|Birth name||Young-Kee Yu (류영기)|
|Also known as||Verbal, L Universe|
|Born||21 August 1975|
|Revised Romanization||Ryu Yeong-gi Yu Yeong-gi|
|McCune–Reischauer||Ryu Yŏnggi Yu Yŏnggi|
Verbal (born August 21, 1975) is a third generation North Zainichi Korean hip hop recording artist, music video director and record producer who debuted in 1998 as a member of the hip hop group M-Flo.
M-Flo's hits in the early 2000s, such as "How You Like Me Now?" and "Come Again" led to Verbal rapping and producing a wide range of acts in Japan such as Crystal Kay, BoA, Kumi Koda and Namie Amuro. Verbal considers his role in m-flo as a "host" than a rapper or producer, though their success and critical acclaim established them as an iconic and influential hip hop production team throughout Asia
Verbal is also the chairman of music label Espionage Records (an imprint of Rhythm Zone under Avex Group), production agency Kozm and has a fashion brand called Ambush, co-founded with his wife Yoon.
He launched his solo career in March 2011 with the album "Visionair".
Verbal was born in Tokyo with Korean background in 1975. In 1985, his parents moved to Boston in the United States for work. When at a YMCA summer camp, Verbal was first exposed to hip hop music, in the form of Run–D.M.C.'s "It's Tricky" when the other children sung the song on the bus for the camp. He was impressed and influenced by the hip hop culture of New York City and at 14 years old he started writing lyrics in English. His parents moved back to Tokyo and Verbal attended St. Mary's International School. He met Taku Takahashi there and the pair formed a rap rock band called N.M.D. in 1992. The band received many offers from major record labels after their live performances, however as Verbal did not see being a rapper as a practical career, he turned down these offers.
Verbal returned to the United States, to study philosophy and marketing at Boston College. In his first year of university, he abandoned these plans after a great romantic disappointment, converting to Protestantism and deciding to study for a masters in divinity at Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary to become a pastor.
Verbal has said that his influences began with gangster rap groups like N.W.A. After he mistakenly purchased a Gang Starr album, he became interested in East coast hip hop including De La Soul and Pete Rock & CL Smooth.
In 1998, Verbal returned for winter break to Japan. During this time, he recorded a rap for a cover of Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were" that Takahashi was producing. Masaji Asakawa from the DJ group GTS, a contact of Takahashi's, believed the song was very high quality. M-Flo was then officially formed, with Verbal and Takahashi recording many songs together. Asakawa believed one of these songs, "Been So Long," featuring vocals from a mutual friend of both Verbal and Takahashi, Lisa, was high enough quality for him to try to convince Verbal to become a full-time musician. He was convinced and the group debuted as a three-person group (with vocalist Lisa) in 1999 with "The Tripod E.P.," which debuted in the top 10 on the Japanese singles chart.
The group achieved great success in 2000 and 2001 with the songs "How You Like Me Now?" and "Come Again," with the former selling more than 220,000 copies and the latter approximately 390,000 copies. The band's second album, Expo Expo, debuted at #4 on the charts. During the group's first two albums, Verbal was travelling back and forth between Japan and America to finish his studies. During these initial years, Verbal had collaborated with a great number of Japanese artists already, including producing the female rap unit Heartsdales.
In 2002, Lisa left M-Flo following a disagreement to pursue a solo career. During this time, Verbal and Takahashi's solo works intensified, with Verbal taking a major part in two different hip hop supergroups, Mic Banditz and Suite Chic.
In 2003, M-Flo returned from hiatus, but instead of using a new full-time vocalist, the band featured a different famous musician on each of their songs.
In 2002, Verbal formed the Japanese hip hop supergroup Mic Banditz on his Espionage Records label imprint. The group comprised rappers Verbal, Arkitec, 51-Goichi-, Coyass, and Clench and Mr. Blistah of the duo Clench & Blistah. The group represented a more traditional hip-hop sound in contrast to M-Flo's pop-influenced sound. They released two full-length albums of majority Japanese-language rap, 2003's Sixth Sense and 2004's Johnny Astro & the Diamond Crooks and collaborated with Japanese R&B singer Emi Hinouchi, who was at the time signed to fellow M-Flo member Taku Takahashi's Tachytelic Records imprint. The group have been on hiatus since 2005.
In 2005, Verbal became a member of another hip hop supergroup, Teriyaki Boyz. The group has collaborated with many famous Western hip hop musicians, such as The Neptunes, the Beastie Boys, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. The group came to the most prominence in the West with the eponymous theme song for the film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in 2006.
In 2007, M-Flo released their final album featuring different vocalists, Cosmicolor. After this point, the group have released sporadically, with a succession of different compilation albums. Verbal has consistently been working with other artists since then, producing songs for such artists as BoA and Halcali. Some of his biggest collaborations since then have been a cover of Godiego's song "The Galaxy Express 999" with Exile, which has been certified as double platinum for cellphone downloads by the RIAJ and a collaboration with Kana Nishino, "Kimi no Koe o," which has been certified gold for cellphone downloads. In 2010, Verbal directed his first music video, Minmi's "Pa to Hanasaku," which also features Verbal.
In September 2004, Verbal married his college sweetheart, Korean American Yoon. Together they started jewelry label Ambush, with the initial aim of custom-making jewelry for Verbal. They have since produced several lines of jewelry, collaborating with brands including A Bathing Ape and selling custom pieces to celebrities including Teriyaki Boyz collaborator Kanye West.
May 2011 saw Verbal take Visionair out on the road with the "Angree Yung Robotz" tour alongside electro DJ Mademoiselle Yulia.
- Visionair (2011)
- Robert Michael Poole (2009-10-30). "m-flo's Verbal spreads the love". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
- Robert Michael Poole (2006-03-17). "J-pop goes def". Metropolis (free magazine). Archived from the original on 2014-06-27. Retrieved 2011-05-03.
- iLOUD (2009-03-27). "VERBAL × MADEMOISELLE YULIA 対談". Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- CNNGo. "Verbal and Yoon: Tokyo's ultimate fashion power couple". Retrieved 2011-07-22.
- Robert Michael Poole (2011-05-05). "Verbal wants to hit the reset button on pop". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
- CROWN JEWEL (2006-11-24). "Clothes Relay [クローズリレー] - VERBALさん（m-flo ミュージシャン）". Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
- Hypebeast (2009-04-20). "Exchanging Freshness for Freshness with Verbal". Retrieved 2009-04-21.
- "金剛地武志 /TOMORROW: これから二十歳を迎える若者と昔二十歳だった人々へ". J-Wave. November 16, 2006. Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- クリエイターズカフェKOOTS×an. "スーパークリエイターズトークショー Vol.3 guest VERBALさん". Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- TOKYO姉妹. "セレブの恋愛Talk - Vol.10 m-flo VERBAL". Archived from the original on 2008-12-27. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
- commmonsmart (2009-04-10). "music BATON｜【#016】VERBAL". Retrieved 2009-04-19.[permanent dead link]
- Semtex.tv. "Semtex TV interview with Verbal and Wyse". Retrieved 2011-11-07.
- Musicman-NET. "m-floとの出会い～been so longの奇跡". Archived from the original on 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- "M-Floのリリース一覧" [A Look at M-Flo's Releases]. Oricon. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
- 大橋美貴子・BARKS (2009-10-05). "m-flo、膨大な作品群を徹底解明する「活動10周年記念」大特集 (2) - BARKS 特集". Retrieved 2009-10-19.
- ja:MIC BANDITZ
- レコード協会調べ 7月度有料音楽配信認定 ＜略称：7月度認定＞. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- レコード協会調べ 8月度有料音楽配信認定 ＜略称：8月度認定＞. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- HotExpress (2010-08-10). "MINMI×VERBAL×大沢伸一 新ダンスチューンを発表". Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- Hypebeast.TV. "Verbal and Yoon:Where it all happens". Retrieved 2011-11-07.
- Too Much Information. "Verbal and Yoon". Retrieved 2011-11-07.
- HotExpress (2010-10-14). "◆VERBAL（m-flo） ハモネプ優勝メンバーとドラマOP曲を担当！". Retrieved 2010-10-15.
- Natalie (2010-11-17). "VERBALソロ本格始動のドラマOPテーマ、着うた配信開始". Retrieved 2010-11-17.