DPR Live Breaks Down His First Full-Length Album 'Is Anybody Out There?'

DPR Live
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DPR Live performs onstage during the Head in the Clouds Festival by 88 Rising at Los Angeles State Historic Park on Aug. 17, 2019 in Los Angeles.

DPR Live's first mini album, Coming To You (2017), made headlines for featuring famous artists such as Dean, Crush, Loco, and Jay Park, all while strengthening the artist's presence as a hip-hop frontrunner in Korea.

Since then, he has been in the spotlight with a number of popular songs, such as “Jasmine” and “Martini Blue.” For his 21-city world tour in 2018, 16 cities were sold out, with the Seoul tickets selling out just one minute after the ticket sales began. It proved DPR Live's global popularity -- and then it took two years to see his face again.

Now, DPR Live, born Hong Da-bin, is back with his first studio album, Is Anybody Out There? He breaks it down for us below.

How did you celebrate the album's release on March 3?

I popped a champagne bottle with DPR members. I listened to everything -- from the first track to the last track -- wearing earphones while drinking soju at [a] Korean barbecue restaurant.

This is your first full-length album. How did you feel once it was out in the world?

I felt very relieved. A lot of things happened to me in the past two years and I didn't really show myself to my fans, except through performances. And my emotions were complicated, too. After I released this album, I felt like I was free from the heavy burden. It's cool, but it's sad, it's empty, and it feels good. There are so many emotions.

I had a hard time in the process, but I am satisfied because it seems that I put everything I wanted in the end.

Two years is a long gap. Is there a reason why it took so long?

This album contains the process of me getting out of a slump. Actually, I think it took longer to overcome the slump than to make music. Tracks 1-4 (“Here Goes Nothing,” “Geronimo!” “To Whoever” and “Out Of Control”) were made during the world tour. It took a year to make track five, “Disconnect.” I didn't make music for a year, but I focused on having my own time. I think it was a time when I was thinking about, "What are the problems inside of me? What kind of burden do I have that is hindering me?”

After overcoming that time, I wanted to reach out to my fans again. That's what “Disconnect” is all about. Also, I'm not the type to make songs quickly. I'm the type to put in effort slowly. I think the album is a gift for the fans. Like when I put a lot of thought into picking a color or a ribbon, I cared about the details with affection. Two years is not a long time, if you put these together.

Did you feel pressure to live up to fans' expectations for what a full-length album by DPR Live should sound like?

I think a full-length album is a white canvas. I didn't want to capture what others wanted, but I wanted to instinctively draw what I wanted to capture -- what I felt, with colors that I wanted to use.

Did you want to make changes to your style, such as using synth or switching beats?

I didn't mean to. It was natural. I think the color changed because I used the sound that I needed to express my emotions as much as I could.

The album concept is space. Is there any reason to liken the journey out of a slump to that?

I think I really like metaphors. One day, I saw DPR members, and they all had different mental worlds and different colors. It looked like one planet after another. I also thought that I was experiencing slumps, performing, and working on music on earth and the universe was a place that gave me liberation. The universe is an infinite space. As these thoughts that I usually had were put together like puzzles, I naturally likened them to the universe.

What does the album title [Is Anybody Out There?] mean?

DPR Rem, the creator of DPR, came up with the idea. There was something I wanted to hear when I was having a really hard time. “You don't have to do music. You don't have to manage your schedule right away. You don't have to rip the stage apart. You did a great job. You are special as you are and I love you. You can go slowly, or you can go fast. We just care about you.”

I think I was hungry for those words. At that time, I was wondering if there was anybody who could tell me these things. I think Is Anybody Out There? implicitly expresses it. Actually, I used that sentence a lot before this album. It was at the end of "Color Drive" by DPR Cream, and my song’s lyrics has that kind of nuance too.

Previous songs featured artists like Crush, Dean, Jay Park, and so on. This album only features the members of DPR. Why did you insist on this?

There are many artists who want to make great pictures together. I have a golden list of those I admire. I really want to do it when the opportunity comes, but this album wasn't the right time. It's weird to suddenly have another artist in the middle of my own story. I wasn't even in the mood to meet people and pretend to be happy. I think we naturally got together with DPR members and just worked on it.

Can you tell me who's on the golden list?

GD and Beenzino. Dean and Crush never leave the list. When I see artists who have their own distinct color and are not ashamed of their color, I feel empathy and attraction. I like Honne and Jaden Smith in terms of international artists. But it is not necessarily my goal to release a song with these artists -- I just want to interact with people I'm attracted to. I want to talk comfortably and empathize with each other. It would be good if something comes out in the process. I think time is very valuable even if there is no outcome.

At the end of the third track on the album, “To Whoever,” the voices of fans at a concert hall can be heard. What's the message there?

Fans who shared that time together will be very happy. First of all, I put it in thinking it's a feature for the fans and I wanted to bring up the feeling of nostalgia. Even though I was passing through a long tunnel at that time, it still remains a very pleasant memory.

You said you were cut off from the people around you until track five was released. How did you spend your time?

At that time, even though I had a good-sized studio, I spent time in a tiny [10 meter by 10 meter] one. I used to go back to Guam where I grew up and sit in the hallway of the school I went to. I had time to look back on my difficult childhood. I tried to fix my habits one by one. For example, I was constantly on social media. When you are constantly on social media, you unconsciously compare yourself to other people's lives. I tried not to look at social media except when communicating with the fans.

Also, when I hang out with people with new ideas, I get a new perspective. I tried to meet a friend who was living a better life than me or a friend working in a field that I wanted to venture into. As I immerse myself in their world and talk with them, I can feel my consciousness. Naturally, new ideas and new solutions arise.

Starting with “S.O.S,” the mood of the album turns bright. Is that what you felt after exiting the slump?

Right. As I said before, I've had my own time for a while, and I think I developed a way to love myself. Once I was full of self-love, I wanted to reach out to my fans, family and friends. Maybe my friends thought it was weird because after suddenly going out of contact with them I came back to see them again.

Anyway, I put the feelings of that period into this song. It was expressed with lyrics like, "I want to enjoy the flow with you, I want to feel the flow with you," and hopeful lyrics like, "Let’s go beyond," are also there. When I started to love myself, that love poured out to the people around me.

Now, I want to deliver a lot of frequencies of hope to others. There is a saying that looking at artwork completed with hope makes people feel better. I believe in the energy delivered through the work. I wanted to put positive energy into this album, too. This album is not to make people sink, but to bring them up. Although I had a dark time, I wanted to show hope through the process of overcoming it.

You released the videos for “Legacy” and “Kiss Me+Neon” in a series. It seems like you put a lot of effort into them.

DPR Ian directed the album, and we've been talking since the beginning of the album and we've developed ideas. He picked a source and showed me one by one. Then I added my ideas and he added more. We kept repeating this process constantly. Usually it's embarrassing to tell incomplete ideas to someone, but we both communicate without hesitation. It seems to inspire each other and create synergy. And eventually, one painting was completed.

What do you want fans to take away from Is Anybody Out There? How do you recommend enjoying it?

First of all, I think it's good to understand and listen to the story of overcoming a slump with love. It would be nice to interpret and listen to English lyrics, right? Personally, I also recommend drinking and listening. If you just turn off the lights and lie down without thinking about anything with your earphones on, you'll feel like you're in a different world.

This article originally appeared on Billboard Korea.