“My Journey Has Just Started” — A HipHopKr Interview with Rheehab
In October, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit South Korea for the very first time. During my three-week stay, I was able to sit down with up-and-coming R&B artist Rheehab. He’s been bouncing around the music scene since 2016 and has an established following of dedicated fans who’ve fallen in love with his unique approach to R&B in the country.
What follows in an excerpt of our conversation. It was truly a pleasure. I can only hope he continues on his journey and finds himself among the country’s most respected proponents of the genre.
CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
Rheehab began his music education early. As a high schooler, he was mesmerized by the potential he saw in creating his own music. Citing Korean hip-hop crew Soul Company (whose alumni includes legend The Quiett), he found himself wanting to learn more about the creative process.
“Those artists, they were writing their own lyrics on their own beat. So that’s why I got interested in it.”
Rheehab knows his stuff. He seems to have an intrinsic curiosity. It’s a trait that’s allowed him to dig deeper into his craft to truly find what makes him an artist. Believe it or not, his first forays into music were in the more traditional hip-hop styles of the early ’80s.
“Three years ago I tried boom-bap style. Now I’ve changed.” That draws a surprised exclamation. You wouldn’t know it from the work he’s been putting out, but Rheehab has a fondness for old-school hip-hop that’s really quite astonishing. “I love to listen to the melodic style more than the old-school hip-hop, but I wanted to try the old-school hip-hop, but many people said ‘You don’t fit that.’”
Well, at least his friends are honest. It’s clear the further we get into our conversation that finding his voice has been a practice in patience and an ability to embrace his failures to push until he finds success. Still, it’s astounding to find someone seemingly rooted in the current trends of Korean R&B so knowledgeable about the roots of the genre.
“Nas, of course. Illmatic. I love it. KRS One.” At this point, everything around us comes to a pause. I have yet to hear that name dropped so casually in discussion with some of the artist I’ve talked to. We share this moment of solidarity, the almost cliché adage that music is universal. Even above the café’s radio, which plays ballads and K-pop, everyone can hear our enthusiasm. We go back a bit into the annals of hip-hop’s legacy: as he mentioned, KRS One, Afrika Bambaataa, etc. Beyond hip-hop heads who are noticeably older, not many of the younger school of R&B has that much history.
“Like most people,” he begins after we calm from our shared excitement, “I think all people know Biggie and Tupac as their start. So I started with those two artists’ songs, and then I kept searching about different artists. So that’s why I can listen to different styles. I searched past artists like Biggie and Tupac and future artists.”
The read the interview in its entirety, head over to HipHopKr.