Korean rapper Mirani on burnout and her secret to success

Female rapper Mirani (pictured) shot to fame on a hip-hop competition series in South Korea in 2020. She’s been so busy she’s feeling a bit burned out, she confesses.
PHOTO: AREA/Graff Records

Mirani is one of the hottest rappers in Korea today. The secret to her success? "Not sucking," she says with a laugh.

Born Kim yoon-jin, the 25-year-old shot to fame in 2020 in the ninth season of the Korean hip-hop reality TV competition series Show Me the Money. A song she was featured on, VVS , became one of the biggest South Korean hits of the year.

In 2021, working with the likes of Moonbyul of Mamamoo and Jay B of Got7 (also known as Def), Mirani released her first album, Uptown Girl.

Mirani, who fell in love with hip hop after her older brother introduced her to the genre, went to study fashion at university, where she joined a hip-hop club and had the chance to write her own songs.

She took a break from her degree to focus on music and has not looked back. Now she has to figure out what comes next.

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"I released Uptown Girl one year after Show Me the Money ended, so it talks about what I felt while trying to adapt to the changes in my life," Mirani tells the Post over a video call from Seoul. "Kind of like a diary that I wrote."

Uptown Girl is an album blending hip hop, pop and R&B, and full of the singsong raps she is known for. It's reflective at times and exuberant at others - pretty much where the rapper is right now herself.

Mirani is focusing on furthering her career, regardless of success, this year. PHOTO: AREA/Graff Records

"Things are a bit different from what I thought it would be like while earning money and doing what I love," she admits. "There are difficult things, such as the pressure to persevere, and I wanted to do better so I'm a bit burned out from it.

"It's been the biggest kind of pressure I've felt. Because of that, it wasn't just happiness that I put onto the album."

With so much attention early on in her career, Mirani says she is trying to readjust her mindset. Rather than putting pressure on herself to get another hit, she's focusing on furthering her career and moving her musicality and artistry along, regardless of success.

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"There's endless questioning: 'Oh, I want to do good again. I want to do something cool again. What can I do to do that?'"

"It's my career, not a hobby," she says, "so I'm trying to remind myself not to take music [and charting] so seriously. If I do what I did to get hit after hit of the same kind, I will be tired and not be able to continue my music career.

"So right now, I'm focusing on doing what I can do and trying to meet people through my music."

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It's partially because of this that Mirani works with so many collaborators and why she wants to work with more. By developing who she is and trying out new things now, she can develop a way "not to suck".

"I think that for music to not suck, each artist needs to have their own colour and really know what they want to do and want to say. So when they do that, it feels more natural and feels like they're wearing their own clothes. And I think that's just really cool."

Mirani isn't the only female hip-hop artist making waves in Korea, but the scene is still one dominated by men.

"If it were a bit more female dominant, I may have had an easier time," she admits. "But I went to all-girl schools for much of my life, so being in any male-dominated industry at all was a bit of an adjustment at first."

Mirani has "too many ideal collaborators" she wants to work with in the Korean music industry, and she is a big fan of US rapper Doja Cat . In a perfect world, she says, the two of them could collaborate.

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While her first album was something of a post-Show Me the Money diary, Mirani has some thoughts regarding what future songs could be about.

"I'm interested in the theme of love," she says. "I think that there aren't a lot of female hip hop artists nowadays that write about love, so it could be fun to write about it from the female point of view, and how it is to be [in love] in your 20s."

Fun and "not sucking" are the things that are important to Mirani right now. At the same time, she is focusing on making her career as full of longevity as it is hits - hard to do, she admits, when the world feels at a standstill but time continues to pass.

Mirani is a big fan of US rapper Doja Cat. PHOTO: AREA/Graff Records

So far, Mirani's 2022 is looking a lot like her 2021, thanks to Covid-19 and the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic. A planned tour to Europe in January was cancelled thanks to the rise of the Omicron variant, but the rapper is keeping busy.

"Right now, I'm just focusing on my forward-thinking mindset," she says, "and enjoying what I'm working on and who I'm working with."

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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