The central message of Korean rapper Changstarr is to stay true to yourself, to do what you feel is right for you personally. It’s a message that he thinks could change his country. “If people were more individualistic we’d have a cultural renaissance,” he argues. He considers himself partially American, since he went to middle school and studied at university in the US, and he wanted to bring the lessons he learned there back to Korea with him. Although he made top grades studying law at an ivy league school, his teachers and schoolmates imparted on him a newfound perspective on morality and legality: “Law is not necessarily the truth, people use the law to their own benefit. I’m not telling people to break the law, but if you want to have fun, then go for it!”
“做最真实的自己，做自己想做的事情”，是韩国说唱歌手 Changstarr 一直以来的音乐主旨。在他看来，这种理念甚至可以改变自己家乡的社会面貌。他说：“如果每个人都更加注重个人的表达，也许我们能掀起一场文化复兴。” 初中到大学在美国念书的经历，让 Changstarr 的一部分灵魂属于美国，并希望把自己在美国学到的东西带回韩国。他曾就读于一所常春藤大学，攻读法律专业且成绩优异。从那里的老师和同学身上，他对道德和法律有了新的见解：“法律不一定是真理，有时候人们会用法律为自己谋利。这句话并不是怂恿大家去做违法的事情，但面对属于自己的乐趣，你应该去勇敢争取！”
When he finished school and returned home to Korea five years ago, he decided to join the burgeoning hip-hop movement rather than a law firm. At the time, the reality-TV rap program Show Me The Money was driving the scene and creating rap superstars, but Changstarr, whose real name is Paul Chan Chang, says the movement has begun to break away from the mainstream commercialization and is creating a space for artistry over industry success. “In the past few years the gap between mainstream and underground has become less clear,” he says. “A lot of underground rappers went on the show and made it to the mainstream. But the show is kind of dying down now, so the scene is changing. The mainstream rappers who’ve been on TV have to adjust their lyrics and behaviors, there’s a lot they have to do once they reach that stage. But in the underground, you can still express yourself and don’t have to give as much of a shit. It’s more experimental, there’s more risk taking.”
五年前，当 Changstarr（本名 Paul Chan Chang）完成美国学业回到韩国时，他并没有进入律师事务所工作，而是毅然选择了当地如火如荼的嘻哈圈子。当时在真人秀说唱节目《Show Me The Money》的推波助澜下，说唱音乐在韩国炙手可热，让许多重量级说唱歌手为人熟知。同时 Changstarr 也认为，当时韩国的说唱场景开始脱离主流商业化，一个基于商业成功之上的艺术空间正在被建立。他说：“在过去几年里，主流与地下的分界越来越模糊。很多地下说唱歌手通过这个节目进入大众视线。但是现在节目已经不像以前那么火，整个圈子也有了一些变化。上过电视的说唱歌手为了顺应主流，需要不断调整他们的歌词和表演，一旦上过这个舞台，有很多事情他们不得不做。但是在地下说唱圈子，你仍然可以表达自己，不需要顾虑太多。地下的音乐要更具实验性，更大胆。”
Changstarr prefers to stay a little under the radar for just that reason. There are opportunities now for artists to try new things but still earn a living for themselves, including through related paths like throwing events and modeling gigs. “I do alright, I’m not getting rich but I can support myself,” he shrugs. “But there’s a good environment for rappers to flourish now, they can make their own career and blaze their own trail.” He adds that there are a lot of artists these days cultivating large fan bases without ever going on TV, and with this organic growth, he hopes the rest of the world will start to take notice of the diverse range of hip hop coming from his country.
The local club scene is where Changstarr has cemented himself. Rather than simply creating content for fans to consume online, he’s invested in real-world bonding that can be forged in social settings. He started throwing Vagabonds parties two years ago, and has put on eight events at different venues across Seoul so far. “My goal was to give rappers who are consistently releasing music a way to perform in the clubs,” he explains. “I get a headliner, someone pretty famous that’s a homie, then have two or three really underground but dope artists to open.”
本土俱乐部场景，是 Changstarr 的立足之地。除了在网上发布音乐，他也十分重视线下的表演，与观众建立联系。两年前，他开始筹办 Vagabonds（中文意为 “流浪者”）派对，到目前为止，活动已经在首尔不同的场所进行了八场。他说道：“我希望能持续为创作型说唱歌手提供一个展示自己的机会。通常，我会拉来国内较有名气的说唱歌手作为压轴，然后安排两到三个真正来自地下的说唱歌手作为暖场嘉宾。”
He says the rappers go out into the crowd and party with everyone, and the vlogs capturing each event have let future partygoers know exactly what to expect when they attend. “It’s less fans showing up and more people coming to party and have fun,” he says, meaning that the partygoers interact with the performers and each other, creating a more equal setting rather than screaming masses worshiping at idols’ feet on stage. He also welcomes foreigners to his events with open arms, something he wants to see more of amongst Koreans. “I’d like to set an example of how to be approachable. Wherever you go abroad, you’ll see Koreans tend to stick together. Even within Korea, there are groups within groups. We can be friends with other people. That’s definitely one of the messages I’d like to convey.” The fact that he speaks fluent Korean, English, knows Mandarin, and is learning Russian attests to his worldly leanings.
每场演出都会被 Vlog 的形式记录下来，让更多想来参加派对的人看到活动现场的盛况。他说：“其实到场的粉丝并不是很多，反而更多人来到这里享受派对的乐趣。” 这意味着，台下观众与艺人建立了一种平等的互动关系，而不是一味的崇拜与尖叫。此外，活动对国内外友人都热情开放，他希望在派对中开到更加包容的景象。“想要营造和睦、融洽的氛围，需要从我自己开始做起。你到国外去看，韩国人往往喜欢抱团取暖。即使在韩国国内，人们也习惯被划分为小团体。我们其实可以和更多人成为朋友，这是我要传达的信息之一。”这一点在他身上体现得淋漓尽致，他不仅会说一口流利的韩语、英语，懂点中文，现在还在学习俄语。
The rappers at Vagabonds parties are all Koreans, but when the DJs hop behind the decks, US rap still reigns supreme. “I think it’s because Koreans don’t really dance, don’t really know how to have loud fun. American hip hop gives them leeway to be something they’re not,” Changstarr theorizes. He also believes that it might be because Korean lyrics are often still too inhibited. “If some of these English lyrics were in Korean, it would not go over well. People get offended so much easier here, so Korean lyrics are very refined and almost cutesy. There’s a degree of realness to American lyrics that lets people go crazy.”
Vagabonds 派对的说唱歌手都来自韩国，但是当 DJ 向舞池抛掷出 Beats 时，美式说唱仍占据上风。“我觉得可能是因为韩国人不太喜欢跳舞，也不知道该怎么玩得尽兴。韩语歌词通常比较中规中矩，而美国嘻哈音乐可以让他们更放得开。”Changstarr 猜测道。“如果将这些英语歌词翻译成韩语，估计也不好办，因为韩国人比较敏感，很容易受到冒犯，所以韩语歌词也比较克制，甚至有点矫揉造作。而美国歌词则更真实，直来直往得令人上头。”
Vagabonds has also evolved beyond the party and become a creative collective. The roster now includes three other rappers, a videographer, and a photographer. “I’ve always wanted to be in a crew,” he says. “And through my success I was finally able to start one.” Mckdaddy, another Korean rapper who was coming up around the same time as Changstarr, was the first member and together they recruited the rest. He says that having women in the crew set them apart from others. “It wasn’t intentional, but Korean feminism was surging at the same time. A lot of Korean guys think having a female as a business partner is not a good idea. It’s still a very patriarchal society, especially in a very macho space like rap.” He thinks that Tammy, who’s a part of the crew, has a style that shows other Korean girls they don’t necessarily have to be cutesy and feminine to make it.
现在的 Vagabonds 已经不只是一场派对，更像是一个创意团队，其中包括了另外三名说唱歌手、一名摄像师和一名摄影师。他说：“我一直希望成为团队的一员，现在终于如愿以偿。”和 Changstarr 同时期的另一位韩国说唱歌手 Mckdaddy 是加入团队的第一位成员，两人合伙拉来了一帮志同道合的朋友。团队内的 Tammy 等女性成员使得 Vagabonds 阵容更为丰富，他说：“韩国这段时间涌现了一批女权主义者，但我们团队招入女生纯粹是无心之举。其实许多韩国男性存在对女性的偏见，他们甚至排斥与女性合作。所以目前来看，韩国仍然是一个非常重男轻女的社会，尤其在说唱这种男性人数占优的圈子。” 而 Tammy 的个人风格更可以充分向别的女孩们证明，女性的魅力不一定非要靠可爱和女性化的妆容来实现。
Bringing visual artists on board was intentional since Changstarr always hoped for Vagabonds to become more than just a music group. He cites American rap crews like A$AP Mob and Odd Future that have brought together various strains of creativity under one banner as role models.
“There hasn’t been a Soundcloud rapper to come up in Korea for like two years now,” he says, explaining that making good music alone is no longer enough to catch people’s attention. “People are always watching something on their screens, so you have to have visuals to match the sound.”
He sees Vagabonds as a movement, a tribe, not just a crew. “We’re the hippie Illuminati,” he laughs. “Anybody can be part of our tribe. I want people to think they could be one of us; we’re not too exclusive for you.”
Changstarr 一直希望 Vagabonds 的定义不要仅仅局限于一个音乐团体，所以特意找来了视觉艺术家成员。他视 A$AP Mob 和 Odd Future 等一众美国嘻哈团体为榜样，希望能将不同领域的创意糅合在一起。
他说：“两年来，韩国还没有一位从 Soundcloud 混出名堂的说唱歌手出现。”他解释说，仅靠制作好音乐已经不足以吸引观众。“人们喜欢在屏幕上看到点什么，所以必须创造一些视觉元素来配合音乐。”
Changstarr 将 Vagabonds 视为一场运动，一个家族，而不仅仅是一支团体。“我们是当今韩国的 ‘嬉皮光照派’。”他笑着说道，“这是一个海纳百川的团体，任何人都可以成为 Vagabonds 家族的一员，别拘着，我们没那么不接地气儿。”