Woo won Jae is the 23-year-old rapper from Gyeongju, South Korea who first rose to fame after participating in Show Me The Money 6 and finishing in 3rd place. Woo then signed with AOMG and has never looked back since. From his numerous chart singles, including the PAK single "We Are" to his outstanding debut EP AF, Woo has become one of the most respected young hip-hop figures on the Korean music scene.
"Used To" picks up exactly where AF left off. The track has a jazz soundscape and lyrics that reflect its troubled past facing its bright future. "Used To" functions CIFIKA, but the MV lacks both its presence and its singing. Instead, the MV starts with a family portrait with Woo appearing as the family's black sheep (literally the only person wearing black). However, upon closer inspection, you find that it is not Woo's biological family.
A keen eye can see both immediately Sogumm and Code art (Artist also signed with AOMG) In this recreated family portrait, the MV changes from a still black and white shot to a colorful contemporary image. The full cast list can be found at the end of the MV. Other flashy names are Kim Oki and Mokyoboth artists Woo have worked together before. This transition also fits in with the aforementioned theme of the track: Woo looks back on his past and everything he has done for himself and his family to achieve his success today.
Ye I used to
Uh, I did it for myself, for my family
On the roof, part time job in a supermarket
You can't understand
The reason I ran the Yeonnam Railroad for 4 hours
Ye I used to
As is the norm for a Woo track, the lyrics occupy the most important place in the composition of Woo's music. The verses continue to play in the struggles of Woo's life before he made it as a hip hop artist. The MV remains trapped in a living family portrait, with most of his supposed family staring straight ahead while Woo delivers every line with a free gesture. Interestingly, there is only one family member who is actively moving, namely a man in the front row who shakes his head, possibly pointing out a disapproving relative or some other reason (a tremor or just rocking on the track).
Only in the second chorus does Woo's face swell when the camera completes its slow zoom in on his face. This could mean the pain that Woo refers to in his verses that is finally coming to the surface. The more interesting thought, however, occurs when Woo suddenly pushes the camera's view down, forcing a visual transition.
In this transition, Woo wears a mask made from a teddy bear. This is supposed to hide his now completely swollen face. This new look for Woo could be a person he's adopting for his latest record. His attempt to create a persona is similar to that of The weekndPersona on After Hours or the IGOR persona Tyler, the creator took over for his last album. Taking on new personalities is a well-known trend (think about it David Bowie or Eminem), which is currently experiencing a renaissance in hip-hop and allows an artist to part with their art.
The sound excerpt that accompanies this last section of the MV is also not included in the single version of this track (instead it contains the CIFIKA function mentioned above). This implies that there is a new job on the Woo Path. In terms of sound, the transition offers a dizzying guitar loop in addition to a steady drum beat. The difference in sound between the two sections of the MV is nuanced but obvious.
The guitar loop itself is reminiscent of Woo's previous single "Too Much", which came out in May. This echo from an earlier track indicates that these singles are being tied together by a particular body of sound, as was the case with AF.
The outro section of this MV is most likely an interlude or part of another track found on Woo's as yet undisclosed album. Interestingly, the art director for the MV, Hwang HyunJintitled the second section of this piece "Fever" and suggested the possible title name. On the other hand, this may just be a stylistic detour that Woo chose for his comeback single.
Whatever the case, it is a surprising moment and wonderfully executed. One of the recordings shows a masked woo in a field surrounded by bees. This image brings another comparison to Tyler, The Creator and his cover art for the Flower Boy album. Musical influences naturally flow through both the graphics of this MV and its lyrical content. Woo name drop AOMG Brian Eno, and Bjork due to the proximity of the MV, which rotates a beautiful tapestry with influence on creation.
Overall, the single shows Woo in brilliant form and suggests a brilliant record right on the horizon. By then we have this single and "Too Much" to devour, not to mention its features this year SAAY"Winter" and Code Art's "Flower"! Woo Won Jae has continued to claim to be Korea's most introspective copywriter and his track record remains a fine example for others struggling to survive in this life.
(I-D, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube (1) (2) (3). Images via AOMG)