By Chyenne Tatum | @chyandblack
2019 proved to be a monumental year for SM Entertainment as they debuted the first supergroup in K-Pop, composed of seven of the industry’s most recognizable and acclaimed artists across four different groups. Although the members achieved many “firsts” with their debut album, “Jopping” writer Geoffrey McCray (Geoffrodamus) also experienced his fair share of firsts as a K-Pop songwriter and a taste of just how far this industry could take him.
EnVi: Take us back to your first day of writing “Jopping”. Did Tay Jasper (songwriter and producer) give you any pointers or advice as to what SM was looking for?
Geoffro: Not at all, it just was me and the other four writers in a small room and Tay was just like, “Cool, I’ll see you guys later” [laughs]. None of us had ever written a K-Pop song before so we didn’t know what to do. We got to pick out the beat first and originally thought we’d be writing for NCT, so we didn’t know anything about SuperM at the time. As we were writing the song, we got a little stuck on it during the day so we kind of just dispersed and I fell asleep. My friend woke me up and brought me back to the studio at like 12:30 AM and that’s when I put my verse together. We all had worked on the hook earlier and wrote our verses separately.
EnVi: In one of your previous interviews, you mentioned that you didn’t even know that “Jopping” would be released—let alone as the lead single. When did you find out?
Geoffro: We hadn’t heard anything for a while after submitting it, but we thought it was cool that we at least attempted to write a K-Pop song. “Jopping” was written in March of 2019 and we were notified in September that it would drop, but they didn’t tell us when. So when it dropped, it just dropped and we were hearing and seeing it for the first time with the rest of the world.
EnVi: Everyone knows you wrote Mark’s iconic verse, but did you have a hand in writing some of the other verses, as well?
Geoffro: I did half of the hook, Mark’s verse, and then the verse right after Mark (Taeyong). I just wrote one long verse and they split the lines up between both members.
EnVi: Since some of Taeyong’s lines were translated to Korean, did SM still maintain the same words that you had written?
Geoffro: Yeah, it was cool to see my lyrics in Korean because the subtitles are still in English, but he’s saying the same thing to my knowledge.
EnVi: Did you have any other verses in mind before settling on the finished product or was that the one for you?
Geoffro: It’s funny because SM asked me to change that verse because they didn’t like it at first. I was working on changing it—they gave me about two weeks, but then they decided that they would just keep it in. I don’t know what happened but honestly, I don’t even know what else I would’ve written. In my mind, the punchlines were what got me and the cadence of the flow. Then when he [Mark] added his own little flavor to it, I just smiled and was just like, “Oh okay!”
EnVi: Since you initially thought you’d be writing for NCT, did you know much about them before “Jopping”?
Geoffro: I had a friend that I was talking to at the time and she loved NCT—especially Mark—so she couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know who they were yet, so I just didn’t understand the hype at the time. The only K-Pop song I had ever heard was “Gangnam Style”, but now I have people sending me a bunch of songs and I just got put on to ATEEZ—they are dope.
EnVi: I heard that it was you and the other writers’ idea to name the song “Jopping” and obviously, SM stuck with it. How did the actual word come about?
Geoffro: The word actually originated on the East Coast. We just put “jumping” and “popping” together for the song, but the actual word is another term for breakdancing in the pop-lock phase.
EnVi: One thing that’s very interesting, is how all of the writers for “Jopping” are Black. How has your view changed, if at all, on Black people and culture existing in a foreign music industry?
Geoffro: I think it’s cool how, as much BS we have to go through, all the time—just being Black seems to be a struggle these days—the fact that we still influence so much and can say that a room full of Black creators made this hit song for an Asian group is really cool. And we’re all from New Mexico, which is so random, but it showed me that anything is possible. This was my very placement on my very first try—that’s how quick it can happen.
EnVi: When “Jopping” was released, did you know that SM had intended to market it to an international audience?
Geoffro: No, I didn’t find out until they had their showcase in LA at Capitol Records. And that’s when I realized how big this was. I figured it would blow up in Korea, but then Capitol started pulling out all these U.S. events and next thing I know, people were calling me and saying they heard “Jopping” playing in the store and the club. I couldn’t believe it.
Speaking of the international market, let’s talk about the Grammys. Billboard announced some time ago that SuperM was actually in the running for a Grammy nomination, along with a few other K-Pop groups. What would that mean to you, as a Black artist/songwriter, to have a Grammy nomination for your first ever K-Pop song?
Geoffro: If that happens, you will not hear the end of it. We find out on November 24th, so this whole month I’ve been so anxious. One K-Pop group is going to get in there and it’s either going to be us or Blackpink, but I’d probably cry if we get it. I was always a writer, but not for music. So when I started writing music, it was a getaway from life and it was the only thing that made me happy at the time. Music pretty much saved my life and now I’m wishing I could’ve done it sooner.
EnVi: How have your interactions with K-Pop fans been since they found out you were involved in the writing process?
Geoffro: The K-Pop fans that I’ve interacted with are really cool—I’ve gained almost 500 followers just from K-Pop. I love how loyal they are. If they ride for you, they ride until the end. People knew I wrote for Mark and they were just glad that it’s good music and that their idol is performing it.
EnVi: How has K-Pop inspired you in writing music, either for yourself or for the next K-Pop project?
Geoffro: I’m realizing that writing K-Pop songs is a lot different than writing my own music. I’ve definitely been putting a little more range in my music lately—I wouldn’t say I was just rapping before, but most of my music is heavily rapping and now I’m working on melodies and bridges, adding more variety to my music. It’s also a little upbeat because I’m a big fan of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, so I’ve got this neo-soul vibe going on.
EnVi: If you could feature a K-Pop idol on a song of yours, who would you choose?
Geoffro: Definitely Mark. He can rap, he can dance—I’d do some choreography with him real quick!
EnVi: Since Tay Jasper was the one who brought you on to “Jopping”, do you have any other plans to work with him again?
Geoffro: Yeah, he’s also the one who brought me on to this SM writing camp (which is currently going on), and they even offered to pay for us to go out there. It’s cool because everyone who wrote “Jopping” is here too, so it’ll be a good chance to see what we can do this year. They’ve also brought other writers and producers from all over, so although I’m kind of nervous, it’s all really exciting and a great experience to be around other talented songwriters who are all working towards the same goal.
You can follow Geoffro on Twitter, @geoffrodamus.