In a breakout from the new BTS Rolling Stone cover story, 27-year-old rapper-dancer J-Hope talked about the lessons he learned during the pandemic, what it’s been like to grow up in the band and what we can expect from his second mixtape. The member with positivity baked into his name told the magazine that the yearlong COVID-19 lockdown taught him a precious lesson about existence.
“It was an opportunity to learn how precious our ordinary lives were,” he said. “And I had to think about how my life should go on and how I should just stay calm and focus even during these times. And it was a time to reflect on myself a lot.”
The bottom line is that we all have to do the best we can, and in his case, that means he has to “keep doing music and performances” and make music that can give ARMY a sense of “consolation and a sense of hope.”
The key takeaway from the interview was a bit where J-Hope reflected on his 2018 mixtape Hope World and teased the in-process follow-up. “I think it was really pure, innocent, and beautiful that I could do such music at those times,” he said of his first breakout effort.
“When I work on music right now, I have an opportunity to go back to those emotions and think, ‘Oh, those were the days.’ I think it really has a good influence on my music that I work on now. Through the mixtape I learned a lot, and I think it really shaped the direction that I want to go in as an artist, as a musician. And I’m really just grateful that so many people loved my mixtape. I am planning to keep on working on music and to try to show people a [style of] music unique to J-Hope.”
As for that second, as-yet-untitled mixtape, J-Hope said he’s just trying to get inspired to make something he can be proud of. “Nothing is decided yet, so I’m just going to keep working on music,” he revealed. “And I think my style of music will not greatly change, but I think it will be more mature. I will try to contain stories that I really want to tell in the second mixtape.”
Asked about how he balances his positive outward appearance with the sadness in some of his lyrics, J-Hope said his goal is to show fans who he really is these days. “Everybody has, you know, different sides from what they show. Of course, I do have a burden and a pressure as an artist,” he said, noting that initially, BTS tried to share only the good, bright side of their personalities with their beloved ARMY.
“I just take them in for what they are. And I just try to express that I’m going to overcome these difficulties … as the time passes by, one cannot feel the same way forever so I also felt other emotions. I tried to express those emotions through music or dialogue, to express them in a very beautiful way.”
Since joining the group as a teenager in 2010, J-Hope (born Jung Ho-seok) has done a lot of growing up. While his friends were doing schoolwork, going on field trips and building memories, he chose to pursue a music career and give up those things. Was it worth it?
“Maybe I could feel unfortunate to not to have experienced those things, but I was chasing my dreams,” he said. “And meeting the members during our trainee days was really amazing, because it is just amazing that different people who were so different could come together to form a group. And I really want to thank those guys, and I sometimes I feel like I really want to go back to those days.”
And though things always seem super harmonious now, J-Hope admitted that given the seven members’ different backgrounds and values, things sometimes got super awkward at the beginning. “It did take time to get used to it. We were living together, but we had to make sure we each had our own personal spaces,” he said. “And eventually we learned to understand each other, and now we’ve been doing this for so long together that we have this sort of harmony, an understanding of each other that allows us to have the kind of teamwork we have. And each of us has different roles and different things we do in in the music, so we also try to help each other in what we’re doing and try to help each other become better.”
The BTS cover story will be included in a special collector’s box set that includes eight copies of the issue — one group cover and seven additional ones spotlighting each member — which is available here now.