History of K-Pop: B.A.P
BABYz may currently be in a state of uncertainty following the news of rapper Bang Yongguk’s decision to not renew his contract with TS Entertainment. But the members of B.A.P vow to remain a group of six, and we’re optimistic. In the meantime, let’s look at how the boys have helped shape the K-Pop industry.
The group, according to their reality program Ta-Dah, It’s B.A.P, is comprised of aliens from Planet Mato who were sent to Earth to save their dying planet. Each member has their own matoki—the bunny-esque logo that appears on several of their albums.
Members including Yongguk and Zelo are known to have pre-debut activities, but we’ll start at the official debut. B.A.P officially debuted on January 26, 2012 with the iconic “Warrior,” one of the most memorable debuts of all time. “Warrior” differentiated the boys from other boy groups of the time, most of whom were pursuing a more clean-cut, pretty boy image. The music video still raises eyebrows to this day—from the matching blond hair to Zelo’s breathless rap to the step dance break. It proved to be successful, with the accompanying EP selling 10,000 copies in just two days.
As per usual with most rookie groups, 2012 proved to be a busy year for B.A.P. In March, they released the follow-up single “Secret Love,” and in April they made their first official comeback with “Power.” The title track did not let up in terms of intensity; “Power” gave us futuristic visuals with gun imagery and a rock-infused melody. Their second EP entered at number 10 on the Billboard World Albums Charts like their first. In August they released their first repackage EP Crash, and in October they came back with their fourth single “Stop It,” a complete contrast that showcased the boys’ charming silliness. BABYz were able to visualize the boys in a cheesy K-Drama setting.
The following year, B.A.P was once again working around the clock. In February, the group released a nearly seven-minute music video for “One Shot.” The short film reverted back to the group’s intense bad boy image. We even see blood spurting on the screen as Youngjae gets shot, resulting in a shootout between the rest of the members and a group of gangsters. That, however, didn’t hinder the album from reaching number one on Billboard’s World Albums chart. It remains the group’s most-viewed music video.
Six months later, they released their sixth EP Badman with three promotional singles. “Coffee Shop” is a jazzy pop track that showed that the boys could dial down their aggressive image. “Hurricane” is a refreshingly flashy electronic track that screams Vegas, where the video was filmed. It’s definitely in tune with the sound that groups like B2ST and 2PM made popular in 2013. Finally, B.A.P returned to their rebellious image with “Badman,” which screams anti-establishment with a sprinkle of dubstep.
The members experienced a multitude of highs and lows in 2014. “1004 (Angel)” headlined their first full-length album, First Sensibility. The upbeat pop track gave the group a friendlier track for radio play but didn’t stray away from their emotional vulnerability. Both the album and title track topped domestic and international charts and gave the group their first music show win on Show Champion on February 12, 2014, beating huge comebacks including AOA’s “Miniskirt” and Girls Day’s “Something.”
After these promotions, the group began their B.A.P Live On Earth 2014 Continent Tour from March to June, hitting Seoul, Los Angeles, Paris, and 20 more cities. Unfortunately, TS Entertainment canceled the South American leg of the tour citing insufficient time for the boys to rest. The boys were still able to perform for 20,000 fans worldwide.
Controversy struck the group at the end of the year when it was revealed that all six members had filed a lawsuit against TS Entertainment in November, claiming their contracts went against the Fair Trade Commission’s policy on “slave contracts.” The company refuted the claims, but they were once again challenged when B.A.P released a new statement considering filing another lawsuit for defamation of character. The first trial was held in March of 2015, and matters looked muddy for several months. But both parties reached a settlement on August 1 and B.A.P returned to TS Entertainment. While we cannot speak personally about the matter, it isn’t a secret that “slave contracts” have been prevalent in the K-Pop industry since its early days, and TS Entertainment has since found legal trouble with sister group SECRET as well.
Nearly a year after the lawsuit, the group returned with their eighth EP Matrix, and a music video for “Young, Wild & Free” in 2015. A year between comebacks can be an unsettling amount of time in the K-Pop industry, as groups usually come back once or twice in that time. But “Young, Wild & Free” reminded older fans of what made B.A.P stand out from the rest, and showed new K-Pop followers a group that had perfected the bad boy image.
Only three months after, the boys released their fifth mini-album, Carnival, with the funky and colorful “Feel So Good.” Although the group is full of strong, distinctive voices and hard-hitting rappers, lighter tracks like this are a testament to B.A.P’s ability to tailor their image and sound to the theme of their comeback.
From April to July, they embarked on their Live on Earth 2016 Tour, with stops in countries like Mexico, Finland, and New Zealand.
B.A.P dropped surprise single “That’s My Jam” in August—a hyped, electronic pop beat accompanied by a humorous music video. The track headlined their fifth single album PUT’ EM UP that featured two other songs that tackled contrasting musical genres.
Ahead of their November comeback, it was revealed that Yongguk would not be participating in promotional activities for the group’s upcoming album, Noir, due to health issues. Thankfully, he was able to focus on receiving professional treatment. Noir, along with title track “Skydive,” received praise from public audiences. Just when you thought B.A.P couldn’t outdo themselves, they released a 10-minute music video with a cleaner, more refined presentation of familiar themes: violence, gambling, and elaborate schemes. The wordless storytelling captivates viewers while effectively weaving the music within the plot.
The second full-length album helped the group reclaim their title as the K-Pop act with the most No.1 albums on Billboard’s World Albums chart, a title that was tied with GOT7 at the time. Currently, the title is tied between the two aforementioned groups as well as BTS and Red Velvet, showing B.A.P’s continuing relevance.
With three official Korean comebacks, 2017 proved to be a great year for B.A.P.
Yongguk rejoined the group’s activities after a four-month hiatus to promote “Wake Me Up” and their sixth single album Rose. “Wake Me Up” was noted for addressing mental health issues, which is still a publicly taboo topic in South Korea. The music video follows different people of color and his or her struggle with some of the most common mental health issues, including eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and suicidal thoughts. However, the song’s powerful lyrics translate to the members leading these people to a revolution against the things troubling their lives. Not many groups have dared to tackle and portray an issue so directly, but B.A.P is known to defy expectations.
In April, the boys embarked on the Party Baby - U.S. Boom 2017 World Tour, hitting six cities in the United States.
Their seventh single album Blue and title track “Honeymoon” came just six months later. The boys kept fans full with both Korean and Japanese comebacks as well as solo activities (see Jongup’s “Try My Luck,” Yongguk’s “Yamazaki,” and Zelo’s “Howler” for example). “Honeymoon” was definitely different from any of B.A.P’s past title tracks. It was also a stylistic choice (yes, we’re talking about Daehyun and Youngjae’s experimentation with pink hair and Himchan and Jongup’s mullets...especially Jongup’s).
The group rounded off the year with another intense title song, “Hands Up.” A fitting song for the end of the year, the lyrics shout at listeners to reach their hands up towards their dreams and to keep holding their heads high. It’s almost bittersweet that the uplifting track is possibly their last as a six-member group.
Unfortunately, on August 23, 2018, it was announced that Yongguk decided not to renew his expired contract with TS Entertainment. During their B.A.P 2018 Live Limited in Seoul concert on July 22, the boys confided in the crowd, sharing that despite the uncertainty of the future due to the different contract termination dates, BABYz have always been their source of energy.
It’s currently a state of uneasiness in the B.A.P fandom, but to ease some worries, Yongguk posted a letter on Instagram on August 26, where he notably stated: “I plan to engrave my gratitude deep inside my heart and never forget it. Thank you for giving me far more love, support, and encouragement than I deserved. Please continue to look after B.A.P and the B.A.P members, whom I care about more than anything else [in the world], in the future. And wherever I am, I will always continue to push forward and make music as former B.A.P leader, Bang Yong Guk. Please keep an eye on me. As always, I love you, and I respect you.”
We see B.A.P’s influence in groups including MONSTA X and BTS. They’ve gathered several remarkable accomplishments under their belts, and it’s only fitting that they get the recognition they deserve. While the future remains unclear, we hope for nothing but the best for all the members of B.A.P!
Keep up with the members here: