How I Wear It: The K-Pop Lyricist And Rapper

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How I Wear It: The K-Pop Lyricist And Rapper

Words by Ms Elaine YJ Lee | Photography by Mr Khan Jaehun | Styling by Mr Danny Chung

16 November 2021

“I’d like to live out loud, but quietly,” says Mr Danny Chung, the bicoastal rapper and lyricist who splits his time between the US and South Korea. “I know that might not make sense right away, but that’s how I live my own lifestyle. I don’t want to walk into a room screaming for attention, but I want my presence felt and respected, the same way I respect everyone else’s presence and being.”

The songwriter is on Zoom from a hotel room in Seoul, quarantining after a recording session in LA. “I am in a hotel for most of my life, working in these rooms and making a home of it, always between places. I moved around a lot in my childhood – maybe that was a testament and foreshadowing of what was going to happen.”

The Philadelphia native writes songs for some of K-pop’s biggest and most in-demand artists – Blackpink, Jay Park, Jessi and Somi, to name a few. “When writing lyrics, you have to learn how to say a lot in deceptively simple lines,” Chung says. “Especially pop music that resonates with millions of people. Music makes people feel good and happy – what’s more important than that?”

For Chung, fashion, like music, is an outlet to express himself and his happiness. “I do like walking around with a sort of presence and aura, and I feel like everyone should have pride in themselves. You should want to look good for the world. When I see a beautiful person beautifully dressed, it makes me happy because I know that they feel beautiful inside. It comes from a place of self-respect and respecting others.”

Both Chung’s affinity to music and personal style were largely influenced by his hometown of Philadelphia, where hip-hop and street culture “has always been”, before “street” was a trending term. His parents immigrated from South Korea to North Philly in the late 1970s, where Mr Chung spent the whole of his childhood and teenage years. “My mother was an award-winning opera singer and my father was a very successful computer engineer. They gave up their prestigious titles and left that life behind for the American dream.

“Being an Asian-American male in the context of America, you’re looked at as the passive guy sitting back, that doesn’t push back,” Chung says. “When hip-hop came into my life, I understood it as the complete opposite end of the spectrum: hyper machismo, hyper bravado. I looked at Tupac and Biggie and Wu-Tang and DMX like they were my dad, father figures in a way. I don’t have the same exact struggles that they had, but I can resonate with being different. Feeling lesser than. In hip-hop, you realise, ‘You know what? I don’t have to be quiet. I can be loud.’”

Things came full circle for Chung with “Nomad”, a song he co-wrote with Zion.T, Kush and Vince for the soundtrack of Marvel’s Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, which featured the comic book empire’s first Asian superhero. “Being able to be a part of something as monumental as Shang-Chi, such an important movie in culture, was very exciting. That’s something I can tell my grandchildren,” he says with unabashed pride.

What fuels Mr Chung to move forward is his sense of childlike wonderment. “I feel like any creative really has to see things, not for how they are, but for how they could be. Believe in the impossible, just like a child would,” says the 36 -year-old. “I pride myself on that because I’ve witnessed it firsthand. If you told me 10, 20 years ago where I’d be now, I might not have believed you. But now, I can humbly say that I’m living my dream.”


Try muted colours

“I usually wear a lot of black, so this is a lot of colour for me. This Rick Owens jacket is definitely a loud piece because of the layers of different textures, but the tones are muted, deep, moss green. I think a lot of people get their references of ‘cool’ during their early high-school years as teenagers, and for me, that was the early 2000s, the era of Dipset. I guess you could call Cam’ron the leader, but my favourite rapper out of Dipset was Jim Jones. New York rappers in the early 2000s wore silhouettes like this, with the Pelle Pelle leather jacket. Even these Bottega Veneta boots resemble the Nike ACG boots they were wearing at that time.”


Go high-fashion cosy

“The reference that inspired this KAPITAL cardigan look is Mister Rogers. I grew up on Mister Rogers and watched him on TV when I was five, six years old. Every day, he stepped into his house, changed his cardigan, changed his shoes. These are like dad shoes, except instead of loafers, they’re Balenciaga from Demna Gvasalia. This cardigan has a loud animal print, but it still has this cosiness and approachability. It just felt like Mister Rogers in a good way, a high-end fashion version of him.”


Stick to one bold piece

“I wear a lot of black, but when I do wear bold colours, I like to keep it to one, so the rest of the outfit is earth-toned or monochrome. I feel very comfortable in my own skin, so I don’t feel like wearing bold colours is taking any risk. I also like knits that are crew-neck, because of my jewellery. I wear a lot of hoodies, too, but it’s hard to put emphasis on your chains when you wear a hoodie. I feel naked without them. I think that’s the hip-hop in me. This butterfly chain is a custom piece by Japanese designer Eiki Sugaya, who also made me a custom necklace with my initials, DC. The fitted beanie has sort of become my signature. It’s just a clean silhouette, I like how it frames my face, and it’s good for when I don’t know what to do with my hair.”


Be a modern-day Romeo

“It’s a bit cliche, but this look was inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. They wore a lot of colourful shirts in that film. These jeans were hand-painted by my friend and artist Sohyun Lim. The right leg is Jesus and the left is Virgin Mary. I commissioned this piece and told her exactly what I wanted, and I think it works with this Romeo inspiration. Shakespeare may not be biblical, but the tone of the movie itself felt like it.”


Pay 1990s hip-hop homage

“This look is almost like 1990s Puff Daddy, and Cam’ron, who have both given me a lot of references of what is cool. Puff Daddy’s song with Notorious B.I.G and Mase, ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’, was very pivotal to me. The shearling robe was inspired by Cam’ron’s iconic pink bunny look. I wore all black for the rest of the outfit so the green could make a statement and pop more. I custom-embroidered this LA Dodgers hat so it would read ‘THEBLACKLABEL’, the label I work with to produce music for Blackpink and Somi. As you can tell by now, I’m big on customising my things, from my hat to jewellery to pants. I don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing, and sometimes to achieve that, you have to go out of your way and customise. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember.”


Elevate the work uniform

“This look is an homage to my hometown, Philadelphia. The Comme des Garçons HOMME set reminds me of classic workwear. Add a white T-shirt and Timberlands and that’s the uniform in Philly. In Philly, you gotta make do with what you got and not too many people got, you know? But they can look clean with a crisp white T-shirt from the corner store and a set of Dickies from a surplus army store, for 30 bucks altogether. This look is like that, but elevated to the next level.”

Shot at Ryse, Seoul