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K-Pop Crossover: Rapper LK On Hallyu, His New Mixtape 'Better Practice' And Working With Grace Shin Of 'K-Pop Star 4' [EXCLUSIVE]

By Tony Sokol | July 31, 2015 04:36 PM EDT

On July 17, Korean-American rapper LK released "Better Practice," an 11-song compilation featuring singer Grace Shin, from season four of the South Korean reality television competition "K-Pop Star" and fellow New Jersey Korean-American hip-hop artist Goni. LK's last mixtapes, "Memos Part 1"' and "Memos Part 2," were released in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The veteran performer, whose name stands for Elbert Kim, recorded his first song when he was 14 years old. He has appeared on the audition program "Dream Stage" and frequently collaborates with his rap crew COLONY. Earlier this week in an exclusive interview, the rapper spoke to KpopStarz about stylistic differences of rapping in Korean and English, "Better Practice" and his love of Hallyu.

LK, who "can play a little bit of the piano," claims he composes with "drum and acoustic sounds."

"I also love writing on piano beats and R&B melodies," he said. "The beat sends a message and as the receptor, you receive it and send something back. It's a matter of how you react to things really."

The songwriting rapper explained the backstory to "Better Practice."

"I got tired of making plans and not executing them," LK said. "There's too much of that going on and I see others doing it too. 'Better Practice' was a spontaneous idea I had of motivating myself and, in return perhaps, even others. The idea is to do. I'm not saying rush through things...I believe the best way to practice is putting yourself and your work out there. Let it be vulnerable. Let people judge your work, not you. If practicing leads to better results, then you better practice if you want better results." 

The New Jersey-based hip-hop artist spoke glowingly about his collaboration with the Korean-born Grace Shin, who currently lives across the river in New York City.

"She has an amazing talent for singing," LK said. "We recorded the song 'Bittersweet' in New York. She was generous with her time. I remember calling her in Texas because I wanted her to feature on the song. She was like 'yea! Let me listen to it.'"

He said his fellow COLONY crew member, Goni, brought something entirely different to the sessions.

"To keep it sweet and simple, it was awesome," LK said enthusiastically. "The energy he brings to a studio is contagious. Goni is overseas making a name for himself in South Korea."

The rapper explained how he chooses his collaborators.

"I notice talent," the musician explained. "I know who I want to work with but it's a matter of how. I need to bring something to the table for the collaborators want to work with me."

So who would LK like to collaborate with?

"Zion. T and IU," he said. "And many more, but those two are just incredible. I love how they sing."

The East Coast rapper is also a fan of American artists like Eminem, Jay-Z and J. Cole.

When it comes to K-pop, LK knows what he likes.

"I'm biased and most of favorite K-pop artists are from YG Entertainment," LK said. "Big Bang and 2NE1 are my favorites."

The performer also admires K-pop's innovative music videos.

"I really liked Jay Park's song 'My Last' featuring Loco," he said. "The music video was awesome and I loved the chorus. AOMG is great. I liked seeing the crew together jamming out."

LK can hear the Hallyu impact on his own sound.

"Some of the music I create is K-pop, just to a lesser degree," he said. "The way I like to sing melodies in Korean on lovey-dovey tracks is similar to the atmospheric vibe of K-pop idol groups. I'm more hip-hop though, meaning sometimes it's hard to see the K-pop in me. I grew up with K-pop. It's just natural."

The bilingual rapper also discussed how the Korean and English languages offered alternate rhythmic and sonic possibilities in rap.

"Personally, I think Korean has more room for rhyming," LK said.

"If you look at the basic Korean alphabet too, you can say something like 'ga, na, da, ra, ma, ba, ja, cha, ka, ta, pa, ha' and they all rhyme. Whereas in English, you say something similar to it like 'a,b,c,d,e.' if you listen closely: From 'a,'  it doesn't start to rhyme with everything. Besides that difference, it's all about matching and breaking down syllables."

Listen to the title track of LK's "Better Practice" mixtape RIGHT HERE

Tagged :  rapper lk, grace shin, kpop star season 4, LK, K-Pop Crossover, grace shin

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