
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Moreover, here’s something incredibly eerie and yet completely relatable in Beenzino’s lyrics. There are songs that you listen to and only focus on the melody and beat. Then there are the songs that make you dig deeper, the ones that make you break down each lyric, sometimes even questioning why you feel a sense of connection. Although Beenzino and I grew up in two completely separate worlds and we’re currently living out polar opposite dreams, there’s something about his music, his rhymes, that can make one feel as if they’ve known him their entire lives. Zino’s lyrics all have something to do with his life, past and current situations. His “24:26” album is all about the cycles of despair, struggles, and passion that anyone in their twenties would go through; Zino’s being one of the loneliest times of his life. As an artist, he wants his music to shed light on his life; he wants each song, each lyric, to represent each phase of life he’s gone through and as a listener, it shows.
Beenzino is the real deal. He’s the “you get what you see” type of guy. He’s not one to front about being someone he’s not; Zino isn’t all talk because everything that he speaks of comes with a hefty backing. He doesn’t strut around jibber jabbering nonsense about art being edgy because his statements come from his own personal experiences. He’s naturally drawn to the arts and actually has a special eye for it. How many Korean artists can say they’re majoring in sculpture at the prestigious Seoul National University? Probably just Beenzino.
There’s no knowing what Beenzino’s going to do next or where his unfiltered life is going to take him, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no need to freight or to worry about his future. Beenzino is his own brand. He’s only 28 with the potential of such a lengthy career ahead of him. The last thing he probably wants is for someone else to be worrying about his own future, other than himself. He’s made it this far, hasn’t he? Let’s appreciate him as the artist that he is today and see how else he’ll shock and amaze us for the future!
Want to see what this man is really like? Well, you’re in luck because CHL Productions and PlatinumKShows have teamed up to bring Beenzino’s North American Tour to a number of you lucky fans next month! Remember to check Beenzino out as he heads to Seattle on the 4th at Shoebox Sodo, San Francisco on the 5th at The Factory, Dallas on the 9th at Granada Theater, Boston on the 11th at Royale and lastly, New York City’s Stage 48 on the 12th.