MFBTY’s Fight to the Top: Their Struggles with Grief, Money, Getting Gigs + Plans to Continue Rising

MFBTY let loose at Greenplugged Festival, May 24th

“My style is a bit rough but since this is a festival with kids, I’ll tone it down a little. I won’t even say, ‘Let’s smash them.’ I’ll say, ‘Let’s bounce!’”

Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae, and Bizzy rocked the finale stage of 2015 Green Plugged, which was held on May 24, 2015 at 9pm.
The trio, (who are known as MFBTY) turned the grassy fields into a club as soon as their set started. Tiger JK jumped off the stage to meet the fans face to face, splashing water from his bottle and shouting like a rock star. The reporter met the drenched Tiger JK backstage right after their set.

We Lost Everything

Tiger JK is slowly climbing up from the bottom. In February 2014, his father passed away after a long fight with cancer. TigerJK said he lost absolutely everything at that time. As Drunken Tiger, (who topped the Korean music charts on several occasions) he made enough money for him to say, “I just want to do my kind of music now”. These days however, “If I don’t work today, I can’t guarantee I can put food on my family’s table, it’s that tough right now.”

For him, being on the bottom is somewhat familiar. Back in 2000, right after his debut, he was arrested for allegedly taking prohibited substances (all charges were later dropped). Back in 2006, he was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, and cannot properly function if he does not take his medication four times daily.

MFBTY, started back in 2011 on Twitter when they playfully stated, “My Fans are Better Than Yours.” This joke spread through the Twitter world through their international fans.
“This started out as a joke and back in 2013, we released a single called, ‘Sweet Dreams’. It was a massive hit overseas, to the point we were invited to Cannes MIDEM festival. We thought, “Alright, that was cool”, and were preparing to do our individual music. Then our fans continuously sent us well wishing messages about my father. It just built up from there.”

Like a roller coaster, there are ups and downs in life. After Tiger JK’s father passed away, MFBTY released an album to thank their fans entitled Wondaland. This album charted No. 8 in the 1st week of April on the Billboard World Album Charts. MFBTY was even invited to perform at the annual Dream Concert in May this year. With this overwhelming international response to their music, the tracks on the ‘Wondaland’ album charted on Korean music charts as well.

We Are Not doing Hip Hop

“People around us are asking us to change our group name to something like ‘Yoon Mi Rae & MFBTY or Drunken Tiger & MFBTY. But our name started with our fans so how dare we change it? Anyway, we went on air after a 3 year hiatus with everything saying that, “it’s the Hip Hop era in Korea right now” but they just wanted us to dance and rap, leaving out all the DJing, Drums, or VJ. Witnessing that, we are just doing our thing on stages. Hard as it may be.” As Tiger JK stated, MFBTY is doing the majority of their appearances on stages purely based on word-of-mouth from other festival attendees and organizers.

At the Green Plugged Festival, Tiger JK thanked the crowd, (even though most of them may not know them) pointing to the fact that the majority of the crowd were females in their 20’s. However, even the hardcore fans who followed Tiger JK from the Drunken Tiger days would’ve been a bit perplexed with the set. Their stage set started with Hip Hop, then a rendition of “I Heard Some Rumor” by Jang Gi Ha and The Faces, Bob Marley’s- “Jamming”, and a dash of Trot in there as well. It was vaguely reminiscent of an impromptu Jazz performance with quick transition of styles. The tracks in, ‘Wondaland’ vary greatly in their flavour, notably “Hello Happy” with Yoo Hee Yeol, “Love and Peace” with Jeon In Kwon, and “Bucku Bucku” with EE, Dino J and BTS leader, (Rap Monster).

“Hip Hop can go across all different sounds. If Electronic is the thing, then Hip Hop can reside in it for a while, then when Rock becomes more popular, we can go there too.” Tiger JK insisted that MFBTY is not a Hip Hop group, rather an Underground K Pop group. “We all know that we are not at our prime, but there are some interesting things happening around us. When we rock gigs, we go crazy and when we were invited to the Dream Concert, we attended as their oldest performers. We are truly blessed!”

Donning the necklace given to him by his father, (he wears it every time he goes on stage) Tiger JK is getting ready to rise up once again.

Translated by JSK

Edited by Cheryl Swindell

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