While BT's J-Hope may be best known for his musical work with BTS (most recently, their No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, "Dynamite"), he's been active in the entertainment industry for a lot longer than many newer ARMYs realize — as in, long before Bangtan was even a thing. In 2020, J-Hope is one of the most recognizable musicians in the world, but some ARMYs often find themselves wondering: What did J-Hope do before BTS?
Well, BTS is so dedicated to their fanbase and their work as a group that they rarely go into too much detail about their past. So, when they do, fans record every word in their memory. As for J-Hope, he first debuted with BTS in 2013, but his career in dance didn't just begin there. Here's what we know about J-Hope's life pre-debut.
Where did BTS' J-Hope grow up?
J-Hope was born Jung Ho-seok on Feb. 18, 1994, in Ilgok-dong, Gwangju, South Korea. When he was kindergarten-aged, he attended an arts school in his hometown, but revealed it wasn't because he was particularly interested in attending the school. “I probably only went there because it was close to my house,” he revealed in BTS' Japanese Official Fanclub Magazine in 2013.
What were BT's J-Hope's hobbies?
Besides his talents and training in music and dance, J-Hope had another athletic hobby. He was also a pretty good tennis player in his younger years. In fact, he stumbled upon the talent by accident when he ended up winning a bronze metal in a national tennis competition.
"I started [playing tennis] in [4th or 6th] grade," J-Hope explained during an interview with TV Report in July 2013, according to a translation by Twitter account MilkTae_JPG. "It's funny how I started playing ... my teacher asked, 'Who wants to play tennis?' and I was just stretching with both of my arms up high at that moment and she thought I wanted to join tennis so I joined."
How did BTS' J-Hope train?
As a young boy, J-Hope attended classes at Gwangju Music Academy, which is the same place TVXQ’s Yunho, Big Bang’s Seungri, and 2NE1’s Minzy all trained, according to the 2013 Japanese Official Fanclub Magazine interview. J-Hope later became part of the underground dance team Neuron, the Korean Herald reported in February 2019.
While J-Hope was pursuing his passions, he got a lot of support from his mom, something he later sang about during his 2016 solo song "MAMA." On the track, J-Hope says his mom helped "float the small boat" by constantly supporting his dreams.
J-Hope's dance abilities landed him multiple awards, including a first place win in a 2008 national dance competition which put him on the industry's radar as a dancer to watch in South Korea, according to Billboard.
Who were BTS' J-Hopes idols?
As for his early rap influences, J-Hope credited J-Cole and Criss Cross for being two artists who had great influence on him in a September 2020 interview on MBC radio.
In September 2019, J-Hope revealed that the classic 2006 track "Chicken Noodle Soup" by Webstar and Young B helped him when he first started to learn to dance. He later returned to his roots by releasing his own spin on the song during a collab with Becky G.
Who did BTS' J-Hope audition for besides Big Hit?
Not everything came easy for J-Hope, however. He auditioned to join JYP entertainment in 2009, but was rejected. (What were they thinking?)
BTS' J-Hope's Pre-Debut Music
When one door closes, another one opens. J-Hope didn't let JYP's rejection get him down, and auditioned to join Big Hit instead, where he was recruited in 2010.
As a pre-debut Big Hit trainee, J-Hope (along with a few of his BTS bandmates) was tapped in 2012 to dance in former Big Hit artist Jo Kwon’s 2012 music video for “I’m Da One." He also showed off his rap skills before debuting with BTS. In 2012, he featured on Jo Kwon's song "Animal."
All of Hobi's hard work paid off. A year later, he debuted with BTS as one of their main dancers and the group's lead rapper in June 2013. The rest is history. ARMYs are thankful for J-Hope's past, because it ultimately led him to BTS.