“ …should really learn how to fit a mic yourself, Hoseok. Y’know?”
“Yes, OK, but consider this, Taehyung: I’m still learning the ins and outs of using this format. It’s not like I needed to learn how to use a mic. It’s not something that they taught me in university, OK?”
[There is a series of static sounds as the microphone pack is attached to Hoseok - off-camera. A blur of a white tee-shirt passes camera A thirty seconds later as Taehyung moves to his spot, and it is followed by a rapid series of clicks from the laptop placed beside the camera.]
“Is this switched on?”
“No, Hoseok, I put the mic on you and left it switched off as a joke. Just for some fun. Really?”
“I can’t trust you, Taehyung. We both know this. Especially after that time you offered to drive me to the interview with Oh and you got the wrong Starbucks, and I almost missed the opportunity to interview the greatest director in the goddamn country and-”
“Hoseok, can you sit on the sofa, please? I wanna check the focus on camera C, wanna get the best angle possible for facial shots; yeah?”
“Oh? Sure thing.”
[Hoseok moves from across the hotel room to get to the sofa, shifting to sit on the middle cushion so that he is in direct line of camera A. He has a series of pages in his hands, and a small, black microphone is visible and attached to the front of his light blue, button-down shirt. He glances at the papers before turning to his left to look at camera B.]
“Ah, no, the camera closest to me. That’s B, that’s for panned shots. C is here.”
[There is a soft rustling sound to the right of camera A, and Hoseok turns to look to his right instead.]
“Give us a smile, a wave, whatever.”
[Hoseok moves to place his fingers beside his face, in the ‘peace’ symbol, and he holds the pose for three seconds before dropping his hand back down to his papers. There is a series of rapid clicks and rustling from off-camera, signalling that Taehyung is adjusting the camera C focus.]
“Nice, that was cute.”
[Hoseok smirks at this as he studies his papers, flicking between the first pages. Taehyung moves to get back to the laptop, hitting more keys before making a soft humming sound in approval.]
“Cute? Oh, are you flirting with me right now?”
“What? Flirting whilst the cameras are rolling, so you can blackmail me in the office next week? Yeah, sure I am.”
[Hoseok looks up sharply at this, glancing over camera A to look at Taehyung, his eyes round with something that looks like genuine surprise.]
“What? We’re rolling? Did you start recording already?”
“Well, yeah, I set the cameras up first, Hoseok. Of course we’re rolling.”
“I said set them up not start recording, Taehyung and- OK, well, that’s just more material that we’re going to have to cut before we present this to Woo…”
[From close to camera A, a weary and dramatic sigh sounds, presumably coming from Taehyung. It is followed by low muttering, but the words are not picked up by the camera.]
“Hmm? Did you say something?”
“Nope, I’m good.”
[Hoseok spares quick glances up at this as he resumes checking his pages, his expression showing that he doesn’t believe Taehyung in the slightest.]
“So, he’s gonna be here in what…five minutes?”
“Less than that. Why do you ask, Taehyung?”
“I was just wondering how you’re feeling about this interview, is all.”
“What do you mean?”
“How’d you feel about Park Jimin, about the entire situation. Is he…y’know, the kind to flip out and leave in the middle of an interview if you piss him off? I just don’t want you getting too excited over this deal, y’know?”
[Taehyung sniffs at this, a low leather creaking sound signalling that he has just moved in his seat. Hoseok silently studies him over his interview papers for five seconds before lowering them.]
“Have you been following the drama at all online? The Twitter feuds, the inflammatory and atrocious articles ran in the daily papers that represent one side and one side only of the entire situation?”
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen the shit those try-hard rappers have been spreading online. I’ve went on their accounts and saw the thinly veiled threats, the macho ‘real man’ bullshit. Who hasn’t? It’s a pretty shocking feud in the entertainment hub right now, even if it’s the whole ‘underground’ scene and not the mainstream. Shit, Hoseok, we both know that in Seoul, the only thing underground about the hip hop scene is the fact they perform in club basements. Everything else is fake, mainstream posing.”
“OK, good. You know more than I’m giving you credit for…for once.”
[Taehyung’s snort is detectable off-camera, followed by a series of rumbling chuckles as he laughs to himself.]
“Taehyung, we both know that the way that this very private, very sensitive issue has been handled, is not only morally wrong, but possibly legally wrong too - should SJ Records decide to pursue a libel case on behalf of Park Jimin. It’s the only angle that they have right now because they can’t pursue a discrimination case like they could in, oh I don’t know, Europe or America or whatever. They only have libel, and they have testimonial, documentary and demonstrative evidence - they made sure to state this in the phone calls that we shared. The company is more than prepared to push this forward into a legal case.”
[Hoseok shifts on the sofa at this, moving to place his papers down on the table to free up his hands so that he can gesture with them.]
“What we’re doing is giving him a platform to express himself the way that he wants to. If Park Jimin wants to lie and pursue a libel case with his company, it’s our job as a magazine to allow him to remain safe in the dark. Even if every single person involved knows the real truth, Taehyung.”
“Yeah, I get that.”
“Forced outings in the media are the bane of our existence. Not only because our magazine gives people the ability to come out on their own terms the right way, when they’re ready, unlike those disgusting hounds that steal the opportunity for their own gain and nothing more; but because they’re also unforgivable. Look at the fact that several of the only open celebrities in the industry have committed suicide, and then draw a parallel to this entire situation.”
“Yeah, I did some last minute checking for you last night actually, Hoseok. I pulled figures from a government-sponsored organisation called ‘The Korean Health Promotion Foundation’ in relation to completed suicides, and statistics from various studies. 77% of LGB teens will think of suicide, just over half of them’ll attempt it, at 54%. We’ve published the findings before in other awareness articles. But I think that we should run them again, just for this article, with all of the outside attention that it’s gonna get.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea, Taehyung, that’s a very good idea. This interview’s going to be hard-hitting. It’s going to upset our readers, and it’s going to upset Park Jimin too. Run them in the article, both printed and the online format in the form of captions; remind everyone, and be sure to include the charity helplines too. I’ve got a feeling that they’ll be getting constant phone calls for the next couple of months because of this entire fucked up spectacle.”
[For a minute, the hotel room turns silent. Hoseok is still sitting in front of camera A, his gaze focused on the papers on the table in front of him. Taehyung can be heard off-camera hitting more keys and fiddling with the equipment.]
“OK, I take it back. I don’t think that he’s gonna be an issue for us when you put it like that. I guess that I didn’t think about the fact that neither of them were given the chance to represent themselves beyond Twitter; that fucking cancerous pit of hate and neurosis. That isn’t the kinda place to address this issue at all, not when it’s them versus the world.”
“Just think of those statistics, Taehyung. Think about how either one of them could become one of those figures - pray to whoever the hell is up there listening that that never happens. That’s why we need to cover this story whatever way that Park Jimin chooses to go through with it.”
“Nah, I don’t think that we need to worry about that. They’re both tough and cocky bastards, especially that D-boy. Some of the tweets that he’s been posting, Christ, he’s like a pungsan when he’s pushed into a corner - he’s all bite, no bark. Are we gonna, uh, call him that? Or should we use his real name when interviewing Park?”
“I think that we should use ‘D-boy’ when discussing the musical aspect for the sake of relevance to readers and the media. Perhaps, we could use his real name when discussing the personal; should he give us that opportunity. Park might choose to completely clam up on the personal. So, not using his real name until he makes it clear that it's acceptable to do so would be for the best.”
“Yeah, D-boy’s like his superhero name, right? It’s a shame that Park didn’t use one to hide behind from the very start too, y’know, ‘cos double identities are the best kinda thing for us and-”
[A knock sounds from somewhere off-camera. The audio is muffled, but comes from the left of camera A. Hoseok shifts to look across the hotel room before getting to his feet, nothing other than his black trousers visible for two seconds. Then he quickly moves out of the frame.]
“OK, Taehyung, some ground rules. One: don’t ask questions unless he asks you something when the interview is underway. If you have any thoughts, jot them down, and I’ll review them during an intermission. Otherwise, the interview is going to get confusing as hell when the technician-cum-assistant journalist starts taking charge.”
“Uhuh, I’ll do that, but that requires me thinking, Hoseok.”
“Very funny. Two: if Park Jimin starts playing the ‘hiding in the closet with the winter blankets’ routine - do not judge him. Show understanding. If he looks you right in the eyes and says “I’m not a fucking homo”, just nod and say that you understand. That’s important.”
“Don’t call him a homo, got it.”
“What? I can say that word, can’t I?”
“Technically, not really. I mean, ignorant people might call you that for being bisexual, but I don’t really know if you should say it, I- ah, we’re getting distracted!”
“Yeah, are you gonna answer the door or should I; ‘cos he’s kinda been left hanging and-”
[The sound of Hoseok’s footsteps and rustling clothing is detectable from somewhere behind camera A. Then there is a soft clicking sound as the hotel door is opened.]
“Good evening, Park, and I’m so sorry about that momentary delay. We were just finishing up getting the cameras ready.”
[Hoseok’s voice is loud enough to be picked up across the distance because of his microphone. His voice is crisp and clear, rather than muffled or crackling from the static feedback.]
“It’s OK, you don’t need to apologise.”
[Jimin’s voice is slightly less clear, but he is still standing in the detection range of the microphone. The sound of more footsteps and rustling clothing signals that he has stepped inside of the hotel room at last.]
“Wow, there’s quite a lot of cameras. You two must’ve been really busy setting them up.”
“Ah, it was no biggie, I can set these babies up pretty quickly. It’s the focus and all of that that takes effort.”
[From beside camera A, Taehyung moves to get out of his chair. The leather creaks as he does so, followed by several crackling sounds as he grabs something off the table.]
“If I could just get the mic on you in advance, Park-”
“Huh, oh, of course.”
[There is a series of rustling sounds off-camera, followed by the crackle and pop of static as Taehyung secures the microphone box onto somewhere on Jimin’s body.]
“Have you ever done an interview like this before, huh?”
“Um, we did a couple of small interviews for Newsen and Dispatch. But they weren’t like this format, no. They were casual, had a couple of photos in them that were taken during the actual interview. We had a couple of live ones too, but nothing this…deep.”
“What about a pictorial?”
“Yes, Taehyung, Park was interviewed by Dazed and Confused alongside D-boy roughly two months ago, as part of their D-B duo. That was under his artistic pseudonym, of course. It was a fantastic editorial piece, and it involved them interviewing each other from just several prompts. In terms of content, it was a great read, and the photoshoot that accompanied it was magnificent, I must say.”
“Oh, thank you. It was the best interview that we got to do together before all of this…happened.”
[Jimin’s voice is now crisp and clear because of his microphone, though none of them are visible on camera A. Only the sofa and table are visible on the low angle, and their shadows can be seen moving across the warm, orange-lit walls behind the item of furniture.]
“That’s a shame, Park. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Anyway, introductions are in order. Hello, it’s nice to finally meet you face-to-face, Jimin. Is it OK if I call you that?”
“I’m Jung, Jung Hoseok. We spoke on the phone briefly, but mostly it was your company that agreed to this interview on your behalf. Still, I’d like to personally thank you for giving our magazine the chance to feature your story, to give you the platform that you need to not only address the current hostilities and shocking inequality in the Seoul underground scene - the same scene that had been clamouring to have you feature on tracks barely two months ago; but to also tell the world what you think and feel about this matter in your own words.”
[From behind camera A, the sound of a soft clap followed by loud rustles is detected. Presumably, Hoseok and Jimin have just clasped hands in a handshake and dropped their heads respectfully.]
“Um, you’re welcome. Is it OK if I call you Hoseok? Or would you prefer Jung?”
“Hoseok is fine. I much prefer casual interviews, don’t you? I feel that it’s less intimidating for people if there’s a sense of conversation in the air, rather than interrogation.”
“That’s nice, I like that. I, um, I looked into several of your articles after we spoke on the phone, actually. The interview that you did with Oh, director Oh Chansung, about his film that included a lesbian couple in it? I found that interview fascinating because it read so…so naturally, I guess? It was just like you were having a conversation with him, and I was sitting there listening to you both talking.”
“Thank you, Jimin.”
“And what’s your name?”
[More movement is picked up from camera A, as Jimin crosses the hotel room to possibly offer his hand to Taehyung too. He casts a slight shadow over the lens as he does so.]
“Kim, Kim Taehyung. I’m not an interviewer, shit, I’m not even a fully certified journalist yet. I’m here for the tech: audio, visual. Just to assist Hoseok, seeing as he can’t work a camera for the life of him.”
“Oh, are you like partners? Is he your intern?”
“God, I hope not.”
“Hoseok, if you keep joking like that, I’ll mess up the focus and you’ll have nothing more than blurry pixels to present to Woo.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
[Jimin laughs at this back-and-forth conversation as he moves into the frame, revealing a pair of distressed jeans, and a heavy, black hooded sweatshirt. His face is not visible, but his hands are. Both hands have many rings on them, and there are papers gripped in one of his hands. The microphone pack is also visible, stretching the back pocket of his jeans around the large chunk of black plastic.]
“Um, should I sit down here? Right here?”
“Yes, the sofa just there.”
[As Jimin shifts to sit down, Hoseok and Taehyung move to do so too - the sound of rustling clothes, creaking leather, and soft exhales filling the hotel room. Jimin’s face is hard to read on account of the fact that it is mostly hidden behind a pair of round coloured sunglasses, and his hood is tugged up over what looks to be a baseball cap.]
“Is everything alright with the cameras and mics?”
“Let’s do a quick final check. Hoseok, could you give your mic a spin; do an introduction for the editing?”
“OK, testing, testing. This is Jung Hoseok, journalist for Seoul’s one and only lesbian, gay and bisexual monthly lifestyle magazine - Flame. The date is the…18th of September, 2017, and I’m here interviewing Park Jimin. Yes, is the audio clear, Taehyung? Are we getting that?”
“Uhuh. Park, you too, please?”
“Hello, I’m Park Jimin, solo artist and one half of the ‘D-B’ duo with D-boy. Is that OK?”
“Yeah, it’s all clear, the mics are good. Can you move a little, maybe give us a wave or something?”
[Jimin moves his papers into one hand so that he can lift the other and give the cameras a wave in turn - turning to the left to wave at camera B, then the front to eye camera A, and then the right to give camera C a final wave, tinkling his fingers with a little flourish for cuteness.]
“Uh, I hate to be this guy; but, Park? Could you maybe lose the shades or the hood? It’s hard to see you on the feed, and I can’t gauge the lighting too good.”
“Oh, of course, Taehyung. I completely forgot. I’ve got a headache, so, I’ve been wearing them for most of the day. It’s a stress headache, not a hangover.”
[Jimin laughs as he tugs his hood down, revealing most of his face to the cameras.]
"As you can probably imagine I’ve had a-a stressful day today."
[Jimin removes his sunglasses to place them down on the table first, and then he removes the black baseball cap. He tosses it onto the sofa cushion beside him, reaching up to rake a hand through his hair. Though camera A isn’t focused on his face, his features are still discernible on the angle and through the room lighting. His droopy but highly expressive eyes look slightly swollen, presumably from lack of sleep, and they seem to be ringed with smokey eyeliner and possibly some eyeshadow. His small and sharply pointed nose casts slight shadow onto his face, and his full lips are visible enough for camera A to pick up a hint of his front teeth as he nibbles on his lower lip.]
“Hang on one second, guys, just gotta…”
[Taehyung shifts to adjust the room lights using the dimmer switch beside the door, moving back and forth between the wall and the laptop several times until he is satisfied with it. Then he drops into the chair with a soft grunt and hits several keys.]
“Do I look bad, huh?”
[Jimin asks this in a quiet voice, his eyes shifting to study camera C because he must have figured out that it was the one focused on his close-up.]
“What, huh- no, not at all Park, you-”
“You look fine, Jimin. I’m sure that your fans will think that you’re very handsome, as will a lot of our readers.”
“Fans? Hmm, if I have any left by the end of this.”
[Jimin looks away from camera C, placing his papers down on his lap so that he is able to start fiddling with one of his countless rings.]
“Is this, um, is this a one-shot kinda deal? I know that we’re not streaming anything live, thank god. But how exactly does this work, Hoseok?”
“The interview can be as long, or as short, as you want it to be, Jimin. As you know, it’s…8:30pm right now, and I’m used to interviews stretching on well into the early morning hours. But, that’s entirely up to you.”
“In terms of the interview content, there will be some slight editing, of course. That’s just for the sake of timing, flow, and to get rid of any unnecessary pauses, much like how interviews for idols go. You signed a disclaimer form, as did both companies, and the form states that there will no malicious editing of the content to: change your words with the intent to misquote you; include any content that you request be removed from the final cut during the recording process, and up to three days after the interview; or to insert questions into the content that weren’t asked with the intent to use your words against you. OK? Are you following all of that?”
“OK, I understand, and I trust you, Hoseok. It’s not like you can make me look any more unpleasant, right?”
[Jimin grins at camera A with this joke, but it looks rather forced.]
“Rest assured, Jimin, that no reader of our magazine thinks that you’re unpleasant, that you’re disgusting or deserve to be shamed and ridiculed. The readers of our magazine, they understand the reason why you decided to come forth and address the controversy surrounding you right now, regardless of whatever you decide to say.”
“Would you like anything, Park? A glass of water? Coffee? There’s a café downstairs for drinks. Hell, even food? I can order some to the room, I’ve got a feeling that we might need some later, if we get stuck into it.”
“Coffee would be nice, thank you, Taehyung.”
“I’ll be right back.”
[There is a dry creaking sound as Taehyung gets out of his chair, followed by a soft thud a moment later as the hotel room door is pulled shut behind him. Jimin looks across the room for five seconds before shifting his gaze to presumably look at Hoseok, and he gives the other man a brief smile.]
“You’re nervous? Oh, Jimin, there’s no need to be nervous during this interview. As I said, you take all of the time that you need to speak or answer questions. Should you want to answer them, that is. You’re in total control of your words and the direction of the interview. I’ve prepared countless questions in light of all scenarios, and phrased them as well as I can to avoid misleading or suggestive prompts. It looks like you’ve done the same thing too, with your papers.”
“This? Oh, this is the interview transcript that my company suggested that I, um, quote in response to your questions.”
[Jimin retrieves the papers from his lap, holding them up in front of him before quickly flicking through the pages. They crackle loudly in the silence of the room, the sound picked up by his microphone. It is hard to see it because it is pinned onto the front of sweatshirt, the black plastic blending against the matching, thick cotton.]
“That’s a lot of pages, Jimin. Are you a politician or a singer?”
“Ha, yeah, that’s what I thought too, I, um-”
[Jimin tosses the pages aside without a care, throwing them back over his shoulder. There is a soft rustle as they land on the flooring, possibly crumpled.]
“I don’t think that the pages are gonna be of any use to…to me, to this interview. Truthfully speaking, it’s damage control, and at this point, damage control is useless.”
“Jimin? I’m afraid that I don’t understand?”
“Um, I assume that you know how companies get idols to follow scripts - on TV shows, during interviews, pretty much twenty-four-seven if they can’t have someone monitoring them. Well, I’m not an idol, and nowhere in my contract does it say that they’ve that kinda control over me. They gave me suggestions, not orders, and I’m choosing to not follow their suggestions.”
“Yes, I understand that part, but what I don’t understand is the fact that you’re choosing to represent yourself without a plan of some kind. Have you thought about this fully, consequences and all? Because if it’s a spur of the moment decision, then you might want to take a moment to consider the complications, as I’m sure that your company did, Jimin.”
“I’ve thought about it entirely, yeah. I’ve been following the company’s suggested guide for the past week or so. But I’ve personally decided to ignore it in favour of…of being honest, and I’ve got his full support on the matter, Hoseok.”
[The hotel room falls silent for thirty seconds, until the sound of the door opening again breaks the silence.]
“I didn’t know how you take coffee, so, I asked for a latte and hoped for the best.”
“That’s fine, thank you.”
[Jimin shifts to get up off the sofa, mostly disappearing out of the frame of camera A. When he sits back down, there is a Styrofoam container in his hand, steam wafting from the hot surface as he places it down on the table.]
“Is everything alright? Are we ready to start?”
“Well, Taehyung, Jimin…Jimin decided that he doesn’t want to follow his company’s prepared script, in favour of…honesty.”
“Honesty? In what regard? I mean, honesty about the rappers and whatever, that’s pretty expected. I imagine that your company wants to drag the bastards as much as they can should this matter turn legal. But…but D-boy and the whole sexuality issue-”
“Can we…can we not talk about him right now? Like, can we focus on the, um, the earlier stuff first? For, you know, chronology? Or whatever the word is.”
[Jimin shifts his gaze to look at camera A for three seconds. His voice is quiet and he mutters something unintelligible, reaching up to rake his fingers through his hair again in something that looks like a habit. It is styled the same way as usual, parted and slicked back off his face with gel so that it vaguely looks wet, though stray locks always hang forward over his brow.]
“I’m still gonna talk about him, obviously. I just feel that rushing to get to that part in the story kinda…”
“It ignores the setting for the ongoing situation, and your developing professional partnership with D-boy.”
[Jimin hums in agreement at Hoseok’s suggestion.]
“I think that the setting is very important, Jimin. Not all of our readers are going to be fully aware of the underground hip hop scene, especially not on an intimate level like that which you can provide. It helps introduce quite a lot of the rappers that are currently involved in this feud, this ‘diss battle’. So, I think that you’re completely correct. We can start from whatever point you want, and then gently edge our way into talking about D-boy. OK?”
[Hoseok shifts in his chair off-camera, the sound of leather creaking softly as he gets comfortable. He retrieves his papers, which make a sharp crinkling noise as he sets them down on his lap. Taehyung also moves, presumably slouching in his own chair as he monitors everything on the laptop screen with his headphones on his head to keep a close ear on the audio. On camera, Jimin lifts his coffee to take a sip of it.]
“OK, so, Jimin. You moved from Busan to Seoul back in 2008, back when you were thirteen years old.”
“I did. My parents decided to relocate to the capital to pursue a rather unexpected career in owning a restaurant together. Despite them both previously working as lecturers in BUFS, they decided to go for it anyway. I think the first time that I ever managed to sneak my way into a hip hop club, I was just fifteen years old. That night, I was just…enamoured with the entire experience. I mean, I’d been interested in music prior to that night, but after that point, I knew that I wanted to get involved as more than just an observer.”
“You were a dancer, correct?”
“Yeah, I was, and I still am. I was an active dancer right up until graduating high school, but then I started focusing more on the musical aspect because I was just that obsessed. I, um, I knew that I had a lot of talent as a dancer, but I was willing to take a big risk by pursuing my dreams of singing. I just…I didn’t want to become an idol, even though I could’ve had a good chance at debuting as one, because that didn’t seem right to me.”
“You can sing, dance, and you’re handsome, Jimin. I’m sure that you would have had a very good chance of being accepted by any of the dozens of entertainment companies right here in the capital.”
“Oh, thank you.”
[Jimin smiles at this, a genuine smile that looks a little shy. His eyelids crinkle at the corners as he reaches up to cover his mouth, his rings catching the room light and glinting.]
“Why didn’t you want to join an entertainment company, Jimin? Was it because you were concerned about the fact that you might not have full control over your content, your lyrics and such?”
“I guess that it was partly that, but there were other things too. Becoming an idol would’ve meant living a completely different life to the one that I was used to, that I liked having: freedom, nights spent at clubs meeting people and drinking and whatever. But back then, I didn’t actually write any lyrics. I didn’t start writing lyrics until quite some time after I’d been signed onto a developmental deal.”
“The first rapper that you collaborated with on a physical track was ‘Killuh’, correct?”
[Jimin nods at the question, several locks of his hair falling into his eyes that he quickly rakes back with his fingers.]
“It was the track, ‘Feeling Your Body’ , that brought you massive media attention. Mostly social media attention, but enough to get you signed onto Moon Media as a result of the success, yes?”
“Yeah, more or less.”
[Jimin lifts a hand at this, seesawing it from side to side to gesticulate.]
“The utmost irony is that Killuh’s track brought you both recognition, not only you, Jimin. Yet, Killuh is one of the current rappers releasing diss tracks aimed at both you and D-boy, and publicly attacking you on social media. His current success; do you think that it’s debatable that he actually owes a great deal of that to you for featuring on his song?”
“Oh, yeah. I think that he owes me a lot of credit that he’ll never admit to now, after everything. But at the time, at the time Killuh was singing my praises - completely out of tune, of course.”
[Jimin’s wry joke made the two other men laugh, but his lips did little more than twitch at the corners.]
“Don’t get me wrong, the track was his. I just sang on it, but, I sang the hook, and the hook’s the part that everyone sings along to. Does it sting him that his most popular track is the one that I featured on, and that everyone who knows it sings my parts instead of his? Probably, maybe that’s why he wants me dead.”
“Do you want to talk about that period of your life first? Or would you prefer starting earlier than that? Would you prefer starting back to when you were still working the hip hop clubs as a singer on the weekends between school?”
“The feature’s the best point to start with. Before the feature, I was just hanging around various clubs, occasionally singing parts for guys that couldn’t carry a tune and getting small tips from the crowd. It doesn’t make sense to talk about that, not when nothing back then mattered.”
“OK, Jimin. Then, let’s start from there. Tell me about the breakout track, tell me about Killuh and the song that managed to break into the Billboard world digital chart for several weeks back in April, 2016.”
“Um, OK, so it was…”
The scent inside of the booth was rather unpleasant to his nose, though Jimin couldn’t figure out why exactly.
There was nothing inside, save for the hanging microphone, the sheet stand, and him; for the interior was completely naked. There wasn’t even a stool present for him to sit on, and the walls and flooring were bare. Yet, there was an unusual and very strong scent in the air that he greatly disliked. As he ran his eyes over the light wooden wall in front of him, he tried to figure out what it was that was causing the stench to pervade his space.
It was only as he shifted from one foot to the other that he realised that he was standing on something, and he dropped his gaze to see what it was.
There was something under his boot heel that looked like a cigarette. Except there was no filter on the end and it looked far too fat to be filled with tobacco.
The sight of a roach inside the booth with him made Jimin grimace as he lifted his foot and kicked it away. It explained the disgusting smell that was trapped in the recording booth at least. He watched it rolling across the floor to hit the wall, and then he shifted his gaze to eye the glass window to his left.
Sitting in the control room, Jimin could see two men. They were his partners currently, though a certain one of them didn’t look to be doing much right now. Nor had he done so for most of the day, as he had observed.
To the right, sitting at the console with one arm folded on the table and the other stretched out to hover over countless switches and sliders, was the man in charge of recording, mixing, and producing the current track that he was featuring on. He knew him by his pen name, ‘Bullseye’, rather than his actual name, and it was a pen name that he had noticed on quite a lot of tracks for several of the rappers that he had joined onstage over the last few months.
Jimin knew how he worked; he was a producer that did production deals for rappers that recorded, mixed and produced their material on their behalf, and then shared his profits with the company that had hired him in exchange for his services in collecting artists for them and completing projects.
Today was his first time getting to work with the man because none of those rappers had ever requested that he feature on their actual recorded tracks.
Bullseye was a slightly chubby man with a shaven head and facial hair. His revealed lower arms showed several tattoos, and his ears had countless rings through them - a pretty standard look for the kind of guys that were working in the Seoul hip hop scene.
Jimin had often thought that most of them looked like clones, especially when they all decked themselves out in the same brand clothing. Every single night, the clubs were a wash of predominantly black-clothed crowds wearing hoodies, sweatshirts and loose jeans, along with sunglasses, blinding grills, with flashing watch faces and countless chains.
To the left, currently lounged back in the other chair and lazily spinning it round and round in circles, was Killuh.
Much like Bullseye, Jimin didn’t know his real name and the rapper had yet to tell him it. He had a feeling that he wasn’t going to find out, not that he really wanted to know it. Considering the fact that he had been spinning around the entire time that he had entered the booth and had started recording his lines, Jimin got a sense from the other man that he really wasn’t interested in the musical process.
That, or he had smoked the joint that was still lying on the floor of the booth.
Killuh was wearing a hoodie with the hood pulled up, a black Yeezy hoodie at that. He still had sunglasses on, even when they were indoors. But Jimin guessed that they helped lessen the glare from the fluorescent ceiling lights that he was staring up at.
Apparently, he had taken off in the underground scene because female fans found him attractive. Jimin didn’t see it, not at all. He hadn’t seen any truly attractive rappers in any of the clubs that he had played in, though there had been one or two vocalists like him that he been passably cute. He had met many charismatic rappers, but not handsome, and he didn’t think that Killuh was particularly charismatic either.
“OK, one more time, from the top,” Bullseye said into the control room microphone, his voice bleeding into the booth. “Do you want me to count you in?”
Jimin slipped the headphones back up onto his ears, quickly adjusting them as the other man slid several switches up to start playing music at a low volume. Bullseye held his free hand up so that he could count down to the beat, and Jimin glanced at him out of the corner of his eye as he held onto the headphones and took a deep breath.
“‘Baby, I wanna touch up on you’,” Jimin sang in English over the beat, his own voice filling his ears over the pounding bass line and jazzy keyboard. “‘Take it off, I know you want me to. I gotta…feel your body. I gotta…feel your body, on me, baby’.”
As soon as his lines were complete, Jimin pulled the headphones free to let them hang around his neck. He turned to look through the window at the two other men, waiting on any feedback that they might have for him. He saw that Killuh was still spinning around in his chair like a goddamn jackass. But at least his producer looked to be thinking things over as he studied several things on the console.
“Uh, good good. You pronounce the lines good, you’re very good with English, Park.”
“Thank you,” Jimin said, superficially accepting the compliment because the other man didn’t know about his childhood tutoring.
“You’ve definitely got a feel for the beat of the song, I just feel like there’s something…not quite there yet in terms of the emotion.”
Jimin furrowed his brow at this, glancing back at the sheet of lyrics for a few seconds as he processed his words.
What exactly did Bullseye mean about the emotion? He had tried his very hardest to sound smooth, to add a hint of sensuality into his voice that was hard to convey with the English lyrics. Was he maybe not smooth enough? The song definitely required a little hint of soul, considering the fact that Killuh’s monotonous voice needed something to balance out against, to stop the song from sounding too flat.
A female vocalist would have perked it right up, but the rapper had asked him to feature, so he was going to have to figure out a way to blend into the song.
Jimin knew that his own voice was flexible, but he wasn’t professionally trained nor did he have the strongest vocals. They were just right for the hip hop scene in a way that perfectly polished vocals just didn’t seem to fit. He could go deep and slightly raspy at times, or build his way up to higher notes without completely missing the pitch and making people’s ears bleed. This current track seemed to be better suited to his deep register, but maybe he could slid a little higher to try and carry that…emotion?
“Yeah, y’know what I mean, right? Right, Killuh?” Bullseye added, moving to tap at the other man’s arm and stop him from spinning.
“About the emotion.”
“I dunno, man, he sounded good to me,” Killuh mumbled, kicking off so that he could carry on spinning in his seat. “I couldn’t sing that, I couldn’t hit a single fucking note, but he’s got it going on. Smooth, I like it.”
Even though he didn’t like the fact that he was still spinning around in the chair, Jimin decided to let it slide after that compliment. Sure, Killuh might be acting like a bit of an arsehole, but maybe he was just waiting to get back into the booth to carry on working too. He supposed that it must be pretty boring hanging around the control room waiting like that, so he would let it slide for now.
“I guess that the emotion is, uh-” Bullseye reached up to stroke at his beard for a few seconds, thinking of the exact words to say to him. “Well, the song is sexual, right? It’s a sexual song, guys.”
This made Killuh snort laughter for some reason, and Jimin stuck his tongue out to wet his lips as he turned back to the lyrics sheet again. His lines were highlighted for him in stripes of bright pink highlighter, but he could see the rest of the lyrics printed all over the sheet, and rather obvious lines jumped out to his eyes. Lines that included such words as ‘milky skin’ and ‘so wet’ that almost screamed back at him in a way that he greatly disliked.
Oh yes, it was a sexual song. Another goddamn sexual song, just like every song that he had been asked to sing at the clubs.
What a surprise; weren’t they all these days?
“Yeah, it’s a sexual song,” Jimin agreed, reaching up to rub at his nose roughly as he glared at the stubbed-out remains of the roach in the corner of the booth.
“So, sing it like, uh, like you’re fucking. Yeah?” Bullseye suggested with a rather lazy shrug.
“…Sing it like I’m fucking?” Jimin repeated in a flat tone, lifting the sheet of paper off the stand to stare at it. “I don’t…that doesn’t make any sense. How do I sing like that?”
“Come on, you get what I mean,” he remarked with a shrug. “Make it, like, sexy.”
“Sexy?” Killuh repeated, finally stopping his spinning chair routine so that he could fold his arms on the console too. “You think he’s sexy, huh? Damn, you sound like a homo, man.”
Jimin swallowed hard at this remark as he dumped the papers back on the sheet stand, suddenly wishing that he could just hurry up and get out of this disgusting booth because he was starting to feel the first twinges of a headache appearing at the sides of his jawline and his temples. He reached up to rub at his brow slowly, looking between the two other men and hoping that his expression looked blank rather than irritated.
“I get that, I just…I don’t know if I sound sexy when I’m singing,” Jimin said, as he dropped his hand and shoved it into his jeans pocket. “Especially when it’s English, you know? It’s hard being sexy in English. Should I change my pitch? Softer, louder?”
Killuh reached up to pull his sunglasses down, so that he could peer at him from over the tops of the frames. This was clearly a sign that he had decided to get serious for the first time all afternoon, so Jimin gave him his complete attention to be respectful.
“He’s saying, like, y’know, when you got a chick and she’s really going for it. Yeah? Maybe, she’s giving you head and damn, you just wanna say nice shit to her, so she’ll keep going. They love it when you say nice shit, makes ‘em feel special as hell, man.”
Jimin glanced between them both at this, knowing that he looked rather dumb but struggling to react to this absurd statement. He didn’t have a clue what any of that even meant, and he just knew that they could both see how confused that he was.
“Y’know what I’m talking about, right?” the rapper asked, raising his pierced eyebrow as he studied him from over the tops of shades.
“…Whatever,” Jimin muttered, grabbing the headphones and tugging them back up onto his ears.
Before he could get them fully in place he heard the rapper’s voice coming from the control room microphone.
“He dunno what I’m talking about,” Killuh joked to the other man, a wide smirk on his face. “He’s never gotten head before, goddamn, that’s-”
The headphones blocked the rest of his words out, and Jimin took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He cleared his throat and softly sang several notes as an ad-lib, increasing in pitch as he tried to get back into the zone to give this another shot. He had decided to go softer for this next attempt, a little huskier on the ‘baby’, just for the sake of it.
Jimin opened his eyes to catch sight of Bullseye waving at him through the window, so he quickly pulled the headphones down to hear him properly. He could see something on his face that looked like surprise, his thin eyes rounded with interest, and a quick glance at Killuh showed him that the rapper was also eyeing him over the tops of his sunglasses.
“Do that again, do that again, and then do a few more harmonies, yeah?” Bullseye suggested, moving to touch the dials and slides again.
“Huh? But, I’m recording the hook right now, so-”
“Forget the hook, let’s get some of those harmonies down,” the man instructed, quickly adding. “Those harmonies, those ad-libs, Park, they’re gold! We’ve gotta get them down on this track.”
Jimin saw that the recording button mounted on the wall was still bright red, signalling that he wasn’t being recorded right now. He looked between the button and the glass window for a few seconds before studying Killuh to see if he had anything else to say on the matter. The rapper didn’t, but he flashed him a quick thumbs-up, signalling that he approved and that he should go ahead and start singing some ad-libs and harmonies instead.
Jimin wet his lips again as he tugged his headphones back in place. He held onto them, just like always, because it stopped him from fiddling too much when he was singing. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Bullseye was counting him down with his fingers. The recording button on the wall changed to green, and that was when he opened his lips and he started singing.
Jimin had done harmonies for rappers onstage before, though that had often consisted of him just repeating certain lines back at the crowd, or simply stringing together several notes rather than actual words. He wasn’t supposed to have hogged too much of the song or stage during those collaborations. But sometimes, a certain song had been begging for a little flourish to just spice it up, so he had experimented with dropping little ad-libs here and there just for the sake of it. Some had worked, others had been a little flat. But Jimin felt like with this song…he knew what to do, and he also knew that it needed harmonies.
Having listened to the guide track, and the beat of the song whilst recording, Jimin had found himself imagining several harmonies in the background; backing vocals to his own lines to make the hook sound a little bit stronger. In his head, the hook was so much richer with them, instead of being flat and feeling like it was missing something.
Jimin closed his eyes and he got into the zone. He hummed notes and soft ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’, increasing in pitch like a crescendo, and rising and falling in waves. He dabbled with singing his lines in higher and lower pitches, and with repeating the word ‘baby’ over and over, leaving enough time between his ad-libs for the sake of Bullseye being able to cut and edit them later. He had no clue if he was doing it right or wrong, but he just went for it because they had both given him the sign to give it a shot.
It was only when Bullseye waved his hand at him to signal for him to stop that Jimin finished, and he pulled the headphones down to let them hang around his neck.
“OK?” he asked, hoping that he had at least done this one thing right.
“OK, so, how about you come back into the control room, Park? And Killuh, you can go in and work on one of the verses for ‘Hate To Love Me’? Just to get some of that track down for the night, ‘cos we’ve been hammering the title track all day long and I think we need something fresh. Yeah?”
Jimin was free from the stench of marijuana at last, and he couldn’t leave the recording booth fast enough. He dumped the headphones on the stand and quickly moved to push the door open and step into the control room. He saw that Killuh was getting out of his chair after a near hour of spinning and slouching in it, and he looked down at his producer as he dragged his feet to get to the recording booth.
“Man, you’ve been napping for most of the day, don’t give me that look,” Bullseye said, looking back at the rapper and shifting to sit back in his chair. “Give me a break, huh? I’m the one that’s gonna be going two whole days without sleep by the time we’ll have this single down. Then I gotta mix and produce this shit.”
Killuh just flashed the man his middle finger, which made him laugh and let Jimin know that it was just a form of light banter between them both. Nothing serious, nothing to worry about. The rapper pulled the door shut behind him, the wood thumping in the quiet of the studio, and Jimin spared a quick glance back over his shoulder at him before looking at Bullseye.
“I’m gonna go get something from the store,” Jimin said, moving to grab his khaki parka from the sofa against the far wall and dragging it on. “Do you want me to get you anything?”
“Nope, I’m good. You’ve got a couple of hours to blow before I’ll need you again for that hook, yeah? You can come back here and crash, go visit your girlfriend, whatever,” Bullseye said, turning in his seat to look at him. “Those ad-libs and shit, good work. We’ll fix up the hook, no problem, kid. You just gotta give it a few more tries and you’ll get the right feel.”
“OK, I’ll sing it on the way to the store,” he joked, pulling the door open to exit the studio and hearing the other man laughing to himself as he did so.
Jimin walked along the hallway to get to the lift, hitting the button to ride up to the ground-floor and slouching against the carriage wall as it did so. It vibrated softly against his back as the flooring shifted suddenly, making his stomach flip just like always. He eyed the box of buttons as the lift ascended. It was just a brief ride before the doors opened again with a low pinging sound, and he exited the carriage to cross the reception and get to the revolving entrance door.
Hellfire Trax was a small building, but it was only a small label, so it made sense. They had several hip hop artists signed to them, but they mostly worked with producers, who worked in one of their three recording studios across the capital. To Jimin’s knowledge, Killuh and his crew had used their studios for quite some time now, before they had decided to sign the rapper on a one-year exclusive contract. He assumed that Bullseye worked for the company as a contract producer, mixer and sound engineer, because he had far too many credentials and credits to be a freelancer that worked for a crew.
Today had been his first time sitting in an actual recording studio, one owned by a company and not just a makeshift studio that unsigned rappers had. It was kind of strange thinking about it right now because he had only been inside of it since this morning, and Jimin was pretty certain that it was going to take him some time to get used to recording in a real studio.
There was just something…exciting about seeing all of the consoles stretched out in front of him, the circular mesh microphone dangling from the ceiling inside of the booth, and the framed records hanging on the walls that showed the previous accolades of the company in helping produce hit songs and albums. The atmosphere of the recording studio, it really did make him feel like he was finally a legitimate artist now, rather than a cheap entertainer. It was such a great feeling, and he was so very certain that it was going to make up for his past struggles.
There was a 7-Eleven at the end of the block, one that Jimin was so very thankful for. Bullseye might have said that he wasn’t needed for a little while, that he could go back to his apartment and chill, maybe take a nap, but it was a little too late for that. It was 1:45am currently, the trains and buses had long since stopped running, and he lived in a completely different district. Unless he wanted to flag a taxi and spend a chunk of money travelling back to his apartment, he might as well just stay in the studio.
Jimin was also scared about sleeping for too long and pissing the two of them off, so he needed to stay in the studio just to play it safe. He needed them to both see just how dedicated he was to this track, that he was a hard-working artist and he wasn’t the kind to slack off or complain. If that meant napping on a cramped sofa for two or three days, then so be it.
“‘Baby, I wanna touch up on you’,” Jimin sang under his breath, slowing down at a side street to quickly look both ways for traffic. Then he quickly crossed the road to jump up onto the other side, a slight skip in his step. He could feel the song with his body for sure, he just didn’t seem to be getting it across with his voice. “‘Take it off, I know you want me to. I gotta…feel your body. I gotta…feel your body, on me. Baby’.”
Jimin sighed heavily, reaching up to run his fingers through his hair, feeling dried gel against his fingertips as he tried to push the usual stray locks back in place.
When he reached the store, he stepped on the rubberised mat and the doors slid open to reveal the blindingly fluorescent interior lights. There were low shelves covered in colourful items, set in aisles right in the centre of the store. To his left, along the wall of windows, there was a counter with stools for people to use, and to his right there was the till. Various machines filled the interior: hot water and coffee dispensers, phone charger plugs, and a stove and microwave for heating up various food products with. As a result, there was always the vague lingering scents of cooked food trapped inside of convenience stores, which always made Jimin feel hungry even if he was only popping inside to grab a bottle of water, or maybe a coffee.
“Good evening,” the somewhat elderly-looking woman behind the till said with a welcoming smile. “Were you just in Flow?”
“Um? No, I’m actually in the middle of recording something, just down the block in the entertainment building,” Jimin explained, wondering how the hell the lady even knew about the popular hip hop club. “I’m not a rapper, but I sing.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I’m not a fan of that kind of thing, but singing is nice,” she said with that same smile. “I’ll bet that you have a lovely voice.”
“Thank you,” he replied with a genuine smile, moving away from the door to fully enter the store.
The first thing that Jimin did was go straight to the instant ramyeon aisle, grabbing one of the Nongshim Hot and Spicy Big Bowl containers. Satisfied that that was a filling meal, he went across the store to browse the rest of the selections. He found himself wondering if he should go for water or a fourth coffee for the day, and if he should grab some lollipops to play with just so he didn’t give in to the temptation to accept one of Killuh’s cigarettes to relieve his stress. He settled on a bottle of water just for the hell of it, grabbing a bag of lollipops too, and then he crossed the store to get to the till.
Jimin quickly checked the cash in his back pocket, hoping that he had enough left on him from various club tips to be able to cover the costs of several trips to this store over the next day or so. He had two ₩10,000 notes, a ₩5,000 note, and a bunch of coins in change that might have totalled another couple of thousand. He quickly placed most of the coins down to cover the costs.
After accepting the receipt and meagre change, which he shoved into his jeans pocket, Jimin moved to the counter to drop the items on it. Then he used the water dispenser to fill up the Styrofoam ramyeon container, dumping the powdered stock and vegetables into it.
As he left the ramyeon to cook, he retrieved his phone to unlock it and check his emails and notifications, hoping for something and yet finding that there were no more shocking offers from record labels wanting to sign him or feature him on new tracks. It was completely expected, but it still made him sigh wearily as he replied to a couple of stupid messages from his friend and locked his phone again.
Jimin lifted the lid and stabbed his disposable chopsticks into the nest of cooking noodles, breaking them up and coating them in the sauce better before folding it back down again. He was restlessly nibbling at the ends of the plastic chopsticks when the sound of the store doors opening caught his attention, and he glanced up to see a young man stepping inside the store.
“Hey, you doing alright, Miyoung?” the guy asked with a brief smile, showcasing that he clearly knew the elderly woman behind the counter.
From his position at the counter, Jimin saw only a hint of his face, a rounded face with a button nose and soft chin, for he mostly noticed his clothing. He was wearing a black, hooded polyester jacket with tiny, white katakana characters on the breast, a massive tee-shirt that ended around his mid-thighs, and a pair of distressed jeans. It was a look that he associated with hip hop clubs, but a much less obnoxious one than usual.
Maybe, it was because he had stepped into the store and had said something friendly to the owner with a smile?
Maybe, it was because he was short and small enough to not look threatening, not like some of the guys in the clubs?
“I’m doing very good,” the woman replied with a very fond smile.
When the guy passed him by, Jimin got a waft of masculine cologne, and he glanced over his shoulder to watch him going around one of the shelves to disappear out of sight. He turned back to his food for a moment to resume stirring at his cooking ramyeon. He didn’t know what it was about the stranger that had caught his attention, for it could have been his husky accent that he was still currently trying to place, or his obvious hip hop kid get up, but he just couldn’t seem to fight his curiosity.
Jimin got off his stool to retrieve some napkins, catching sight of him moving away from the drinks refrigerator to go down another aisle. The two of them were too short to make eye-contact over the shelves, for he just saw the top of his beanie hat, and the other man had likely just caught a brief glimpse of his slicked back hair. He moved sit back down on his stool with his handful of napkins, grabbing the first clump of steaming noodles to lift them up and help them cool as he watched him going straight for the till.
On his quick journey through the aisles, the other man had retrieved a lined soft pink notebook, on which there looked to be a printed illustration of a cat or bunny or something - Jimin couldn’t really see; a packet of roller point pens; three cans of instant coffee; and last but not least, a bag of Lotte Mallang Cow candy; which the stranger dumped down onto the glass counter with a heavy sigh.
“You must be busy again,” Miyoung remarked, as she scanned the items, to which the man hummed an agreement as he rubbed at his eyelids roughly. “You’re leaving the club early tonight though, earlier than usual.”
“Yeah, but unlike those guys, I actually gotta work hard,” the man replied, which made the woman laugh and give him another one of those fond smiles.
Daegu, Jimin discerned, that was his accent. He was from Daegu, he was pretty sure of it. Speaking not only so casually, but also doing so in that strangely carefree and direct way that Daegu guys had mastered: cold and cool, but not unfriendly.
“I know, but be sure to rest, mmm?”
“Ah, rest is good, but it don’t pay the bills,” the guy joked, which actually made Jimin smile to himself as he stirred at his ramyeon and waited for it to cool.
Wasn’t that the truth?
Jimin grabbed some of the ramyeon, shoving it into his mouth even when it was scorching hot. He bit a mouthful of them and let the rest drop back into the bowl, huffing air out of his mouth to try and stop his tongue from burning. The chilli flakes, soy sauce and garlic were hot enough without the actual temperature taken into account. But, goddamn, they tasted fantastic regardless of that fact.
As he chewed the mouthful of food, the woman quickly shoved the items into a small white store bag for the other man, which she slid across as the counter as he paid with his card. Then the stranger grabbed the bag with muttered thanks, slipping it into the crook of his elbow so that he could shove his hands into his jacket pockets.
“Goodnight,” the guy said, looking at Miyoung first before turning to glance at him and giving him a quick look at his face.
“Um, goodnight,” Jimin mumbled around the mouthful of ramyeon, knowing that it was rude to do so but having been caught at the wrong moment.
Jimin watched the other guy exiting the store, eyeing the back of his jacket to see a large red circle, emblazoned with more white katakana characters and something that looked like an embroidered dragon in glossy, black cotton. It was a nice jacket, a real nice jacket, and he wondered how a guy that looked to have not slept in a month had bought one of those babies. Judging from the fact that the woman had said ‘club’, he might just have been a rapper, or maybe a producer for one of the crews that frequented it.
There were several clubs in Gangnam-gu, but if there was one club that he was certain that he would have just left, it just had to be Flow. It was apparently a great club, but he had never went there before, so he was going to visit it as soon as he was finished recording this single with Killuh. Just so he could knock back several shots as a reward for not only getting his first official song recorded, but for putting up with the stench of marijuana and cigarette smoke in the booth, and the rapper’s aloof and irritating behaviour.
Oh, and the lack of sleep and diet of junk food that he was going to have to put up with too.
Jimin left his chopsticks in the mass of noodles for a moment, reaching up to cup his face in his hands with a sigh of his own. His eyelids were starting to feel tight, dry and swollen in a way that he just knew would take days to go away. He was tired, he was so tired, but he needed to eat something right now. He could sleep on the studio sofa for the night whilst the two other men played around on the other track for the single, but first, he needed food. He hadn’t eaten anything all day long during the recording session, and he was going to drop tomorrow if he didn’t swallow something more filling than black coffee.
Jimin stopped massaging at his eyes and brow, dropping his hand to grab his chopsticks again. He wasn’t even hungry because of all of the stupid coffee, and he had to force himself to swallow the ramyeon and then sip at the soupy stock remains. He trashed the container and chopsticks as soon as he was finished. Then he shoved his bottle of water in his parka pocket and slipped a strawberry and cream lollipop into his mouth, adding the bag of candy to his other spacious pocket too.
“Good luck, I hope that you sell a lot of records,” Miyoung called, just as he was about to leave the store.
Jimin turned to look back over his shoulder at her as he replied, “Thank you.”
When Jimin entered the recording studio several minutes later, the lollipop still melting on his tongue, he could hear that Killuh was rapping in the booth because his voice was playing from the control room speakers.
Bullseye glanced at him as he moved across the room, dumping his water bottle and bag of lollipops on the table so that he could strip his parka free and drop onto the leather sofa with a soft grunt.
“…and- ah, shit, lemme do that over,” Killuh said from the booth, tugging his headphones free and pacing around the box for a moment as he rubbed his hand against his cropped hair. “I fucked that up, I admit it.”
“Uhuh, just give me a second here…” Bullseye mumbled, moving to root around and try and find something; locating a pair of headphones across the console.
At least the other man was considerate enough to plug his own headphones into the console jack, so that he could listen to Killuh through those instead of playing his voice through the whole control room and stopping him from resting properly.
“OK, on the count of five,” the producer said into the microphone in a quiet voice, holding his hand up to silently count down on his fingers for him.
Jimin turned on his side and wrenched his parka over his head to block out the orange-tinged lighting of the recording studio and try and get some sleep. It blocked out the light, but it sadly didn’t muffle the sounds of Bullseye working the dials, buttons and sliders, and his voice whenever he had to talk to the rapper about retakes, unclear diction, irregular rhythm, and every other mistake that he made.
Jimin didn’t really register the fact that he had fallen asleep, for the last thing that he was vaguely aware of was the fact that he could hear the producer talking about something, his voice strangely stretched out across the space between them like goo so that it sounded too gelatinous for him to understand. The next thing that he knew, something was dropping to touch his shoulder, something that felt like a hand, which shook him hard a couple of times.
“Huh?” he breathed out, trying to lift his head off the sofa only to find that his parka was still placed over his upper body and he was tangled up in the material.
“Rise and shine, kid,” Bullseye said, giving his shoulder a series of hard pats before he moved away again. “Time to get back to work on those hooks.”
“What…time’s it?” Jimin sighed out, tugging his parka free and massaging at his stiff neck as he tried to pry one eye open.
“Almost 10am, so, better get to it.”
For the second day of recording, Jimin only had to get his hooks down. Having already recorded several ad-libs and harmonies, he just had to get those sections prepared. Then he could leave Bullseye to listen over it and play around with the layers until he was satisfied with the end result and ready to drop the single.
Jimin drank a cup of black coffee and plenty of water to quench his dry throat before starting the warming-up process. He had to enter the building bathroom to splash cold water on his face and relieve himself. Next time, he would need to ensure that he was better prepared for a recording session because he had no true way of freshening up, save for grabbing some sugar-free gum from Killuh in exchange for several lollipops. At least he could fight off his morning breath, but he still felt dirty, and his clothing was terribly wrinkled from wear; his white, v-neck tee-shirt crumpled and his parka in just as bad a state. His hair had long since spilled free from its gelled hold and was in dire need of washing too.
But Jimin just rolled right into the booth, tugged on the headphones and crooned those same five lines over and over, until something seemed to click and he finally recorded material that Bullseye approved of.
From that point, after taking some time to rest and rehydrate his throat, Jimin carried on repeating the hook in that sexual style that the two men wanted so that he would finally be able to leave the booth for good. Between Killuh recording lines during his rests, and a break for food, it was almost midnight by the time that they were finished with the two tracks for the single.
“Holy shit,” Jimin groaned, rolling his stiff shoulders and neck before he reached up to rub at his throat. “I didn’t realise how hard singing was.”
This made Bullseye laugh; but not Killuh, for the rapper looked to be asleep in his chair, his head hanging forward and not even bobbing like usual.
“Um, are we done here now? Or should I stick around, just in case?” he asked, still massaging at his rather sore throat and neck.
“If I need you for anything, I’ll be sure to call, but I think that this shit just needs some polishing up,” Bullseye said as he turned in his chair to look at him. “Basically, you’re all done, kid. The song is there, I’ve just gotta mix it up right for a day or two and then it’s ready to drop.”
“Seriously?” Jimin asked, lowering his hand and staring at him dumbly. “I’m finished?”
“All done, time to go get a shower and sleep in an actual bed,” the man retorted, holding his hand out to him. “You did good, kid.”
“Thank you,” Jimin said, as he gave his hand a quick shake and squeeze. He made sure to cup his elbow with his free hand respectfully. “It was my first real recording session, and you were patient with me. It definitely made the entire experience less terrifying for me, so, thanks.”
“Don’t mention it. You worked hard, you built on criticisms to improve the little mistakes here and there, and you didn’t throw a fit after singing the same line twenty times over, unlike some people,” Bullseye stated, his eyes rolling in the direction of the sleeping rapper. “That makes the whole recording experience a lot less annoying for me.”
Jimin collected his belongings together for the last time, his parka filled with the sad remains of his lollipops (for he had just three left), which he quickly dragged on. He left the building at a quick pace, hitting the streets to see that it was once again dark just like it had been when he had last exited the building. But, unlike last time, he didn’t have to go back inside again, not unless Bullseye called him up again.
“Yes!” he hissed, pumping his fist excitedly as he stepped onto the sidewalk at last.
The producer’s advice was good and all, about going back to his apartment to take a shower and sleep. But there were still two notes shoved down deep in his jeans back pocket that were begging to be spent on cheap soju shots and somaek, so that he could celebrate and then go back home. He could have grabbed some cheap booze from the 7-Eleven and drank in his room, but Jimin found his legs guiding him across the block to seek out a certain club instead.
Flow would have cheap alcohol, loud music and entertainment, and the chance at securing another feature on a song for someone like Killuh, if he was lucky another to bump into another rapper and brag about his upcoming single, that was.
Jimin briskly made his way to the club several blocks away, showing his ID on the door just so that the bouncer would allow him to go down the deep steps to actually enter Flow.
The interior of the club was just like every other hip hop club that he had been inside of. It was set in the basement, and so the ceiling was high and covered in various coloured lights. On the left side of the room, it was a vivid red shade, right by the stage and pit for the crowd to fill; and to the right it was a deep blue, where all of the booths and seats were placed for those more interested in drinking, chatting and listening, rather than taking part in the performances. The lights met somewhere in the middle, blending in purple hues right around where the stretch of bar was set. The bar was made of dark wood, behind which a glowing pink display filled with colourful alcohol bottles, Be@rbrick toys and brand baseball caps were situated.
The seating in the club varied from padded stools at the counter, leather booth seats that were attached to the walls and tables, and sofas placed here and there across the entire interior for crews to claim.
Right now, he could see a small gathering of people crowding one of these seating areas, and he mostly saw guys lounged on the sofas with pretty women perched on their laps, flirting with them and sharing drinks. It was the typical display that he was used to seeing, a strange ritual to assert rapper credentials and masculinity - for the crew with the most ladies, bottles of alcohol on the tables, and ice on the wrists: they were the kings for the night.
Jimin dragged his eyes away from one such arrogant display to head straight for the bar, the pounding American hip hop coming from the mounted speakers increasing in volume as he got closer to it.
“What can I do you for, honey?” the bartender asked in a friendly tone, as she moved straight in his direction.
She had a severe bob cut that was glossy black from the bar lights, and there were quite a lot of tattoos on her arms, which were revealed by the cropped black vest that she was wearing. It also revealed her navel piercing, and Jimin tried to not stare at it as he dropped a note onto the counter and ordered a tray of shots and a single Cass beer just for the hell of it. He deserved it, after all, and he was going to knock most of the shots back hard, then mix a few with the beer and nurse that for awhile until he wanted to go home.
“You aren’t driving tonight, right?” she joked, carrying the tray over for him and placing it down on the counter. His crumpled change was on the tray, right beside the shot glasses and bottle.
“I can’t even drive,” he replied with a wry smile, grabbing the first shot glass so that he could jokingly toast her with it before swallowing it hard.
The soju burnt on the way down and made him gasp and sniff hard as he placed the empty glass down on the tray. He rubbed at his nose before grabbing the next glass. The bartender gave him a quick look and then she moving down the counter to grab empty glasses from a couple, leaving him to make his way through the shots.
Jimin did so, and then he took a swallow of the beer so that he could pour the final shots into the bottle without making it overflow all over his lap. There, he had enough soju in his system to get him drunk pretty quick, especially after he added the somaek on top, and he was finally going to be numb for a little while.
“Here’s to making the top ten for a day at least,” he muttered, almost like a prayer, holding the bottle up in front of him to watch the beads of condensation running down the deep brown glass. He closed his eyes and sighed, wetting his lips with his tongue. “Just for a day…please?”
Then he lifted the bottle to his lips and took a deep swig of it, opening his eyes just in time to notice a shadow falling over him.
“Planning on dying tonight?” a husky male voice remarked from right behind him, catching him by complete surprise.
“Huh?” Jimin hummed, trying to not choke as he swallowed his first mouthful of somaek and twisted to watch the man moving over to the very end of the bar counter. “No, I just…”
Jimin felt his words trailing off in dumb surprise as he stared at him, because he recognised him as the guy from the 7-Eleven. The guy that had talked with Miyoung and had bought all of that cheap coffee and candy, and the immature printed notebook. He was wearing the exact same jacket as that night, and he had another beanie hat tugged on his head to hide all of his hair from view.
The guy gestured at the several shot glasses littering the tray in front of him for emphasis, which said more than words ever could. He shifted to fold his arms on the counter in a comfortable slouch.
Jimin collected his change and shoved it into his jeans pocket, and then he pushed the tray aside silently so that he could turn back to look at him.
“I’ve been recording a track with Killuh for, like, the last two days, and it’s been absolute hell on earth. I’ve been sleeping on a studio sofa in these exact same clothes, and I think that I’ve drank enough coffee to turn my blood into that shit,” Jimin explained, reaching up to rub at his swollen eyelids roughly with his free hand. “I thought that I’d waste the last of my paper on some drinks because I sure as shit deserve some.”
“Killuh? You were recording with Killuh? For real?” the guy asked, his expression passive but his voice revealing a hint of interest.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m drinking myself to death and - oh, shit, you aren’t in his…his crew, right? Murda Crew, is it? Uh…something like that,” Jimin mumbled, hoping that he hadn’t just fucked by mocking the rapper to one of his friends, or even a fellow crew member.
Oh, Jimin really could have gassed himself with his stupid mouth, blowing his chances at getting another collaboration from so many rappers by talking smack about a well-known rapper like Killuh. He might just have dodged a bullet with his careless and highly stupid remark.
“Nah, you don’t need to worry about that,” the stranger said with a soft head shake. “My crew ain’t here tonight. I belong to Outsider Network, ‘cos most of the crew are from outside of Seoul. You ever heard of ‘em?”
“Heard of them? Of course, they’re notorious,” Jimin said, trying to not look too relieved by the fact that his arse was safe. “One of the best crews in the scene, according to the guys that know them. I don’t know them personally though, I’ve never met a single member, save for you.”
“Save for me,” he agreed with a slight nod.
“You rap?” Jimin asked, gesturing at the stage just to the side of the bar. “With you being in a crew, I assumed that you rap, but you could do other shit; right?”
“Yeah, I rap, produce, compose, write lyrics. I even do mixing here and there,” the other man explained, reaching up to scratch at his beanie hat as he glanced over the club, the gesture showing a hint of something that might have been shyness. “I do a bit of everything.”
“If you rap then you’ve got a stage name, right? What’s yours? It’s better than Killuh, surely?” he joked, earning himself a hard snort of laughter from him. “You seem like you would have a good name because you seem pretty smart to me.”
“What’s your name, huh? Your singer name, I mean, your artistic pseudonym?”
“Jimin, Park Jimin,” he explained, as he nursed his beer bottle. “It’s actually my real name, but I did play around with the idea of a stage name. I thought about ‘Christian’ or something like that, and-”
“‘Christian’? You religious?” the guy interjected, shooting him a mischievous grin that caught him completely off-guard.
“Not even remotely,” he replied with his own grin, quickly adding. “But yeah, I finally settled on my real name instead. Just for the hell of it; I guess? So, what’s your ‘artistic pseudonym’, hmm?”
“…‘D-boy’? Are you…are you serious?” Jimin asked, unable to control his expression so that his eyebrows lifted high enough to almost brush against his hairline. He didn’t mean to look in anyway condescending towards the other man, but he had downed several swigs of somaek and a lot of shots tonight, and he was looking at another beer, if he could get away with it. “You go by D-boy?”
“Yeah, I’m being serious.”
“As in a ‘dope-boy’?” he asked, the English words flowing out smoothly. “That kinda D-boy?”
“No, as in Daegu, Daegu-boy,” he retorted, his lips twitching at the corners ever so slightly. “But, dope-boy works too, for those that get the reference. Shit, half of the guys here don’t even know what a ‘dope-boy’ is. They think of ‘ dope ’ like ‘ awesome ’, they dunno the other meaning.”
“And you do because you’re…what? Old skool?” Jimin remarked dryly.
This made the other man - who he currently only knew as D-boy - snort laughter as he reached up to rub at his nose. This presented Jimin with the perfect opportunity to study his face and so he did so.
Just like that night at the convenience store, he noted that D-boy had a round face with a gentle chin, a rather rounded button nose and wide cheekbones. His eyes were almond-shaped, with a thick spray of eyelashes and soft eyelids creases, and he had a mouth with a very pronounced Cupid’s bow. It wasn’t a pout exactly, but it was close. His strong eyebrows juxtaposed boldly against his features, gave him a hint of masculinity to balance out his soft and round features because there wasn’t a hint of sharpness present on his face.
“Yeah, I’m old skool at heart but it’s hard staying true to that sound these days,” D-boy explained, shifting on the counter to give him his full attention. “The kids here, they want contemporary, they want new American sounds before America’s even got those sounds. Old skool for ‘em? Mid-2000s at best, and I’m being serious. What about you, huh?”
“Me? Oh, I dig the ‘90s shit, old skool, smooth r’n’b,” Jimin said, lifting his bottle to his lips but not taking a sip just yet. “It influences my singing, there’s just a richness to that era in music that I feel has been lost by a lot of artists. There’s too many songs now that feel…I don’t know, flat? The ‘80s was a great time for rock and alternative sounds, but the ‘90s? Hip hop and r’n’b owned that decade, we both know it.”
This made D-boy hum in agreement, his own gaze studying his face as he did so.
Jimin paused in the act of taking a sip of somaek, wondering if he was going to say something to him, yet D-boy just stared at him for a few seconds before looking away again. His face was bathed in the purple from the mixed lighting in the club, more of a magenta in shade because of the red coming from the stage, and the pink from behind the bar. Jimin wondered if he too was washed in magenta as he watched the other man running his eyes across the presumed crew members across the club, or if he was more of a vibrant orchid.
D-boy made no attempt to break their temporary silence, and so he decided to turn his attention back to drinking his somaek and wait to see if he would.
Jimin was in the act of thinking of something to say, a stupid joke or icebreaker line, when the other man suddenly moved away from the counter and made him look up to track his movements.
D-boy pushed through the small grouping of people crowding around the stage and crew members, so that he could step up onto the low stage.
This made Jimin lower his bottle from his lips, his curiosity getting the best of him as he watched him grabbing the microphone from the stand so that he could give it a hard tap with his fingers to drum up attention.
The bartender moved at the sound, crossing the space behind the counter to get to something that looked like a sound system. It seemed that he was actually going to perform right now, so suddenly out of the blue, and Jimin gulped down his mouthful of somaek as he looked between the tattooed woman and the rapper.
“D-boy representing from Outsider Network; how about I show you kids a little magic, huh? A little something I’ve been playing around with, yeah?” D-boy mumbled into the microphone, as he paced around the slight stage and avoided looking at anyone. “Y’know how this works, don’t sit at the back, come down and move around a little, have some fun.”
At this, Jimin heard laughter and voices as quite a lot of people got off their booth seats and the sofas, moving to get closer to the stage. He saw a lot of young women in fancy dresses, with sleek or wavy hair, towering heels, and thin wrists covered in bracelets that were holding glasses; and some that were dressed more casually and might just have been rappers themselves. There were plenty of young men that might have been amateurs, guys just here for the alcohol and entertainment, or other rappers from different crews - he had no way of knowing.
Jimin shifted on his stool to study him more intently. The stage lighting was completely red, which washed over D-boy’s revealed face and hands like blood. He dropped his head low, a thin gold chain slipping free to dangle around his neck and catching the lighting too, and he saw that he had his eyes closed as he curled his tongue out to wet his lips in preparation.
D-boy was getting into the zone, and when the club music faded down to nothing, the gathered crowd of people all made noises of excitement and raised their hands and glasses for him. The rapper also raised his fist, the one holding the microphone, and he folded his other arm behind his back as he waited for the track to drop.
Jimin felt something like frisson running through him in that moment of silence, the air going almost electric in anticipation. He hadn’t felt something like this in what felt like forever, most certainly not whilst watching amateurs perform on club stages, and he didn’t really know what that meant right now. All that he did know was that he was holding his breath, just like a lot of people seemed to be doing, and he was so very tempted to hold his own bottle up in the air too.
When the beat dropped, Jimin’s ears were assaulted by a heavy bass and drum beat, a rhythm that was rather vintage but still stripped bare for the sake of performing. There were some added effects, like scratching and skipping vinyl sounds and sirens, but clearly, D-boy wasn’t going to flash too much of his composition, lest someone try and copy it. He was probably only going to drop a verse with a hook too, rather than a whole track, just to keep everyone keen for his next performance.
After several seconds of waiting, the crowd moving their heads to the beat, the rapper dropped the microphone to his mouth to start spitting out his lyrics.
“‘I ain’t got dreams, I got a manifesto. Expectations, reality, fuck that, I’mma get dough. They say follow your dreams, I say follow your soul, haters talk shit but you gotta let ‘em know. This ain’t playtime, I’m real fucking serious, let ‘em party in the clubs, I’ll work hard, be victorious’.”
“Holy…shit,” Jimin sighed out, feeling his fingers twitching around the neck of his bottle.
Luckily for him, said bottle dropped to land on the counter without shattering and only sloshed a slight splash of beer mix onto the wood. The bartender must have noticed, for she moved to place a napkin down and quickly dabbed at the mess for him.
D-boy switched between Korean and English with a flow that had him struggling to keep up. Jimin found his brow furrowing deeply as he tried to get a full feel for his lyrics, but it was just too hard for him to do so. He was just so quick on the beat that he left him in complete awe, and he couldn’t believe how…different that D-boy and Killuh were in terms of lyrics, tone and talent.
D-boy’s joking line about it not being playtime? Well, if that wasn’t the perfect snipe at rappers like Killuh, that messed around during recording and didn’t really do much in terms of making their own music, then Jimin would eat his goddamn beanie hat right in front of him.
The one thing that Jimin could currently appreciate was both his voice, and his rhythm. D-boy had a husky voice, which varied from a deep pitch to taking a slightly squeaky note at the end of his lines as he took quick intakes of breath. He wasn’t flat, in other words, wasn’t monotonous and deep without a hint of richness, and he could emote his words too. Jimin could hear emotions in his voice, from dripping cockiness to a hint of an acidic sneer when he was talking about haters and obstacles that tried to get in his way, and it was this very emotion that made him shift on the stool to fold his arms on the bar counter and watch him intently.
“Alright, alright, alright,” D-boy mumbled in the instrumental break, taking advantage of it so that he could not only catch his breath, but also stir up the crowd gathering in front of the stage. “I got something I gotta get off my chest, yeah? Something you kids gotta hear, ‘cos I don’t think y’know, I think…you’re all sleeping on your own skills and dreams.”
The crowd gathered in front of him made noises at this, lighthearted banter as they either called out agreements, or jokingly booed at him. It seemed that he must be a regular to drum up this kind of repertoire, and Jimin realised that the crowd were actively taking part, which showed some level of respect or admiration for him.
“Nah, nah, not hating, I’m just…”
D-boy wet his lips again, taking a quick intake of breath as he scrunched his face up and dropped the next section on them all.
“I don’t call ‘em dreams ‘cos you only have ‘em when you’re sleeping, unless you’re wide awake, then I call that shit daydreaming. I ain’t hating, man, I’m just stating the facts, you gotta start believing me, huh, I’ve been bleeding-”
D-boy took a deep breath before unleashing his next lines at a breakneck speed that almost gave Jimin whiplash. He dropped his foot on the mounted speaker so that he could lean forward and start bobbing his head back and forth as he spat out each syllable.
“I’ve been scheming, screaming, fighting, trying, all of my life, so, you let those mo’fuckers know, I ain’t giving up without a fucking fight!”
This made the crowd all shout in amazement, and D-boy straightened up again to look over them. As he quickly licked at his lips, Jimin found their gazes locking from across the club, and then the rapper lifted the microphone to his mouth.
“…D-boy’s leaving the building, kids, have a good night.”
The rapper dropped the microphone at this, a wide grin on his face as the device thumped on the flooring. As he stepped off of the stage, the crowd cheered for him, clapping and thumping him hard on the back as he made his way back in the direction of the bar.
For several seconds, Jimin could only stare at him because he seemed to have lost the ability to talk, but then he finally managed to move his slack lips and speak.
“Oh, my god,” he exclaimed in English, not even trying to hide his surprise. “D-boy, that was crazy, I-”
“Glad you enjoyed the show, Jimin, but I gotta-”
“Wait, don’t leave, not yet,” Jimin blurted out, as he reached over to take hold of his elbow, his jacket rustling from his touch. “We, um, we were talking before you performed, and I wanted to talk to you, about your lyrics.”
“About my lyrics?” D-boy repeated, his expression hard to read as he looked down at him. “Uh…‘k, sure, I can hang around a little longer.”
Jimin had to stop himself from actually thanking him, especially when the rapper made no move to sit down at the bar beside him but just stayed standing close. It made him have to spin on his stool to look up at him, but he didn’t really mind that much.
“You use a lot of English in your lyrics,” Jimin said, nursing his bottle between both hands. “Why? Why do you use so much?”
“Kids like English. I dunno, it excites ‘em, gets ‘em thinking about lyrics in a deeper way, y’know?” D-boy remarked, shrugging softly as he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. “Rhyming good in our tongue, that takes skills, sure. But when you add English words to it, it can be a lot easier for these newcomers to sound better than they are, gives ‘em a boost of confidence until they can grasp rhymes better and start putting the dedication into their lyrics.”
“Yeah, but your English was actually English, D-boy, it wasn’t just throwing words out there for the sake of rhymes - it made sense,” Jimin explained, trying to find the right way to explain his thoughts right now. “I know that a lot of rappers drop English to impress and get lucky with rhymes. But most of the time, it makes no grammatical sense. My dad used to be an English university lecturer, down in Busan. He made sure that I had a private tutor as a kid, so, I’ve got a good ear for English.”
“Really?” D-boy asked, raising his strong eyebrows and showing him a great deal of interest. “Thanks, I try my hardest. I, uh, I watch films and interviews with subtitles and listen to the words, so that I can learn shit. Language lessons, they don’t teach you slang and how real people talk, y’know?”
“Ha! I do know, yeah,” Jimin agreed before taking a quick swig of somaek. “It’s just, I felt like I was able to appreciate your lyrics on a deeper level because I understood what you actually said. That track, was that freestyle?”
“I was playing around with something, thought I’d hit the stage and see what happened,” D-boy replied, shifting from foot to foot and slipping a hand free from his pocket to rub at his nose roughly again. “Being on that stage, you find words coming that your brain couldn’t find all night long, when you were staring at your notebook and searching for the next line. They just flow off your tongue, yeah? Like a bullet exiting a chamber; you just spit it out raw and it feels so good. It’s a catharsis for me, I guess?”
“Yeah, I think I get what you mean,” Jimin said in a quiet voice, sparing a quick glance across the club before turning back to him. “Do you perform here every night? How do you handle having something ready to show everyone?”
“Nah, I don’t perform every night,” D-boy explained, shifting so that he could fold his elbows on the counter, but still not sitting down on the free stool beside him. “I ain’t bragging, but there’s a lot of people that come here to watch performances and not rap, and they like me. I perform for ‘em, it’s fun, it keeps me motivated. The owner of the joint, she pays me a decent upfront fee to perform every four or so nights, and I get a little discount on the drinks too. So, you want a fresh one?”
“You’re a true gentleman, D-boy,” Jimin remarked, giving him a slightly flirtatious smile as he lifted his beer bottle to flash him the label. Then he curbed it in, just so he didn’t notice it. “Doesn’t your crew have a problem with this set-up, with you performing here? Are you going rogue? Hmm?”
“It’s complicated, but I ain’t roguing for the cash. They know I’m here, I’m always there for ‘em when they need me. They, uh, a lot of ‘em perform in clubs I ain’t fond of, so, they lemme perform here,” D-boy quickly explained, gesturing at the bartender with one hand. “Hey, Kisum, one Cass and one Hite, yeah? I’m buying.”
“Sure thing, honey. By the way, great show tonight. You might need to recycle that one in the future,” Kisum said, as she retrieved two chilled beers from under the counter and cracked the caps off them. “Enjoy, boys.”
D-boy grabbed his own beer, knocking back a deep swig of it before sniffing hard. As Jimin took a sip of his own beer, he noted that the rapper looked back over his shoulder at the other crew members, the ones that were still sitting on the sofas. He pulled his lower lip in to suck on it for a moment, not exactly gnawing on it but close.
“Hey, I’m gonna go out for a smoke. You wanna carry on talking about lyrics and shit, huh?” D-boy suggested, cocking his head to study him again.
Jimin thought this over for a moment before realising that he actually wanted to talk him. Had he have not wanted to continue their conversation, he would have maybe excused himself and went across the club to talk to other people, or he could have just walked away without the politeness. But the fact that he had asked him to step outside the club with him was a clear sign that he was actually interested in their conversation.
When Jimin looked over his shoulder at the crew members, he noted that they were staring back at them too, and they looked to be talking about them for some reason that he didn’t really understand.
Did they know D-boy? Was he not on friendly terms with them? Was that why he wanted to go outside with him, or was he just assuming way too much with his tipsy mind?
“OK,” he said, grabbing his beer so that he could get off the stool. “I’d, um, I’d like that, D-boy.”
Jimin followed the other man across the club, having to stick very close to him to not get lost in the sea of people moving around the place. D-boy got approached by a lot of people as they headed for the doors, mostly women, but he was sure to turn their offers of drinks and dances down as politely as he could; reaching behind of himself to snag hold of his wrist and gently pull him through the crush of bodies to reach the steps.
As soon as they were outside, he guided him a few feet away from the bouncer and proceeded to place his own beer down on the sidewalk so that he could fish a battered packet of cigarettes free from his jeans: Raison Black , the kind with the black cat logo on the front. He shoved the stick in his lips, retrieving his zippo lighter to spark a light as he inhaled to get it to smoulder. He breathed the first lungful free through his nose as he shoved the lighter and packet back into his jeans pocket and moved to grab his beer, straightening up again to slouch back against the club wall.
“You were really good onstage, D-boy,” Jimin admitted, watching him taking a drag from his cigarette and breathing it out of the corner of his mouth. “I know that you probably hear that shit all of the time, but I just thought that I’d tell you.”
“Thanks,” D-boy mumbled, not in an offhand fashion but rather just because he seemed to mumble often. He wet his lips and seemed to be thinking of something to say, yet he ended up just shoving the cigarette stick back into his mouth rather than speak.
“I like this club, I think that I might come back in the future,” Jimin continued, running his eyes across the dance clubs across the street and seeing a lot of people out in groups drinking and cavorting. “The recording studio I was in, it’s not far from here - Hellfire Trax. Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and bag myself another feature on a song here, right?”
“You keep coming here, I’ll still be hanging here every night too,” D-boy said with a lackadaisical shrug, his presumably designer jacket loudly rustling as he breathed out a lungful of cigarette smoke through his nose. “I like talking before I go onstage, it gives me a burst of confidence.”
“You like talking? I couldn’t tell, you don’t do much of it, D-boy,” he remarked, grinning at him and seeing the way that his pouted lips twitched around the cigarette until he managed to control his expression. “You didn’t talk to any of the guys in the club either, which I noticed.”
“Not my crew, dunno know ‘em,” D-boy retorted, dabbing ash of the end of his cigarette as he sipped at his beer. “They seemed to know me though, ‘cos they looked like they were talking shit.”
“Hmm? How do you know that they were talking shit about you if you don’t know them?” Jimin asked, looking back over at him curiously.
“Everyone talks shit about me,” he mumbled in a quiet voice, his eyes staring off across the street without seemingly focusing on anything. “It’s why I tried to avoid talking to you back in there, ‘cos I didn’t want ‘em to start talking shit about you too. Not after you netted your first collab and sounded so fucking happy about it. I thought that it might ruin your good mood.”
Jimin thought this over for a moment, not entirely sure why the random rappers would talk shit about D-boy like that. It could be because he was in a different crew, one that they didn’t like or had had feuds with in the past, or that they were quite simply jealous of his talent and the attention that he received. But it could have been something completely different, and unless D-boy told him the truth, upfront, then he was never really going to know why.
But Jimin did know that he didn’t care about a bunch of amateurs, and he wanted the other man to know this fact too.
“I don’t give a fuck. Unless they’re signed, I don’t know who they are either,” he retorted sharply, which made D-boy pull his cigarette free to holler at him in approval. “They can talk shit, it’s probably all that they’re good at.”
“Shit, Jimin, you could diss hard onstage, y’know that?” D-boy joked, giving his ribs a hard dig with his elbow.
“OK, so, I finished the track, but I’m still gonna come here for a few nights,” Jimin said, lifting his bottle in offering to get him to clink his bottle against his. “I can’t turn down your offer of conversation, though I do request that we maybe do it inside tomorrow night. Yeah?”
“‘K, I can get down with that,” he agreed, bringing their bottles together hard.
“I think that I should probably call a taxi now, and head back home. I really need a shower, man,” Jimin joked, pulling his phone free from his jeans pocket and unlocking it with his thumb to open an app and order one.
D-boy stayed on the sidewalk with him as he did so, smoking his cigarette and sipping at his beer as if he was mulling something over. It took him several minutes, but he finally opened his mouth to break their temporary silence.
“Hey, uh, before you go,” D-boy said, reaching up with his hand to rub at his eye roughly with the heel of his hand. He wet his lips with his tongue and hovered the cigarette in front of his mouth, hesitating in taking a drag. “Could you, uh, maybe sing a line for me? From that song you were recording? The one with Killuh?”
“Sing? You want me to sing for you?” Jimin repeated dumbly, placing his empty beer bottle down on the sidewalk and trying to not stagger forward as he straightened up again. “Huh?”
“Y’know, just ‘cos you said that you were a singer, into ‘90s old skool and r’n’b, and I just wondered if you sounded like that too.”
“You’ve gotta keep this a secret, OK? No telling anyone about the song, it’s still getting mixed,” Jimin said, moving closer to him and breathing in the remains of his last exhaled lungful of cigarette smoke. “I’ll sing you the hook because that’s the only part that I sing.”
D-boy made a noise around his cigarette, letting him know that he promised to not tell a single soul about the fact that he had gotten an exclusive preview of the other rapper’s single. He looked between his eyes and lips rapidly as Jimin stuck his tongue out to wet them, and then he cleared his throat.
“If I’m a little rough, it’s from recording for two days straight, yeah? I promise I sound way better after some sleep and proper warming up.”
Jimin took a deep breath and held it in his lungs, feeling the words right there on the tip of his tongue, but also feeling a rush of something like nerves coursing through him at the thought of actually singing. He didn’t know why D-boy made him nervous, especially when he was drunk, but he just did. It was probably because he thought that he was really talented too, and he didn’t want to fuck up and hit a bum note after seeing his phenomenal rap performance inside of the club.
“‘Baby, I wanna touch up on you’,” Jimin sang in a quiet voice, hearing it carrying across the sidewalk much louder than he had intended. “‘Take it off, I know you want me to. I gotta…feel your body. I gotta…feel your body, on me. Baby’.”
Jimin crooned the last line, moving closer to him and ad-libbing it so that the last note lasted several seconds longer in length and ended in a rather husky sigh.
For a moment, D-boy just stared at him with a hard to read expression. There was a growing inch of ash on the end of his cigarette, and as Jimin studied it, it dropped to land right between his sneakers. It took the rapper almost thirty seconds to formulate words, though he did try a couple of times only for mumbles and nonsense noises to slip free as he puffed up his cheeks and fiddled with his beanie hat.
“What?” Jimin asked in a quiet voice, wondering if he had sounded so off-key that the rapper was struggling to say something to him that didn’t sound too harsh. “Did I sound bad? Be honest, did I sound bad?”
“Huh, bad?” D-boy finally blurted out. “That’s your idea of bad? That’s what you sound like rough? Jimin, holy shit!”
“Hmm?” he hummed, finding his lips curling up at the corners into a wide grin. “You liked it?”
D-boy dropped his head at this with an embarrassed sound, trying his very hardest to hide his flushed cheeks as he nodded in agreement.
Jimin beamed at him as he watched him stubbing the toes of his sneakers on the paving flags. It felt so satisfying knowing that the other man thought that he had talent too, considering how his lyrics and rapping had been the best that he had ever witnessed being performed in a hip hop club before.
Before the rapper could hope to explain his thoughts better, Jimin caught sight of his taxi rolling down the street and heading right for the club. He had to move to the curb to wait for it to pull up in front of him.
“Oh, I gotta go, my taxi’s here.”
“Please, come back to this club tomorrow night,” D-boy almost pleaded, the cigarette stick in the corner of his lips so that he could hold both hands out to him, his palms together in the classic prayer position. “Yeah, Jimin? Promise me that you’ll come back?”
“Sure thing,” Jimin said, dragging the door open and pausing to study the other man. “I’ve gotta take advantage of your discounts too.”
The last thing that he saw as he climbed into the backseat of the taxi was D-boy pulling his cigarette free to give him a rather sweet smile, one that made his eyelids crinkle at the corners and was completely genuine.
When Jimin woke up at last, he was shocked to find that the time on his phone screen told him that it was well into the afternoon hours. But even after sleeping for well over half of the day, he still felt tired in a way that he hated as he dropped his head onto his pillow with a heavy grunt.
Jimin didn’t want to get out of bed for several reasons, the main and most obvious one being the fact that he had a hangover. His head was throbbing as a result of the alcohol and the pounding music from the club; his eyes were swollen and itchy from all of the cigarette smoke that he had been surrounded by, and his irregular sleeping habits over the last few days; and his stomach felt like it wasn’t exactly secure underneath his ribs. No, it felt loose and heavy, as if it might just clench at any moment and make him vomit.
Jimin shifted on his mattress, his hand moving to find his phone so that he could turn his head and check the screen again. He saw that it was 2:41pm, and that meant that he had been asleep for at least thirteen hours. Despite this fact, he still felt like he had done nothing more than take a nap. But he knew that he needed to get out of bed now because more sleep was just going to fuck him up when tomorrow came around.
“Hmm, shit,” he sighed, dropping his phone onto the mattress and shifting to cock his weight up onto one elbow. “Oh…”
Jimin winced and reached up with his free hand to touch his throat, instinctively grabbing it because it twinged sharply from his mumbling. When he was swallowed, there was a sensation much like he had pulled a muscle; a rawness that made him squeeze his eyes shut tight as he dropped his head for a moment. His dry and gel-free hair fell across his brow annoyingly, the scent of faded shampoo still clinging to it and his pillow.
After a brief throat massage, Jimin shifted to sit upright in bed, his covers pooling around his bare hips and thighs. The movement made his head throb and his stomach slosh around, and he had to swallow a queasy moan for the sake of his sore throat. He checked his phone again, not to see what time it was but to see what notifications were on his lockscreen. Jimin saw several messages from his friend and his mother, various notifications from Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. He moved to plug the device in and let it charge whilst he got out of bed and braved the challenge of getting cleaned up.
Getting upright was difficult with his hangover, but he just powered through his wobbling legs, aching head and swinging stomach so that he could stagger out of his bedroom and into the bathroom. Unsurprisingly, Jimin found himself on his knees just a minute later, gagging and drooling as he upended the remains of his rather empty stomach into the bowl; nothing more than bile and undigested chunks of yesterday afternoon’s ramyeon floating in the toilet water.
“Urgh, fuh-fuck,” he whined, spitting several times until he was able to fumble to find the flush. “No more soju tonight, no, no soju. Nope, shit.”
Jimin stumbled to get to his feet again as the toilet flushed loudly, moving to the sink to cup handfuls of water to swill his mouth clean first. Then he grabbed his toothbrush and applied a generous dollop of paste, hastily shoving it into his mouth. He started scrubbing his teeth and tongue with the brush vigorously, trying to rid himself of the lingering taste of vomit and faded beer. He still didn’t feel fully clean, even after taking a hot shower before sleeping, and he knew that he was probably going to take another one just for the sake of it.
In the mirror over the sink, Jimin could see his flushed cheeks and puffy eyelids, and he looked so rough right now. He knew that he was going to have to try and bring down the redness by tonight, especially if he was going to video call his mother at some point to tell her all about the recording session. He didn’t want her seeing his red face and assuming that he had been up to no good and drinking too much.
For the best part of a year and a half now, Jimin had been living in the small apartment room across the capital on his own, courtesy of his parents allowing him to dip into his university savings account. He had promised to replenish the savings when he ‘made it big’, so that he could still use the money for studying in the future. But that day had yet to come. Still, living in the apartment had instilled in him a confidence that made him feel adult and in control of his life, even when there was actually little control in reality.
Jimin might not have a steady income, he might not be signed onto a label yet and making decent cash. But he was starting to creep his way into real features and building connections with people that had proper connections, and so, the day might just come when he actually did get to start feeding money back into his savings account and move into a much nicer apartment room.
Jimin emerged from his bathroom after a brief shower feeling like a human being again, even when his head was still faintly throbbing and his stomach was loose under his ribs. He went back into his bedroom to slip into a pair of briefs, and then he went down the slight staircase to get to his kitchen-area. He was thankful that the staircase and small landing had a banister rail attached, just to stop him from staggering to the side and falling down a whole floor to break a wrist or an ankle like an idiot.
The apartment room was small, but the fact that it contained two floors made it seem a little bigger than it actually was. The ground-floor was nothing more than a small sitting-area and kitchen, which was set below the stairs. The first-floor was just a bedroom and bathroom, both rooms side by side on a tiny landing. But the fact that he had to go up and down the steps to get to them just created the illusion that it wasn’t a tiny box with even tinier windows and hardly any room to breathe.
In reality, he hated it.
Jimin hated the fact that he had to share a basement laundromat with the rest of his block. He hated the cramped staircases to get up to his room when the lift was in use or not working for the week, and he hated how everything felt so airless and tight around him. His family home had a nice, big kitchen, and yet his kitchen was a counter with just several appliances on it, and he constantly struggled to fit things in the fridge and cupboards.
But there was instant coffee in his kitchen, and the remains of cereal shoved inside of one of the cupboards, and that was all that he cared about right now.
After brewing a large mug of said coffee, Jimin tossed handfuls of Oreo O’s cereal into his mouth whilst he lazily lounged on his sofa. It seemed like both a fun way to pass the time, and was a totally a nutritious meal to eat and cure his hangover. It felt strange that he wasn’t doing something right now, after two days of hard work, but there was nothing that he could do. Bullseye had said that he would call him up if he needed him, and so he had little else to do but to wait on a possible call, check his emails, and reply to messages on his phone.
Jimin was checking his notifications on Instagram when something hit him. Before he could help himself, he opened Naver and tried searching the word ‘D-boy’, just for the sake of it. It brought back a mixture of results, the top one being a Twitter account, @D-boy93 , and the results below that consisting of various links to tags on the same website. He opened the account and he started scrolling down to see the kind of things that the young rapper posted.
Unsurprisingly, it seemed that D-boy was as reserved online as he was in reality, for there was nothing dramatic about his profile. His display picture was a photograph of himself with his head held low to mostly obscure his face, and his description simply read, in English: D-BOY FROM DAEGU! REPRESENT! OUTSIDER NETWORK! A REAL ARTIST ON THE BEAT!
It made Jimin laugh softly for some reason, probably because it just fitted him so well. There was a little bragging but nothing obnoxious, and he seemed to be very proud of his roots and his crew.
The majority of his tweets seemed to be deep musings on anything from music to art, to politics and education, and Jimin noted that he got a decent amount of likes and retweets on them. Sure, maybe not the level that rappers like Killuh might get, with his connections and attitude, but still a good amount for someone as reserved online as he was. The tweets were interesting and all, but Jimin found himself clicking on the media section of his account to check the photographs and videos that he posted instead.
He quickly discovered that D-boy very rarely posted photographs of himself, for he much preferred posting the things that he seemed to care about more. It wasn’t snapshots of alcohol, cigarettes, sexy girls and money, like what a lot of rappers that Jimin had met only ever seemed to post on their accounts, rather images of his computer and recording equipment, which might have been his or his crews’. Hip hop club exterior signs, art galleries, random parks - these were all of the things that took up most of his posted images instead of over exaggerated hip hop clichés.
There was no alcohol, no cigarettes and sexually provocative snaps of women in clubs, though there were some photographs of cats for some reason. They made Jimin so curious that he just had to open one of them to check the caption and see why he was posting such photographs.
D-boy apparently went to cat cafés in his spare time to work on his material and unwind.
“That’s…expected,” Jimin mumbled to himself, letting out a brief laugh as he grabbed some more cereal and tossed it into his mouth.
Jimin noted that a lot of the physical photographs of him were tagged ones from his crew members, which often contained just a hint of D-boy’s face, or had him trying his very hardest to avoid looking into the camera when the shot was taken. He saw him with women and men that looked to be his fellow crew members. They were all very striking in appearance, and they completely juxtaposed against him. The women all had shocking hair and makeup, the men had skinheads, mohawks, tattoos and facial piercings, and yet, D-boy looked as unassuming as always in their midst.
There were dozens of short videos that the other man had posted of his computer screen, on which a music programme would play a sample track for everyone to listen to. Jimin checked a few of them out just for the sake of it, finding that he liked the sound of a lot of the samples. It made him think of their conversation about old skool hip hop, about smooth r’n’b, and he wondered what exactly it would be like to hear a full song of his, instead of little samples. Watching the teasers made him want to find something more, something that might just contain his actual face or voice, and so he went back to searching his posted and tagged media.
A rapper called Kimmy had tagged him in a video that she had posted roughly two months ago, and so he clicked on it to see exactly what it was. The sound of music suddenly burst out of his phone speaker and caught him by surprise, the screen covered in flashing lights and shaking for a moment as she tried to steady her own phone to record properly.
“Ay-o, it’s D-boy!” she exclaimed, her voice taking on that shrill pitch that only incredibly drunk women seemed capable of achieving. Her accent was unmistakably from Busan, for Jimin could recognise it with ease, especially with a drunken slur to it.
On his phone screen, D-boy winced at the exact same moment that he did, looking up from a notebook to squint at the camera through the haze of smoke before dropping his head again when he saw that she was recording him.
Why ain’t you partying, huh?! Look at everyone!” she declared, turning the phone to show a quick flash of a crowd of people gathered around their table. “What’re you doing?!”
“Fixing up your lyrics!” D-boy shouted over the pounding music and deafening din of the crowd hanging around the table. “Your English, honey, it’s ‘fucking terrible’!”
His slurred but passable English made Jimin laugh under his breath, and on the screen, D-boy reached up to rub at his nose roughly in that funny habit of his.
“Ah, so mean, you’re so mean!” she retorted, lifting her sharply manicured nails to jokingly poke at his face from across their slight distance. “See, girls, I told you he’s mean! Don’t tweet him nice things, don’t ask him to be your boyfriend! He only loves music!”
Before the video cut off, D-boy actually let out a barking laugh as he looked up at the camera, and then it finished abruptly.
Jimin went back and he checked for another video from his crew, finding a recent one from just three weeks ago from another female rapper called Queen Bae. This one was also short, but the captions on it mentioned something about a studio, which piqued his interest. When he clicked on it, the first thing that Jimin saw was a young woman with cropped black hair, deep purple lipstick and heavy eyeliner, for she was recording herself using the front camera.
“D-boy in the studio, say hey, darling,” she said, turning the camera to show D-boy sitting in a padded leather chair beside her at a small console.
“Hey,” he said, twinkling his fingers at the camera but not looking away from the monitor screens once; the white and blue glow casting over his soft features.
Jimin studied his face just as a hint of music started playing from his phone, presumably because the rapper was giving a teaser for her song on the video. She turned the phone back to herself at this, bobbing her head in rhythm with the track for a few seconds.
“‘Numba one queen’ is gonna be dropping tonight, ah!” Queen Bae declared, throwing her head back hard with a laugh that bordered on a cackle. Her dangling, gold earrings danced from the movement. “I hope you’re all waiting for it! Me and D worked hard on this track, so, show us some love!”
The rapper blew a kiss at the screen before ending the video, and Jimin hit the back arrow again, staring at his phone screen for a few seconds. He suddenly realised just how long he had been creeping on the other man’s profile for, and he had only seen such a small amount of his tweets, photographs and videos. He really shouldn’t just lie on his sofa all day long and creep on the rapper, but he knew that he could easily do so.
Jimin quickly opened a new tab to check up on Killuh, just wanting to see if he had maybe posted something about the new single: a date perhaps, or even a mention of him. When he loaded his Twitter account, he scrolled down to see that there was indeed a date, for it was apparently set to drop at midnight tonight. Other than that, there was nothing. There was no mention of his name, no photographs from the recording session, and it made him stop scrolling down to stare at his screen blankly.
D-boy and his crew posted about each other constantly, and they were always sure to give credit when credit was due. Maybe, Killuh hadn’t mentioned him because he didn’t have a Twitter, and it therefore seemed pointless? Maybe, he should set a Twitter up and promote himself a little, now that he actually had a song credit to his name? It would be a great way to earn himself attention, but he was a little worried that it might not work out in his favour, that he might look a little desperate.
Jimin really didn’t know if he should, and as he closed the tab to go back onto D-boy’s account, he wondered if he should ask the other man about it tonight, if he saw him again at Flow. The rapper clearly knew how to run an online account, and how to promote himself and his crew, and he could probably get a lot of tips from him. Should D-boy be willing to share, that was.
Jimin locked his phone and placed it down on his ribs with a soft sigh, staring up at the ceiling above him. He hoped that he hadn’t accidentally messed up his chances of future collaborations by not having a better online presence, for he could have taken advantage of the recording session with Killuh to garner attention from the rapper’s fans, crew members and potential companies. But it was a little too late to worry about that now.
The afternoon hours seemed to drag for him, for Jimin did little else other than make some kimchi bokkeumbap for dinner, call his mother to let her know about the fact that his first feature was hopefully going to drop tonight, and lounge around his apartment room in his underwear with a soothing face mask on to try and calm down his pink cheeks and swollen face. They were truly a blessing, for when it started to edge towards the late-evening hours, he didn’t even look like he had had a rough night yesterday. Especially not after he added a light dab of makeup to cover up any lingering hints of redness, and the slight spattering of an incoming stress breakout on his cheek.
Jimin got dressed in a loose-fitting and thin, navy pullover, teamed with his fitted jeans and chukka boots, and then he entered his bathroom to finish getting ready. Just like always, he pulled his hair back off his brow and combed it in place, parting it and slicking it down to reveal his entire face. Kind of like how D-boy’s beanie hats showed off his round and soft features, he liked showcasing his sharper ones. The style really accentuated his jawline and cheekbones, and it also helped reveal his cross earrings.
Jimin liked jewellery, from his rings to his earrings. Though he only had one thumb ring that he wore often because it was real silver, he had a lot of earrings that he liked to utilise. First, there were the hoops: the small hoops that he often wore in his lobe piercings. But he had more extravagant ones like dangling, silver crosses, and thin chains with little charms on the end that would hang in a way that he strangely liked. He didn’t really know why he liked the sensation, he just did. He found himself playing with his earrings just like his thumb ring on occasion, like when he was busy thinking, warming up, or rehearsing his lines.
Just for the sake of his still tender head, Jimin grabbed his round and coloured sunglasses to slip them up his nose. As soon as he was finished getting ready, he grabbed his parka and left his apartment to ride the lift down to the ground-floor.
It was a lot easier and cheaper for him to ride the subway into Gangnam-gu to get to Flow instead of flagging a taxi, and the length of the journey wasn’t much different either. Of course, it meant that he had to ride in the carriages with everyone coming and going from work, tourists with countless bags and pull trolleys, and the occasional drunken person too. But Jimin just found a carriage with an available far corner seat, shoved his earphones in to listen to a playlist, and blocked everything else out until he was exiting the train and riding up the subway escalator to get back onto the sidewalk.
Like every other night, Gangnam-gu, much like Dongdaemun-gu, was filled with floods of people. The high-end shopping mall blocks were open until the early morning hours; the food and clothing markets, which were filled with bargains and hidden treasures; and the clubs, karaoke bars, PC rooms and more - so many businesses were always open to visitors. It was a wonder how anyone ever found anything through the sea of bodies, constantly flashing neon lights, and narrow, twisting side streets that made up a great deal of the district.
When Jimin went down the steps of the club, he saw that Flow was as packed as always - bodies filling up most of the interior space and so many glasses and phones in hands. The overwhelming scent of alcohol was hanging in the air like mist, so that he could taste it on his tongue along with perfume, cologne and sweat.
D-boy was sitting at the end of the bar counter, his notebook on the wood and a bottle of Hite beer sitting on a makeshift napkin coaster. He was wearing another beanie hat, that same sweet-looking jacket and distressed jeans. If he didn’t know any better, Jimin would have thought that he had stayed inside of the club all of yesterday night without sleeping.
As Jimin drew closer to the bar, he saw that Kisum lifted her hand to gesture at the rapper, catching his attention just as he put his bottle back down on the counter and swallowed a mouthful of beer. He glanced over his shoulder before noticing him, and then he looked back at his notebook. But then something seemed to come over him, and he did a quick double-take just to make sure that he wasn’t seeing things.
“Oh, you showed up?” D-boy said, sparing a quick glance up at him from his notebook before looking down at it again. He tried his hardest to disguise the rather quick twitch at the corner of his lips. But Jimin caught sight of it as he dropped right onto the stool beside him. “I thought you’d be collaborating with someone else already, snapping up all of those features; yeah?”
“Is that a joke?” Jimin asked, cocking his head at him. “Did you just tell a funny joke, D-boy?”
D-boy just shrugged at this, his fingers restlessly twirling his pen around as he looked between his pages and him discreetly. It seemed that he was actually in the middle of writing right now, judging from the smears of ink present on his knuckles and the side of his hand, even when the mere thought was enough to leave him in awe.
“How do you write with all of the noise in here?” Jimin asked, moving closer to him just to ensure that he could actually hear him talking over the pounding music. As he did so, he got a quick glance at his notebook pages, and he saw lots of black characters filling up the lines. “My eardrums are aching already and-”
“No peeking!” D-boy exclaimed suddenly, snatching his notebook up to hold it against his chest defensively.
“Huh? I wasn’t- I moved closer to you so that you could hear me,” Jimin rapidly explained, hearing the slight stammer in his reply and wondering if he did too. “The speakers are so loud that I- did you seriously think that I was sneaking a look? Like an elementary school kid cheating on an exam or something?”
D-boy shifted on the stool at this, not feeling the need to reply but also not lowering his notebook. The immature pout on his lips was an obvious sign that he was just joking around.
“What’s in there that I can’t see, huh?” Jimin asked, getting closer to him to purposefully put him on edge. “Love confessions?”
“No, my lyrics! This’ confidential shit, ‘k, NIS ain’t even catching wind of these lyrics,” D-boy said, hugging the notebook to his chest even more defensively as he brought his shoulders up to near his ears.
“Real cute notebook, by the way. Nothing screams, “fuck the NPA”, more than a cat, D-boy,” Jimin joked, reaching over to stroke the little illustration of the black cat on the soft pink cover with his forefinger. “Some rappers drop hooks about pussy and you just…”
“Very funny,” D-boy said, his expression not even showing a hint of amusement, though it was clear that he was trying very hard to keep a straight face. “Real cute outfit, by the way. Nothing screams, “I can’t rap for shit”, like those sunglasses, Jimin.”
“What a coincidence, I can’t rap for shit,” he retorted, reaching up to finally pull them free and shoving them into his parka pocket.
“You want a drink, huh?” he asked, placing his notebook down on the counter again so that he could collect his own beer bottle. “That ain’t an invitation to order a whole tray of shots, by the way.”
“No need to worry, I’m not drinking anything heavy, not tonight,” Jimin remarked, as he folded his hands on the cool wood. “Last night was a bad idea, and I regretted it this morning. Just a beer and coke, please.”
D-boy smirked at this, most likely finding it amusing after his joke about him drinking himself to death just last night. He lifted his hand to gesture at Kisum, and Jimin spared a quick glance at his notebook again whilst he was distracted; catching nothing at all because his handwriting was in cursive print and it was hard to read a single word.
Whilst the other man ordered the drink for him, Jimin couldn’t help but look back over his shoulder to scan the club interior. Just like yesterday, there was the usual gathering of rappers and their entourage, but he struggled to tell if they were the same guys or not, on account of the fact that the snapbacks and sunglasses that they all wore covered up so much of their faces.
“What’s your name, honey? Are you going to be a regular, because I like your style,” Kisum said, as she placed his glass of beer and coke down on the counter for him and added a napkin to the side.
“Jimin, his name’s Jimin. He just collaborated with Killuh on his new track, and he’s taking advantage of my discounts ‘cos he’s a cheap bastard,” D-boy retorted before he could even open his mouth, talking as fast as he could to get it all out.
Kisum looked between them both at this, and then she gave him a look as if to ask him if this was the truth.
Jimin shifted on his stool as he grabbed the glass and mumbled, “He’s a hundred percent correct.”
“Well, Jimin, good luck with the track, and those earrings are very cute,” Kisum said, moving to go along the counter to serve more customers.
Jimin watched her going for a moment before turning to look back at D-boy. He was still spinning his pen around rather than use it for writing, and he had a feeling that he might just have distracted him away from making note of any potential lyrics by appearing so suddenly. The music pounding from the speakers really was overwhelming, and he wondered how the other man could stand sitting at the end of the bar counter like this every night.
“We should grab one of those booths over there, so that the speakers won’t burst our eardrums at least,” Jimin suggested, not feeling the need to tell him that it was actually because the booths were far away from the other rappers, and that meant that they could talk without the other man worrying about them seeing them together again. “What, um, what do you think?”
For a few seconds, D-boy didn’t reply to this and just stared at his notebook.
Jimin could see that he wasn’t really looking at it, for his eyes weren’t moving from side to side to signal that he was reading over his lyrics. No, he was using the object as a tool just so he could think his suggestion over, judging from the fact that the pen had also stopped spinning in his fingers. Then D-boy shifted to look at him, his tongue slipping free to wet his lips.
“OK?” Jimin repeated, raising his eyebrows at him.
Rather than add to this, D-boy just shifted his notebook into the crook of his elbow, grabbed his beer, and got off the stool to cross the club. He left Jimin no choice but to copy his actions, grabbing his cup and quickly moving to try and follow him through the press of bodies.
Jimin just knew that D-boy would get accosted just like the previous night, and that meant he needed to stay close to him to not lose him in the sea of daring dresses, sparkling jewellery and designer jackets and hoodies. Because of his slight height, and all-black clothing, it would be very easy to lose sight of him, so he just forced his way through slight gaps and tried to not slosh his drink on some guy’s pristine, white sneakers in the process.
D-boy swerved around the booths, passing drinking parties and making out couples, to locate an empty one that they could use. He sat down on the leather bench and dropped his goods onto the wooden table without a single care, moving to fold one leg over the other in a comfortable position that he couldn’t really do on the high bar stools.
A quick study of the booth showed him that the bench was u-shaped, with D-boy sitting on the right to view the stage and most of the club interior. Jimin could have sat on the left side and faced the steps that led back out of the club, or, he could have sat on the back so that he was closer to the other man. But he really didn’t know if he should do so. He actually hesitated for a moment before deciding to sit on the left…for now. Just for a little while, to see how their conversation went. Maybe, if D-boy showed the same level of interest in him, his skills and reflections on music, he would move closer to him.
It was just as he was about to move to sit down that a guy brushed past him, a cigarette dangling from his lips as he breathed a lungful of smoke out into his face. Jimin couldn’t help but inhale it, coughing in surprise and then wincing as he reached up to grab at his throat because it was still aching.
“Hey, you alright?” D-boy asked, his expression showing something that might have been concern as he dropped onto the leather bench with a soft thumping sound.
“Yeah, I’m OK, just my throat,” he explained, placing his drink glass down and swallowing hard a few times as he tried to force away the urge to cough again.
“That recording session really did a number on me,” Jimin said with a soft head shake, rubbing at his neck for a moment before dropping his hand down onto the table. “My throat’s been killing me all day long. I need to get tougher though. Professional singers can handle this shit.”
“You should protect that throat of yours properly,” D-boy suggested, as he ran his eyes down to study his neck. “Chamomile tea with honey. It’ll get you back to singing in no time, and send you off to sleep too.”
“Oh yeah? I’ll give it a shot, thanks,” Jimin said, quickly sipping at his drink to wet his throat and to stop it from itching.
“Don’t mess around with that shit, care for your throat,” he said, his eyes still intently staring at the neck as he fiddled with his pen. “If you don’t, you could permanently fuck it up, Jimin. You ain’t gonna get a stronger throat by damaging it, yeah? You get a stronger throat by taking care of it.”
“Chamomile and honey, got it,” Jimin repeated with a soft smile, placing his glass down and licking at his wet lips. “Is that a favourite of yours, huh?”
“I don’t sing,” D-boy retorted, his lips lifting at the corners in a wry smile. “I don’t need it, but I still drink it every now and again, just for the hell of it. All for the honey, I’d drink anything with honey. Even poison, probably.”
“Don’t you mean soju?” he joked, running his fingers up the side of his glass to feel the beads of condensation against his fingertips.
This made D-boy snort softly under his breath, holding his gaze for a few seconds before looking off across the club. Then his focus went straight back to his notebook. Though he had his pen in hand, he made no move to jot anything down, and Jimin wondered if he might have caught him at a bad time, if he might just in fact be disturbing him.
But D-boy had asked that he come back to Flow (even when he hadn’t specified what for exactly). So, Jimin assumed that must not be the case.
After a moment, D-boy moved to hover his pen over the page. When Jimin looked up, he saw that he had closed his eyes in concentration. The lighting in the booth area was purely blue, a deep neon blue that was much less taxing on the eyes than the red of the stage. It washed over his skin, adding a hint of colour that he didn’t seem to wear often, judging from his predominantly black and white clothing.
Jimin studied his face for a moment before looking down at the notebook again. He couldn’t help but wonder if the lyrics inside his notebook were like his musings on his Twitter; if they were deep reflections on life and dreams, hope and strength, or if they were like the kind of expected lyrics that every other guy in this place would think was good. The performance from last night had most certainly not been expected, for though it had been foul-mouthed and had contained a lot of English, the quality had just been…different to Jimin.
Jimin was still trying to figure out the different part because he had only witnessed one such example of his lyrics and stage presence. But he was willing to bet that D-boy was going to reveal a great many other surprises about himself…should they carry on talking with each other over beers, that was.
“I, uh, I’m just tryna get this one line down,” D-boy said suddenly, catching him by surprise and dragging him out of his musings. “It’s like…I got it up here, it’s just floating around and waiting for me to grab hold of it. Y’know?”
“Hmm,” Jimin hummed in agreement, even when he didn’t know because he hadn’t penned a single lyric in his entire life.
D-boy sighed heavily, reaching up to scratch at his beanie before resting his head in his free hand; his fingers curling over his brow as if he was nursing an oncoming headache. Even in the blue lighting, which was deep enough to obscure most things, Jimin could see that he looked tired, and couldn’t help but wonder how much the other man actually slept, considering how busy he seemed to be.
“Why don’t you hit me with it, huh?” Jimin suggested, cocking his head so that his earrings dangled ever so slightly.
At this, D-boy rolled his eyes up to look at him, his expression hard to read. All that Jimin could do was wriggle his eyebrows and give him a cocky twist at the corners of the lips, hoping to look like he knew what he was doing. In reality, he had no clue, and he could probably tell from a single glance at his face.
“…Not just yet, I know that I got it,” D-boy said, moving his pen away from the page and bringing it up to his lips to restlessly tap it there. “I know I got it, but…if I can’t find it, I’ll ask you first. Yeah? You’ve got an ear for English, after all.”
“I do,” Jimin shamelessly bragged, grabbing his glass to take another quick sip of his drink. “Actually, I-”
Before Jimin could finish talking, the music dropped suddenly in volume and caught him by complete surprise. He actually froze up for a second before he recalled that this was what happened when someone took to the stage for a performance.
Jimin twisted to look back over his shoulder just in time to see a woman getting up onto the low stage. She was only short, looked like a kid with her dyed blonde hair pulled up into two high ponytails, and she was dressed in a massive baseball jacket and loose jeans. He watched her retrieving the microphone, and then he turned back to D-boy.
“Do you know her?”
“Know her? No, not personally,” he replied with a soft shrug. “I think I’ve seen her hanging around here for a few nights though. So, she probably decided to hit the stage tonight after plucking up the courage. A lot of the kids do that.”
Across the club, the young rapper was introducing herself as ‘Lizzy’. Her voice just added to the sense of immaturity, for it was still rather squeaky. She was also listing various forms of social media too, clearly hoping to gain some followers during her brief performance.
“She’s not getting a lot of attention,” Jimin remarked, eyeing the rather pitiful amount of people lingering around the stage pit. “Does this happen a lot?”
“I produce a lot for the girls in my crew, they need all the help they can get, and by that I don’t mean that they can’t keep up. I mean that the guys don’t want ‘em to keep up,” D-boy replied, dragging his eyes away from the stage to hold his gaze. “It’s the scene, Jimin. The scene embraces culture that ain’t our own but struggles to bend the rules and accept the unaccepted, like female rappers, like…different people.”
Jimin thought this over for a moment, sliding his gaze over to look at her. He noticed that she had a decent amount of guys hanging around the stage, but it was a small gaggle of women that were actually cheering to hype her up before she started rapping. It seemed that most of the guys were just there to ogle her, rather than listen to her performance.
“Who’s in your crew? You said that you were in Outsider Network, right?” he asked, just as the beat dropped across the club.
“Yeah, that’s my crew. There’s ten of us, including me. Kimmy, Yeesun, Sa Rang, and Queen Bae are the girls; you’ll notice that they almost make up half of the crew.”
“I did notice,” Jimin said, painfully playing dumb because he was already more than aware of the female rappers in his crew.
“The guys: Jay-Jay, Kream, O-yong, Yakuzah - he’s Japanese, and he spits both languages pretty fucking fast. Lastly, there’s RM. He joined us recently after breaking away from Murda Crew. He ain’t opened up on what exactly caused him to switch up crews like that, but it seems that he really hates a couple of the guys.”
“I’d leave Murda Crew too, shit, I wouldn’t even join it in the first place,” Jimin muttered, making the other man snort loudly before he focused on his attention onto the stage.
“‘L-I-Z-Z-Y’,” Lizzy rapped, her voice nasally but surprisingly not irritating to listen to. “That’s my name, now remember it, ‘cos I’m not just any bitch.”
Jimin knew that he should have paid attention to her, but he found his gaze shifting to look over at D-boy instead, to gauge his reactions as he watched her. He saw that he was intently looking at the stage, his brow occasionally twitching after certain lines, which might have been appreciative or outward groans - he couldn’t tell at all. It was so hard to read his face, especially in the deep blue lighting. But he did notice that his pen was softly tapping in beat with the track as Lizzy rapped, which showed a possible chance of interest.
Lizzy ended up staging a brief performance indeed, for she only dropped a short verse and hook, just for the hell of it. Jimin had a feeling that she might just have thought it up over the last few nights in the hip hop club. It was met with a polite amount of cheering and clapping, but a noticeable amount less than D-boy’s powerful performance last night.
Jimin saw her getting off the stage, the music resuming at the same high level of volume, and she quickly disappeared into the crowd of bodies just like everyone else. Yet, D-boy got up off his seat to get upright, actually waving his arm to try and catch her attention. He was pretty sure that the other man wasn’t going to be noticed, but it just so happened that she was on her way out of the club, so she caught sight of him and quickly moved to get to their booth table.
“What’s your name again? Lizzy?” D-boy asked, as he shifted to sit down again.
“You make those beats yourself, huh?”
“Yeah, I did,” she said with a vigorous nod, her ponytails dancing from the movement. “I, um, I only just started playing around between classes for fun, so, I’m still learning.”
“Goddamn, I’d still like to mix with those beats, practice beats or not. Alright, if you get your stuff together, Lizzy, and you wanna get in a crew to protect your interests and help you turn those rhymes into money-making lines, I can recommend you to my guy,” D-boy said, holding her gaze confidently and never once glancing down to check out her body when she was unaware. “Outsider Network, we represent guys and gals from outside of the big city, and I detect a little bit of Jeolla in that accent, right? Which region?”
“Jeollanam-do, you’ve got good ears. A guy in Beatsmash said that he wanted to check out my shit. But, if you have a card or something, that would be so cool,” she suggested, perhaps because she didn’t want to sound too eager right now. Judging from her expression, Jimin thought that she looked very eager. “It’s better to have a couple of options, right?”
“Exactly, don’t settle on the first offer.”
D-boy shoved his hand into his inner jacket pocket, pulling free a scrip of matte black card emblazoned with silver and red characters, which he then presented to her.
“Trust me, Jay-Jay’s good. You’d be smart to give him a call and quote me - D-boy. Our girls could always do with another. Shit, we’ll be able to start our own all-star hip hop girl group if we get another one on-board. Beatsmash ain’t got a single female MC in their crew, so, think about that. Yeah, Lizzy?”
“OK, sure, thanks,” she said, as she quickly checked the card. “I’ll definitely consider calling him, thank you.”
“What? Don’t you like Beatsmash?” Jimin asked, as soon as she was out of earshot of their conversation.
“They’re a bunch of wankers - she’ll change her mind about joining ‘em real quick,” D-boy retorted, grabbing his beer and taking a quick sip of it.
“You’ve got a thing for the ladies, huh?” Jimin joked with a lopsided smile. “Four women in your crew and you’re on the hunt for more.”
“It ain’t like that, Jimin,” he stated with a staunch head shake. “I protect the girls, they protect me. We’ve got a good thing going on. They get a lot of benefits from what I offer, and I don’t charge ‘em more than the price of cup of coffee when we meet up. When they start making real money on the singles, I’ll take a nice cut off the credits I’ve earned and pay ‘em back for all of those coffees, and then some.”
“They protect you?” Jimin repeated in a quiet voice, wondering what exactly he meant by that.
D-boy just swigged at his beer and ran his eyes across the club, so he took this as a discreet hint to not press any further right now. It was as he was moving to place the bottle down on the table that Jimin caught sight of his watch, and a sudden thought jolted into his mind.
“What time’s it right now?”
“Huh? It’s…” D-boy lifted his wrist to eye the face of his watch, squinting for a moment. “It’s right about midnight. Why’d you ask?”
“Wait, I wanna show you something,” he said, grabbing his phone and sliding along the booth bench to get closer to him. He quickly unlocked it with his thumb, opening Naver without much thought at all. “Guess what’s about to drop in- oh, uh…”
Jimin could only let out a sheepish laugh at this because he was so flustered by the sight of the other man’s Twitter profile still on his phone screen. He had been meaning to show him Killuh’s tweet, the one about the song dropping at midnight, but he had forgotten about the fact that he had left D-boy’s profile open when he had last used the app, and now they were both staring at it dumbly.
“I, um, I thought that I was…” Jimin trailed off at this, lifting his phone to open Killuh’s profile instead and scrolling down just in time to see that the rapper had tweeted various links to download and streaming websites for fans to use, along with an apparent music video that he had had no clue about. “I was gonna show you this.”
When he turned the screen back to him, D-boy studied it for a moment before glancing up at him again. Jimin tried to hold his gaze, but he found it rather hard to do because he had accidentally shown the other man that he had been looking at his Twitter at some point. It was nothing to be embarrassed about, really, but he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of embarrassment anyway. Maybe, it was because he was convinced that D-boy would somehow figure out that he had been creeping on it for way too long, that he had spent more time looking at his photographs than his actual tweets.
D-boy moved to grab his own phone, slipping a Samsung model free from his jeans pocket so that he could hold it in both hands and hit the screen with his thumbs.
“Shit, I can’t believe that I’m opening Killuh’s fucking Twitter right now,” he muttered under his breath, sparing a quick look up at him. “D’you have Twitter?”
“Um, no, I don’t have Twitter, but I’ve got Instagram,” Jimin explained, as he watched him rapidly typing on his screen. “I’m a much more…visual person, in that sense.”
“Jimin, if you’re featuring on songs, you’ve gotta have a better online presence,” D-boy remarked, lowering his phone to stare at him in disbelief. His mouth was actually set in a soft ‘o’ of surprise, and Jimin tried to think of something to say in reply to this that made sense.
“Well, I just-” he placed his phone down to free up his hands, his fingers instinctively finding his thumb ring so that he could give it a series of twists. “I didn’t want one when I was still performing at clubs like this because I was scared that I might not be able to hype up an image for myself. So, I didn’t make one. But now…now, I probably should, right?”
“You should set one up, tonight, follow Killuh and mention him in a tweet. Drum up your fucking image, Jimin,” D-boy said, reaching over to snatch his phone off the table. “C’mon, let’s do it right now, let’s get a photo of you.”
“I’m gonna help you create your Twitter, Jimin, so, I gotta get a photo of you right now,” he explained, opening the camera without needing his passcode and holding the device up in front of him.
Jimin moved to sit on the other side of the table, just to create a little room so that D-boy could rest his elbows on the table to steady the camera better.
“Get the booze outta the shot,” D-boy said, waving his hand quickly before taking hold of the phone again to steady it. He quickly moved his beer and coke out of the way and shifted on the bench. “There, that’s better.”
“Wait, how should I pose?” he asked suddenly, realising that he was so woefully unprepared for this. “Wait, give me a second.”
Jimin reached up to check his hair, feeling the usual loose locks falling over his brow like always. He moved to brush them back, sparing a quick look across the club to see that a couple of guys from the crew sofas were looking at them.
“Wait, do that, that hair thing,” D-boy suggested, lowering his phone to look at him. “Uh, you could look at the camera, or look away. It looks casual but cool, y’know?”
“Casual but cool?” he repeated, pausing in the act of lowering his hand.
“Also, add the sunglasses. They, uh, they actually suit you,” D-boy added, staring at his phone screen rather than look at him. “I just joking before, yeah?”
Jimin retrieved his sunglasses from his parka pocket, shoving the tinted and thin wired object up his nose. Then he turned to glance across the club, raking his hair back with his fingers as he attempted to look like he didn’t know that D-boy was snapping photographs of him; that candid but highly stylised kind of photograph that so many amateur singers and models used for their display pictures. He felt a little bit stupid, but he just did the pose and then turned to glance back at the camera before dropping his hand again.
“OK? Did you get a good photo?”
“Yeah, I got about a dozen,” D-boy replied, rapidly typing on his phone. “What’s your passcode?”
Jimin gave him the four digits as he slipped his sunglasses down his nose to eye him over the tops of the frame. After a moment, the other man stopped typing.
“OK, I’m gonna set you up. But first, you gotta enter your private shit,” D-boy said, holding the phone out to him. “I downloaded the app for you, just sign up.”
Jimin accepted the phone from him, entering his name, phone number and a simple enough password to remember before taking a moment to try and think of an actual handle to use. After some hesitation, he settled on @jjimin95 because he thought that that was good enough. His phone buzzed at this because he had just received a confirmation email, so he quickly opened it and hit the link just for the sake for it - registering the account and completing the final step.
“You sign up?” D-boy asked him, lowering his bottle of beer and swallowing hard.
“Uhuh,” Jimin said, holding his phone out to him so that he could take it from him again. “I signed in on the app too, just for ease.”
D-boy put his iPhone down on the table for a moment, quickly unlocking his own device to hit the screen a few times. Jimin didn’t know what he was doing, but he saw that he glanced between the two phone screens before he started typing. Then he placed his Samsung down and collected his phone again, hitting the screen several times.
“I took a couple of snaps, so, if you wanna change it to one you like more later, go for it. I’ll just pick one for now and… ‘K, I’m gonna teach you a good trick now,” D-boy said, getting up off his seat to join him on the other side of the bench, making him shimmy closer to the wall for them to both fit on it. “You’re in Flow right now, so, mention this fact. Tag ‘em in the caption, and follow their account. Wait, I’ll follow it for you. After mentioning ‘em, maybe drop a tweet or two going on about how much you like the place, yeah? If you’re with people, always mention ‘em too.”
“OK,” Jimin said, watching him hitting the screen to upload two photographs onto his account and then rapidly typing a caption for the tweet. “This sounds a little complex right now, but-”
“Jimin, it ain’t complex, it’s simple,” D-boy interjected, looking up at him just as he finished captioning the image and posted it. “Look, singing’s complex, getting collabs with hot new rappers’ complex. Twitter? Fucking easy, yeah. Give it a day, you’ll be posting like a pro.”
This made Jimin smile as he looked down at the phone, seeing that Yoongi had indeed posted his first tweet for him, complete with a mention for the hip hop club, and he had followed two accounts already. He saw one follower, but he didn’t think that it was whoever managed the Flow account because it seemed way too fast for them to have followed him back.
“Also, move in close, we’re gonna get some photos together,” D-boy said, moving to grab his Samsung off the table. “This’ the trick for getting attention. If you meet someone, get a photo and a mention. I ain’t special, but you’re gonna bump into some rappers in clubs like these, Jimin, and you’re gonna want that attention.”
“What’re you talking about? You’re special,” Jimin said, opening his camera and sparing a quick look over at him. “So, those other rappers might be dropping shit right now. But they’re not teaching me how to use Twitter now, are they?”
D-boy didn’t reply to this, but Jimin was pretty certain that he saw a quick smile lighting up his features as he opened his own camera.
Like he had suggested, Jimin snapped several photographs of them together on his phone from a slightly upward angle. It was his usual angle of choice, and it allowed D-boy to slip into the frame in that somewhat awkward way of his; almost peeking around his shoulder so that he could reveal as much of his face as he wanted to.
As soon as he was done, D-boy held his own phone out at eye-level, and he needed to get closer to him and look down at the screen through his sunglasses.
Jimin didn’t smile fully, rather just quirked his lips ever so slightly in something that could have been a pout, or possibly a wry smile.
D-boy hesitated for a few seconds because his own face was displayed so brazenly, but he just settled on raising one eyebrow enticingly and shoving his tongue up against his inner cheek to distend it slightly; his expression cocky and somewhat challenging.
“Mention me, I’ll mention you,” he suggested, after he had finished taking a couple of photographs. “Show me y’know how to do that much, yeah?”
“OK,” Jimin mumbled, eyeing the screen for a second before hitting it with his thumbs.
It took him a minute to do so, for after picking two photographs that he liked from the several that he had taken, Jimin pondered on what exactly to caption them with. Satisfied that he had thought of something good, and that he had mentioned D-boy correctly, he posted the tweet and waited for him to see it on his feed.
Jimin quickly checked his own feed to see that D-boy had posted a single photograph of them, along with the caption: follow @jjimin95 for good music, good vibes and a good time. He liked it, and then decided to retweet it, just for the hell of it. It was a good tweet, and he did like the photograph too.
“‘Jimin and D-boy in the buh…building’,” D-boy said, reading his English caption aloud before snorting and tapping the screen several times. “Nice. What’re you gonna put in your bio, huh?”
“Yeah, your description,” D-boy explained, grabbing his beer so that he could knock back the remains. He swallowed hard and ran his tongue around his mouth, slightly furrowing his brow as he tried to think of something. “‘Park Jimin, singer, artist…trendsetter’.”
“Trendsetter? Oh, D-boy, don’t joke!” Jimin laughed, giving him a hard shove to the arm as he reached for his own drink.
D-boy guffawed at this, showcasing a rather sweet grin before he placed his bottle down and reached up to wipe at his mouth and hide it from view.
“How about…‘Park Jimin, singer, artist, in desperate need of collaborations and cash’?” Jimin suggested, earning himself a hard elbow dig from the rapper. “I’ll figure that part out; what next?”
“Uh, I’m gonna retweet Killuh’s tweets on your account, drop a mention at him and hope that he responds,” D-boy said, as he accepted his phone from him and started rapidly typing again. “I’ll follow him for you too, just for the sake of it. Just gimme a minute…”
Jimin finished his beer and coke whilst he let D-boy work on his profile, relishing the still cold liquid because it appeased his aching throat. He had been talking with him for longer than he had expected tonight, for D-boy was most certainly more talkative than yesterday. When he let out another sudden cough, it caught his attention.
“Uh, let’s get outta here and go somewhere that don’t stink of smoke and sweat; yeah?” D-boy suggested, giving him a soft shrug as if to emphasise that it was just a casual remark.
“Yeah, please,” Jimin groaned dramatically, getting off his booth seat and moving to grab his notebook and pen for him. He closed it over before he could complain about him peeking at it again, just so he could grab their phones and get off the bench too.
D-boy shoved his Samsung into his jeans pocket, so that he could resume working on his Twitter for him as he started moving for the club entrance. He didn’t look up once whilst he did so, but he managed to avoid walking into anyone, which Jimin thought was a miracle. He was smart enough to stop typing as he went up the steps though, just to save missing a step and rolling right back down them again.
Upon emerging from the club, Jimin followed him across the block. It was pretty obvious where the other man was headed, for they were heading straight for the 7-Eleven. D-boy was silent for the duration of the walk, though he did occasionally mumble to himself as he hit the phone screen with his thumbs. He was so busy that he didn’t even stop to retrieve a cigarette, and he just nibbled on his lower lip instead.
When they reached the 7-Eleven, D-boy paused for a moment by the ramp, quickly finishing whatever he was doing on his Twitter before looking up at him again. The exterior of the store was glowing from the entrance sign, throwing green and red light over his face and hands so that his rounded eyes almost glinted at him.
“Why exactly did you wanna come here, huh?” Jimin asked, glancing between the store window posters and the rapper.
“Hey, if your first feature dropped tonight then we gotta celebrate, right?” D-boy suggested with a smirk, moving to step onto the ramp to open the automatic doors. “What better way for two poor guys to celebrate than with cheap convenience store food? I’m calling tteokbokki, what about you?”
“I don’t know, there’s so many choices,” Jimin sarcastically remarked, as he followed him through the door.
Just like he had joked, D-boy went straight for a cup of instant tteokbokki, after he had greeted Miyoung, of course. He clearly knew the interior layout off by heart, for he didn’t even hesitate or stop to search for something.
Jimin wasn’t really hungry, and so he just grabbed a small packet of kimbap instead, following him over to the drinks aisle much like a puppy.
“Urgh, I know I probably shouldn’t…but-”
D-boy grabbed the can of iced coffee from the refrigerator to stare at it, almost as if he was an addict trying to fight the urge to take a hit. Judging from his tired eyes, he might just be hooked on the substance.
“If you’re gonna drink coffee, at least drink hot coffee,” Jimin suggested, running his eyes over the various colourful bottles of water, milk, energy drinks, coffee and teas in front of them both.
D-boy thought this over for a moment, and then he moved to place the iced coffee can back onto the shelf. He moved to grab an iced tea, flashing it at him with a quick grin because it was honey and citron. Jimin accepted it from him as he returned the grin, and then he crossed the store to get to the till. He was in the act of checking his pockets for cash to cover the costs when the other man stopped beside him and made a series of noises under his breath.
“No, this’ on me,” D-boy said, as he produced his card, which turned out to be a black card. “Oh, and Miyoung, add a store coffee too. I’ll make it in a sec, lemme pay first.”
“It’s OK, I’ve got change, I-”
“You can buy me a coffee as payback when your cash starts coming in from that feature; yeah?” he spoke over him, his eyes on the goods on the counter rather than holding his gaze.
As soon as the woman had hit several buttons on the till, D-boy scanned his card over the device and he entered his PIN to pay for them both.
Jimin couldn’t help but notice his Rolex, for a slight hint of the face slipped free as he hit the buttons. The watch, teamed with his black card, made him wonder just how much money D-boy was banking. He wasn’t going to ask him, of course, for that was a rude question. D-boy shoved his card back into his wallet, which went right into his back jeans pocket, and then he grabbed the goods to cross the store again and dump them down onto the counter.
First, D-boy dispensed the instant coffee into the little Styrofoam cup, mixing at it until it was stirred properly. Then he placed it down on the counter, suppressing a yawn as he did so and rubbing at his eyes roughly with the heel of his hand.
Jimin watched him messing around with the microwave, fiddling with the disposable wooden fork whilst he waited for the tteokbokki to cook. He stopped it to stir at the chunks of spicy rice cake for a few seconds before shoving it back inside of the microwave to blitz it again.
“Pulling an all-nighter?” Jimin asked, as he sat down on the stool beside him a minute later.
“Huh? Oh, no, no way in hell,” D-boy retorted before snorting hard. “I’m gonna sleep all day long and finish working on something for my crew.”
“Good, you look like you could do with some sleep - not being funny, just being honest,” he remarked, uncapping his iced tea to take a sip and sample it. He found it tart at first, but the sweetness of the honey settled on his tongue as he swallowed it.
“Yeah, well, rest is good but-”
“but it doesn’t pay the bills,” Jimin finished over him, earning himself a quick smile from him as he stabbed a chunk of the tteokbokki onto the fork and shoved it in his mouth.
“Hey, unlock this for me a sec, I forgot your passcode,” D-boy said around the chunk of food, as retrieved his phone again and held it out to him.
Jimin paused in the act of tearing open the packet of kimbap, accepting the phone to do so and wondering if he should ask him why he wanted to use it again. But it was probably related to Twitter, and so he just unlocked the phone and gave it back to him.
As he chewed the mouthful of kimbap, he saw that D-boy was slowly scrolling through something, his gaze focused on the screen in total concentration. The wooden fork was caught between his teeth, and he was nibbling on it.
When Jimin shifted to see what he was doing, he noticed that he was checking out his Instagram.
“Post some of these old photos on your Twitter, yeah? Do it over a couple of days, slowly build your account up,” D-boy suggested, slowly scrolling through his account to eye his photographs. “But build up a good presence, ‘K? You online is how most of your fans are going to think of you, and if you want ‘em to think that you’re different, don’t just turn your account into another knock-off rapper clone. Yeah?”
“Like your account?” he remarked, moving to grab a chunk of kimbap from the tray and shoving it into his mouth.
This made D-boy’s lips twitch around the fork, his eyes sliding away from the screen to study him for a moment before he resumed looking at his photographs.
“It’s certainly different, D-boy, I mean, you post important shit on there, not just the usual shit, you know? For every underground rapper dropping nonsense and flexing their so-called credentials, you’re tweeting about serious government matters, dropping stuff to remind your followers taking care of their health if they’re students and everything. I’m not that deep a thinker though, so, I don’t have a clue what I’m even gonna post on that thing. It’s one of the reasons why I never used to have one.”
“You ain’t an idol, you don’t gotta be squeaky clean. But if you look too dirty, real labels ain’t gonna want you on their payroll, trust me,” D-boy explained, moving to stab at another chunk of tteokbokki. “Rappers can do whatever they want, but a singer, a singer that’s serious about making it? You need to impress ‘em. You’ve gotta play it safe, Jimin, alright?”
“OK, so, no booze and no drunk tweets then,” Jimin remarked, as he swallowed the kimbap and gave him a quick smirk.
“Hell no,” he explained with a quick laugh. “Like I said, just try and stay clean, and it’ll help you; yeah? Tweet about things that inspire you, be it music, fashion, whatever, and from that point just…I dunno, you’ll figure that part out on your own.”
“Thanks, man, you actually gave me a lot of good advice,” Jimin said, accepting his phone back from him and placing it down on the counter. “That isn’t a joke by the way, I’m being serious.”
“Yeah, I know. When you’re tryna be funny, you pull this face, this cocky smirk,” D-boy pointed out, as he stirred at the chunks of sauce-covered rice cakes. “It’s so annoying.”
“What? You mean…this one?” he said, turning to flash him his cockiest grin as he eyed him over the tops of his sunglasses.
D-boy groaned at this, reaching up to wipe at the corner of his mouth with his thumb to clean away a blob of sauce. He quickly sucked it free and then he dropped the wooden fork into the cup.
“Hang on, I gotta smoke,” he muttered, as he grabbed his coffee and climbed off the stool.
Jimin watched him exiting the store as he lifted up his bottle of iced tea for a quick sip, catching sight of Miyoung looking over at them before she continued brushing up the flooring around the counter.
D-boy stuck close to the front of the store, hunkering down to place his coffee on the pavement so that he could quickly spark a light. Then he retrieved the container and straightened up again. He could almost hear the soft grunt that he would have made doing so, followed by the weary sighs as he exhaled his first lungful of smoke.
Whilst he was distracted, Jimin grabbed the wooden fork and to steal one of his chunks of tteokbokki, just for the hell of it. He cheeked the spicy bite of rice cake as he watched the other man dabbing ash onto the pavement. It was hot enough to almost burn his tongue, which he supposed was karma for stealing the chunk like that.
Jimin grabbed his phone off the counter, holding it up in front of him to try and catch a quick snapshot of D-boy lurking underneath the glowing red and green store light; a furl of smoke hanging around his head like breath on a cold winter’s day. He was pretty certain that the other man was oblivious to him, for when he moved away from the doorway for a moment to pace up and down, his eyes looked to be half-lidded and his gaze was running down the sidewalk rather than looking through the wall of windows.
D-boy entered the store as soon as his cigarette was nothing more than a filter, which he dropped into the store bin with his Styrofoam cup rather than carelessly toss into the gutters.
Jimin had since stopped trying to snap photographs of him, and he tried to look completely innocent even when that was a rather hard thing for him to do.
“You think I didn’t see you grabbing that bite when I was outside, huh?” D-boy said, as he moved to grab the wooden fork from the food cup. “I saw you, Jimin, and you’ve got sauce all over your mouth.”
“Huh?” Jimin hummed, reaching up to touch his mouth. “No, I don’t, I-”
“If you didn’t eat it, why’d you check your mouth?” he interjected, looking down at him with a knowing expression and pointing the fork at him menacingly.
Unsurprisingly, Jimin had nothing to say in reply to this. After a few seconds, he could feel his lips twitching at the corners as he tried to not laugh. Goddamn, he had the worst poker face, and D-boy was more than aware of this fact apparently.
D-boy couldn’t help but let out a snort, his own expression shifting as he moved to stab at the tteokbokki and shoved a piece into his mouth.
“You want another bite?” D-boy said around the mouthful, stabbing a chunk and holding it out to him in offering.
Jimin moved to accept the bite off the fork, pulling the rice cake free with his teeth and cheeking it as he reached up to wipe at his lips with his thumb.
D-boy looked down at him whilst he did so, his tongue slipping free to lick at his lips before his gaze moved to stare out of the store window. Then he dropped back down onto the stool, sniffing hard and roughly rubbing at his nose like usual.
When he offered him a chunk of kimbap, D-boy went to take it from him with his mouth but then he hesitated, reaching up to take hold of it with his own fingers instead. Jimin noticed the rather obvious hesitation, for it had been almost like a flinch, but he decided to not comment on it for the other man’s sake.
“Hey, uh, I know that we follow each other on Twitter, but, uh, d’you wanna maybe…exchange numbers or Kakao or something?” D-boy suddenly mumbled, catching him by surprise.
“I mean, it’s just ‘cos it’s easier, y’know, and you dunno about DMs yet, so-”
“D-boy, you don’t need to explain,” Jimin spoke over him, unlocking his phone with his thumb so that he could open his Kakaotalk app. “Friends share numbers and shit, right?”
“D’you think we’re friends?” D-boy asked, as he slipped his own phone free from his jeans.
“Well, if we’re not friends yet, we’re getting there. Yeah?” he suggested with a soft shrug. “I think that you share drinks and food with friends, and friends most certainly teach each other how to use Twitter, right?”
“Yeah, I think so too…” he said in a soft voice, holding his phone out and giving it a series of shakes.
Jimin gave his phone a quick shake to enable the search function, and a moment later, D-boy appeared on his screen. He clicked on the name so that he could accept him as a friend, seeing him also doing so out of the corner of his eye.
“There, now we’re officially friends,” Jimin declared with a soft smile. “ Kakao says so.”
When Jimin next entered Flow, it had been two entire nights since he had last seen D-boy, on account of the fact that they had both been too busy working to go to the club. Stepping back inside the club after a couple of nights, he was so painfully aware of how deafeningly loud the music that they played in here was, coupled with the intense lighting. But at least his ‘casual but cool’ sunglasses blocked most of that out as he crossed the floor in the direction of the bar counter.
It was funny, Jimin thought, that he already knew that he would find the other man sitting at the counter, probably with his notebook and a single beer at hand; undoubtedly wearing a beanie hat. They had only spent time together over the duration of two nights, but he already knew that D-boy would be there instead of sitting in a booth, or hanging with some random crew members across the club. The rapper seemed reliable like that, seemed to be the kind to meticulously follow his habits.
Jimin had received his first message from D-boy in the late afternoon hours the following day after exchanging contact information. It had simply read: “can’t come to the club tonight, real busy on a track. Sorry. But I’ll make it up to you with more beer and cokes yeah? :)”.
Through a series of back and forth messages that same night, Jimin had discovered that D-boy had been mixing up a track for one of his crew members, for none other than the mysterious newcomer RM. He had recalled the fact that the guy had left Murda Crew to join Outsider Network, and he had wondered on the chances of this causing drama between the two opposing crews. But he had since decided that D-boy wouldn’t have willingly gotten involved in something that might have caused too much trouble, for he didn’t seem very fond of it.
Jimin had wished him luck with the mixing and had told him to be sure to not work all night long, and then he had spent his own evening posting random things on Twitter and streaming Killuh’s track on both Melon and YouTube, just for the sake of it. Just to try and keep it in the charts because it had appeared in various online music charts overnight, much to his genuine shock.
In his experimental attempts at tweeting solo, Jimin had discovered that D-boy had been his very first follower, followed by a random mixture of young girls and boys that he assumed must have been some of his followers that had seen his tweet about him. Then Killuh had decided to follow him back too, and had tweeted at him to thank him for his collaboration and to brag about how the track was charting. Seeing his enthusiasm had made Jimin feel a burst of confidence about the potential success of the song, and his chances at maybe clinching another feature, even though he hadn’t wanted to get his hopes up too high that night.
Jimin had stuck to tweeting things to give followers and potential company representatives an idea about the kind of singer - and person - that he was. That had meant searching through his camera reel to find photographs like what D-boy had told him about, ones that made him look clean but interesting. He had posted a random assortment of them so far over the last two days; alongside a few tweets. His profile was pretty small, but he still felt great relief when someone liked or retweeted his tweets, even when it had tended to mostly be D-boy that had done so.
Friends shared KakaoTalk information, and they also liked every single selfie too, it would seem.
Something that had surprised him was the fact that Bullseye had also followed him, and had actually tweeted about him very positively. From that point, several smaller companies that the producer had connections to had followed him on their official company accounts, but they had yet to message him any offers for signing contracts or anything like that.
Until last night, that was.
When Jimin had opened his Twitter the following morning, he had not expected to see a DM from a representative of the company Moon Media, who had had an offer that had numbed him to his very core.
Jimin had known of the company, of course, for they were a great starter company for artists that were finding their foothold in the industry, and looked or sounded good enough to be considered for an actual contract with larger entertainment companies. They were for the artists considered alternative to the mainstream flood of idol music: from folk and rock, to soul and jazz and r’n’b. Not only were they the kind of company that a newcomer like him desperately needed, they also had one of his favourite upcoming new singers signed to the label, a smooth r’n’b singer who went by the artistic pseudonym of ‘Andre’.
The offer that had been presented to him?
Apparently, none other than Andre himself wanted him to feature on his upcoming single that was set to drop in just under a month. According to the representative, the singer had heard his voice playing on the radio and had decided that he wanted him down on the track because he had the perfect ‘sound’ for him, and she had searched andluckily found his profile through Killuh’s tweets.
Not only had he been personally requested by Andre to feature on his single, to sing with him, the company were considering signing him on what they called a ‘developmental deal’, should it work out favourably for them.
When Jimin had finished reading the message, he had placed his phone down on his pillow and had stared at it dumbly for quite some time. Then he had snatched it up and had hastily replied to the DM, providing his contact details so that she had been able to forward him more information on the matter. Through several phone calls to her, he had arranged a meeting that he had went to just this morning in the company building across the capital.
Jimin had messaged D-boy shortly after this exchange of information to let him know that he had been unable to go to the club that night because he had needed to rest in preparation for the morning meeting. He had sent him the brief message: “I can’t show tonight either but tomorrow night? I think I’ve some great news to share with u?”.
Roughly an hour later, D-boy had replied back to him with a rather enthusiastic message: “Great news? Why not tell me now? Why make me wait???!!!”.
But Jimin had since decided that he wanted to tell him in person, face-to-face, rather than over the messaging app. He wanted to see the look of surprise on his face when he told him about the new feature and potential contract, and he also wanted him to buy him a drink in celebration, and maybe even give him a sharp dig in the ribs with his elbow too.
Jimin had kept it secret from D-boy and had went to the meeting this morning, so filled with nerves that he had sucked and crunched his way through what must have been a dozen lollipops in the hopes of not freaking out on the subway ride and brief wait inside of the company building. But the meeting had been incredibly casual, with the representative, Sooah, just wanting to discuss the feature with him over some coffee and papers.
Sooah had explained to him that he would be paid for the feature, and that he would receive a small percentage of the profits from the play and streaming rights. She had specified that the money wouldn’t be ‘bank breaking’, but Jimin hadn’t cared about that fact too much. He had told her that featuring on the single and establishing himself as an artist was his current priority, and Sooah had voiced great respect for his drive and dedication as he had signed a form agreeing to give the company permission to feature his voice on their copyrighted material.
That was it, he was going to feature on the song, and the recording process was set to start tomorrow afternoon.
As expected, when he drew closer to the bar, D-boy was sitting at the end of the counter with his trusty notebook and his spinning pen in hand. There was a Hite beer to the side, and as Jimin moved to stop beside him and leaned his weight onto the wood, he moved to jot something down.
“D-boy, I think that some of your fans are following me,” Jimin said as an icebreaker line, making the other man look up sharply at his voice. “How sweet of them.”
“You’re welcome,” D-boy replied, flashing him a quick smile as he carried on writing in his notebook. “Guess what?”
“Hmm, what?” Jimin hummed, still leaning close to him rather than sit on the stool.
“I just finally thought of that line. The one that I was tryna figure out that night,” he man said, as he finished scrawling characters on the page. “You offered to help, but I said that I’d get it outta my brain eventually.”
“Congratulations. Are you gonna tell me the line?”
“Nope, it’s a secret. Everything in this notebook’s a secret, remember? Now…are you gonna tell me that good news yet? Or, do I gotta beg?” D-boy said, shifting to fold his elbows on the counter and cocking his head at him.
Jimin studied his face for a moment before reaching up to tug his sunglasses free and shoving them into his parka pocket. When he raked his fingers through his gelled hair, D-boy watched him doing so intently. But when they made eye-contact, he quickly glanced over at the pink glowing bar display instead, in that somewhat flighty habit of his.
“Straight to the point, huh?” Jimin asked, also glancing along the bar to see that Kisum was shaking up cocktails with speed and efficiency.
“Y’know it,” D-boy agreed with a soft nod. “I’ve been tryna figure it out since last night. I checked Twitter, I saw that the track was still charting strong, which means that it could complete a full first week on the charts if people keep buying and streaming it for a couple more days. But I thought, nah, that’s good news, but it ain’t great news, and you said that it was great news. Then, I checked the YouTube views and thought the exact same thing, and nothing on your Twitter gave it away, man. What’s the great news? I’m almost sweating here in anticipation.”
“I…I got a new feature. Maybe, even a record deal, but I’m still working that part out,” Jimin explained in a quiet voice, turning his head to give him his full attention. “But basically, I signed a piece of paper this morning for the feature, and they’re ready to go with recording tomorrow.”
For a few seconds, D-boy just blankly stared at him, but then his face started to change. First, his mouth turned slack so that his lips turned into an ‘o’ of complete shock, and then his rounded eyes widened comically so. Jimin saw his lips twitching as he tried to think of something to say, and it took him a few seconds to finally find his voice and do so.
“No shit! Oh, my god!” D-boy declared in English, his fingers twitching to drop his pen. Then he moved to lift his hand, waving it at the bartender. “Kisum, two somaek, yeah!”
“Somaek? You and soju?” Kisum retorted from across the length of the bar, moving so that she could grab two tall glasses from the display. “Sounds like a bad idea to me, D-boy…”
“I’ve got a good reason to drink!” he retorted, as he settled back on his stool.
This made Jimin start laughing, reaching up to cover his mouth with his hand as the rapper tugged on his beanie hat, fidgeting in what looked like restless excitement. He could see that he was trying his very hardest to not grin too widely at this news, but he was failing spectacularly, and seeing his genuine happiness for him made Jimin feel a frothy feeling in his belly that he hadn’t felt in quite some time.
“For real, Jimin? You got another feature already? Who with? What company’s desperate to get you on a deal, huh?”
“It’s a surprise, I’m not telling you any of that until the single drops, just in case it doesn’t work out. I don’t wanna get too excited about this, in case I fuck it up,” Jimin said, as Kisum moved to place the two glasses of somaek down for them, the shot glasses floating in the golden mixture of beer and soju. “But, it’s good - also, the drinks are on me.”
“It’s good?” D-boy asked, letting him drop a bill on the counter rather than protest about paying. “What’s that mean, huh?”
“It means…it’s not a guy like Killuh. It’s a guy that I admire as an artist,” Jimin explained, watching the bartender retrieving the bill. “He’s also a singer, not a rapper.”
As soon as Kisum had moved away again, he grabbed his glass and held it out to the other man in offering, so D-boy lifted his own glass in return.
“So, here’s to not fucking it up,” Jimin declared, knocking their glasses together and making him smile. Then he lifted it to his lips and took a deep swig, swallowing hard and sniffing as he placed the glass down again.
“Goddamn, Jimin,” D-boy said in a quiet voice, which was almost lost under the pounding club music. He had only heard it because he was still standing close to him, still not sitting on the stool. “I told you that hyping yourself up was a good idea, and look at you now; bringing in more features already.”
“Thanks for helping me hype myself up,” he said, watching the other man swallowing a deep mouthful of his somaek, licking a hint of foam off his upper lip as he did so. “Without your advice and help, I’d have never set my account up, and the representative wouldn’t have tracked me down through Killuh’s tweets. I owe you, D-boy, and not just a single glass of somaek. I owe you a lot more than that.”
“Pft, it was nothing,” D-boy mumbled, waving his free hand as if to brush his words away. “You don’t need to thank me, and you don’t owe me anything either.”
Jimin watched him sipping at his somaek for a moment before shifting his gaze to look at the sofas across the club. D-boy was so busy working his way through his drink to even care, so he gave the other men a quick glance before looking back at him. They didn’t seem to be attracting too much attention tonight, and that meant that they could stay at the bar a little longer, maybe even have another round of drinks.
Hell, they could stare at them all they wanted tonight, and he wouldn’t give a fuck. Jimin was far too excited about the new feature to care for a bunch of wannabes possibly talking shit about him, whatever that even entailed. They could talk shit, but he was charting on the national music charts, unlike them, so, which one really deserved to be mocked?
Just thinking about this fact was enough to make him laugh under his breath in disbelief, catching D-boy’s attention.
“Mmm?” he hummed, as he lowered his glass, his eyes round with interest.
“Nothing, it’s just…I sang on a song that’s on the top charts right now, D-boy,” Jimin explained in a quiet voice, intently studying the floating shot glass in his own serving of somaek. “That’s something that I’m still struggling to process, you know? It’s, like, hard to explain my emotions right now.”
“Then don’t,” D-boy suggested with a shrug. “Don’t explain ‘em, just enjoy ‘em whilst they last, yeah? Good feelings never last too long, so, you’ve gotta enjoy ‘em as much as you can.”
“Oh, I’m enjoying them alright,” Jimin replied with a soft smile. “I should’ve toasted to good feelings instead, right?”
“To good feelings,” the other man declared, holding his half-empty glass out to him to clink it with his own. “To another song charting in the music charts and-”
“I don’t think you’re supposed to toast this many times,” he joked, lifting his glass to his lips as D-boy snorted under his breath.
Jimin had just swallowed his second mouthful of somaek when the song on the system switched, and he heard a very familiar keyboard sounding from the speakers, quickly followed by a beat that made him gasp.
Jimin couldn’t help but let out an embarrassed laugh when he heard the opening lines of ‘Feeling Your Body’ playing from the sound system because it caught him by complete surprise. It was even more surprising when he saw that a lot of the women in the club moved to the pit in front of the stage, their arms softly swinging and hips swaying because they wanted to dance to the track with their friends.
“It’s the song,” he remarked, reaching up to fiddle with his earring with a rather sheepish smile. “The Killuh track.”
“I know; I bought the track that night we were at the convenience store, and I’ve listened to it a lot. It’s good, it’s a good track, Jimin,” D-boy said, staring down at his drink rather than hold his gaze, which was a sure-kill sign that he wasn’t being completely genuine with him.
“You look like you’ve got something to say,” Jimin remarked, as he studied him. “Is it about the track? Be honest. You can tell me, I don’t mind at all.”
D-boy looked between him and his drink for a moment before sighing heavily. He lifted his glass and drained the remains in several deep gulps, letting his breath out in a soft hiss at the slight burn of the soju. Killuh’s monotonous voice was still coming from the speakers, but his hook was going to drop any moment from now to liven things up.
“‘K, I hate everything about this track except for you,” D-boy stated honestly, placing his empty glass down hard on the counter. “Jimin, you make this track good, y’know? Killuh doesn’t deserve to have you on a track, and that’s the truth. He ain’t got an inch of talent, not even in his dick, alright?”
Jimin held his gaze at this, refusing to look away once as he explained his thoughts to him. D-boy was being completely honest with him, and he could see that he was a little bit anxious whilst doing so, likely because he was scared that he might upset him with his words. He could tell in the way that he scratched at his beanie hat and restlessly fiddled with his pen.
“I’ve got this track on my phone, and y’know what I did? I edited his fucking rapping out on my computer and I kept only your voice in the track with the instruments, ‘cos that’s all I wanna listen to.”
D-boy dropped his pen onto his notebook with a weary sigh, reaching up to cup his brow in his hand as he stared at the spread pages. It seemed that he had gotten everything off his chest, and he might just be regretting this fact right now.
“Thank you for your honesty, D-boy,” Jimin said, breaking the momentary silence between them both. “I’m…relieved that you didn’t turn around and tell me that I can’t sing and that I ruined the song-”
“No way in hell could you’ve ruined that hook,” he interjected. “Not with that voice, goddamn. It’s so smooth, Jimin, I-”
When the hook dropped, D-boy stopped talking so that they could both listen to the song.
Jimin found it so strange hearing his voice playing back to him because it didn’t really seem like it was his voice to him. D-boy closed his eyes as he listened to him singing, his lips moving to mime along to the lyrics and revealing that he really had been listening to it a lot. When the hook was finished, he opened them again to hold his gaze.
“I wanna pen a track just for your voice, I like it that much,” D-boy continued. “It’s like…I dunno, I can’t explain it, it’s just…I feel like I just gotta do it, y’know?”
“What? You…you wanna work with me?” Jimin asked, unable to keep his expression neutral even when he wanted to. “Did you just kinda drop a hint that you wanna work with me, D-boy?”
“Yeah, if you wanna. I mean, I ain’t saying that I won’t beg you, but I’m asking that you don’t make me do that; yeah?”
“Don’t get me wrong, D-boy, I like you. You’re amazing onstage, your lyrics and style is the kind that I personally like the most. You’ve got an old skool heart and mind, but you’re smart enough to be contemporary when you have to be. But…why me? Why do you wanna work with me when I’m not in your crew, or even an established singer yet?”
“Well, Jimin, I…I, uh, like you too,” he replied with a soft shrug, his eyes staring down at his empty glass. “You’ve got the exact voice that I want on a track, or tracks, should I be blessed enough to hit the mark with the first attempt.”
“Tracks?” he repeated, before laughing softly at this sudden streak of cockiness that D-boy had just revealed. “I’m sorry, are we making tracks together now?”
“Yeah, y’know, if you and me can make a killer track without Killuh…”
“Oh, D-boy, I like that sharp tongue of yours,” Jimin said, lifting his glass and pointing at him. A little somaek spilled onto the counter, but his napkin caught most of it.
“If we can do that,” D-boy continued with a lopsided smile, moving to dab up his spilled drink for him. “If we can make one great track, who’s to say that we can’t make more? Like, an entire single, or maybe a mini album? One or two duets, a solo track each, an instrumental - it’s possible, Jimin.”
“A solo track?” Jimin said in a soft voice, hovering his glass in front of his lips as he studied him.
The suggestion alone was enough to leave him stunned because it sounded so…unobtainable right now. Jimin was searching for features on songs, hoping to get a few together before he would have the strength to be able to maybe get a single of his own. Even then, he was likely looking at having someone feature to support it and garner him more attention. But D-boy was talking about giving him his own solo song, and that was something that made him feel a funny surge of excitement deep down in his gut.
“Are you on a label?”
“No, but I work with companies and artists, and I’ve got production, composition, mixing and lyric credits for dozens of tracks. They don’t sign me up to their payroll ‘cos they don’t like rappers, we’re…unpredictable.”
“With credits like that, you aren’t a rapper, you’re a musician, D-boy,” Jimin remarked, after swallowing a swig of his somaek.
“They’re the exact same thing to me, if the rapper ain’t a poser, that is.”
“If they aren’t Killuh, you mean?”
This remark made D-boy burst out laughing, reaching up to cover his mouth as he did so and throwing his head back. The sight and sound brought a grin to Jimin’s face, and before he could help it, he was laughing too. There was just something so giddy about this entire moment, that made him want to laugh until his eyes were streaming with tears and his cheeks and stomach hurt, even when he really didn’t understand why.
Jimin guessed that being told that he was a great singer, and hearing D-boy praising him over a guy like Killuh, was probably what made him feel so giddy. That, and the fact that the meeting this morning had went so well for him.
Goddamn, the entire day was turning out so good that he could hardly believe that this was reality. If he was really just dreaming right now, Jimin wouldn’t be surprised at all. He would rather stay asleep and feel this happy, than wake up and lose it.
“I’ve got demos on my computer, unfinished tracks just waiting for a voice like yours to grace ‘em. I’ve got my whole studio set-up too, but it’s in my apartment,” D-boy explained, no longer laughing but still smiling at him. “I, uh, I guess that what I’m saying is…d’you maybe wanna come back to my place and check my shit out?”
“…OK,” Jimin said, giving him a brief smile. “I think that we can review things back at your place; if you’re down for that tonight?”
“Fuck, I’m down,” D-boy agreed in English, a little hint of a slur in his words that signalled that the somaek might just have been added on top of a couple of beers and was starting to have an effect on him.
“Can I at least know your name now? After everything?” Jimin asked, as he placed his own empty glass down on the counter. “You know, so that I don’t have to call you D-boy all night long?”
“…Yoongi, you can call me Yoongi,” the other man said in a soft voice, which was almost lost under the pounding of the bass line and his own crooning voice coming from the speakers behind them.