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B.I (비아이)

Korean musician B.I (비아이) reflects on the global success of 'BTBT' and his solo journey in an exclusive interview with 1883. He embraces growth, self-love, and explores post-love emotions in latest EP Love or Loved, Pt. 2. Join him on a dynamic musical journey that resonates with fans worldwide.

Propelled to new heights by one of the biggest songs by a Korean artist in the last couple of years, B.I sits down with 1883 to reflect on the stratospheric success of ‘BTBT’, being in his growth era, and bringing K-music to the world stage.

For Korean multihyphenate B.I (Kim Han-bin 김한빈), the unprecedented success of his 2022 single ‘BTBT’ isn’t lost on him. He’s dedicated much of his career to a personal mission of propelling Korean music onto the world stage, and the track has not only afforded him that opportunity but it’s served as a breakthrough moment of encouragement for the artist after a tough couple of years.

Now aged 27, B.I has been a stalwart figure in the K-pop landscape for the better part of a decade. The charisma and standout rap skills he’s honed over the years are key elements he has carried with him in his solo endeavours.

Emerging undeterred from an unsteady but pivotal few years in the spotlight, B.I is in his introspective growth era. His penchant for acknowledging the difficulties he has faced over recent times is refreshing in a world that often cowers away from the low points. He doesn’t shy away from them. In fact, his quest is not just for betterment as an artist, but as a human being. He spends off days outside the chaos of the music industry taking English classes, practising self-love, and seeking validation only from within himself.

What’s evident from the following conversation with B.I is that he has learned when to take a step back; to focus on his mental and physical well-being — a lesson that couldn’t have been taught in any dance studio or rehearsal room. It is one that has endeared him to a dedicated fan base that’s eager to be a part of his ongoing evolution.

Perhaps the most obvious fruit of B.I’s years in the music industry is an obvious knack for lyricism and composition. His inherent ability to craft high-octane, sexy, yet emotive tracks (and deliver them with force) became one of the cornerstones of his resonance with fans. This gift endures throughout his solo career. On premier stand-alone releases like WATERFALL, COSMOS and TO DIE FOR, he blends hip-hop, rap, and R&B influences to whet the appetite.

On last year’s Love or Loved, Pt. 1, B.I’s creative growth shines. A record worked on with Grammy Award-winning producers The Stereotypes, the first part of B.I’s global album series [L.O.L] showcases a deeper, more pensive concept: a body of work that annotates all the powerful, sweet moments of falling in love. On Love or Loved, Pt. 2, his latest release, the concept takes a sour turn: it’s an EP that illustrates the empty, lonely, hopeless feelings that come after two lovers part. As dark as that might sound, the 5-track release isn’t a record full of straight-up anger or despair. Actually, you’ll find notes of disco-tinged, conflicted tenderness to its delivery that anyone who has ever felt that familiar tear in the chest will relate to.

As for what’s up next for B.I? Nothing is certain over the next five years, except a promise to still be doing the same thing by that time. He hopes to create a full-length album, continue to tour, and keep up the connection he has with his fan base through those shows. In his own words, the aim is simple: to always maintain a baseline of humility and keep a stringent focus on his future achievements.

You enjoyed one of the biggest hits of your career to date with ‘BTBT’ last year. Can you talk a little about how it felt to see the song so well received? Why do you think it connected so well with people?

It was surreal to witness the immense success of ‘BTBT’, to be honest. Even when our staff members and fans mentioned hearing it on the subway or elsewhere, I thought perhaps it might be part of a K-POP playlist. It wasn’t until my first festival in Paris, where I saw countless fans singing along, that it truly struck me. I credit the featured artist [Soulja Boy] for his genuine love for the song, his remarkable talent, and the excellent completion of the choreography.

black and white photo of Korean musician B.I (비아이)
Korean musician B.I (비아이). Photo courtesy of 131 (ONE THREE ONE).

You collaborated with a few English-speaking lyricists on the last record. You even mentioned you’d been studying English in order to write your own verses in future. How has that been going for you — did you get to try writing in English for this record?

I took regular English lessons right until the European tour. Currently on a hiatus for a mental and physical break, but I intend to resume soon. The lessons involve conversational English, with an emphasis on vocabulary for more natural fluency.

Your mission for a long time has been to help bring Korean music to the world stage. It feels like this is happening now more than ever — even outside of music. Brands like Burberry, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton are all holding events in Seoul. How does it feel to see Korean culture expanding so far?

I’m extremely proud. It was remarkable how many fans abroad embraced the ‘Dare to Love’ challenge and just how many could sing along word by word during the Europe tour despite its Korean-heavy lyrics. I felt truly content, and it inspired me to delve deeper into life and create even more inspiring lyrics.

Last year, you spoke about still feeling like you needed to work on yourself, specifically learning to love yourself. How is that going these days? Mentally, what kind of place do you feel you are in this time around?

I have been taking a full rest since completing my Europe tour. It’s about time I get back to work, so I’ve returned to the studio. I’m still on the journey to discover self-love, and I’m taking things a little slow to achieve that.

Love or Loved, Pt. 1 EP paid homage to the different stories and feelings that come from falling in love — what stage in your life do you think Love or Loved, Pt. 2 captures?

For Pt. 2, I wrote my lyrics on the topic of farewell. I want to tell stories about the emotions that come after, but I am not quite there yet.

Each track on Love or Loved, Pt. 1 was like a “mini story”. Could you explain what you think the storyline for each track on Pt. 2 would be?

In order of the tracklist, the title track ‘Loved’ and ‘4 Letters’ express the stories of parting. From ‘Alone’ to ‘S.O.S’ and ‘All shook up’, stories of emotions that come after a breakup unfold until the very last track.

How would you personally describe the “feelings that come after love”?

Emptiness and loneliness. That’s my take.

What’s one thing you love, and one thing you don’t like about love?

Love has so many great things about it, but I’m not too fond of what comes after its ending. 

How would you describe Love or Loved, Pt. 2 sonically? What (or who, such as other artists) have been your key inspirations for the project?

The key inspiration for Pt. 2 was mostly Pt. 1, as it was created to continue the initial stories told through Pt. 1.

Could you talk about the various producers or artists you have worked with on the new album, and how they came about? Was there an artist or producer you wish could have gotten involved with the record? (Or any dream collaborations for the future?)

I’ve collaborated with various artists in Asia, some of whom I was already friends with, and others I got to know through the album collaboration. I’m grateful to all of them. It’s an honor to have worked with my favorites and such talented artists like James Reid, TYTAN, and AGNEZ MO. I couldn’t have asked for more.

black and white photo of Korean musician B.I (비아이)
Korean musician B.I (비아이). Photo courtesy of 131 (ONE THREE ONE).

How about the visuals for Pt. 2, such as the artwork, music videos, and such — can you tell us about the concept behind them, and how you brought them from your imagination to life?

I aimed to depict the music video through everyday scenes, much like those in a TV drama series. I also shed some weight to better convey the feeling of sorrow. Given the quantity of emotional scenes, I immersed myself in watching a lot of movies to study acting and for a more concentrated performance.

You’ve spoken before about feeling insecure when performing as a solo artist. How do you feel about your solo stages these days, having had the opportunity to tour more and perform such a global hit like ‘BTBT’ for the last year?

Contrary to the beginning, I have gained a lot of confidence since then. I would say the anxiety has transformed into excitement, and I have also learned how to better connect and communicate with the fans on stage through the many performances, both in and outside of Korea.

What kind of hobbies or interests are you into nowadays, and how have they positively impacted your life, or perhaps given you more energy?

I’m always on the lookout for new hobbies and interests. Currently, I don’t have much on my plate, so I feel the need for a new source of energy. I’m practising finding joy in little things and adopting a positive mindset. Additionally, I’ve been waking up early like many people in our world do and gaining great energy from connecting with different people.

Where do you hope life takes B.I after the next 5 years?

I haven’t thought that far ahead. The present moment is the most important, and my primary focus is to complete a new album as soon as I can for the fans and to see them at concerts again. One thing is for sure, I hope to be doing this exact same thing 5 years from now.

What do you hope to have achieved, or become by then?

I believe it’s crucial to remain humble and stay focused on the goals and dreams I set for myself a long time ago, just as I am doing now. I think that’s what the fans love to see in me, and it’s what motivates me to keep going.

Team Credits
interview by
Lauren Webb
photos courtesy of
131 (ONE THREE ONE)

Check out B.I‘s latest EP Love or Loved, Pt. 2 below now!

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