On July 3rd, after a seven-year break, South Korean rapper Beenzino returned with his new studio album "NOWITZKI". Though the break has been long, by breaking records in the Korean hip-hop scene, he proves that he might have been gone, but he was never forgotten.
Beenzino, born as Lim Sung-bin, began his music career in 2009 after being a part of “P’Skool’s Daily Apartment”, a collective album by producer Primary. His first solo work, “24:26”, was released in 2012. Many of Beenzino songs - for instance, “So What” and “Dali, Van, Picasso” - topped the music charts shortly after their releases. Currently, “Aqua Man”, “Boogie On & On” and “If I Die Tomorrow” are the most listened Beenzino songs on Spotify. From the beginning of his career, Beenzino has been part of the 1llionaire, a well-known independent record label. The artist left the label in 2020, and shortly after, 1llionaire announced the conclusion of the company. Since 2021, Beenzino has been working with the record label Beasts and Natives Alike.
“NOWITZKI” was released after a seven-year break since Beenzino’s last album. After “12”, which was released in 2016, gained the title of a “classic” album in the Korean music scene, his new work was eagerly awaited by his fanbase. The record consists of eighteen songs, such as, “Monet”, “Lemon”, and “Change”, to name a few. The overall theme of the album is Beenzino's life and the things he experienced from 2017, before starting his mandatory military service, to 2022.
The new album includes exciting collaborations such as American singers Cautious Clay, who is best known for songs “Cheesin’” and “Cold War”, as well as Lance Skiiiwalker, who just released his new single “Just Like”. Of course, Beenzino also features South Korean musicians on his album. The rising Korean hip-hop artist oygli is part of the track “Coca Cola Red '' and Kim Ximya features on the song “990”.
After Beenzino’s announcement of new music, “NOWITZKI” generated astounding pre-sale figures as a result of enthusiasm around the new album. The promotions for the album began in December 2021 when Beenzino’s label shared the news of him flying to Sweden to work on his music at a production camp. Fans of the artist were able to witness his experience while at the camp in the vlog series “I’ve Been Seeing Colours”. Following that, the artist worked with Ikea, the Swedish company, to build a NOWITZKI listening studio at the company’s location in Seoul.
Nowadays, it is a challenge for Korean hip-hop artists to sell 20,000 units. However, Beenzino broke recent records by selling 47,000 copies of the album in the first week of limited pre-sales. Within 20 hours of its release, “NOWITZKI” received over 1 million streams on Melon Music. This achievement is surpassing the previous record for the Korean hip-hop genre, allowing the album to enter the “Melon Hall of Fame”.
The cover art of the album is an old picture of Beenzino’s long-term partner and now wife Stefanie Michova. She is considered to be the artist’s muse. The couple began dating back in 2015 and got married last year.
While the cover art shows Beenzino’s wife, the title was inspired by German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki. As an indication of Beenzino’s passion for professional basketball, the cover design for “Monet”, one of the album’s preliminary releases, depicts Nowitzki in action, playing for Dallas Mavericks and serves as an indirect validation for the album presentation choices.