The Rebel Dean, K-Pop’s R&B Megastar

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Thousands of fans flooded to the sold out Staples Centre KCON showdown on Saturday night to celebrate K-pop at its finest. I.O.I, SHINee and GFriend rocked it to high pitch squeals the likes of which only One Direction could bring.


But one star made you feel like he was serenading you in his living room. Yes he was that big and his sound FILLED the space. That would be 23-year-old Dean, who’s touchy-electronic R&B melodies broke hearts (for real) when he sang Bonnie & Clyde and his unapologetic turn-up-track I’m Not Sorry (featuring Eric Bellinger).


In case you didn’t realize, the K-pop crossover has happened: thank you Dean.  K-pop isn’t new and one can’t say that Dean is the first to collaborate and release tracks with US artists (hello CL, G-Dragon, Diplo and Skrillex), but he’s the first one to make it real. And by real I mean, he decided to release his first single ever—I’m Not Sorry—here in the United States before releasing any other music in South Korea. Something his K-pop counterparts have not been bold enough to try.


He’s the rebel, which is how he decided on Dean as his stage name, after James Dean. “If you want kids to come see the picture, you’ve got to show what it’s really like,” the late James Dean said at a press conference at the launch of Rebel Without A Cause. “And try to reach them on their own grounds.”


This is something Dean does today. He reaches R&B fan’s right where they feel it, deep in their hearts. “I want to construct a future R&B sound,” he said in an interview with “There are lots of legendary artists like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Michael Jackson, the one thing that their work has in common is that it accurately reflects the times like no other artists can do. I want to capture the same exact sentiment in my own music. I want people to listen back to my music in the same way and be impacted.”


How does he do this? He feels very Bryson Tiller, then spits out sound with a splash of EDM and rock depending on his artistic flow. It’s also no accident that some of his tracks are written in Korean and others in English. “ I hope my songs can give my fans a chance to learn about each other’s cultures,” he said. “And make it easier to relate to each other.”


The truth is, It makes no difference whether you understand the words or not. His music transcends race. It’s incidental to say that he’s Korean or American. He just makes music. Music that he loves, that has ‘him’ written all over it.   


R&B was an escape for him. He used to secretly write tracks in his bedroom in high school before turning it into a career with his parents blessing.  Before he knew it, he was credited on k-pop tracks Voodoo Doll by Vixx(it hit #1 on Billboard’s K-pop charts) and Black Pearl by Exo.


Fun with Dean, Miguel and Zendaya. Courtesy of @deantrbl Yes he likes to post photos upside-down.


In March 2016 he released his first EP 130 Mood : TRBL—An album that symbolizes the various stages of love according to Dean.  That same month he was the first Asian artist to perform at the Spotify House at SXSW alongside artists Miguel and Chvrches.


He loves R&B and he loves making music that resonates with his heart. There are very few artists doing what they love to do. A lot of times they are consumed with what has to sell. Dean does both.  He sings to your heart’s delight and sells out stadiums.


Just watch, you’ll see.


A US native (by way of a study detour in Sydney Australia), Raha Lewis is an influencer for all things fashion, pop culture and entertainment. A lawyer in her past life, who has written for publications such as the LA Times and People Magazine, Lewis is always on the latest news in the world of celebrity and is often seen touting exclusives on camera for the likes of E! News, Good Morning America and Showbiz Tonight. Her legal background anchors an innate analytic mindset, while her passion and have-fun-for-a-living attitude gives her the ability to provide telling insights on just about any subject matter. She extracts a unique reality in interviews because of her conversational free spirited interview style. She’s motivating, honest and reveals strengths in subjects that even they didn’t know they had.

She’s a content creator with a voice that speaks to the masses. And if she ends up at your dinner party, be prepared for a lot of laughter.

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