By Ella Okunmwendia
In May 2022, B.I teamed up with American rapper Soulja Boy and fellow Korean singer DeVita for a single titled “BTBT.” The catchy song was the first single from the South Korean rapper’s second mini-album, Love or Loved.
The five-track EP was later released in November 2022, with the title track “Keep Me Up.” A pun on the Korean word “biteul,” which means “to stagger,” the single explores the passionate attraction between two people.
Despite Kim Hanbin’s description of the song as a fusion of Korean pop and Latin music, “BTBT” incorporates an Afrobeats component. It starts with an eerily mellow and melodic tone; the vocals are then introduced with a soft bass kick before the afrobeat snares take over.
The single was praised by many music experts, including Ghanaian disc jockey Quarps Hansen, who was particularly impressed by the timing of the snares.
“It has West African-influenced afrobeat drums with the timing of the snares and a western slant on the beat pattern,” according to the former head of music at YFM Ghana.
BTBT is also renowned for its distinct choreography, which combines hard-hitting and body-fluid movements. Choreographed by the Korean dance group AITTY TOO (82), BTBT also pays homage to afrobeats with afro-inspired footwork.
Following its Afro-influence, “BTBT” made waves on the African charts, emerging as the “longest-charting K-pop song” on Spotify’s Daily Viral Chart in Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Additionally, it received airplay on radio stations in South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana, where B. I was previously awarded “Rookie of the Year” on YFM Ghana’s Korean music-centric show, Pop Central, in 2021.
GQ caught up with the South Korean rapper, Kim Hanbin, for a chat, following his impressive run in Africa.
GQ: Congratulations, B.I. In 2021, you were named “Rookie of the Year” by Pop Central on YFM Ghana. In 2022, “BTBT” was the longest-charting K-pop song on the Spotify Daily Viral Charts in certain African countries!
B.I: It’s truly my honour. I am delighted my music could speak to so many people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
GQ: After its release, “BTBT” earned radio airplay in some African countries, was played at a mall in Morocco, and charted in about 15 African countries. Did you foresee the song going this far?
B.I: Not at all, which is why it came to me as a bigger surprise. Besides, I love African culture.
GQ: When you created “BTBT,” you claimed that you wanted to meld K-pop and Latin music. Would you say that “BTBT’s” afro-futuristic element was consistent with your desire to make global music?
B.I: Correct! A lot of new music nowadays is really great blends of different genres.
GQ: Who is your favourite African artist, and what is your favorite African song?
B.I: I really love Wizkid. His song “Essence” featuring Tems is my favourite. I would love to collaborate with him sometime in the future
GQ: Do you see yourself experimenting with any African genre?
B.I: I won’t pinpoint exactly when, but stick around and you will see. I have my eyes set on a few, maybe afropop, amapiano, afrohouse, and highlife.
GQ: You once mentioned you were curious about Africa. What are some of the stories you have heard about Africa?
B.I: Not much, to be honest. But that’s what makes me more curious and intrigued. Please share!
GQ: Last year, you were introduced to the Senegalese meals Thiebou Yapp and Ataya. Have you ever heard of or tried any other African dish aside from those two?
B.I: No, because we do not have much access to African food in South Korea. I would love to try when there’s an opportunity.
GQ: This year you are embarking on an Asian tour; how soon can B.I fans in Africa anticipate seeing you perform there?
B.I: I would fly over right this second if I could. For now, I do not have the answer, but I’m going to try my best to make it happen!
GQ: Leave a message for all your African fans!
B.I: Thanks to all of you for sending love and support from the other side of the world. I promise I’ll do what I can to perform for you in person someday!
I have a lot more great songs coming soon, so please stay tuned. Love you! B.I is on a mission to make music that appeals to a global audience.
The producer, singer, and rapper made his debut in 2015 as the leader of the K-pop group iKON. He began his solo journey in 2021, following his exit from the YG Entertainment group in 2019.