Interview with Bobby Kim: Rebirth of the Godfather of Soul

“I still don’t know what music is, but I think I’ve figured out singing a bit. You need to be honest. You need to sing with your whole heart in order for the audience to identify with you.”

Called the “Rap Grandfather” for being part of the first generation of artists to introduce hip hop to Korea and “The Godfather of Soul” for displaying the essence of soul music, this year becomes Bobby Kim’s 17th since his debut in 1994 as a member of Dr. Reggae.

Last April, he fell from the second floor of a building and was told that there would be the possibility of him being paralyzed from the waist down. But within two months he successfully overcame his critical condition and has come back to build up greater popularity than he had ever experienced. He is currently a part of the program “Survival: I Am a Singer,” will release a fourth album next month with his Buga Kingz members, and starting from October 1, he will embark on a national tour called, “Soul Together“.

Q: The accident back in April must have been a huge shock for you.

A: “It was a hellish period. I had to lie on my back for 24 hours every day. I thought to myself, ‘Is this the end? Are the heavens punishing me for some wrongdoing?’ I prayed that, ‘If I can just walk again, I’ll become a good-hearted person.’ There was a miracle; without surgery I was able to walk after one and a half months with just rehabilitation. And starting from August, I started promotions again wearing a brace. I tried not to show it then, but it was difficult. It wasn’t just my vertebrae, but my ribs had been broken as well so it was hard to even breathe. To a singer, that is a mortal blow. I had to start practicing all over again how to walk and breathe.”


Q: Aren’t you overdoing it with your current promotions?

A: “Working on my album, recording ‘Surival: I Am a Singer’, and practicing for the concert leaves me with no time to rest, but I like being busy. It’s been three years since Buga Kingz released a new album. Together we composed, wrote the lyrics for and produced the songs and we are tying it all up right now. We’re selecting songs that have a distinctive color to them. Juvie Train and GAN-D, my members, were being so stubborn. They said, ‘Hyung, you’ve continued to release albums during all this period but it’s been three years for us. Stay out of it.’”

Q: What’s the difference between the music of Buga Kingz’s Bobby Kim and the solo artist Bobby Kim?

A: “You can compare it to day and night or night and day. You can listen to Buga Kingz’s music during the day when you’re with your friends, and listen to Bobby Kim’s solo material during lonely nights as you’re recollecting your past. But you can also listen to Bobby Kim’s music during the day when you’re working hard and Buga Kingz’s music at night when you’re with your friends, drinking the hours away.”

Q: It’s a fact that the Buga Kingz aren’t as popular with the public as Bobby Kim is as a solo artist. What’s the reason you continue to promote with Buga Kingz?

A: “Half of me is Bobby and the rest is Buga Kingz. There were people who told me, ‘You are popular enough, leave Buga Kingz and work as a solo artist,’ but I couldn’t do it. Forget things like loyalty, the reason is because I myself am Buga Kingz. When Juvie Train enlisted in the army, it was only after I got the consent of my members that I started my solo promotions. My members are more than just brothers so we’re always encouraging each other.”

Q: How are you preparing for the concert?

A: I’m going to show everything I’ve got. I’ve prepared songs I sang from all the dramas, calm ballads, and have fun stages prepared with the Buga Kingz. We’re also planning on performing Buga Kingz’s new song. You’ll also be able to hear the love stories within the songs I myself wrote. My father will be a part of it as well. He has agreed to play the trumpet for ‘A Whale’s Dream’, so we’re together often. I’ve heard the trumpet many times before, but every time I hear it I become so moved that I have a hard time concentrating on the song.”

Q: What do you think is your charm?

A: Probably my honesty and perseverance. In everyday life I tend to be on edge but in the long-term I tend to have great perseverance, which was why I was able to endure eleven years of being an unknown singer. I also give my juniors the cold, hard advice they need to hear. If they don’t have enough talent and their future looks bleak, I’ll tell them to give up. It can’t be helped if they curse me behind my back. For that person’s sake, the right thing to do is to tell them the truth. I’m only just now beginning to feel like I’m living, it wouldn’t be right for me to tell them to thoughtlessly wait it out.”

Q: You’ll be forty in two years, is there anything you want to do?

A: I want to work with a band and sing a duet with a male singer. The place where I can do all this is at a concert so I want to continue it without rest. And another thing, I’d like to fall in love with someone.”

How does this article make you feel?