BTS’s j-hope just broke one of Beyoncé’s records.
On August 3, his solo mixtape Hope World went to No. 1 on iTunes Nepal. It has now topped the iTunes chart in 109 different countries, breaking a record the former Destiny’s Child frontwoman held for five years. She released her sixth solo studio album Lemonade on April 23, 2016, and it eventually went to No. 1 in 108 different countries.
In true ARMY fashion, fans celebrated j-hope’s achievement by trending hashtags in his honor, such as ‘HOBI,’ ‘HopeWorldByJHope109Win,’ and ‘HOSEOK.’
Bannered by the first single “Daydream,” Hope World dropped on March 2, 2018. Billboard magazine described the song as “90s-vibing,” with lazy vocals and a bouncy bass line. In a previous interview, j-hope revealed he used the track as an outlet for the hopes and dreams that everyone has, but unfortunately must cover up and hold down for some reason. Its next single, titled “Airplane,” sees him reflect on his success.
j-hope composed, produced, and wrote all seven songs on his mixtape. It made Billboard’s Artist 100 chart for two straight weeks and topped the iTunes charts in 63 different countries at the time of its release.
The possibility of j-hope releasing a mixtape of his own was first floated in a concept book that came with BTS’s Wings album, which was released on October 16, 2016. In an interview published in that book, j-hope said he was seriously thinking about following in his members’ footsteps. RM and SUGA had already released mixtapes—RM dropped a self-titled one the year before, and SUGA’s Agust D dropped on August 15, 2016. When his fans heard of his plan, they were thrilled. He later said their interest was one of the things that pushed him to go ahead and make Hope World.
Hope World is considered essential listening for Baby ARMY—those who are new to BTS. As j-hope actively participates in producing and writing material for the group, listening to his mixtape will introduce you to his musical style.
“The reason I made the mixtape was because it was kind of like a dream for me to make and play a song I made about myself. I wanted to play it for many people. So I invested in that dream for a long time. In order to make it happen, I studied a lot and wrote songs. I did research so I could figure out a way for many fans and even the public who don’t know about j-hope can all enjoy my music. So first and foremost, the reason I made Hope World was because I wanted it so badly,” he said in a live broadcast on March 1, 2018, a day before the mixtape was released.
Since then, fans from all over the world have shown him and his members so much love. In a recent interview with Weverse Magazine, he described that love as staggering.
“It’s so amazing to be loved by even one person. Even just one, single love is beautiful, but we’re getting love from all over the world, and I know it isn’t something I should take for granted. I’m so incredibly thankful that sometimes I feel overwhelmed just thinking, ‘Wow, how can I ever return this much love?’ I want to express that in any way possible, every moment I can, because I’m so honored to be so loved I can’t even begin to put it into words,” he said.
Hope World is characterized by its (pun not intended) hopeful vibe, and that in turn reflects the way j-hope usually presents himself. But after it dropped, he realized he needed to change things up.
“I felt, and realized, exactly what I needed to do with my own personal identity and energy right after I released my first mixtape. From that point on, I thought I needed to express my energy and musical regularly, but not in an intense way. Before, as time went by and the group blew up, I think I let go of a lot of the pressure to express myself. Then I started to feel like I wanted to try expressing myself in my own way, even as the team did well.”
As his emotions changed, so did his musical style.
“People’s emotions, their feelings and the things they can accept in their lives, change every day, don’t they? I think the changing emotions I felt and came to accept as we grew in popularity is also expressed by the way my songs changed. It’s something I always spend time thinking about, but I’m just another young person living his life on this planet. I’m not really different from anybody else, which means I can’t always be as bright as I was on Hope World. So that’s why I tried a different approach to the things I could express.”
That approach gave birth to the songs “Dis-ease,” which appeared on the BTS album BE. Eventually, it also prompted the rapper to compose a full-length version of Hope World outro “Blue Side,” which he dropped earlier this year to mark the third anniversary of his mixtape’s release.
“I ended up thinking about the shadows inside me. I didn’t realize it when we were promoting, but with the whole world suddenly at a standstill, we had all this time where we couldn’t do anything. I could see the shadows underneath—sitting spaced out in the studio, thinking about the kind of life I’ve lived, watching our performances on TV—I thought, ‘That’s who I was.’ The willpower I found during this time has been tremendous,” he said of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He decided to put all his feelings to good use. Fortunately, as a musician, he’s in the right position to do that. That’s what’s so great about having a career in the arts—you always have an outlet for your emotions. In the rapper’s case, he turned what he was feeling into hits.
“I figured those emotions and songs could only be written at that time, so I put them all down like a diary, and ‘Dis-ease’ was born. With that as a starting point, I thought I could include stuff like my inner darkness, and that’s why I was able to release ‘Blue Side.’”
J-hope discovered a side of himself that he never realized was there. It was then that he chose to share it with ARMY and the general public. He hoped it would bring him closer to them.
“I kept thinking about what life would be best for j-hope while we were working, so I wondered what Jung Hoseok’s life would look like as a whole. While that was happening, I realized I’m not a person who’s always happy. I thought it would be interesting if I showed people a side of me that’s different from their idea of who j-hope is. Most importantly, I don’t feel resistance about who I am right now. As someone who makes music about his personal life, I think this is all part of the process.”
j-hope also talked about the full version of “Blue Side” and revealed how he came up with the song’s soul-baring lyrics.
“To be honest, I don’t really remember how I came up with those lyrics. I wrote it a long time ago when we were touring overseas. I’m not a very big drinker, but those were the first lyrics I released that I wrote while drinking,” he laughs.
He adds, “When I write lyrics while I’m drinking, I usually regret writing them in the morning, but when I look at them again, I realize that they’re lyrics that I could write only with the feelings I had at that time. When I release a song like that, I get a certain kind of feeling And when I give myself feedback on my own music, a version of me who’s different from the way I was before I made the music emerges.”
Aside from Hope World’s latest achievement, j-hope is currently part of the Korea Music Copyright Association. As of July 2021, the rapper owns the rights to 112 songs.