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Stray Kids Timeline: How the Boy Band Grew Into Stars

From their humble beginnings to topping the Billboard charts, this is the K-pop leaders' story so far.

Read the full Stray Kids cover story, and subscribe to Billboard Pro for a glossary of all the Stray Kids fan lingo you need to know, a guide to the band’s best merch, and a chart of the band’s top U.S. streaming hits, with commentary by Bang Chan.

 

The story of Stray Kids didn’t begin at the first single. The career timeline of the next-generation K-pop boy band is vast, filled with periods of change and well-deserved victories through the years.

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From SKZ’s early steps and first entries on the Billboard charts to becoming an international sensation, Stray Kids’ career path is as thrilling as their music. When you think you know how the Stray Kids story goes, the group will surprise with a sonic pivot or unexpected move. 

This is Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N’s story together so far.

August 2017: JYP Entertainment announces plans to launch a new male group through a reality singing competition show. It’s the K-pop label’s first new boy band since 2014, and JYP’s latest reality show after the successful creation of the girl group TWICE through their 2015 show Sixteen.

October 6, 2017: Ahead of the show, the first-ever song by Stray Kids, “Hellevator” is released online with its music video. The track is co-produced and co-written by the trio 3RACHA – consisting of members Bang Chan, Seo Changbin and Han Jisung – who had previously showcased music before Stray Kids.

October 19, 2017: The first image of the nine contestants competing in the upcoming reality show, also titled Stray Kids, are revealed: Bang Chan, Changbin and Han are joined by Kim Woojin, Lee Minho (professionally known as Lee Know), Hwang Hyunjin, Lee Felix, Kim Seungmin and Yang Jeongin (known as I.N). With ages ranging from 20 to 16, Stray Kids will not be a competition to whittle down contestants to create a group, but one where all nine work weekly to prove they can all debut together.

December 19, 2017: Despite members Lee Know and Felix being eliminated in earlier episodes, an audience vote on Stray Kids’s finale sees 96 percent of viewers in favor of debuting all nine members together. J.Y. Park, the founder of JYP Entertainment, tells the boys, “When all nine perform, the expressions are alive. Congratulations, Stray Kids will debut as nine,” and the lineup of the new group Stray Kids is finalized.

January 8, 2018: Ahead of their official debut album, Stray Kids release their Mixtape EP, featuring “Hellevator” and contributions from every member. The project debuts at No. 2 on the World Albums chart. The early success led to Billboard naming Stray Kids as one of five K-Pop Artists to Watch in 2018: “While lots of promising new boy bands look keen to make an impact on the scene, Stray Kids look like the boys to lead this potential new flight of stars.”

March 26, 2018: Stray Kids officially hit the K-pop scene with their I Am Not album and lead single “District 9.”

June 23, 2018: The group gives their first U.S. performance at KCON New York at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, performing songs like “Hellevator” and “District 9.”

August 1, 2018: A video uploaded to the group’s official YouTube channel announces the group’s fandom name. After first showing the group’s logo, the “R” was removed from “Stray Kids,” revealing the group’s fandom name as “STAY.” Fans know many Stray Kids’ music videos end with the phrase “You make Stray Kids STAY,” making the name all the more special.

August 30, 2018: Stray Kids earn their first new-artist award by winning the Rookie Award at the 2018 Soribada Best K-Music Awards. The group’s first award season would also include wins for Rookie of the Year at the Asia Artist Awards, the Next Leader Award at The Fact Music Awards, New Artist of the Year at the Gaon Chart Music Awards, Male Rookie of the Year at the Genie Music Awards, and Best New Male Artist at the Mnet Asian Music Awards.

January 19, 2019: The Unveil Tour “I Am…,” Stray Kids’ first tour, kicks off in Bangkok.

March 25, 2019: Stray Kids begin a new era with their new Clé 1: Miroh EP and its anthemic lead single, “Miroh.” 

April 4, 2019: A significant moment in reaching the next level in a K-pop career, Stray Kids earn their first No. 1 on a Korean music chart show, as “Miroh” takes the win on TV program M Countdown. The emotional moment brought the group to tears, with Bang Chan thanking their team, fans and shouting out their catchphrase, “Stray Kids everywhere all around the world, you make Stray Kids stay. Thank you.”

May 14, 2019: The U.S. leg of Stray Kids’ Unveil Tour begins, with two dates at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center before stops in Los Angeles and Houston. 

June 18, 2019: Stray Kids are announced as honorary ambassadors to promote Korean culture and content overseas by the South Korean government’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism agency for Korean Culture and Information Service. A government head said, “I hope young people around the world can become more familiar with Korea and step up their interest in the country through Stray Kids.”

October 9, 2019: With a music video shot during a trip to Los Angeles, a new digital single titled “Double Knot” is released to preview the upcoming Clé: Levanter EP scheduled for a late November release.

October 28, 2019: JYP Entertainment announces that member Woojin has left the group due to personal circumstances. Moving forward, Stray Kids will be eight members, with the release date of Clé: Levanter postponed until December. “We ask for much support for Woojin who will be going on a new path,”  the company says in a statement. “We also ask for the warm support of STAY for the eight Stray Kids members who will once again go on the road towards their dreams.”

November 13, 2019: The group releases the music video for “Astronaut,” their first single as an octet, followed by Cle: Levanter on December 9. The group also earned another No. 1 win with the title track “Levanter” on M Countdown later in December.

January 24, 2020: Stray Kids begin testing crossover waters by releasing English versions of “Double Knot” and “Levanter,” the latter track making SKZ’s American television debut through a performance on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan

January 29, 2020: After kicking off in Seoul in November, the group begins the U.S. leg of the “District 9: Unlock” world tour that visits eight cities across the States. The COVID-19 pandemic would end up canceling the rest of the tour dates scheduled across Europe and Asia.

June 17, 2020: With their first full-length album, Go Live, Stray Kids set a new personal best for album sales and followed up the success with a deluxe re-release version titled In Life.

November 22, 2020: Stray Kids hold their first online concert, “Unlock: Go Live In Life, ” which includes the surprise live premiere of the Korean version of their Japanese single “All In,” officially released days later.

March 19, 2021: In teaming up with Alesso and Chinese producer Corsak, “Going Dumb” drops as Stray Kids’ first-ever collaboration, and enters the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs.

April 1, 2021: The first episode of Kingdom: Legendary War premieres, pitting Stray Kids against five other top boy bands—ATEEZ, The Boyz, BToB, iKON and SF9— in weekly performances. 

May 20, 2021: Stray Kids perform a Deadpool-inspired mashup of BLACKPINK’s “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” and their single “God’s Menu” on Kingdom. It catches the attention of Ryan Reynolds’ (a.k.a. Deadpool himself), who declares himself a “new Stray Kids fan” and asks for an autographed album. Of course, SKZ send him a copy.

June 3, 2021: Stray Kids are named champions of Kingdom: Legendary War, finishing in first place with their winning single “Wolfgang.” Despite the show airing only in Korea, “Wolfgang” debuts in the Top 5 of the World Digital Song Sales chart.

June 26, 2021: Stray Kids surprise drop the new track “Mixtape: Oh,” which debuts at No. 1 on World Digital Song Sales, their group’s first chart-topper.

August 23, 2021: The group unleashes their second studio album Noeasy on August 23, selling more than one million copies worldwide, making them the first artist under JYP to do so.

November 29, 2021: The Christmas-themed holiday EP Christmas EveL drops, marking the group’s first seasonal release.

February 10, 2022: Republic Records announces it has signed Stray Kids for targeted promotions in the U.S. as part of their expanded strategic partnership with JYP Entertainment.

March 18, 2022: Stray Kids release Oddinary, which tops the Billboard 200. With 110,000 equivalent album units earned in the U.S. in the week ending March 24, according to Luminate, Stray Kids became just the third-ever Korean act to hit No. 1 on the chart, after BTS and SuperM.

April 29, 2022: The “Maniac World Tour” opens with three shows at Seoul’s Jamsil Indoor Stadium before heading to the biggest venues of Stray Kids’ career for arena shows in Japan and the U.S.

July 19, 2022: Stray Kids and STAY win Billboard’s 2022 Fan Army Face-Off, coming out on top of over 64 artists from all over the world.

September 6, 2022: Stray Kids announce new mini-album Maxident, the follow-up to Oddinary, due out Oct. 7.