It’s impossible to deny the impact of K-pop internationally, but at this year’s Korea Spotlight showcase at SXSW, it was male solo hip-hop artists that made up the bulk of the performances and included the first stateside set from DPR Live. At 25 years old, the rapper and singer is one of the newest faces in Korea's hip-hop scene and the face of the increasingly prominent DPR collective.
Born in Korea and raised in Guam until the 10th grade, Hong Da-bin, aka DPR Live, is a self-proclaimed “island boy” who spent much of his youth ruminating on himself and life. “At a young age, I knew who I was, what my values were, what my beliefs were,” he told Billboard the morning of his Austin performance, adding that his contemplative nature and passion for life have always played a main role in his creative process. Prior to pursuing music, he expected to study philosophy or psychology in college and as a career path. “I always thought I’d do something to do with expressing myself, teaching, or, I dunno, something like that. So it was always music or that.” But while fulfilling his mandatory military service in South Korea, he found the inspiration to go after his dream.
“I always knew I should be grateful and I should have some hunger and ambition,” said DPR Live. “But being in the army and being very limited, and being told what to do every second of your life, that really changed my perspective. So when I first came out of the army I was like, 'I’m going to kill it, I’m going to kill everybody.’ I had everything aligned, my goals, my purpose. I knew what I wanted to do, which was to make absolute quality music whatever the story is.” After that, he released several songs for free on SoundCloud and began working with the rest of DPR’s members.