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With the release of their EP, Map of the Soul: Persona, this month, BTS has been on the minds (and in the ears ears) of fans across the world. But how were BTS’s members discovered and how was BTS formed ? Well like the great bands before them, their story is a mix of the conventional and unconventional. Map of the Soul: Persona is the third album of BTS’s in less than a year to reach number one on the Billboard 200—an accomplishment only achieved by one other band: The Beatles.
The seven-member boy band has become one of the biggest and most well-known acts and K-pop history, with several number-one hits and millions of fans across the world. But BTS wasn’t always BTS. About a decade ago, the members were just seven, normal South Korean guys with dreams of pop-stardom. Then came Big Hit Entertainment, and their lives changed forever. Find out how RM, Jungkook, Jimin, V, Suga, Jin and J-Hope were discovered and formed what we now know as BTS. The “Boy with Luv” singers are household names today (with celebrity fans like Shawn Mendes, Tyra Banks and Charlie Puth), but that wasn’t always the case. Learn more about their discovery stories.
Kim Nam-joon a.k.a. RM a.k.a. Rap Monster was the first member of BTS and is known as the band’s leader. RM, who is one of the band’s rappers, started rapping in the sixth grade after he listened to Epik High’s “Fly” for the first time. In 2007, when he was in middle school, RM started rapping under the name Runch Randa, which led him to the rap crew Daenamhyup. (The crew also consisted of now-known stars like Top Dogg’s KIDOH, Big Hit Entertainment producer Supreme Boi and Show Me the Money 3 finalist Iron.) After that, RM started releasing more songs as a solo rapper until he was invited to audition for a hip-hop agency, where he met Untouchable’s Sleepy, who was a judge at the audition. Impressed by RM’s rapping, Sleepy connected RM to producer Bang Shi Hyuk, who invited him to audition for Big Hit Entertainment. Then, in 2010, RM became the first member of BTS, and the rest is history.
Jungkook, whose full name is Jeon Jung-kook, is BTS’s main vocals and is youngest member of the band. Jungkook was discovered when he auditioned for the third season of Superstar K in his hometown of Busan. He was eliminated in the audition round, but the show gave him enough exposure to be scouted by at least seven agencies, including JYP Entertainment, FNC Entertainment and Starship Entertainment. In the end, though, Jungkook chose Big Hit Entertainment to become a trainee at. Jungkook has said that the reason he chose Big Hit Entertainment over the other agencies was because of RM, who impressed him with his rapping, which made Jungkook want to train and work with him.
V, whose full name is Kim Tae-hyung, was the son of farmers in Daegu. With a dream of becoming a musician, V started playing the saxophone in high school, at the recommendation of his father. Soon after, he accompanied a friend to an audition for Big Hit Entertainment in Daegu. V didn’t intend to audition himself and was only there to support his friend, but a team member at Big Entertainment saw him and encouraged him to audition. After he called his father for permission, V auditioned on the spot and became the only person from Daegu that day to make it to the next round. He eventually became a member of BTS and sings sub-vocals for the band.
Suga, whose real name is Min Yoon-gi, started as a rapper under the name Gloss in high school. It didn’t take long for Suga to make a name for himself as both a rapper and a producer. (He was known at the time for producing and composing beats for local artists, like band D-Town, in his hometown of Daegu.) Soon after, Suga started producing tracks for more well-known artists, like Reflow, who worked with Suga on his song “Who Am I.” Suga auditioned for Big Hit Entertainment after he saw a flyer for the company’s rap competition called “Hit It.” Suga didn’t win the competition, but he did take second place, which was enough for Big Hit Entertainment to sign him as a producer and trainee. Though he planned on only becoming a producer, Suga was convinced to join BTS in 2010 and became the band’s main rapper. (He’s joked that founder Bang Shi Hyuk “tricked” him into becoming a BTS member.)
Jin, whose full name is Kim Seok-jin, was the fourth member of BTS. Jin was originally scouted by SM Entertainment while on the street of his hometown in Anyang. But, thinking that the offer was a scam, he never followed up with the company. He was scouted again—this time by Big Hit Entertainment—while as a college student. A scout for Big Hit Entertainment saw Jin as he was leaving a bus and convinced him to audition for the company. As a theatre major with no singing or dancing experience, Jin auditioned to be an actor. However, Big Hit Entertainment had other plans and convinced him to become a trainee for BTS. He is now one of the band’s sub-vocals.
Jimin, whose full name is Park Ji-min, was the final member of BTS. While as a student at the Busan High School of Arts, where he studied under the Department of Dance, a dance teacher, impressed by Jimin’s talent, encouraged him to audition for Big Hit Entertainment. After he passed the audition in his hometown in Busan, Jimin was flown to Seoul, where he became a trainee. As the last member, Jimin’s training was the shortest in the band. He debuted with the rest of his members in 2013.
Before BTS, J-Hope, whose full name is Jung Ho-seok, was best known as a dancer. He started in the dance crew Neuron in his hometown of Gwangju before he auditioned for JYP Entertainment. Though he made it through a few rounds, J-Hope was eventually cut from JYP, which led him to audition for Big Hit Entertainment instead. Because of his dance skills and his sense of rhythm, Big Hit Entertainment saw J-Hope’s potential was a rapper and signed him as a trainee. However, J-Hope’s debut as a BTS member almost didn’t happen. While he was a trainee, J-Hope and Big Hit Entertainment almost parted ways until RM convinced them both that BTS needed a member like J-Hope. After that, J-Hope stayed with the band and became one of BTS’s three rappers, alongside RM and Suga.