FLANNEL ALBERT (Albert Joo) is a hip hop artist based in Brooklyn these days but his journey started in music as young as age four studying classical piano & music theory.
Although Joo was raised in Portland, the budding rapper lived in Korea for a few years as a K-pop artist. But get this, his debut EP topped independent online music charts in Korea! It wasn’t until a move to Brooklyn where Joo delved deeper into the world of hip-hop and joined the WH9LE Collective
. Flannel Albert
’s music is an eclectic blend of his diverse experiences. Citing influences such as Eminem, Childish Gambino, Sufjan Stevens, and Kanye West. Joo managed to fuse his classical music training and upbeat melodic pop all while incorporating electronic vibes, clever lyricism, and a fiery blast of all his unique experiences on the back of synthy paired 808’s. I caught up him and our chat is listed below in full.
“I’m also obsessed with taking walks now. I don’t know what happened but after college I’ve been on my hippie shit. I like walking in parks, by the river, and just being in nature. It’s not even necessarily to write or “be inspired”. I just like to be out there to appreciate the Earth and be alone with my thoughts.”–Flannel Albert
Nadeem – Was there a group of artists and mc’s you can remember that first showed you the world of hip hop? Who got you hooked?
Flannel Albert – “For sure. Up until high school I listened to very little hip-hop. The only exposure I had to hip-hop was stuff on the radio, and Lil Jon, 50 cent, and Young Joc just didn’t do it for me back then. I had a friend who wanted to get me into the genre so she burned me a little mixed CD of some of her favorite artists. I remember the CD started with “Sunshine” by Atmosphere, “I Still Love H.E.R.” by Teriyaki Boyz feat. Kanye, and “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” by Consequence/Kanye. I was hooked from there. The flow and soulful beats really drew me in. Funny thing is, as I started getting more into hip-hop, I started loving the radio shit that I used to not mess with, It’s kinda come full circle. I’ve since thanked that friend for burning me that CD. Possibly changed the course of my life.”
What was it like as an artist in Korea? How do they relate to music and how did you navigate those worlds?
“I did music in Korea but I wouldn’t consider myself a Korean music artist. It was really more of an American pop sound that I drew from at the time. When I made that first album, I was listening to a lot of Owl City and singer-songwriter shit. It was cool that people in Korea liked it though because it shows that language isn’t really a barrier to music appreciation. They caught on the catchiness and the melodies–Kpop is popular in America for the same reason.”
N – What is the WH9LE Collective about?
“WH9LE (pronounced whole nine) is a music collective based in Maryland. It was started with a mission to really empower artists and give creative control. Before I joined, it was made up of my college friend Chuku and some people he knew from back home. Chuku literally hit me up one day and was like, “hey, we want to talk to you”. I got on this video chat with him and two people I’d never met before and they were like, “Yo, do you want to join WH9LE?” I’d been hoping for that call for a while so I was like “hell yeah” and here we are. We’re all a little different in terms of style, but we share a similar vision and complement each other really well. I haven’t known half of the collective for very long, but we’re all brothers. I had been looking for a group of dudes that were chill and loved music/art and I think I’ve found them. We also make dope hats.”
N – Where do you see your sound right now in terms of evolution from your classical roots and K-pop experimentations? What are you currently obsessed with as a musician and artist?
“When I first started making hip-hop music, I wanted to distance myself from my old pop sound as much as possible. I didn’t think it was “cool”. But as I’ve continued making songs, I’ve come to embrace the fact that my musical style centers around catchiness and accessibility. I love making music for everyone. There’s obviously a line you have to tread carefully between hip-hop and pop, but I’ve been able to reintroduce those elements. In the last year or so, I’ve really learned to make music without worrying too much about what people will think about it. I think other hip hop artists like Chance, Travis Scott, Uzi are all leading the way with that. As an artist, I’m obsessed with just drawing from a large range of influences. I’ll listen to Kendrick, Bon Iver, George Gershwin, and Justin Bieber all in one day to get inspiration. Before anything else, I’m a music lover and there’s something you can learn from everyone. I’ve actually really gotten back into classical lately. I might try to learn some pieces that I always wanted to play but never had a chance to. I’m also obsessed with taking walks now. I don’t know what happened but after college I’ve been on my hippie shit. I like walking in parks, by the river, and just being in nature. It’s not even necessarily to write or “be inspired”. I just like to be out there to appreciate the Earth and be alone with my thoughts.”