Bang Yongguk (Hangul: 방용국; born March 31, 1990), often simply known as Yongguk, Bang or Jepp Blackman, is a South Korean songwriter, rapper, singer and dancer. He is the leader and the main rapper of the South Korean group B.A.P.
In 2007, Yongguk was part of an underground hip-hop group called Soul Connection under the alias of "Jepp Blackman". In March 2011, he was featured in Song Jieun's Going Crazy and the single became a number one hit in South Korea. In July, Yongguk released his first solo digital single "I Remember", featuring BEAST's Yoseob. He afterwards promoted in a sub-unit called Bang&Zelo with fellow B.A.P member Zelo. Bang&Zelo released their single "Never Give Up" in November, 2011.
Bang Yongguk was born in Incheon, South Korea, on March 31, 1990. Yongguk has an older, identical twin brother named Yongnam, who has also done some underground performing, and an older sister named Natasha. Despite being born in Incheon, he and his family moved to Ijak island when he was young. He was not able to talk until he was five years old (as revealed on the B.A.P. members profiles). He recalled that he didn't have many memories living on Ijak island as their family lived there for a short period of time and came back to Incheon. Yongguk studied at Gae Woong Elementary School and Gae Woong Middle School, and at 18 graduated at the Yoo Han High School. In 2008, he was a member in an underground hip hop group called "Soul Connection" under the stage name of "Jepp Blackman" and the group released a single entitled "Cherry Flower". When asked how he became a singer, Yongguk commented, "It goes back to middle school. At that time, I was doing underground hiphop. After becoming an adult, I was introduced to TS Entertainment by Untouchable hyungs, and entered this company. After that, I was preparing for B.A.P and did other promotional activities, the time of preparation with B.A.P was about one year. For myself, it took me 6 years before I debuted."
2011: "Going Crazy", "I Remember" and Bang&Zelo
On March 3, 2011 TS Entertainment revealed that Bang Yongguk will be the featured rapper in Song Jieun's "Going Crazy". His duet with Jieun became a commercial and critical success, and fans praised Yongguk's performance for his "husky and fiery delivery". On March 12, 2011, "Going Crazy" topped the Gaon Chart as well as Gaon's Digital and Streaming Chart. The song garnered him popularity as he was on top of major portal search rankings in South Korea after the song's release. After the release of “Going Crazy”, Yongguk has been requested for multiple broadcast appearances, as representatives expressed interest in his "handsome looks and professional stage performances". But TS Entertainment declined the offer and stated that “He’s still a trainee so he’s not set to appear in broadcasts other than for ‘Going Crazy’ promotions. However, thank you for giving your support to a new singer“. Representatives from TS Entertainment shared their views on Bang Yongguk's performance and said, “Despite being a rookie, he received the opportunity to participate in Song Ji Eun’s solo album. He may be lacking, but thank you for showing him your interest.” Through Naver, Yongguk shared his sentiments on promoting "Going Crazy":
“I’ve realized that actually being on stage is vastly different from everything I’ve rehearsed for and that I still have more to learn. If there’s anything I’m disappointed in, it’s that I wish I had written the lyrics a bit better. I knew that I didn’t express the actions of a true stalker as well as I could have, and I’m regretful that I couldn’t show more on stage.”
On August 11, 2011, TS Entertainment released Yongguk's single, "I Remember" featuring Yang Yoseob of B2ST. The song became a moderate success as it landed in the Top 10 on real time charts in South Korea after its release and peaked at number twenty-two on the Gaon Charts. However, Bang Yongguk and Yoseob couldn't perform the song on music stations because according to KBS, the song was deemed unfit for broadcast due to several scenes containing shooting and violence. On November 23, 2011, TS Entertainment formed a sub-unit group called Bang&Zelo from the then unknown group, B.A.P with member Zelo. They debuted with the song "Never Give Up" on December 2, 2011.
In March 2011, TS Entertainment already signaled that they will debut a boy band in 2012. Bang Yongguk was the first member to be revealed in TS Entertainment's upcoming boy band with singles such as "Going Crazy" and "I Remember". In August 2011, TS Entertainment introduced its second member, Kim Him Chan and revealed that he will be an emcee in MTV's The Show. In November 2011, TS Entertainment stated that they will debut a sub-unit group for their upcoming boy band previously known as "TS Baby" featuring Bang Yongguk and another member. On January 26, 2012, Yongguk won the Best Hip Hop Artist award on Allkpop 2012 Awards.
B.A.P debuted in January 2012 with their lead single "Warrior". On January 28, 2012, the group held its debut showcase concert in Seoul, South Korea with over 3,000 people attended the show. Their debut single met them critical acclaim as various media outlets dubbed the song and its music video, "powerful and charismatic". Yongguk performed at SBS Gayo Daejeon 2013 as part of a collaborative hip-hop stage featuring Tiger JK, Yoon Mirae, and Bizzy and also including Zico, Rap Monster and Eun Jiwon.
Yongguk is the main rapper of the group. Aside from K-Pop, Yongguk predominately does Hip-Hop music. He cites 50 Cent, P. Diddy, Pharrell and other rappers as his musical influences. Bang Yongguk commented, "My goal from the beginning wasn't becoming a K-pop singer. But seeing Supreme Team or Dynamic Duo who have popularized hip hop music [in Korea], I wanted to take part in it and make my contribution to the genre’s development." Aside from being a rapper, he's also a song-writer, having written all the rap parts to B.A.P's songs himself, and participated in the composing of all B.A.P's songs in their debut album, Warrior (EP).