It’s possible that ‘1995’ is the name Auckland hip hop artist Hanju Kim aka Hans has given his first EP because it was the year of hip hop that first caught his youthful attention. As Cassandra King reveals, his Korean origins and evidently classical sensibilities have since led him to create some uniquely interesting and increasingly meaningful music.
Having discovered ‘90s hip hop at the age of 14, Hanju Kim started to explore the genre. Not only did it become a new hobby, but also a new talent. By now studying at university, he is these days better known as Hans (or more accurately .hans.) in the Auckland hip hop scene.
“I didn’t really grow up with music. My mum’s a piano teacher, but classical piano. I learnt classical piano, but I didn’t really grow up with much music in the house ‘cause both my parents don’t really listen to music. I just found ‘90s hip hop and listened to that with a couple of friends and started doing it myself, for fun.”
With the simplest of vocal recording setups of a microphone recording into FL Studio, Hans started to work on his own tracks from the comfort of his bedroom. He keeps his crafting process simple, which means he can work around his studies of Human Geography at Auckland University, something he found to be a surprising influence on his music.
“I didn’t think studying Human Geography would help, but it really does. It helps me understand what is going on in Auckland as well, in terms of gentrification and how the music scene is really affected by that. It is a lens of the music scene but from an academic standpoint. It is interesting and I can incorporate it into my music as well.”
Hans’ three-track mix-tape EP ‘1995’ shows his development since he started back in 2012. Opening track Better takes a buoyantly glitchy, good times vibe that illustrates his changed writing style.
“I made really chill, slowed down, sad, depressing music for a while, before ‘1995’. It was good to have a bouncy, fun track. I would never have done that in the past three years. So it was fun.”
The video for Better portrays that vibe perfectly, with Beren Allan, an Auckland-based freelance filmmaker, behind the camera and Hans’ friends joining him for a day out. It got a positive response all round, his mum even updating her social media profile to proudly display her son’s work.
“It was really fun. I didn’t think of anything, just planned to go out on a day. Beren really knew how to get the right shots that worked, if I did the same video, with the same ideas, with someone else it might not have had the same effect. It was a really organic video.” Hans proudly talks about the videos simple, yet effective, process.
The video brings playful attention to aspects of Korean culture that are also heard in Hans’ lyrics. He wants to build up his identity in his music as much as possible, deliberately letting his style come as naturally as possible.
“I stopped the American accent in 2013, coincidentally coinciding with the Homebrew album that came out in 2012. When I first started I sounded quite American, but after hearing them and how real they are it really inspired me. I don’t put any thought to it – I sound how I sound. I try to incorporate bits of Korean into my rapping now. I speak a bit of Korean from time to time, and incorporating that is like building up my identity.”
Hans sees his next steps in music to be learning to produce a lot more of his tracks himself, rather than relying on other producers,
“Most of the time it is small time producers that I ask (to use their work), most Internet producers are quite approachable… but in future, I would want to work with Kanye West or Mac Miller. He’s under the radar in terms of his production, but I think he is crazy,” Hans laughs.
Until that day, Hans is working on his solo hip hop tracks while also working his way up in the arts scene with his crew, Mi.an and a clique including three other musical artists, two visual artists and a fashion designer. And it is with this group Hans excitedly reveals hopes for a website, first and foremost, and following that a group magazine. So not only can we expect music from this academic hip hop up-and-comer, but maybe also a visual collection.