Gemini is in a league of his own in the Korean R&B scene. Despite debuting during the throes of the pandemic, the 29-year-old musician has managed to etch a name for himself amid this evolving industry with his penchant for hypnotic, seductive sounds paired perfectly with his velvety vocals. While Gemini has the support of AT AREA labelmates and producer duo GroovyRoom to guide his music, but beyond that, he is also a multi-dimensional artist with a rich background in music production, songwriting, rap, dance, composition and more.
From his acoustic-backed debut single album ‘Going’ to his 2022 alternative EP ‘Still Blue’, Gemini – real name Kim Jae-min – has never been one to shy away from dabbling in the unfamiliar. “I really like to challenge myself musically and [go for] new genres I’ve never tried before,” he tells NME over a video call from Seoul. “For example, ‘Still Blue’ had more alternative sounds compared to [2021’s] ‘Inside Out’, which was more focused on R&B.”
With the release of his third EP, ‘Love Sick’, Gemini has only continued to push the envelope. Comprising eight tracks – four of which are remixes of old fan favourites – ‘Love Sick’, as Gemini puts it, is a nuanced, Afrobeats-backed exploration of what it means to viscerally crave intimacy. “After ‘Still Blue’ released in December , I had nine months of rest that I used to really think about the kinds of music and genres I wanted to explore,” he explains. “I was talking to my friends about this and [during our conversations], the topic of the Afrobeats genre came up, since everybody was listening to those songs at the time.”
A good majority of those who worked with him were on board with the idea of creating an Afrobeats album, including chief producer Kwaca, who has been consistently working with Gemini across multiple releases. “We thought it would be fun to try [making our own music] in this genre and mix it with R&B,” he explains. That being said, there were some issues he had to address himself before diving headfirst into new territory: “Afrobeats is a different and difficult genre [for me] to approach because it’s cultural music.”
With origins tracing back to popular music styles from West Africa and diasporas in Nigeria and Ghana, Gemini is well-aware of the responsibility he has in creating music under this umbrella without appropriating or disrespecting its history, culture and the community tied to it. “I [made sure to] study [the culture and history behind] Afrobeats in order to understand the basics,” he says.
His first encounter with the genre was through Nigerian musician Rema, who made his global breakthrough with the song ‘Dumebi’ in 2019. Rema’s body of work and his steady journey toward mainstream success eventually served as one of the main inspirations for ‘Lovesick’. “I really liked the sound he was going for – ever since I listened to ‘Dumebi’, I knew I wanted to try Afrobeats,” Gemini recalls, after a brief moment of scrolling through his playlists.
‘Lovesick’’s lead single, ‘Attention’, was the song that started it all, according to Gemini. “When I first [started working on ‘Lovesick’], DAWN and Blasé weren’t yet part of AT AREA. We started hanging out after they joined, and the time we spent [between the] three of us just felt so youthful,” the singer recalls. “Whenever we hung out together, this energy of youthfulness always felt really strong to all of us, so we decided to put that feeling into a song and that’s when I thought of ‘Attention’.”
Aside from its title track, ‘Lovesick’ boasts an impressive roster of featured artists from renowned Korean rapper Penomeco and vocals from producer Kwaca to American R&B artist Kaash Paige. Four of eight songs on the album are Afrobeats remixes of old tracks, but Gemini says these remixes hold special meaning. “I felt like this was a special album. I chose songs that I knew fans really love from my discography and [refreshed them] because I wanted to show them my gratitude,” Gemini says. “Of course, I could say this in an interview or post something on Instagram, but I wanted it to be meaningful.”
An especially important song he remixed in the new album was ‘Inside Out’, previously a brief opening track to his album of the same name. Gemini is known for opening his live shows with the song, and describes it as a “special track” to him. “I’ve had so many comments from fans who said they wished the song was longer, so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to do that and have someone feature,” the singer notes.
Gemini adds that he has always wanted to collaborate with Paige, and this desire opened up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. “I talked to GroovyRoom’s Hwimin, who has connections with Kaash. He helped contact Kaash Paige about the song, which she loved and hopped on. Since Kaash sang her verse in English, I tweaked the lyrics of the ‘Inside Out’ remix to English too.”
Although Gemini is still riding high on the release of ‘Love Sick’, he has no plans on resting on his laurels. He reveals that while he was working on ‘Lovesick’, the wheels for his next project had already been set in motion. “I can’t really tell [anyone] what genre it would be, but as a hint, I’m going back to [the style of] my debut song, ‘Going’. I’m trying to make something that sounds like my debut, but at the same time improving on it, bringing it to [a contemporary context] and creating something new.”
“Every time another year goes by, I always have regrets about not putting out more music,” he sheepishly admits, although confidently assures that 2024 will be the year this will finally change. “For the next year, I’ll try to release more good music, meet fans more often and perform more. I want to show people that I’ve upgraded.”
Gemini’s new EP, ‘Love Sick’, is out now on all major streaming platforms