BTS‘s rapline has gained a lot of praise over the years for their lyricism. Among the three rappers, RM has the highest songwriting credits so far and is often noted for his wordplay in songs.
Here are 5 instances of RM’s incredible wordplay that prove he is a lyrical genius:
1. “Trivia 承: Love”
Though the entire song is full of beautiful poetic expressions, these lines caught the attention of fans for a reason— “I’m just a human, human, human/You erode all my edges/ And turn me into love, love, love.”
In these lines, RM not only plays with the similar sounding words “사람”(Sa-ram, meaning “Person”) and “사랑” (Sa-rang, meaning “Love”), but also takes their visual similarity and turns it into a poetic metaphor.
In the Korean alphabet, the “m” sound is represented by a rectangular shape(ㅁ), while the “ng” sound is represented by a circular character(ㅇ). If you erode the edges of a rectangle, it turns circular. And that’s how “Sa-ram” becomes “Sa-rang”. It is a beautiful analogy of how love can soften you and make you whole.
In his 40 second verse on this song, RM used the word ddaeng in 7 different meanings! Ddaeng is an onomatopoeic word in Korean whose meaning differs with context. It can mean the sound of a bell, a buzzing sound made when someone gets an answer wrong (on a quiz show or contest). RM mixes these meanings with other phonetically similar words, such as eoltaeng (Korean slang for ridiculous) and thang (slang for “thing” English).
In this song from his first mixtape RM, he says—
“한평생 한[Han]이 담긴 한숨 [hansoom] 쉬며 살기보다 / 한[Han]을 떼어내고 그냥 숨[soom]을 쉬며 사는 길을 택했어”
(Instead of living a lifetime letting out sighs full of Han/I chose the path where I take out the Han and live by simply breathing)
In Korean, hansoom means “sigh”, and Han refers to a complicated emotion of grief or resentment, that is very unique to Korean culture. When you take out han from hansoom, what remains is soom(breath).
So, both literally and metaphorically, he is talking about taking out the negative feelings from his life so that his worrisome sighs can turn into simple, easy breathing.
In this track, what took aback fans was this short line— “I’m ill.” Here the word “ill” is used as a triple entendre. The first meaning the literal one, implying sickness. The second meaning comes from the same-sounding Korean word 일 that means “work”. But 일 also means 1.
So, with this two-worded sentence, RM establishes how he has become one with his work, and has reached the top, but this success and workaholism has also turned him sick.
5. “Cypher Pt.2: Triptych”
There is a line in this song where RM says — “여긴 왕국, 나는 킹[king] 너는 덤 [dum]” that literally translates to “This is a kingdom, I’m king, you’re dum.” Here “dum” has double usage. First one is its phonetic similarity to the English word “dumb”. So, the meaning becomes, RM is the king, while his haters are dumb (kingdom-king+dumb).
In Korean, “dum” means a throw-in or a freebie. RM is calling his haters replaceable nobodies while he is the apex one in this kingdom.
RM has mentioned before that he wanted to become a poet as a child. Given the extent of his poetic lyricism, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say he could have easily fulfilled this dream had he not debuted as an idol.