Rapper Ravi blooms as a musician with his latest EP 'Roses'
It’s rare that a musician sees immediate success. It often takes multiple tracks and albums for them to develop their own sound. Rapper Ravi has pinned his hopes on his new EP “Roses,” which he thinks will be his pivotal work that defines him as a musician.
“To put it nicely, I’ve been able to work in various genres and styles and that’s been one of my strongest assets,” Ravi told the Korea JoongAng Daily in an interview held on Tuesday at the GROOVL1N office in southern Seoul, the label that the rapper founded in 2019.
“But I started to get this feeling that they are all just fleeting moments. Some people could say, ‘Ravi’s latest song is good,’ but that brings me down. I think there’s a limited time when I can show myself as an artist so I have to focus on what I’m good at and what I can express. I want people to associate me with a certain energy or color, like, ‘I think of Ravi whenever I go on a drive.’”
Ravi is a member of boy band VIXX, as well as a rapper, head of his own agency and producer. Last year, he composed the most songs of any K-pop singer, with 183 under his belt as of October 2020, followed by K-pop hotshots G-Dragon and Psy. While releasing so many singles helped him to learn what people like, ultimately Ravi said it ended up working against him.
“Strictly speaking, they [the songs] weren’t as loved as I hoped they would be and so what I made was not for people nor was it fully mine," he said. "They became nothing. I thought that I needed to find something that was truly mine. I needed to express that properly so that the people listening to my songs would get a full grasp of who Ravi is. Writing good songs is important, but I need to make myself a good artist.”
Ravi expressed pride when talking about his latest work, saying that he’s pleased with the outcome especially because the EP was created after a long period of self-reflection and introspection.
And rightly so, as the tracks are exciting enough to get listeners’ feet tapping but also have a touch of musical completeness in both composition and melody. The double lead tracks “Cardigan” and “Flower Garden” are both uplifting romantic hip-hop serenades, while the other five tracks talk about love in different ways.
“The title of the album is ‘Roses’ because I feel like each track in the album is a flower,” he said. “But I thought ‘Flowers’ might sound a little weak so I went with ‘Roses.’ Roses are such versatile flowers. There are so many colors — red, white, black and more — and while they have beautiful and ravishing petals they also have thorns. I thought that such image would be perfect for the album title.”
The album utilizes a rose red hue throughout such as in the track titled “Red Velvet,” featuring singer Jamie, as well as the title track “Roses,” and the music video of “Cardigan,” which frequently shows Ravi singing alone in a room filled with red curtains. He initially decided on “Cardigan” as the lead track, but said he had to add “Flower Garden” because some of the people he played it to said that it sounded better.
“I actually thought a lot about whether I should release an album at all,” he said. “It was initially meant for spring but that thought held me back. I’ve always liked making new music because it gives me a reason to go on stage. Now that I can’t perform in front of people or connect with them on a personal level, it made me think about whether I should release it or not. But I hated thinking like that because it’s my job to make music. Plus, I wanted to release an album. So I just went with it.”
During the interview, Ravi frequently used the words “objectively” and “cold-heartedly” to describe how he assesses himself and his work. Having debuted as a member of VIXX in 2012, he has seen some success as part of a band and also as a soloist. His experiences made him realize that the amount of effort he puts in does not always correlate with the outcome, which made him feel “empty” after releasing an album.
“The more expectations I have, the emptier I feel," he said. "Of course there’s a sense of pride and achievement as well as affection for my songs with every release, but it comes with a feeling of emptiness. I don’t care about the results on the music charts because it doesn’t make any difference whether I care or not. I honestly want all seven tracks to take the first to seventh places on the charts, but since it’s not going to go the way I want it to, I’m focusing on showing myself better.”
For “Roses,” Ravi hopes that people will enjoy the album as a whole, not just the individual tracks. After transitioning to a hip-hop rapper in 2017 when he released his first solo album, he says that he has seen an influx of male listeners in recent years. He hopes to establish a pool of hardcore listeners with “Roses” who can truly appreciate his music.
“I don’t think that I’ve properly established myself in the hip-hop scene — I need more work,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s been more difficult for me because I started out as a boy band member. The hip-hop genre is like a sport where all rappers constantly need to prove themselves in all ways they can. So it’s not just tough for me — it’s tough for everyone. I would say, cold-heartedly, that I just haven’t been good enough. So it’s my mission to make good music.”
Even aside from his start as a K-pop boy band member, Ravi is a unique character in the hip-hop scene. While some resort to misogynistic lyrics as a means to flaunt their masculinity, in 2016 Ravi wrote “DamnRa,” with the lyrics, “All rappers who want to get a reaction by writing lyrics that insult women, go screw yourselves.” In December, he released a single titled “Pause” in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, telling people to “pause” their misogynistic and hate-filled speech.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m very deeply submerged in that issue, but I’m trying to open up to the things that I haven’t been aware of before,” he said. “I don’t think I was chosen for that project because I’m well-educated and have a perfect understanding of the issue, and there were things that we didn’t see eye to eye on during the making process. But within the conversations, I learned that different people can think different things. I’m learning and becoming a person who is aware of the change in society.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [email@example.com]