Dumbfoundead is a Korean born, American-raised artist with a self-described ‘unconventional approach’ to his music, as his hip-hop sound draws from many genres and non-musical experiences. Check out our interview with the artist in which he discusses his behind-the-scenes approach to marketing and fan engagement, his collaborative process, and his thoughts on how “Gangnam Style” has influenced Korean music and artists.
Without using ‘conventional’ genre words, describe your sound.
I’d describe my music as raw. Although my sound has certainly evolved to become a little more refined these days, I still think that you can hear a bit of an unconventional approach in my music. I’ve been fully emerged in the underground hip-hop and battle scene, but I got to recording songs very late in life compared to some of my peers. Thus my sound is a bit different from what others might normally expect to hear from a rapper. I feel comfortable taking influences from indie rock, pop, reggae, EDM or whatever genre.
Your new album Take the Stares features many collaborating artists like David Choi and Breezy Lovejoy. How do your collaborations generally come about?
Very organically—one of the many great things about this city is that we’re surrounded by a lot of really talented friends who happen to be musicians. We would just hang out for months before even getting to collaborate.
What’s your collaborative process like? Does the other artist also contribute to the writing?
They’ll usually come by the studio and we’ll have a session. If we end up vibing out to something, we’ll sit there and knock out the song usually in the same day. The writing process is definitely a collaborative effort. I think that’s the fun thing about collaborations—you get to hear ideas that you might not have thought about on your own.
Did you have a marketing plan in place for the release of Take the Stares?
Our basic plan was to leverage the web; the plan certainly wasn’t anything that grand or complicated. We just wanted to make sure to release a steady stream of music videos that could be shared organically among our existing fans. On the PR side, we made sure to send our songs out to the different blogs and sites that have supported my music in the past. We also try to make new creative visuals for every new project and pump out as many music videos as possible.
What are some specific ways you use your social media channels to promote your music?
YouTube is a huge platform for us. It’s where we have the most traction with our fans. It’s where they can see music videos while also getting a deeper look into my journey in this music industry. Also, instead of only tweeting promotional stuff, I like to interact with fans directly and have random conversations with them so I don’t feel so distant as an artist. I remember when I was growing up it was generally impossible to reach out to an artist I looked up to directly, so I want to make myself more accessible to listeners and fans.
You post lots of different kinds of content on your YouTube channel, ranging from music videos to interviews done inside a car, to behind-the scenes videos. How did these ideas come about and what have the results been?
For me it’s really about engagement and constant contact with the fans. I create new music videos so fans stay connected to the music. I document a lot of the behind-the-scenes process through vlogs so that the fans can be a part of my journey. So many artists only make music videos and I think that leaves a big void, because their fans are interested in seeing what goes on behind the curtain. With the Hotbox interview series it was really just an excuse to showcase my friends. I figured I had a platform, so why not use it to share their talents with an audience.
What are your goals as an artist?
I definitely want my music to reach as many people as possible. Also, there are so many different things I want to do creatively through music and visuals. It’s important to me to be able to express myself without any boundaries.
What are you doing to reach those goals?
Well usually I’m used to working with a core group of people within my team, but recently I’ve opened up to outside collaborations with directors, producers, writers, singers, etc. I’ve become a lot more open to taking chances and trying out really weird things artistically. I also try to experience different things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with music—like drawing inspiration from travels and new experiences. I think trying new things is the only way for me to grow as an artist and grow my fan base.
Does your Korean descent play a part in your music?
I didn’t think so when I was younger but I think that it does now. I grew up in a traditional Korean household where we spoke Korean and followed traditions. I think the way people were brought up definitely influences them in every aspect of their life, including their creative process. I like to talk about my culture whether it’s positive or negative, just to share my experiences and show my differences and similarities with the listeners out there.
The viral hit “Gangnam Style” has exposed the world to Korean pop and rap. Do you think that opens up more opportunities for the genre and the artists in it?
I think it’s opened doors to many international artists—not just Koreans or Asians. A few years ago I would’ve never thought a song in Korean would be on the top of the U.S. charts. I think it’s an exciting thing that people are so open to enjoying a song in a totally different language.
So what’s next?
Well I want 2013 to be the biggest year of my career and my most productive one creatively. I really want to create new music this year that gets people excited and hopeful for the future of hip-hop.
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