A rapper is nothing without their producer, at least on record. In the studio, spitting rhymes means little when you have no beat to work with. And, in our SoundCloud, beat-per-dollar era, it's easier than ever to procure beats to fuel your stories. But for a rapper to find the ideal, almost magical, kind of chemistry in a producer is a rare occurrence.
From 21 Savage fleshing out his tales of violent decadence alongside Metro Boomin's menacing beats, to Kenny Beats unleashing the fiercest energies out of Rico Nasty, the symbiotic relationship between rapper and producer creates the kind of hip hop music that pushes the culture forward.
Woo Won Jae, commonly known simply as Woo, has that with Gray. Their monosyllabic monikers might as well be an indicator of their work ethic and output: sharp, precise and attuned to the culture at large. Their latest collaboration '???' represents just how efficient and talented they are when put together in the studio. And their special guest appearance in episode 1 of Yo! MTV Raps kicked off our hip hop celebration with a bang.
We speak to the duo about inspirations, collaborations and their experience shooting Yo! MTV Raps.
MTV Asia: How often do you two spend time in the studio together? How does your relationship work?
Gray: I've been seeing him a lot recently as we've been working on songs together. When we're busy individually, we don't get to see each other as often though. He's my precious brother and family.
Woo: As Gray said, we've been spending lots of time together working on my album and singles. Again, there are periods when our individual schedules clash and don't get to see each other but whenever we meet, we don't feel awkward that it's been so long because we're family.
What's been the key so far to your successful collaborative relationship?
Gray: I would say faith and trust in each other. We respect and trust each other's opinion, and I believe that makes great songs in the end.
Woo: Mood of the day? There is a certain mood that we have when we're working together and I think it's very important to communicate that mood.
What's one pet peeve you have of each other?
Gray: Hmm... I really don't have any.
Woo: Disclaimer, this is neither pet peeve nor complaint! But sometimes in Gray's studio, there is proof of partying from the night before, so we always have to clean the studio before getting to work.
How was your experience at the Yo! MTV Raps shoot?
Gray: It was really fun because everyone was kind and treating us very well. And the director, all the staff and assisting cast members had so much passion, which influenced us to be passionate too.
Woo: Everyone on set looked happy – literally everyone – so I didn't feel like it was work. The vibes were great.
Tell us more about your early musical inspirations, the music acts that captured your attention when you were a teenager/student.
Gray: There are so many of them. Just to name a few: Pharrell Williams, Nas, Jay-Z, Gangstarr, Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, Pete Rock, The Roots. And in Korea, Drunken Tiger, Dynamic Duo and Supreme Team.
Woo: Kendrick Lamar , A$AP ROCKY, Tyler The Creator, Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, Thundercat.
And how about modern inspirations, and how they've helped to guide your music along the way?
Gray: My family at AOMG.
Woo: Definitely AOMG family first. If I had to choose from overseas, JPEG MAFIA, Gesaffelstein and of course, the one and only, Billie Eilish.
If you could pick three vastly different artists to collaborate with, who would they be and why?
What can fans look forward to next for Gray & Woo?
Gray: Better music. We will always try our best to give you good music.
Woo: Like everyone else, giving you better music every time will always remain as our first priority. And would love you to stay tuned for something fun & creative aside from music too.
Anything else you'd like to share with hip hop fans across Asia?
Gray: I'm always grateful for the fact that there are fans everywhere in the world including Asia. Thank you so much for your support. Love you all.
Woo: You can be proud to say you like Asian hip hop. We will make sure you will. And shout-out to MTV Asia.
Shout-out to Woo & Gray, our Yo! MTV Raps special guests in episode 1! Hungry for more Korean hip hop? Watch the full Yo! MTV Raps Korean Special episode, featuring Woo & Gray, Dynamic Duo, Reddy, Flowsik, Basick and YunB right here:
(Hip hop heads in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam can watch full episodes right here at mtvasia.com)
Subscribe to MTV Asia's YouTube channel for more Yo! MTV Raps