There is nothing quite like finding yourself in your art. Self-expression and momentous clarity converge with unfamiliar, terrifying epiphanies until you eventually find yourself in a space you never knew could exist for yourself – of selfhood and sheer perceptiveness. 25-year-old rapper Mirani is well-acquainted with this insight, her torrid relationship with music materialising in her 2018 debut track ‘blank’,
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Independently made and released into the boundless dominion of SoundCloud, Mirani poured her burdens into what seemed to be a desolate abyss: “My future, my name, I can’t handle the weight of expectations / My ambitious are getting ahead of my voice / I hate this kind of repetition of life, day after day”.
This internalised conflict was remedied by her love for bringing melodies to life, as she continued to hone her craft as a budding hip-hop musician, and braving the unknown by releasing more onto SoundCloud. Be it the gloomy ‘Say So’ or her final output as an independent musician in 2020 with ‘LA’, all tinged with varying degrees of introspection, it seemed that the rapper-songwriter had many more truths left to unearth about herself as an artist.
Despite the pandemic having already reached the shores of South Korea by October 2020, it had done little to dampen Mirani’s desire to press forward with her art. The ninth season of Show Me The Money, a prolific South Korean reality TV series where up-and-coming hip-hop musicians stake their claim for nationwide recognition, was just on the horizon, and Mirani saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her voice to be heard by a wider audience.
“At the time, I just wanted people to listen to my music,” she reminisces, adding that this “strong will” was what spurred her to take that daunting first step. “I didn’t go into it believing that my music and artistry were perfect or ready, but I went on Show Me The Money to simply show what I had to offer.”
“It didn’t matter to me whether I got eliminated or not,” Mirani added. But yet, this unrelenting determination to give herself a platform she’s always chased after, paired with an indifference to ‘playing the game’, so to speak, managed to bring her far in the competition and all the way to the semi-finals. Although she didn’t manage to win the season, Mirani earned herself something even more gratifying.
She made history as one of the series’ few female contestants to make it far on the program, especially in an industry, genre and program where female representation was – and still is – few and far between. “To be honest, there are a lot of male artists in the hip-hop scene in Korea and abroad,” she admits, as she begins to open up about the hurdles she had to overcome in order to be on the path she now finds herself treading.
“When I began with hip-hop, there weren’t many existing female hip-hop musicians, so there were some difficulties in learning the ropes and establishing myself as such,” Mirani adds.
This is exactly what makes her appearance on Show Me The Money so monumental, giving her the chance to be a trailblazer for others. “I want to be a role model for other female artists who want to go into hip-hop, and if [my achievements] gave me a chance to be something like that for other female musicians, then I think that would be a meaningful message.”
Following Show Me The Money, the eminent producer duo GroovyRoom, who had also mentored her on the show, had immediately signed her to their newly-established music label AREA. It indisputably marked the dawn of a new era for her as an artist, especially with an elevated platform and backing.
“When I was on Show Me The Money, GroovyRoom actually worked with me to figure out my strengths and my weaknesses [as a musician], so when we worked together again after I signed with them, they already had prior knowledge about what I was good at and what I wasn’t so good at,” she reveals. “Because of that, they gave me a lot of valuable advice.”
“When I was an independent artist, I believed that the actual music was the most important, and that whatever I wanted to do was the most important too,” she explains, speaking of the growth that GroovyRoom had guided her towards.
“I’ve since learned that when an artist releases an album, the music still matters, but [we also have to think about] the story, the visuals that fit the music and how these different aspects should go together. I feel like I’ve grown [as a musician] in the process.”
Her efforts – now refined and influenced by two experienced producers – have since crystallised as her debut mini-album, ‘Uptown Girl’, released in November 2021. It’s a seven-track project that chronicles her journey thus far, yet not straying far from her original style as an independent artist.
“Mirani, who looked like a country girl / I’m a celebrity now / The girl who rose from the bottom / How far will I go up?” she boasts unabashedly on the trap-infused ‘Lambo!’, before transitioning over to the candid vulnerability on the ballad-esque track ‘I Wanna Be’: “Where did all that time go? / There’s no way to know / Now the expectations are on me / I’m grateful, but it’s scary sometimes.”
Mirani clearly refuses to let the mini-album be defined by just a single genre, instead shaping it according to what felt right to her and the story she wanted to tell. “There were a lot of things I wanted to talk about that changed for me over the past year following Show Me The Money 9,” she says of the inspiration behind ‘Uptown Girl’.
“My first step as Mirani the artist was really about showing how I fleshed myself out artistically,” she shares. “I was thinking about how best to display this, and I realised that the most important thing to do was to include my story.” Despite the milestones she has reached since her humble beginnings, there still remains much room for Mirani to explore what she has to offer as one of few rising female hip-hop musicians..
The beauty of being in the first act of what is bound to be a very fruitful career is the ability to experiment with new things and experiences, to not be tethered to a singular facet of what really defines who Mirani is. “I would want to try a lot of new sounds for the next [few] albums. I could talk about love, or try something else that’s different,” she wonders aloud. Though she currently relishes in this new journey that’s bursting at the seams with possibility, she still chooses to adopt a straightforward approach: “I just have the one goal of doing well [for myself].”
Mirani’s debut mini-album ‘Uptown Girl’ is out now.