BM of KARD talks solo music, Asian representation: 'You need to feel liberated'

It's fitting Matthew Kim's stage name is Big Matthew, or BM for short. Not only does it describe the rapper's height and physique, it suits his personality.

"I'm very free. I'm very unfiltered," the 31-year-old says with a laugh.

BM dreamed he'd be where he is today. As he's getting real on the bus in Washington DC at the last stop of his solo tour May 25, BM tells USA TODAY he feels "the most grateful I've ever been in my life."

The Angeleno knew from a young age he wanted to be a performer. One of his earliest memories is when an after-school program teacher at his elementary school showed BM how to do an arm wave.

"That was the coolest thing I had ever seen," he recalls.

"I grew up on a lot of hip-hop and R&B, and I naturally gravitated toward that genre because of how interested I was in dancing," BM says. After watching "You Got Served" his desire to dance was solidified.

"I want to be good at dancing and I want to be able to entertain people and be a part of that community," BM recalls thinking.

Today, BM's drive has led him to become known across the globe as a member of co-ed K-pop group KARD, songwriter, producer, soloist, dancer and host of "GET REAL" under DIVE Studios.

"I work very, very hard, and I don't cut short on quality, or I try not to," he says. "That's what I'm going to continue to do until I die."

How BM's career started after moving to South Korea

Growing up, BM's focus wasn't on school. He didn't skip class, but was fixated on dancing and "what music was hot at the time."

In high school and college, he was a part of choreography teams and his dream was to be a choreographer.

However, this plan would shift by nearly 6,000 miles. BM's mom had signed him up to participate on an audition program, "K-pop Star" in South Korea.


"I'm so glad that I sucked it up and went because moms are always right. Mom's intuition is always right," he says.

BM says he shouldn't have gotten as far as he did on the show. During the auditions, he kept forgetting lyrics.

"The writers told me that no matter how much the producers wanted me to look good, there was just no way. That's how bad I was," he says. Yet, BM passed several rounds.

"Particularly one judge BoA, I have no idea what she saw in me," he says. "But seeing where I'm at now, it makes me feel like I justified her reasoning behind keeping me alive during the show."

After being eliminated from the show, BM became a trainee under DSP Media and debuted with KARD in 2016.

How BM's mindset is shaped by struggle

BM's trainee period was difficult. "I had to learn the language, the culture and the music at the same time," he says.

BM struggled to adjust. There was "a good four to five years, where every day I was like, 'Maybe I don't belong here,'" he recalls.

"The amount of stress I was under and not to mention the loneliness I had because I was all by myself. All that put together, I think was probably the toughest time of my life."

But BM's struggles shaped his mindset. "I almost look for struggle. I love struggle because you know, it builds you," he explains.

That growth pushed BM to where he is now. And he has finally found "a place where I belong."

Reflecting on being in a co-ed K-pop group

BM's group KARD is a rarity in the K-pop industry. With two male members and two female members, he says people often call them "unique."

"The music is more vibrant and colorful because there's voices from two different genders. I personally love it," BM says.

As someone with two brothers, BM says he's now gained sisters.

"Learning about each other and accepting that took some time as well and it's going to be like that for every group," he adds. "The reality is every group has their problems. Every group has to compromise for each other."

Defining BM, the soloist

BM releases his own music outside of KARD's discography (which include seven EPs). His first single "Broken Me" dropped in 2021. Since then, BM has put out three single albums and one EP, which released May 7.

When it comes to his solo artistry, BM is unapologetically himself. He's not afraid to be open.

"I think there's beauty in modesty. There's beauty in filtering yourself in a way where you look more elegant and classy," he shares. "On the other hand, I do feel like you need to feel liberated from time to time. I just want to create another choice of preference."

His latest self-produced offering "Element" hones in on this notion, exploring and being vocal on topics not directly addressed in the K-pop industry.

"The reaction I'm getting from putting out the realest me as an artist, it's so positive. I'm very grateful. This is a completely new start," he says. "I feel like how I did when I debuted but with the confidence that I didn't have."

BM hopes his music can be an "escape" for others. "That's what I want to create with my music because that's what my music does for me," he says.

"I've let go of high hopes and high aspirations. I have no ambition for fame and money anymore. My vision is I have people enjoying their life through my music, whether it be one person, 10 People, 1000 People."

Representation and growing through self-doubt

BM has tried to find the silver lining throughout his life. When he was younger, there were not many Asians around his community.

"It's something that set me apart and that created something to make fun of. Not to mention, I was really chunky back then too, so 'attractive' wasn't one of the words that I was addressed by back then."

BM believes AAPI representation has helped increase the community's visibility and opened doors. While attending the Gold Gala with Gold House – a nonprofit organization advocates for the AAPI community and its members – earlier this month, BM was moved by Lucy Liu's speech.


"She was tearing up, looking at the crowd, saying how lonely she was at that time (she was rising in fame). Because you can only imagine, right? But I think we're living in an age where not only Asians, but every ethnicity, is being more and more respected."

BM exudes confidence, but like anyone else, he does have self-doubt.

"Every big decision you make in life, I feel like self-doubt will always be there," he says. "There will always be a little bit, if not a lot, while they're hiding it."

But this has influenced BM's growth over the years, constructing his big heart.

"I feel like uncertainty makes the outcome beautiful," he says. "It's all a learning curve and you have to learn how to see the beauty within the detrimental part and the part where you gain."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: KARD's BM talks solo music, AAPI representation and K-pop industry