From Underground Hip-Hop To K-Pop And Beyond: A Q&A With Rapper Miryo AKA Johoney
Miryo is one of the few female rappers that has successfully transitioned from the sensation of late 90s Korean hip-hop to the modern K-Pop industry. Widely known as one fourth of the R&B/pop girl group Brown Eyed Girls, she made her debut with Honey Family back in 2000. Over a decade into her career, Miryo, now calling herself Johoney, tells us about her solo album, a few memories from her teenage encounter with hip-hop, and her plans to start producing her own beats.
The Creators Project: The collaborations featured on your album were quite surprising—for example, your song with producer duo Rude Paper that combines dubstep, reggae, and hip-hop, and the collaboration with electro rock band The Koxx. How did you guys link? Can you explain the beginnings of your album?
Miryo: The title track,“‘Dirty,” was the one I started working on for my album. From there, the concept has developed with the different teams I’ve worked with. I had actually been working with Rude Paper on a few songs before my album. I remember listening to their song “Joy” live for the first time and becoming immediately hooked. It kind of reminded me of will.i.am. I asked them directly if they wanted to do something together. Same goes for The Koxx. I liked their music already and asked to collaborate. At first, we shared ideas on the concept. We all wanted to make something fun and good to dance to. And because The Koxx already have a playful attitude, it was easy to feel out a similar idea and work together.
Do you have a favorite track on your album?
Honestly, I worked on all five tracks with everything I have. I feel like each is one of my kids. All of them are title tracks to me. But if I really had to choose, I’d go for my collaborations with Rude Paper and The Koxx since they were so unexpected and refreshing.
You’ve shared an unreleased version of your track with Rude Paper, the first version of “Revenger.” Can you give us some background on it? Why wasn’t this version chosen for your album?
“Revenger” is a track that let’s you feel how much we like dubstep. One of our objectives was to infuse a bit of pop into dubstep. When we finished recording this first version, all three of us loved it so much. But reviewing it again thoroughly, we thought maybe it would be more appealing to wider audiences if the lyrics were rearranged and some of them rewritten. Still, we like this version so much. It’s awesome that we get to release it with The Creators Project. I hope it’s well-received!
“Revenger” version one
Beyond the variety in musical styles on your album, your voice is also used beyond rapping—you also sing?
Yeah, it was intentional. In terms of solo albums, especially a solo rap album and even more a female solo rap album is not very promising. Of course, Tasha had hers. But she also sang a lot in her tracks. I knew I had to be more melodic in order to be more widely and better received. That’s why I feel like each song is a title track, because my rapping is more melodic and easy to listen to. So in that way, my voice was used with more variety.
Is singing difficult for you?
Yeah, I’m not that good. I never really had an interest in singing. But when I started with Brown Eyed Girls, I trained for a bit. Singing doesn’t come as naturally and easily for me as rapping. It’s more conscious. I have to think about when to inhale and exhale.
Throughout my album, I used Auto-Tune quite a bit. In track three, “I Love You, I Love You,” and track five, “Leggo,” you’ll probably notice it the most. I’ve actually heard fans complaining about hearing my voice with Auto-Tune. But if you listen, it’s actually applied in a really fun way. When it’s applied in a smart and strategic way, the results show. It’s fun. When it’s applied well, it has its own hidden, cyber-melodic charm.
I understand you’re actually producing your own beats these days. Why have you started now and not sooner in your career?
I’m kind of a naturalist. I feel like if I were to become a producer, it should have happened much sooner, as naturally as my rapping. I started to rap at a pretty young age because I just wanted to. It wasn’t forced. Seeing everyone around me through, I just thought it was time for me to start producing my own beats as opposed to just writing lyrics and rapping.
What kind of sound are you working on now?
Surprisingly, it’s kind of an indie rock sound. Before, I used to flip the channel if I heard rock. But these past few years it’s really grown on me.
Can we have a sample of your producing?
Hmmm… maybe not just yet [laughs]. I can write melodies, but as for laying down the beats, I’m not ready yet.
What software do you use?
I’ve been using Cubase on my own. But everyone around me is using Logic, so I plan to move on to that.
Did you learn from someone? Or on your own?
On my own. Ever since I was young, I’ve always liked computers, tinkering with appliances and stuff. When I first learned Cubase, I just looked up one of the many how-to’s on the internet.
So you were pretty good with computers and appliances from a young age?
Yeah. I love computers, especially the internet. You could say the internet opened the way for my career. I’m not originally from Seoul. I’m from a very small town in a southern province. The only thing I had to connect me to the outer world was the internet.
Is that how you got into hip-hop?
Yes. At around 16 I listened to a lot of American hip-hop. Back then, Korea’s hip-hop scene was pretty small—2pac and the Notorious BIG were the biggest then. There was a hip-hop community called BLEX back then. I was a member and used to listen to American hip-hop, R&B, and even songs that other members would write and upload themselves. Did you know Joosuc and Garion started their careers from BLEX? Back then, they were the s#!+.
So from when you were a young teen to now, your 13 year career has finally brought you to your first solo album. Up until now, you’ve been known as Miryo. What made you change your name to Johoney? What’s the meaning behind it?
It’s been a long time since I’ve used Miryo. After debuting though, my name was being compared to things like 비료 (fertilizer). That’s not really an ideal comparison, you know. Also for my foreign fans, it’s difficult for them to pronounce “Miryo.” I thought it would be good to have something that’s easier to pronounce and something that has a good meaning. I adopted “Johoney” about three years ago. If you extend the pronunciation of Johoney in Korean it becomes 좋아하니 (to like). It’s positive and feels good. I hope people open up to it and continue to enjoy my music.