Hello, Rock N’ Seoulers. As you might (or probably might not) know, I had the opportunity to go to South Korea to attend Zandari Festa, one of our favorite festivals here at the site. (Stay tuned for our coverage of the festival in the coming weeks!)
Prior to the festival, I got to have a sit-down conversation with hip-hop/R&B artist Rheehab for one of our nearest and dearest partners in Korean music coverage, HipHopKr.
Here’s an excerpt of the conversation we had.
In the Beginning…
As far as first impressions go, Rheehab is something of a rarity. His keen sense of self shines brightest when explaining his musical vision. It all starts with a soft hello.
“Hi, everyone. My name is Rheehab. I’m an R&B and hip-hop artist in Korea. In my music I put my own story, like real story, also of course love story. Thank you very much.”
This self-awareness manifests in a refreshing honesty that doesn’t necessarily always come naturally for those attempting to make a big noise in Korea’s music industry. But even when explaining the origins of his stage name, he’s unafraid to delve a bit deeper.
“First,” he says, “‘rehab’ means ‘rehabilitation,’ which means, like, a cure.” Simple enough. However, after what most would consider an easy answer to an easier question, he adds, “Plus it’s my mother’s family name. ‘Lee.’ I used the word ‘rehabilitation’ because I had a hard time in my life, so I want to use this word. Plus, I liked my mother more than my father.” He adds a somewhat shy but full laugh. “So that’s where that name came from, those two things.”
At first the answer gives even his interpreter pause, but Rheehab doesn’t take it back, and we all have ourselves a good chuckle. After all, it’s not often that someone, musician or otherwise, would actually answer the proverbial “Mom or Dad” question. It’s this frankness that endears him to me. It doesn’t always extend to topics outside his personal life, but more on that later.
It does bring to mind a question: these hard times he references. Does he put aspects of that in his art?
“I already overcame those hard times when I started making music,” he says without hesitation. “So I didn’t put the hard story in my music. My music is kind of lovely or bright.”
Though many might believe this a means to dodge the question, all one has to do is look in his eyes. Yes, he’s smart. He’s not new to the industry — his experiences with record companies and his successes attest to that. However, really looking at him it’s obvious that those hardships never stopped him. There’s unwavering positivity in the way he answers his questions — posture straight but relaxed, voice bright. “Positive mind,” he says, another one of his full laughs punctuating the point.
You can find the interview in its entirety here at HipHopKr.