Hello hello! Nice time for a new post, yeah? Today we feature one of Korea’s rising hip-hop artists, an emcee who brings a clear message in a growing music scene. Representing the US and Korea, please enjoy our feature with rapper Jolly V!
Jennie Lee (Lee Jinkyung, aka Jolly V) is a Korean-American hip-hop artist originally from Virginia, but based out of Seoul, Korea. A graduate in Global Economics from Sungkyunkwan University, the SouLime Sound-signed artist has been making a name for herself in Korea’s hip-hop scene for the last few years. Even more recently, she competed on the current third season of Mnet’s hip-hop survival audition program SHOW ME THE MONEY. With a growing passion for all forms of art, Jolly V is determined to change the way hip-hop is viewed by the Korean public and spreading a positive message through her music.
Hello! I go by the name Jolly V; Jotting Out Lots of Lyrics Yearning a new Vision as an MC. I’ve released two mixtapes, a self-titled EP album and done numerous featurings since 2008. My first full length album ‘[HAVE FAITH]’ is out everywhere including iTunes now, so please do check out my music! I would like to speak through my music.
How long have you been doing music for?
I would like to say ever since I could remember. As a rapper? It has been about 5-6 years but before that I was really into listening to music, playing music, making music my whole life. I loved singing at church, I used to cheer and dance too so back then choreographing, and grooving was my thing. Everything I did throughout my life involved music. I was never without music my whole life.
What kind of artist do you consider yourself?
Though my main work of art is music, I appreciate all forms of art. I respect artists like Van Gogh, Jean Michael Basquiat, all great dancers, actors on stage on screen, creative producers who make inspiring shows, plays, musicals, visual performances etc. My goal is to become an artist who understands all boundaries of art and expresses her own music in a multi-dimensional way.
As far as music is concerned, who gives you your inspiration?
Everyone. I sometimes get struck by a random person across the street, or on the bus, and definitely from musicians I love, close family and friends as well.
What does hip-hop mean to you?
I am a huge music lover. I just love music, period. I never get picky with music, that’s why I listen to reggae, classic, R&B, jazz, EDM, whatever you name it. But hiphop is home to me. I love that vibe whenever I hear Nas rap or go to a hiphop concert packed with fans getting their hands up and down. It’s just where I can be myself the most.
Koreans have some strong stereotypes when they hear the word ‘hiphop’. One of them is that you can only enjoy hiphop when you’re young; in your teens or early 20s. It’s common to witness K-hiphop concerts packed with young students. I mean young GIRLS. It’s natural to think hiphop fans will be male-dominated, but in Korea it’s the girls who actually come to hiphop shows. Plus it’s really hard to encounter someone who keeps listening to K-hiphop once they turn 30. So I feel like some rappers shift to doing trendier and young-girl-audience-preferred-styles rather than sticking to what they are best at.
You lived in the US for some time. Describe how that period in your life affected your individual style.
Well, Sesame Street and Disney definitely dominate my childhood life (lol). I was a happy child. I loved everything. From people at school to neighbors, I loved my neighborhood, my family, I was being loved so I loved back. I’m a firm believer that passion and happiness is over materialism. Everyone deserves to be happy and can be happy. This belief motivates me to challenge myself in life and in music as well. I try to speak about hope, about positivity. I want to be a life-giver, not a taker.
I heard you majored in Global Economics at a well-known university in Korea. Why did you choose that program?
After graduating from high school in the US, I wanted to study in Korea to build more of a network. Back then, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought I liked global studies since I liked foreign cultures so I just applied to a couple of schools that had interesting curriculums. That’s it.
Are there any other aspirations you want to achieve down the road?
A GRAMMY would be nice… but I really want to tour! I love traveling and experiencing new places so whether it be national, or international I wanna hit the road!
I had fun! It will definitely be an unforgettable experience throughout my career and life. All the contestants including myself were always under pressure and not one moment could the tension ease a bit but I even enjoyed those bits. I was happy to do something I’ve never done before. I did my best every second so I don’t regret any parts of the event at all.
Your thoughts on your fellow competitors on the show?
I was surprised to see Snacky Chan first of all!!! It was refreshing to see many new rappers, and I’m glad to know more than a handful of people to share such memories. I’d like to shout out to all of them, and let them know that I’m rooting for them too.
As people know, you and rapper Tymee went at it both on the show and prior to that. How did that beef develop originally?
I used to welcome all female rappers in this scene. Whether their music was my taste or not, I just wanted to show support as a female emcee myself. But it hit me one day that maybe the majority of femcees are being overrated because nobody ever spoke what should be told. For instance, one of the most common comments a female rapper gets; “she spits pretty well as a female” may sound as a compliment first but I hate it. I don’t want to rap pretty good, as a girl, I want to rap good period! I believe that’s what all female artists should be striving as well. Being a minority gender in hiphop wasn’t a plus to femcees all the time. It was a pulling us back often as well.
So that’s how I started to write “Bad Bitches”. I talk about female rappers being too lazy about their career, being unproductive. I got honest sharing my view about e.via(aka Tymee). I felt it was ironic for her to call herself a hiphop artist, when her music sounded like meaningless-here-I-rap-fast-songs, not HIPHOP. I’m not saying I’m completely right. I’m just saying we can do better than getting naked in front of the camera, shaking boobs to get people to listen to our music. I wanted to speak out that if you’re a female artist and you really want to get recognized, get your music together first. I’m talking to those “bad bitches” who don’t deserve respect as musicians. I’m also telling myself to be an even bad-er bitch(in a good way) and stay strong to my own message.
I wouldn’t say there’s a stronger presence but I do think people have adapted the concept of a female rapper nowadays. Hiphop was a totally foreign genre and culture in Korea back in the 90s. Back then ‘rap’ meant nothing. The appearance of popular hiphop artists such as Uptown, Drunken Tiger definitely drew attention of this hiphop genre into this nation, and Yoon Mi Rae has definitely marked a strong impression as a female emcee ever since her debut. I bet Koreans can name more female rappers aside of Tasha (Yoon Mi Rae) now since there are so many female “rappers” in girl idol groups but, I think there’s a fine line between a rapper and an emcee. It would take hours to elaborate about my thoughts on this (lol)…so to make this interview less boring I think rappers simply just rap, but emcees have their own artistry and message. I wrote that “you could be a rapper, but not an emcee” before in my verses as my thought on the difference of two.
So back to the question! No. I don’t think there’s a stronger presence of female emcees, nor male emcees in this country yet. There’s still more to prove to Koreans what hiphop is, and what an emcee should be like.
Talk about your most recent album, and the creative process behind it.
We all have hope in our everyday lives. We hope for a better day tomorrow when we go to sleep, we hope a better relationship with someone, we hope a better ‘me’. These hopes keep us alive and I believe these small layers of hopes thicken to faith; Faith that it’s okay to be myself, faith that my dreams will come true, faith that I am worth being loved. My album “Have Faith” is all about that. I speak about my hopes in relationships, my hopes as an artist, a musician, and my hopes as a human being, myself. There were moments I wanted to give up, felt totally alienated. Times when I got lost and day by day living meant nothing to me. But I never gave up creating in anyway, and this album proves that my hopes have transformed to ‘faith’. My music is for all those in pain or gain, and haven’t let go of hope yet. So everybody, “have faith”.
What’s next for you?
Couple singles will be dropping soon. My label SouLime SounD will release a compilation album with singles from all artists signed under the label. I also have my first concert coming up this September 13th and I’m always working on new projects so stay tuned!
What are your five most played songs currently?
Sam Smith’s whole album….which probably passes the five most played songs list already but I really love August Alsina’s Kissing on my Tattoos, Floetry is back on my playlists these days and been listening to a lot of old and new tracks by Korean rapper E-sens.
Lauryn Hill. She’s just one of my favorite artists and I really want to meet her in person as well. I feel like a whole album worth of inspiration will rush through me, by just sitting next to her.
What do you do during your downtime to wind down?
I like to watch a lot of TED talks. It inspires me to see how many different people there are with such creative minds! Other than that I try to experience all sorts of artworks; films, poetry and literature, musicals, art exhibitions, and so forth.
Name one thing that fans may not already know about you.
I’m a great cook. From pastas to Korean dishes, biscottis and pumpkin pies I can bring it down in the kitchen yo!
Any advice for aspiring artists?
Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will. NOBODY.
Any final words for the readers?
I will be where you are one day! Come see me then! #VsUp !
Special thanks to Jolly V and her management at SouLime Sound for arranging this, and as always, this has been a rhythm.connection exclusive!