T.O.P. is back as a rapper – this time participating in a new album with his good friend G-Dragon. It’s the duo’s debut album, and it includes T.O.P’s single “Turn It Up,” as well as “Knockout.” The music video for “Knockout” can be seen below, and an excerpt from the interview with T.O.P. follows.
10: Your performance seems to have changed from the past. For example, at your YG Family Concert, you suddenly approached a fan in the standing area of the stage, stuck your face right in front of hers, and started rapping.
T.O.P: It wasn’t anything calculated beforehand or anything. While performing together with Ji-yong [G-Dragon] we already have a picture of what to do but all the small things are improvised. I think that’s the kind of power we came to gain while being in show business for past few years. Just like with acting, the emotions we deliver are feelings that we get from our music, not something that’s pre-arranged. I believe it comes from our confidence.
10: You seem to exude more confidence in both the music in your newest album and stage manner. And the expressions you use in the lyrics for “Knockout” was interesting. Any special reason for such change?
T.O.P: It has more to do with how I’ve been questioning myself during the past year than there being a particular reason. In the past I used to wonder “Why am I doing this?” There were some things that burdened me greatly, leaving me to wonder whether I’m doing something that may be too much for me. But as I grew older, I changed the question to “What does the public want from me?”
10: Are you saying that the answer was your confidence?
T.O.P: Don’t people get vicarious satisfaction from entertainers on stage and gain confidence for their lives? I think that is why my rapping started to include the lyrics there were in “Turn it up,” and same goes for the album. It wasn’t just to look cool or bluff. Even if I show off a bit, I wished for those listening to my music to be proud of themselves in the way I’m proud about my career. I’m not sure how it’ll be accepted by listeners but I put a lot of thought into the lyrics.
10: Is that the reason you shared your name with a well-known brand and expressed yourself as a brand as well? It seemed as if you were saying “You can accept me like that, so I am” to people who observe and judge you.
T.O.P: I’ve became a bit bold. I’ve always been careful about such things because I think and worry a lot. But when I looked back on what I’ve done, I decided that going the way I’ve decided to after thinking about what it is that people want from me and what the right thing is, would be much more refreshing. I also hope that people who are feeling down will feel better as they listen to this music. Regardless of me showing off or not, I wanted to try expressing my sincerity to the extent that it hopefully is easy to listen to and not repulsive. (Laugh). I felt that this was one of the ways I know how to express myself.
10: You used to give off the impression of delving deep into your inner self but now you’ve started to think about how you influence others. How did it become possible to change your thinking like that?
T.O.P: I think I began to think on a broader sense about the world I live in. The world is such a bustling place yet many people go through hard times and can’t find the energy to live. And those are the people who care about me, the people who care about Big Bang, or at least the people who listen to our songs. So I felt that it would be nice if they could feel a vicarious happiness by listening to our music. And I wanted to do it in a slightly different way, in a roundabout way.
10: Do such thoughts come from your perception of your position as a singer? If you wish to do something for others, you have to know that you’re taking on the role of taking on that much more responsibility.
T.O.P: When I was younger, I actually felt burdened by and did not like receiving interest and love from people. I didn’t know how to enjoy it. But it all became more natural after I stopped being greedy. Greedy about music. I also rid myself of the thought that I need to do something with music. In the past, I remember asking people quite frequently to look forward to our new songs but now, it doesn’t matter if people aren’t looking forward to them. But I have instead come to think that I will be someone that can amplify people’s expectations. I want to return as much as I have received, and urge myself to work harder to study music. There is so much I want to show in the future.
10: Is this linked to your present situation? You’ve been acting for a while but poured yourself all at once through your latest album.
T.O.P: After returning from working on “Into The Fire (2010),” GD had already started working on music and I started working on Big Bang’s music. So much had changed in music world during that time as well including great people promoting themselves. But I had been away from that flow for quite some time so I gave myself a moment to take a step back and re-organize my thoughts.
10: And I think that’s how you came to express yourself differently as well. Before, you said you act out a virtual character on stage but in this album, you described yourself as “someone you meet only through a speaker or ear phone.” Did you create a character out of yourself?
T.O.P: Yes. We stand in front of very many people at a young age. And we may have been praised but were criticised as well from which we became tired of because it kept repeating. I wanted to maintain a certain distance from people and make myself seem as someone who exists on the stage or in music. But because satisfying our listeners comes first, much of what I thought for this album was about how I could best harmonize the two.
10: You are in a sense, unrealistic, aren’t you? Big Bang members aren’t exactly the ordinary lot.
T.O.P: I do think that. Sometimes when I have a drink with GD we do feel great about how everything is going in our daily lives but lonely at the same time. Although there are things hard to handle at our age and things that we have missed out on, we also achieved just as much, which makes us think that we live in a dream world. Sometimes even we have trouble identifying whether we live in dream or reality.
10: It must be tough, continuing to get judged by others, always forced to think in business mind-set while doing things your way.
T.O.P: I think about that all the time. But I think I’ve reached close to the answer. In case of music, rather than thinking “what kind of music do people want and which trend should we follow,” I believe I should just do what I want to do and try something I’ve never done before but not going too far with it. I have wonderful experts who can correct me if that happens so placing my faith on them, I would like to pursue new and if not bold, at least a bold direction in doing my music.
10: Korea is not the best place for celebrity to live so you seemed to have somehow reached your own nirvana just like GD.
T.O.P: Yup, my nirvana (Laugh). Just kidding. I just boldly let myself go (Laugh). I know there are people who regard me and other Big Bang members with some prejudice. But it doesn’t matter. Those are the perceptions that drive us to keep improving. I don’t mean I enjoy rude comments online but we try to do even harder because of such misunderstanding. Personally I think the best part of our Big Bang members is that we enjoy efforts of that kind. Not because they we want something but simply enjoying the process, which becomes our biggest strength.
10: I was quite impressed by a rap from “Baby Good Night.” If the rap of your past was the kind that tried to stand out of the sound to take over the whole song, that particular rap was closer to melting into the sound as much as it can. Then there were lyrics that matched the sound of vocabularies like “whipping cream.”
T.O.P: It may be because we wished to express our inner sentiment. As for “Baby Good Night” we took extra care to leave out provocative elements so the listeners can without worrying about their ears. These days people say the song sounds too long if it goes over three minutes and same for the song that doesn’t come to you in a snap. But I believe there are lots of music that are not boring without extra stimulation. So I wanted to tell people – those who like Big Bang, or GD and I – especially those in teens and in 20s that there are music of this style as well. Even if it’s long and out of trend, music is just music.
10: I think that’s the point where your personal goal and thoughts for public meet.
T.O.P: The songs are something that came out by voluntarily by instinct rather than through complicated thoughts but then we became extremely successful at young age. At the same time we are still a sensitive young people who want to do music. In between our work we go through lots of emotions which we try to express and also seek our goals. But as we distance ourselves to give a thought about our lives, it seems like I’m starting to see a big picture and seeing my goals more clearly. That’s why I wanted to help those listening to my music to be confident and become a source of that strength to me and to those people.
10: Your confidence seems to truly “knockout” the odds (Laugh). There may be people that will be sharpening their blades, ready to attack what you do, whenever you and GD go on stage. What’s your plan?
T.O.P: Our blades are sharper. (Laugh)
sources: asiae, allkpop