Introducing DRIPPIN: K-pop’s Rising Act￼
The South Korean septet on artistic influences, working on their third EP Villain and overcoming challenges as a group
This story appears in Rolling Stone India’s K-Music Special Issue, on sale now. Buy your copy here.
Everything that could go wrong during a Zoom interview went wrong during my chat with K-pop boy group DRIPPIN. Power cut? Check. An impromptu software update? Check. Luckily, I was in conversation with one of the most considerate and cooperative bunch of artists who, despite the unforeseen technical glitches and a packed schedule, remained patient and enthusiastic.
Composed of Hyeop, Yunseong, Changuk, Dongyun, Minseo, Junho, and Alex, DRIPPIN made their debut amidst the COVID-19 pandemic on October 28th, 2020, with their first EP Boyager. Prior to their debut, six out of the seven members (Hyeop, Yunseong, Changuk, Dongyun, Minseo and Junho) were participants on Mnet’s boy group survival reality show Produce X 101. Alex, the group’s maknae (youngest member) was the last piece of the puzzle, training for just four months before joining the other members. As a 17-year-old, the Korean-German member sure does have a unique way of living and learning; “I get my inspiration whenever I look at the mirror while I shower. It’s when I think I’m at my coolest. It feels like I’m slowly finding out more about myself if I try out new things,” Alex chirps. “As expected from a teenager,” vocalist Hyeop laughs.
Like every fourth-generation group, DRIPPIN houses unmatched talent in every department. Be it rapping, vocals or performance, each member brings a mix of influences and unique perceptions, making DRIPPIN a must-have on playlists. With every EP and single released, or dance cover performed, the septet strives to embody the definition of their group’s name.
“The name ‘DRIPPIN’ in itself carries this ‘amazing,’ ‘handsome,’ and ‘cool’ kind of meaning. But we try to reflect this in our artistry through different means such as our outfits, concepts, music, music videos, and performances,” DRIPPIN’s vocalist Hyeop says. “However, we also keep challenging ourselves to try new things, so that we can be the ‘DRIPPIN’ that are at the forefront of being amazing, handsome, and cool.”
Right from their debut single “Nostalgia” up until now, the septet continues to exhibit captivating performances and abundant potential. Take their January 2022 single “Villain” for example. Tapping into their dark side, the group’s title track from their third EP saw them pump soaring levels of energy into their performance as well as the vocals. Helmed by an overarching groovy soundscape, “Villain” deploys funky electronic beats to narrate the story of an attraction so strong, it pushes a young man to give in to the villain inside him; “Baby, I got the power/ You’re so dazzling it blinds me (Hey, yeah)/ I’ll set your hеart on fire again today/ I’m the villain.”
“The usual process involves recording the song and then learning the choreography,” Hyeop explains about how the group approaches projects. “But since we’re trying out a cool and strong concept for ‘Villain,’ which is something new to us, we had to study a lot of performances from our sunbaes [Korean term referring to senior artists] that have a similarly strong and mature concept.” He continues, “As for the song recording process, we usually practice for a week after receiving the song and then we record it two times on average. For ‘Villain,’ rather than what we learned about our artistry, it was more a process of searching for what our artistry really was – like thinking about what facial expressions I should use, and what actions I do that would make my strong points stand out. It’s still an ongoing learning process.”
Another facet of preparation involves learning from senior acts in the industry. Hyeop reveals that the group intently watched Monsta X’s performance stages. “It’s not just Monsta X,” the vocalist confesses, “But they’re one of the many groups that we studied or chose as a reference for this comeback.” With a challenging concept such as “Villain,” Hyeop lets me in on his thought process during the preparation and the challenges he hoped to tackle with their comeback: “Rather than learning about our artistry, in order to do the concept, I thought very hard about how to manage my facial expressions, what kind of performance, what kind of character I should show or what fits me. This is still an ongoing learning process for me. “
Diving deeper into the making of the music video, rapper Dongyun talks about how CGI changed the whole game. “Our music video has a lot of CGI in it, but we had to shoot it with no graphics, so the filming process and the final outcome are entirely different,” the rapper elucidates. “My favorite scene would be the one where Minseo touched the window and then the stuntman on the other side collapsed after touching his hand since he has the superpower to control the weather. In the final version of the music video, they added a CGI where the stuntman got hit by lightning after touching Minseo’s hand. I think that part was particularly interesting.”
“For me,” Minseo continues, “When we were filming the music video, there was a scene where Yunseong hyung [Korean honorific referring to elder brother] was fighting with the villains while I was just lying down. The floor was all wet and cold, so I put some hot packs on my back, but that scene came out as is, so they weren’t able to use it. I’m really sorry. After that, I never put hot packs on my back anymore.”
Though a rookie group, shying away from a challenge does not exist in DRIPPIN’s universe. Be it a new concept or style, the group believes in embracing it now as opposed to setting it aside for a later stage in their career. “We like to challenge ourselves by trying out new things,” Dongyun reveals. “Our CEO is also the same, he’s always creative and likes to try out new things, that’s why we also keep taking on new concepts.” Though Minseo agrees taking up new challenges is a liberating experience, he confesses to feeling anxious at the beginning of a new project – a natural human instinct. “It’s nice to start new things, but it’s also a bit terrifying and we were worried about a lot of things. I think our main worry was how to make the concept our own.”
Their artistry, however, is not limited to their original tracks. Apart from their power-packed discography spanning three EPs, two singles (one of which marks their Japanese debut) and their 2021 single “Vertigo,” the group regularly covers songs by other popular groups such as NCT 127 and SHINee to name just a couple. While their catalog is primarily a celebration of fast-tempo melodies, with tracks such NCT 127’s English single “Highway To Heaven,” DRIPPIN demonstrates their chameleon-like traits. Matching the single’s chill-pop composition, the septet puts forth a breezy performance, nailing the original choreography.
With SHINee’s evergreen debut single “Replay” and deep-house perfection “View,” DRIPPIN exemplify a bright, joyful demeanor and whilst the original choreographies were curated keeping five members in mind, DRIPPIN ensures the added members from their end do not hinder the performance, as they effortlessly slip into the revamped positions and formations. Capturing the youthful energy of the tracks, we see the group employ mellow, relaxed expressions and body language as opposed to the slightly flirtatious expressions in “Highway To Heaven.” It is often said a dancer narrates a story through movements alone, and while this is true in DRIPPIN’s case, it’s crucial to note that the group has managed to master this trait in just two years.
In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India, DRIPPIN sits down with us to discuss their musical inspiration, tackling new projects and how they keep their creative locomotives well-oiled and running.
Before we begin, belated happy birthday, Dongyun! How did you celebrate your special day?
Dongyun: Even though our schedule was jam-packed that day, everyone wished me and I got a lot of cakes. In the evening, I also went live (on the South Korean broadcasting app Vlive) to celebrate with our fans. So, overall, it went really great.
In the second episode of the World Tour-India series, Hyeop mentions that DRIPPIN should visit Amber Palace to seek musical inspiration. This led me to wonder where the group usually seeks their musical inspiration from.
Changuk: I get inspiration mostly when I go for a walk, and just listen to music peacefully on my own.
Hyeop: I get a lot of inspiration whenever I hear about other peoples’ lives or experiences through YouTube, and other media channels like books, movies, or song lyrics. Looking at their experience and interpreting it, that’s when the inspiration comes in.
What motivated you to pursue a career as a musician? Were there any artists that heavily influenced your decisions?
Hyeop: In my case, music has always been my way of destressing ever since I was young regardless of what my issues were. I’m someone who has received healing through music; so ultimately, during senior high school, while agonizing over what I should do, I decided to pursue music. I want to heal others through music the same way I was also healed. As for other artists, the first time I was healed through music was thanks to the act called Frou Frou. Their song “Let Go” really gave me a lot of inspiration. That was my starting point.
Yunseong: As for me, there was one time in elementary school where I couldn’t sleep, so I went to the living room to watch TV. There was a performance by Michael Jackson and I saw how he got everyone excited with just his hand glove. He always did his best in every performance for his fans, and that was the first time that I thought to myself that I also want to be just like him.
Dongyun: Ever since I was little, I’ve always thought that bands are very cool, so I really liked Maroon 5 since then. Whenever I listen to them, I feel like they really have cool songs. That was the time that I was made aware of what musicians were.
DRIPPIN is rich in talent. You’ve got an incredible line-up of singers, rappers, and dancers too. Aside from this, what are some of the personality traits that help the group to function like a well-oiled machine?
Changuk: When we were trainees, and even now, after we’ve already debuted, we have this habit where we always gather to discuss even the most trivial things to resolve issues. I think that has made our teamwork stronger and special.
Dongyun: During fan signs, we treat DREAMIN [DRIPPIN’s fandom] very well, we do our best to remember each of them, ask them how they’ve been, and really cherish them. That’s why fans really love DRIPPIN a lot.
What does being in DRIPPIN mean to you? What is the common goal everyone is working towards?
Junho: For me, when DRIPPIN was first formed, of course, it was a job, but it’s so much more than that. It’s meeting the people who you will be with for the rest of your life, like another family. It’s having friends and a new family that you can trust and lean on, so I’m really glad about it. The members all think that having a united goal is the most important; so we regularly share our thoughts with each other about our teamwork or our future. We’re also always working hard on how to show more of our cool side as a group.
Minseo: Personally, my goal is that I want to see the members healthy just like now, and to keep doing this [job] for a long time. Moreover, I want us to get our first win on a music show.
Hyeop: I feel like all the members would agree that in order to make a group work, teamwork is vital. But aside from that, I also believe that individual growth is very important. So, in my case, I develop my strong points further, while at the same time working on what I think are my weaknesses. Little by little, combined, that synergy effect will shine a light. That way, our shared goal is also our individual goal.
How does the group stay creatively challenged? Are there any personal goals you’ve set for yourself?
Junho: In my opinion, which I think is the same as everyone else’s, it’s a never-ending process and there’s no ‘right answer.’ I think there won’t be a lot of people who will be satisfied, either, because the only way to do it is to keep working hard. The best part about this profession is that there are no limits, and there will be new things to try. We will always keep working hard, and we take pride in trying to learn a lot of new things to keep improving
Is there any track from your discography that you found particularly challenging to record at first, but were satisfied with when the finished record was ready?
Alex: I’ve never done a strong song like “Villain” before. After “Free Pass,” that was the first time we’ve done a strong song like that, so at that time, I was really worried about things like what facial expressions and gestures I should have. With the hyungs, we did some research, and after many tries, we eventually overcame it all together.
What seven tracks from your discography describe DRIPPIN the best?
Minseo: From our songs, I think “Switch” expresses DRIPPIN – powerful and refreshing. So my choice is “Switch.”
Junho: For me, it’s “Villain,” which we recently promoted. It’s a powerful concept, so I’m looking forward to how it will steer us towards our future concepts. We’re also still in the midst of promoting it, so I think “Villain” expresses us very well.
Yunseong: For me, it’s “Nostalgia.”. Aside from being our debut song, it’s also very refreshing and a heart-fluttering song. I think we also fit “Nostalgia” very well, just like seven princes when we were doing the performances.
Changuk: For me, I think it’s our second title track “Young Blood.” Matching DRIPPIN’s name, “Young Blood” powerfully shows our energy and passion.
Dongyun: I like the song “Overdrive” from our debut album. Even from the start, it shows overflowing energy, which expresses DRIPPIN very well.
Alex: For me, it’s “Vertigo” that matches DRIPPIN because it’s where we had the most changes [in concept].
Hyeop: I think the song “Stay” expresses DRIPPIN really well. It’s because one of our strengths is that we have a lot of songs across diverse genres and vibes. Moreover, this song also expresses the love between DRIPPIN and DREAMIN. Lastly, the song shows the warmth and fluffiness of DRIPPIN, that’s why it’s my choice.
I absolutely loved watching your World Tour series, especially the episodes dedicated to India! What were your favorite segments to shoot for from these episodes?
Changuk: That was the first time we were able to try legit Indian curry, and it was so much tastier than I’d expected. So, it was really memorable to me since I really enjoyed this delicious meal that time.
Minseo: There was this segment where we had to pick a travel destination in India, so I found out about all the places to see and as well as the many festivals, so it really left an impression on me and made me want to go there.
Do you have a message for your Indian fans?
Dongyun: Thank you very much for knowing all about DRIPPIN, always loving us, and cheering us on even from far away. Once the pandemic is over, we will go to India right away to meet you, so please look forward to it. I hope that you keep on supporting us in the future, too. Love you!
Hyeop: We haven’t been to India yet, but through the contents that we’ve been making, we were able to experience and know a lot about the country, which has sparked more of our interest. It’s one of the countries that we would really love to visit, so once the opportunity arises, soon hopefully, we will definitely go there. Until then, I hope that you wait a bit more. We will run to you as soon as we can, so please look forward to it. Love you and thank you!