BM is ready to show off his true artistic colours. The K-pop star born Matthew Kim, otherwise known as Big Matthew from the co-ed group KARD, has taken the time during the outfit’s semi-hiatus, while member J.Seph completes his mandatory military service, to steadily work towards his solo debut album. He hopes to release it later this year, he enthuses to NME over a Zoom call. “It’s gonna be a very, very different BM,” he teases. “It’s so feel-good. It’s so different.”
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But before the highly anticipated release, BM first wanted to make a proper introduction. That attempt resulted in the aptly titled ‘The First Statement’, an unflinching and bold three-track prequel to the KARD rapper’s solo journey. Released earlier this month, the polished project, which the Korean-American rapper recorded and produced outside of his DSP label with hit-making production house 8PEX, is a mixed bag of genres: there’s the pop rock-influenced banger ‘Broken Me’, a surprising house entry ‘Body Movin’ and the rumbling rap highlight, ‘13IVI’.
BM sits down with NME to discuss making his latest solo effort, stepping out of his comfort zone to express himself freely, and a possible collaboration with his fellow Get Real podcast hosts, Ashley Choi of Ladies’ Code and BtoB’s Peniel.
Hey BM, how are you doing? Congratulations on the release of ‘The First Statement’!
“I feel super good. There’s been great feedback from the fans and listeners. And, you know, it’s a great start to my solo career. I can’t wait to just put out what’s next. I have so much other stuff that’s already in the process of being made and it’s very different from what I’ve made with ‘The First Statement’.”
This was obviously a huge project for you. How long ago did you have it in the pipeline before you finally decided to release it?
“The title song ‘13IVI’ has been made for a long time. I think it’s been over a year since I’ve had it ready? The other two songs, ‘Body Movin’ and ‘Broken Me’, were actually produced recently. I want to say around August or September? Along with other demos, projects and songs that I was also making. Nonetheless, those were also great songs made by other great producers, but these three songs, I feel like were the strongest to make the ‘first’ statement.”
‘The First Statement’ is a very intriguing preview of how diverse your musical palette is as a solo artist. What was your main objective while you were creating this project?
“I think the main objective was to show [my] diversity. As a solo artist, you have one voice, but there are many genres that you can touch on. Many sounds that you can experiment with. I wanted ‘The First Statement’ to be a statement where I let people know that I’m in it for the long run.
“With that being said, you know, although [‘The First Statement’] was a little bit on the darker side, and a little bit on the more heavy side [thematically], that’s the way I want to start it because that’s what people expect of me. I think I have a hard-hitting, husky rapper low-tone voice. So, you know, I wanted to give my fans everything and anything that they would expect out of BM.”
You’ve previously said that while putting the project together, these three songs stood out to you the most. What did you mean by that?
“I feel like, as far as quality wise, all the songs and all the demos I made were great. But when it comes to music, it needs to resonate with the people – and people need to feel a certain way. Out of the six songs that I had ready, these were the three that when everyone in my company listened to them, they [were] like, ‘Wow, this makes me feel a certain vibe’.
“Like ‘Body Movin’ is a great house song where you would want to put it on at a party or a club, even though we can’t go to them nowadays. While ‘Broken Me’ is a song that people can resonate with because it talks about internal struggle. And ‘13IVI’, the reason I made that title song is because it’s the perfect introduction to who I am as an artist and what I’ve been doing.”
Sometimes as a producer or a songwriter, you’ll create a bunch of songs you think would be interesting for others. At which point did you realise while making these tracks that they had to be yours, and you didn’t want to give them away?
“I like that you asked that because when I first got the beat for ‘13IVI’, it was actually in [producer SQUAR’s] production trash folder. I was like, ‘Why is this in your trash can?’ And he said, ‘I couldn’t find a home for it’. And I was like, ‘Well, you found one now. Give it to me!’ I took it home, wrote on it and [the song] came out instantly.
“[For ‘Broken Me’ and ‘Body Movin’] those were two beats I got from my production house team called 8PEX when I joined their team as a songwriter. When I first heard the beats in my head, I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve never touched on any of these genres before’. Let me take it home and see what I could do. I came back with the lyrics, the melodies, and I recorded and [8PEX] were like, ‘Yo, this is really good’. Mind you, these are words coming from professionals who’ve worked with SM, JYP – the big three – and they make great songs.”
Would you say that the producers that you worked with actually encouraged you to push your creative boundaries?
“Absolutely. I actually didn’t record [‘Broken Me’ and ‘Body Movin’] in DSP, I recorded with 8PEX. I recorded the songs with them and they directed me. So I learned a lot about myself, it was a different experience. We have professionals in DSP as well, but being able to step out of my boundaries and out of my comfort zone and work with different people was definitely an eye-opening experience, seeing where my artistry can go.”
Let’s talk about ‘13IVI’. In the song, you said, ‘Since 2013, I’ve envisioned myself a king’. Fast-forward to today, eight years later, do you think you’ve achieved that “king” status that you’d envisioned for yourself?
“I think I’ll let the fans and the listeners decide, you know, I’m not the type of guy to be like, ‘I’m the king!’, unless I’m on stage. I’m very proud of where I am right now. I’m very happy and I feel like I am very blessed and appreciative that I have listeners that are engaging with me and I have fans that love what I’m putting out, you know, so it’s all just blessings for me.”
The lyrics to ‘Broken Me’ are very heart-wrenching and personal. Was it hard for you to express those feelings on your own – especially so without the support of your KARD members on the song?
“No, I wrote the first verse until the hook in three hours. And I wrote the rest of the song in a day. It was really fast and it was really natural to me. I feel like those types of songs, when it comes from a real place, I have more to say, you know? So it comes out much faster and smoother.”
There’s a Korean and English version of ‘Broken Me’. As a multilingual songwriter, which language helps you best express yourself and your feelings: in Korean or in English?
“Both really, because I think it’s different. The connotations [of both languages] are very different. English as a language just sounds sonically a little bit more smooth. Korean has more accents, you know, it’s not smooth like English. So there’s different stuff you could do with it.
“With the Korean version, I touched on a different subject [as opposed to internal struggle]. It was more about having regret towards someone you’ve hurt when it comes to love. Love isn’t love without pain, there’s always pain. That’s kind of what I wanted to touch on with the Korean version. I feel like anyone who’s been in multiple relationships in their life knows what it’s like to hurt someone and be hurt, too. So, in that sense, I think [the Korean version of the song] would be something that the listeners can resonate with also.”
Out of the three songs, which one was the hardest to write or put together?
“[pauses] They were all so easy, so I don’t know. But I’ll tell you which one was the easiest!”
Which one was it?
“‘Body Movin’ was the easiest. It has its little hidden, sexy references. I think I maybe might’ve hit the club too many times, and like, kind of locked eyes with too [many] women. [laughs] I love expressing attraction and I love letting someone know how beautiful they are, whether that be through verbal or through body language.
“That was a really fun song that made me imagine just being in a vicinity where there’s loud music and just feeling a strong attraction to someone and it gives you butterflies. I feel like for me, it’s okay to talk about it now. I feel it’s okay to be transparent about these types of things. Attraction is attraction! If you’re attracted, express it, be confident.”
So, here’s a question I’m pretty sure is on a lot of fans’ minds for the longest time: will there ever be a collaboration between the Get Real podcasts hosts – yourself, Ashley Choi of Ladies Code and Peniel from BtoB?
“Wow, you know what? That would actually be a really, really, good song. I feel like ’cause me and Peniel’s [vocal] tones are very different. Ashley has a great singing voice. And they all can dance – we all can dance. Yeah, I mean, yo, you brought up the idea first!”
You mean you guys haven’t discussed that idea at all? You guys totally should – it’ll be a real treat.
“We’ve never talked about it for some reason! Yeah, it’s not a bad idea at all. I’ll bring it up in the next Get Real [meeting].”
BM’s ‘The First Statement’ is out now.