Amidst the extravaganza of K-pop, we must not forget the people working behind the music and the fancy music videos to help lift the exciting music scene with new sounds. One of them is a Korean producer and DJ by the name of 250, who has produced for hip-hop acts E SENS, Masta Wu and Kim Ximya, and has also worked on genre-bending beats for K-pop stars such as BTS, BoA, ITZY, NCT 127 and f(x). Now, 250 is stepping into the limelight with his quirky brand of sound.
The Seoul-based producer released his first project “Rear Window” in 2018, but took four years to make his debut album titled PPONG—safe to say, it’s worth the wait. Taking inspiration from the Korean music genre of ppong-jak, which is normally popular amongst the middle-aged and senior citizens in the country as a form of entertainment, the music producer dissected it before deciding to bring the genre’s high energy two-beat rhythm and folk scales back by elevating the sound for an entirely new generation.
With the help of masterminds like techno-trot Epaksa and ppong-jak legend Na Woon Do, 250 is also working on a YouTube docu-series called “Finding ppong” that will feature scenes from the making of the album and conversations with music enthusiasts about “ppong”. He is on his way to bridging the Korean dance music’s generation gap.
In the meantime, we spoke to 250 about the creation of PPONG, the “Bang Bus” video and what he thinks about K-pop music.
First of all, what does 250 mean?
It’s a play on words. My Korean name is Lee Ho-Hyoung, which sounds like the numbers 2, 5, and 0 in Korean. Though most Koreans call me by the Sino-Korean numbers, pronounced ‘Lee Oh Gong’.
Who were you listening to when you were growing up and how has it evolved?
I grew up listening to Shin Hae Chul. There was something authentic about the way he narrates his lyrics. Then came Seo Taeji and artists from the ‘90s with their sounds and thick bass who helped pave the way for the subsequent hip-hop generation. Then going into the new millennium, it was interesting to see all these hip-hop producers getting ahead of the competition by creating a sound of their own.
Was there a moment that really solidified your desire to make music?
[It was] the first time I saw wave-shaped music files being uploaded on a computer program and I could edit them myself.
Why did PPONG take four years to make?
I don’t know. It’s not like there was a creative shift along the way. But there was a point around the time I was working on “Rear Window”, I had to shake some things off and start over. In retrospect, I think this amount of time was necessary, or else the album wouldn’t be what it is today.
What has been the most challenging and gratifying part of creating this album?
I wanted an album that was widely loved, but also an album that felt personal to me. And I feel pretty satisfied with both, especially the latter.
What is it about trot music and ppong-jak that attracted you to incorporate them into your music?
Ppong music has been with me ever since I can remember. It can be found everywhere, in every corner of my country. It’s a big part of our pulsating culture so naturally, I thought it would be fun to incorporate ppong elements into other sounds I’ve surrounded myself with and emulated.
We love how quirky your “Bang Bus” music video is. What was the thought process going into making the music video?
I’m glad you loved it. I didn’t want to get too involved in the creative process for the “Bang Bus” video. I wanted other creative minds to bring forth their visual narrative once they heard the song. See how others visualised it. I had a great team with a great idea for the video.
If you were to introduce yourself with one song, what would it be and why?
“Royal Blue”. The single and music video both came out the same day as the album.
Who are some of the people that influenced you the most when it comes to music?
Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Chemical Brothers, and Prince.
You have worked with so many K-pop and Korean hip-hop artists. Which one has been the best experience for you and why?
E SENS with “Flight”. [It was] a song that taught me how to craft a beat around acapella vocals. I had a different approach and attitude towards producing after this song.
What is the most fascinating thing about making music for K-pop artists? Anything that would surprise international listeners?
Musical freedom. When it comes to making K-pop music, there are fewer creative restrictions compared to other music genres. In good time, I’ll get to show you what I mean.
How do you see your sound evolving? Are there other genres you see yourself exploring for future works?
For a while, it was all about filling in the sounds. But now, I’m exploring the ‘less is more’ way where I’m draining out sounds and still manage to make it sound whole.
Tell us more about this playlist you have curated for us.
I’ve put together a selection of sounds and styles that have been my sonic inspiration and motivational sources during the making of the album.
Cover Credit: Beasts And Natives Alike