An Early career marked by a self-questioning
Lee Jin Yong was born on September 9th, 1987, and grew up in Seoul. He didn’t talk that much about his family, but based on his part on Boomin a track from Sik-K, or on his track Molla and Goyard, he wouldn’t be the only child and would have an older sister.
However, after finishing High School in South Korea (E.d. He studied at Sehwa High School, Gray was his senior) and then his military service, around 20 years old, the rapper decided to left South Korea to move in Los Angeles, California. Initially, the idea was to pursue his studies in the school his sister went to. This country move had several effects on the rapper.
The first thing to know is that Loopy hadn’t always been Lee Jin Yong’s stage name. Until 2011, he went by the name Momentee, and then went for Teezy. You can still find those stage names on the track I AM from Holic’s mixtape Parallel – Holic was a member of the crew Young Creation by the way, along with Nafla, Bloo, and Young West to name but a few!
It’s only over 2014/2015 that he finally settled on Loopy, with which he became famous.
This change from Teezy to Loopy can be explained by the fact that the rapper no longer recognized himself in this name. He indeed explained that one of the first things striking him in the US had been the behavior of young Americans. Their self-confidence. He then understood that there was no reason for him not to be as confident and that he was trying too hard to met people’s expectations, that those unending questionings were slowing him down as a person but also as an artist. Therefore, it’s by looking at those young people, at the American mentality that he would have not only gained confidence but also had a better understanding of HipHop.
For Loopy, Hip-Hop is about being confident, for self-confidence to be like second nature, an integral part of the DNA. Therefore, along with this realization, he needed a new stage name, something catchy and easy to memorize. That’s how he came up with Loopy.
Also, in an interview from July 2018, he denied any link with the manga One Piece.
To be more precise, he gave more explanations about the meaning of his stage name in two interviews
For MBC 2PM Date Radio, he explained that Loopy would be a term used in jewelry, a type of technique. But it would also be a term used in music production as he elaborated for Cultwo Show:
“The beat that makes the heads bop or the repetition of a melody is called a loopy”
Loopy – Cultwo Show | English trad from the Youtube Channel 66845492i
The two rappers met during a small show in L.A, in the neighborhood of Koreatown. At the time, according to an Episode from LooFla Season 2: Visitors from [MKITV] documentary series, Nafla was seemingly 21/22 years old and Loopy 26/27. Both of them were here to perform this day, Loopy, liked Nafla’s performance and thus tried to get closer with him, by giving him a hamburger it seems. However, according to some interviews, and especially the one hosted by Kim Chang Ryul for the Old School radio, this attempt to get on with Nafla has been rather unsuccessful, and for a reason!
Nafla did not agree with Loopy’s vision of HipHop back at the time. But as previously explained, by living in the US, Loopy would have gained in Self-confidence, asserting himself musically. It would be thanks to this metamorphosis that Nafla would have accepted to work with him.
For a while, Nafla pursued his projects with the 42 and Loopy his solo career, exchanging together from time to time. In 2015, Nafla confided that Loopy brought a lot to the whole 42Crew thanks to his positive vibe, it was a mutual enrichment.
If Loopy never became a member of the crew, they interacted and helped each other a lot nevertheless. There are for instance several tracks featured by some 42 members like Nafla, Young West, or even Niahn from the former crew Young Creation (More information about 42 and Young Creation in this article) in his Mixtape King Loopy released in September 2015. Loopy also made an appearance on the track I AM from Holic’s Mixtape PARALLEL released in October 2014 but also on producer Louis Maui’s Mixtape Highway to the Otherworld along with Young West and AP for the track Ocean View.
Mkit Rain: an assertiveness
If with King Loopy, Loopy captured quite some attention, especially thanks to the MVs King Loopy, No More, Vegas, or also Gear 2 – He has even been rewarded by HipHop LE with Best Mixtape Song of the Year 2015. However, it’s in 2016 that things reached another level for the rapper.
Loopy had this crazy and ambitious idea, to found his own label. After some hesitation from his friend Nafla, Mkit Rain has been publicly launched on January 22nd, 2016 with the track Come Thru performed by the first rappers to join the label at the time, that is to say, Loopy, Nafla, and Bloo. It’s also worth noting that it’s when they made the decision to found the crew/label that the three rappers decided to leave Los Angeles for South Korea, seemingly around November 2015.
In August 2016, Mkit Rain also released Weathermen MV.
However, besides the MVs for Goyard and Rrr, respectively released in February and September 2016, the rapper’s solo career stayed rather calm for a while. It’s only in 2017 that he dropped ICE, his first album, and the 2 MVs of the album, the eponymous track ICE and Problems, both released in April 2017.
However, he has been quite active when it comes to collaborations
In January 2016, along with pH-1, they were invited by Owen on the track Work from the mixtape P.O.E.M. With Nafla, Don Malik, Sleeq, and DJ Dolphin they accompanied Jerry.K on No Role Models from the project Emotional Labor released in March. Then in Jully, he collaborated with the singer Eyedi for the track Sign. Paloalto also invited him on his album Victories released at the end of November for the track Jet Lag.
Therefore, why so much wait between his mixtape released in September 2015 and his album ICE released in April 2017?
There is a simple reason for this. Loopy explained in an Interview made at the occasion of the release of the title track ICE MV – one month before the full album release – that he wasn’t really sure which direction he wanted to take with his music anymore. However, he is still highly critical of this album he released more because he felt he had to than he actually wanted to.
Freshly back in South Korea, Loopy would have gone through a bad patch. Suddenly, making music wasn’t as fun as it was in Los Angeles. This slight loss of motivation might be explained by the fact that the rapper felt a little bit overwhelmed by his return in his native country. He wasn’t necessarily ready for the newfound notoriety awaiting him there.
One of the indicators of this notoriety his none other than the number of collaboration he took part in 2017.
In February, on G2’s mixtape G2’s Life, Pt.2 with A.C.T. for the track Bread but also on producer Code Kunst’s album MUGGLES’ MANSION for the track Cruz also featured by PUNCHNELLO and Ugly Duck.
Eco Yard also invited him in June on the track Swerve from the EP 설, followed by Y-8’s track GGGB also featured by B.Free and Yammo.
With Nafla they also released the MV for Internat War, a cover of Seo TaiJi’s eponymous track as part of the project Time Traveller celebrating the 25 years of the career of this great figure of the Korean scene. Nafla also invited him on his album Angels released in October for the tracks gra gra and Apple Box adapted in an MV unveiled later in March 2018.
2018: A year of achievements
It seems that Loopy managed to overcome this phase of doubts mentioned in an interview from April 2017 since in March 2018 he released QUESTIONS, a new mini-album. Made of 12 tracks, this project is rather ambitious for a mixtape. As for the vibes, he went for asserted Trap and Cloud Rap vibes that he already tried out before with tracks like No more, Ice or Goyard for instance. Loopy had already released the MV for the track MOLLA as a pre-release earlier in December 2017, while the MV for LET IT OUT has been released 3 months after the album, that is to say in May 2018.
But the rapper also put a lot into Mkit Rain that year, since he is present on 10 out of the 14 tracks of the album Public Enemy released on May 4th, 2018. The MV for Don’t Move has been released earlier in February.
As for the collaborations, he has been pretty active as well with, in January, an appearance on the track Boomin’ for Sik-K’s album TRAPART.
He also took part in two projects in April. In ZENE THE ZILLA’s EP Zillamode 2 with Playoungstic for the track frostbite followed by the MV changes from Owen’s eponymous album.
But 2018 was most of all marked by his participation to Show Me The Money Season 7 (SMTM777)
To be frank, Loopy’s participation to Show Me The Money hasn’t been without controversy.
In the past, Loopy had expressed his negative opinion about the show, or rather about the rappers chasing clout in the show.
And it’s a reality, Show Me The Money is a program with a wide audience in South Korea, to the extent that it became quite a key springboard for the rappers.
But therefore, if, as he confided multiple times, Loopy would have preferred for the Mkit Rain Members and him to get more public recognition thanks to work and time, he nonetheless realized that SMTM could be a considerable accelerator
“When I was in the US seeing the Korean rappers in the HipHop scene using SMTM as a platform to get their names out, for me it’s kind of a shame, and I thought, « not through SMTM, if I focus more and try harder using another way I can get the public’s attention. » But when I came to Korea and did music here […] I thought, SMTM could be the best train that will take me there and I took back what I said about SMTM back then and decided to participate”
Loopy – EBS Chungha’s Listen Radio | English translation from the Youtube Channel 66845492i
As a consequence, Nafla, Loopy and Owen (who didn’t make it to the battles) decided to take part to the show to give Mkit Rain more visibility.
Thus, after passing the first trials and joining the Code Kunst – Paloalto team alongside pH-1, Kid Milli, and Qwala, Loopy never ceased to shine and reached the second place behind Nafla.
About this, the two rappers confided that it was respectively the places they were aiming for. It’s also worth noting that besides the 200 000 000 wons (so around 150 000€), SMTM777 winner was also rewarded with a car. This car, Nafla gave it to Loopy as you can see in a video from the channel Dingo Freestyle (E.d: link in the sources)
2019: a year marked by collaborations
After SMTM craziness, Loopy and Nafla finally decided to produce a joined album. This project was an idea they have had for a while, even before their participation in the show. In [MKITV] episode LooFla Season 2 : 얼음왕(Ice King), they explained that if they came to won the first and second places, then they would release an album together.
Released in June 2019, LooFla is made of 12 tracks and has been mostly recorded in a studio in Los Angeles in the space of 5 days. Jaden Smith, Future, Young Thug, or even Migos would have recorded in this same studio.
As Loopy explained in Loofla Season 2 last episode, with this album the goal was most of all to release a project they would take pleasure to perform on stage. Therefore, some tracks are on an asserted pop vibe like Atlantis produced by Taesan Kim. While Ice King, produced by Big Banana and Louis Maui is totally on egotrip.
“Ice on my neck, Ice on my wrist”
Loopy & nafla – 얼음왕(Ice King)
In another spirit, with Shot, they wanted a track reminding of alcohol because Big Banana, who also made the beat for the track, always welcomed them in his studio with a shot before getting to work.
Among all the producers present on this album, you can also notice Code Kunst’s participation in Coca Coca.
At the same time, the rapper kept up multiplying collaborations.
In February he was present on niahn’s Extape for Cartier MV, but also on 24 Flakko’s album Never again, for the track Sober also featured by Lil Asian.
The following month, Kid Milli, his teammate from SMTM, invited him on his EP L I F E, for the track APP whose MV has been released on June.
June also meant the release of the project L.A. from the producer BIG BANANA; Young West, Loopy and Nafla are present on the track Missed Call.
Finally, in August, Loopy was present on Simon Dominic’s MV make her dance also featured by Crush. This track is actually a pre-release from the album No Open Flame dropped later in September. But Loopy is also present on AP’s track Chanel.
A rapper standing out from the crowd
For those who already know Loopy, they could not but notice Loopy’s unique vocal tone. The rapper would have had some complex because of it as he explained in an interview for Old School a radio program hosted by Kim Chang Ryul:
“It’s like thin and it’s not considered manly so I was insecure about it, but since it’s now my weapon.”
Loopy – Old School | English Translation from the Youtube channel 66845492i
But it’s also worth noting that Cloud Rap and all the typicality of the genre (references to lean, codeine, Xanax cf. Problems: « Always coughing so I need purple lean » or even Batman; « U know I been poppin’ some of xans » etc.). Those references aren’t necessarily that common on the Korean HipHop scene, even if it’s not nonexistent either.
Nevertheless, if Loopy stands out, it is also and above all because of his perfectionism, his relentlessness, and his passion.
From the rapper who started rap during his second year of High School to impress the girls and then almost stopped rapping under pressure from the haters to finally become the thinker of a label with endless ambition. Yeah, it’s clearly thanks to his determination that he managed to achieve that.
Determination is indeed an important value for him. It’s noticeable through his admiration for Kendrick Lamar. The rapper from Compton is not only a source of inspiration for his rap but also because for Loopy, the Grammy winner would have also largely contributed to putting back the West Coast scene in the foreground of the American HipHop. For Loopy, nobody can do it like Kendrick. He’s also a fan of Young Thug. On a side note, for him, in order to become a good rapper, one has to listen to Biggie, while if someone wants to understand HipHop, it’s Tupac they should listen to. Now, you do whatever you want with this!
As for the influences, Loopy also talked about Korean rappers like Swings, Beenzino he listened to a lot, but most of all Tablo, Epik High’ Leader who would have influenced him a lot.
“When I was studying I related a lot to Tablo’s lyrics and I got influenced from them. I’ve heard of people telling me I sound like him when I was young. So should I say like.. I feel like I’m one with him? I can feel the closeness from him.”
Loopy – Dream Radio | English translation from the Youtube Channel 66845492i
However, through his Mkit Rain Leader role, Loopy also showed how a good analyst he was. He suggested guidelines and ideas for the label while trying to encouraging the other and bringing out the better from them. More generally, he has perspective when it comes to music. In an interview, he explained that he quickly notice what makes the power of a track, why one rapper would sound good…
His strong analytical skills, Loopy would make the most of them in his music as well, especially because he tends to question his musical identity a lot. Loopy first started to get known as a technical rapper with the track Gear 2. Therefore, for a while, a good part of his public waited for him to release technical tracks exclusively. However, to him, this track lacks spontaneity, the technique would have supplanted passion. And the thing is, just like his appeal for cruising skate, Loopy prefers to tinge his flow with more groovy and laid-back sonorities. Consequently, one of his main goals is to convey this feeling through his rap, but most of all to increase visibility with a rap fitting him.
But above all, Loopy doesn’t want to be considered as an artist who imitates well US rap, but rather like a true rapper.
Loopy said really interesting things in [MKIT TV] Loofla Season 2 last episode.
“What we want is not « They imitated US HipHop well », but we want people not to feel a sense of difference when they listen to my song after listening to US HipHop, that’s what I want. But I don’t want to be someone who imitated US hiphop well. I want to be a reasonable artist and also get loved by an American HipHop fan who likes Young Thug. I don’t want to be an artist who impersonates others”
He also gave important advice to the coming generation of Korean Artists:
“An advice I want to give to young people is, you should remember that my competitors shouldn’t be Beenzino, Okasian, Swings or Gaeko. Wouldn’t it be better to have an idea that the competitor is Kendrick Lamar, Lil Pump, Young Thug, A$AP Rocky, or Drake?
You should always dream higher. As soccer player dreams of playing in Europe and basketball player dreams of NBA you may feel HipHop to be a significant genre. But I want to do it with the mentally of beating the people who made it, make better music than them, have more followers and give more influence than them”
The ICONtv Internation
Traduction Dingo Freestyle