An album done without cussing, a persona shaped through past experiences, a man with ambitions of greatness summarises what Microdot is all about. His thought process and aura reeks of success and positivity. Musically, diversity is seen, from tracks that encompass the music scene from USA to Korea and all the way to Auckland, New Zealand. I had the pleasure of having a good chat with this Korean-born New Zealand based rapper on the come up, and this was the result of it all.
Off the bat, how old are you and where you from?
20, way in the countryside from a place called ‘Jae Chon City’ in Korea - my dad was a dairy farmer. I came here (to Auckland, New Zealand) when I was about two or three.
What religions surrounded you back in Korea?
Religion wise there’s heaps. Next door to our farm there was a weird ghost-chasing cult, also there’s Buddhism, Catholic, but biggest of all is Christianity, and yeah, I’m Christian.
Were you born Christian?
I wasn’t born Christian, but when I got to New Zealand, my brothers started going to church and my love for Christ grew overtime in my own way; more of a relationship with god than a “religion”.
Guess you have siblings, and I’ve noticed that one of them is a pop star back in Korea? I’m guessing you all migrated here then went back to Korea to do music? How was the experience of it all
Yeah, so what happened when I was 9 was that my two brothers, they were about 15 and 17, we got signed to an underground label in New Zealand. We did a bit of this and that here – a few gigs. We did a gig at Sky City and had famous Korean Hip-Hop Stars guest-appear at our show. After we all performed, my brothers and I got signed to their record label. A year after I got signed, I flew back to Korea, but at the time I barely knew what I was doing and why I was going there. When I arrived, I got paired up with this dude by the name of Dok2 – he’s a real dope rapper, plus he owns his own label now. Working on our first project at the age of 11, we faced stress.
The project was really stressful, but what followed was rewarding: digital albums, singles, features on other tracks, touring, arena shows, media interviews, showcases on Korean equivalent to MTV, plus we had our own reality show titled “M-Pick”. Being young, it was a good experience for the two of us. Being in Korea, I was lucky. There was a massive 60minute talk about this. The record labels in Korea favours to sign and keep artists when they are young, and develop them over time. My contract finished eight years later, and the artists that were with me at the time are finally getting some recognition. It has taken them numerous years, and I know one of my closest dudes, who was like my older brother who took care of me, has hit number one in the charts and he’s touring the U.S. with my brother (Sanchez of Phantom), right now. That’s what I mean – I was lucky to get there and go with that image of a young hip-hop duo. It definitely had it’s up and downs.
Throughout the years, my siblings helped me get my lyrics and delivery up to par. Being a chubby kid when I was young, I would have trouble doing straight 16 bars; now it’s nothing to me. Sanchez still helps with the mixing and mastering of tracks. To this date, to me my brothers are what 2-Pac and Biggie are to most rappers.
The fact that you left at a young age, do you still consider Korea has your motherland?
Nah – Auckland is my town, ‘cause I was raised here. My brother’s and my culture concept, how we talk, and mannerism is different. In Korea, the respect of age is prominent, where as in New Zealand it’s not so much, so, I could say Seoul my hometown, but NZ is my homeland.
What’s your view on fame and how people react to it?
Gaining fame at a young age made me perceive it in a different angle. Before I get into that, the industry and the personalities of famous individuals have changed a lot. Back in my day, people would approach you, screaming your name, try touch you, take photos and autographs, but that seems to have disappeared overtime. When I visited Korea last year I realised, people are very shy – they won’t express themselves. My brother (Sanchez) would walk down the street; people would recognise him but wouldn’t approach him. Also, being famous in my time was dangerous – I had people waiting outside my residence. People didn’t give a damn about your privacy.
Comparing that with New Zealand, man, it’s different. Going on a tangent here, but in NZ it’s either you make it or you don’t – either you’re the Lorde or the person who never gets recognition. I’ve seen people try to do the best for the New Zealand music scene, but it’s still not enough. Fame in the music scene is not right. You got people just putting out tracks and seeing if the money stacks up, you know?
Back on track, the good thing about fame was that perks outweighed the negatives: I got sponsorships from Nike and other all well-known brands, respect amongst other artists, to free stuff. With that said, I didn’t take all that for granted, as an artist. The fans think the artist is superior; it’s not like that. I still believe that you and your fans are on the same level, and that’s what I’m trying to do with DOWNBAD.
DOWNBAD. is a movement I created, through my music, that soon turned into a clothing label. Purpose of DOWNBAD. is for people to physically feel a part of the movement, but DO NOT get it twisted as it’s not MICRODOT's merchandise; it’s an independent clothing line. The clothing line was founded by me in 2013, and has racked up some serious attention around the globe as a street-wear clothing label. The meaning behind the label is "You feel DOWNBAD. when you’re ABOUT to do something wrong". So, I've altered it to the cliché term: "Feeling DOWNBAD.? Don't Do It". As we all know, society these days are not so positive and the age of involvement in this negativity is getting younger. The movement I’ve started is to spread optimism while rocking THE dopest clothing out there. Look good when you spread love right? www.downbadlimited.com
Track 5, of my MICROTAPE EP on my Soundcloud is called "DOWNBAD." - where I talk about the movement etc. Represent /Listen/ Feel the movement, Be as one. But mark my words... this ain’t no belief (blasphemy) or a cult; it’s a positive vibe spreading fashion movement created through my music.
Speaking of negativity, what’s your idea of misery?
Misery? The fact that I was famous and now I’m not. Also, I’m grateful that has happened. Going off topic, but when I was famous I never had time for myself, or my friends and family. Whenever I did spend time with people of importance to me, I would always get picked up by managers to go do interviews of a song or whatever. Even at school – 3 out of 5 days, they’d pick me up to go to gigs and all. There, I would try fit time in for studying. Plus, you have to slot in time for your fans, too, you know? So, I guess misery for me is having fame and getting that taken away from me. Luckily I had my experience, given the good and bad that came with it.
Still carrying on studying while on this music grind?
Yeah, I am. The holidays are where most of my music time resides. The past inter-semester break from Uni, I pushed out 6 tracks, but sometimes during the night I just caffeine myself and power through some music. I try and keep the day open for people – my girlfriend takes a big chunk of my time but I know I gotta respect that cause she keeps me grounded and is my main source of motivation, you know? I never wanna be the person that shuns changes. With study, man, I guess I gotta do what I do because I’m one semester away from graduating with a business degree from AUT, Double majoring in Marketing and International Business.
Guess you’re planning on fusing what you learnt into your music career. Prior to music, did you have any other jobs?
No – image is real important over in Korea. I can’t say the same for New Zealand, being an independent artist. In Korea, man, the label won’t let you work anywhere, unless you run your own company, but that’s another ball game. Your image is everything, when you’re a musician singed to a label. But in hip-hop, it’s a bit different; as you get to do what you want at the same time respect what your label wants you to do. Yeah, I didn’t work at Pizza Hut or anything, but I wouldn’t have minded – being the guy I am, I wouldn’t have cared, really.
Having experienced in the world of being a signed artist, do you believe that independence is the way to go, or a record label pushing your music is the right path to take?
These days independency is growing rapidly. From what I’ve, independently growing is great, but when you hit that top point independently, it’ll be hard. Every artist gets help from A&Rs (Artist and Repertoire – the people that promote musicians), regardless of a contract or not, you get help from labels. You start off independently, but the end goal is to get signed, yet hold on to your creative flow. The fact of the matter is when your independent you wanna be signed, when you’re signed, you wanna be independent. At the end of the day, you get a signed to get a bigger audience, but soon after that you wanna be independent, ‘cause no one likes being caged in, you know what I mean? It’s equivalent to a job.
Put yourself in this position: your existence as a rapper gets deleted from this world. You can recall everything, but no one knows who you are. Would you take a different path or keep being a rapper?
Nah, I would keep being a rapper, regardless of getting my material destroyed. If I have my knowledge and I have to start form day one again, I would use my knowledge to my advantage and put out even better music. I might changed my alias from MICRODOT to David Shin and fire it up, man. I would go into Warner Music and all big labels and rap to them. I would buy new software, plus I know where my followers are, so I can strategically market to them.
At the end, what do you want to achieve with this career path?
I don’t like charging for my music, ‘cause I wanna give it for free. I want people to experience my music, and get in their veins. I want this to encourage the culture and movement I’m portraying, I want them to gym with it, sleep with it. At the end, I want something good to come out of all this. Regards to my recent project (MICROTAPE-EP), I showing the world and New Zealand that I’m getting on another level. The music on this tape is not for the New Zealand market, plus, when I dropped this album I got five record labels hit me up, but I turned them all down, ‘cause I don’t want that type of lifestyle, yet. Maybe when I’m older I might consider it, but at this day and time, I’m happy doing my own thing. With that said, it’s really difficult in New Zealand, man. All in all, I want to be great at what I do and be somebody before I leave this earth.
You can find out more about Microdot and his ventures on the links that follow. Don’t forget to download his album through his Soundcloud page – it’s a real good listen.