(Image source: Seven Seasons’s official website)

He is currently known as one of the hottest rapper and producer in the South Korean music industry and is often respected by many celebrities on his musical talent.

“There are three idols who I acknowledge in terms of writing and producing music. It’s G-Dragon, Zico, and B1A4’s Jinyoung. I respect Zico a lot,” said South Korean singer Lee Sang Min on JTBC’s Ask Us Anything.

Woo Jiho, better known by his stage name as Zico, has achieved mainstream popularity ever since his entry into the music industry, all thanks to his lively personality, strong stage presence, crossover writing skills and fearless fashion sense.

Music critics praised Zico because of his exceptional skill in rhyme and sense of rhythm and rap flow.

Zico seems to be South Korea’s major creative forces. Here are some things you need to know about Korean hip hop superstar Zico:

  • He was an underground rapper

Prior to his debut, Zico was part of the underground hip hop scene during his early teenage years, performing under the stage name of “Nacseo”, which is Korean for ‘doodle’ or ‘scribble’, and also once collaborated with Rap Monster, who is currently BTS’s lead rapper.

Zico once audition at one of Korea’s biggest labels SM Entertainment and was also part of a duo named ‘Harmonics’ with fellow Block B’s rapper Park Kyung. They both auditioned and successfully joined Stardom Entertainment the same year.

He decided to go with ‘Zico’ as his stage name because during his school days in Japan, his nickname was Zico in his art class The name stuck with him and later on became his stage name.

Still a rookie in his trainee years, he shared his musical creation with fans by releasing his first ever outspoken mixtape Zico on the Block in 2010 and second mixtape Zico on the Block 1.5 in 2012 that both talk about his personal and musical journey.

He mentioned in an interview with Dazed that the music was made when he was 21 and at the lowest point of his life. “All of the hardships about my life are on that tape,” he added.

  • He’s the leader of Block B

The 24-year-old is currently the leader and main rapper of the K-pop group Block B, a seven-member boy band signed under record label Seven Seasons and officially debuted in 2011. In addition to Zico, the group consists of members B-Bomb, Taeil, U-Kwon, Park Kyung, Jaehyo and P.O.

(Image source: Block B’s Official Facebook page

Although their unique music and dancing skills have caught listeners attention and distance themselves from many other K-pop artists, they have gone through their fair share of controversies. As a leader of Block B, it was Zico who would pick up the pieces and lead his teammates away from more backlash.

A year after their debut, Block B were under fire for mistranslation of an interview in Thailand over the devastating floods. They immediately apologized in hand-written letters and Zico bravely shaved his head in repentance.

In 2013, Zico led the group through a legal battle with their agency. After winning the case, the group went through a hiatus before signing with a new record label. It was all thanks to Zico’s tenacity and commitment that kept the group from being stripped away from being another group in the K-pop industry.

  • He’s multi-talented

Not only is he a leader, rapper, producer as well as responsible for the band’s image but also he is a music producer and songwriter for K-pop artists and Korean hip hop musicians.

Zico is notable for his large input in songwriting and producing in Block B’s discography, which has earned him over 82 songs accredited to his name by the Korea Music Copyright Association. He took full production credits on songs such as Nillili Mambo, HER, Movie’s Over, Mental Breaker and much more for Block B’s albums.

Not only has he written and produced music for Block B and for himself, but for other artists such as Psy, Winner’s Mino and D-Unit.

“It’s good for me to do well in my own activities as a musician; however, I would also like to help artists who haven’t realized their own potential to experience a change after working with me,” he told Marie Claire.

Some have considered him a musical genius but Zico contradicts that in his song ‘Genius’. He mentioned that although people call him a genius, he goes through a lot of challenges creating perfect, distinctive music.

“I’ve never once thought of myself as a genius. I’m not being humble. I’m just using the small talent that I have and trying to magnify it through my music,” Zico said during a press conference for his upcoming comeback.

The award-winning Korean rapper is currently a mentor on rap competition television show Show Me The Money.

  • He’s released solo albums

While he’s not leading his team, climbing up the music charts and taking the stage with his highly energetic raps, he also takes on a role of producing and composing his own solo tracks to show his personal, individual musicality.

Other than his personal mixtapes, Zico released his first solo album Gallery in 2015 and released a few days ago a second album Television, which both flew up charts in South Korea, proving Zico is the real deal.

(Image source: Zico’s Official Instagram Account

His music may not be suitable for the young but Zico is not afraid to speak up on his views and break the stereotypical borders of the music industry by his use of insensitive lyrics, mature language and personal confessions as well as adding details of his life to the public.

“I wanted to appeal to people who really enjoy music,” he said on on MBC FM4U’s Bae Chul Soo’s Music Camp. “It’s fine if they see me as just another idol but it would be nice if they would see me as an artist as well.”

Criticism may come and go but Zico continues to do what he does best, top up music charts with his prodigious writing ability, fast-paced rapping and intimidating tone.

Check out his recent music videos here.

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