The teaser for B.I’s first comeback promises to delve into the dreams that drive his creative fire. What Is Your COSMOS? asks a bold question, and the half album’s title track reveals an unexpected answer. With the whimsical storyline that shapes “Cosmos”, the rapper, songwriter and entrepreneur paints an image of youthful freedom that belies the rocky road he’s taken to reach artistic independence. The breezy soundscape and bright visuals reflect a strategic return to the basics as B.I takes this second step on his solo path.

When Kim Han-bin stepped up to the mic for Seoul’s rap reality series Show Me the Money 3 in 2014, he turned his stage moniker B.I into an anthem of self-determination. “Be I” became the trainee’s first song to crack the top five on South Korea’s Gaon chart, setting the course for his role as the leader and main songwriter for hip-hop orientated boy band iKON – until 2019, when he left the group after admitting to rumours that he’d attempted to buy LSD.

In a country that takes a hard line against drugs, and a music industry that expects its stars to maintain a pristine public image, that decision cost the rapper his reputation, his team and his career as a K-pop idol.

Two years on, B.I returned, ready to reclaim his name. In March 2021, he released the three-track EP Midnight Blue, showcasing a sweeter side to his artistry. On 14 May, he pivoted to engage an international audience by joining forces with Grammy-winning production team The Stereotypes, R&B singer Destiny Rogers and rapper Tyla Yaweh for the smooth single “Got It Like That”. Having set the stage for his solo sound, B.I dropped his first album, Waterfall, on 1 June 2021.

In place of the music shows and TV promotions that accompany K-pop comebacks, the rapper pivoted to engage directly with his fans online. Ahead of the new album drop, B.I shared a succession of visual teasers, slick performance films and behind-the-scenes clips via YouTube and Instagram, demonstrating that he has the skills and strategic sense to make moves as a solo artist and businessman. All new music has been released via 131 Label – a creative subsidiary of IOK Company, where B.I also serves as an executive director.

The lyrics for “Waterfall” encapsulated the rapper’s regrets and resolution to reset, as he faced his critics, washed away past memories and resolved to rise again. Some fans chose to follow him, others didn’t – but for B.I, each twist in the story forms part of the sonic identity he’s been building since the beginning.

“Cosmos” is a clever next move. Because if “Waterfall” was a baptism following B.I’s fall from public grace, this music video is a bold visual reset that sets up the start of his solo career. The release was preceded by a series of cryptic lyric posters and high-concept message films. While Keep The Fire Alive frames B.I’s raw ambition and scorching rap skills, follow-up Uncertainty, The Beauty of Youth juxtaposes the kind of discordant high school imagery that drove BTSThe Most Beautiful Moment in Life trilogy with a gorgeous moment that teases the unexpected romanticism of “Cosmos”.

Everything about the music video – from the bubble letters that spell out its title to the lush backdrops of pink blossoms and starry skies – evokes the type of teenage innocence that watermarks idol debuts. This is first love seen through a rainbow-tinted palette of pastel hues. The first scene opens in a bedroom painted sunshine yellow, and B.I daydreams in a turquoise laundromat before his imagination transports him to a moonscape surrounded by shimmering nebula clouds. B.I keeps his style clean and simple to match the MV’s fresh vibe, opting for a bright blue varsity jacket, faded jeans and natural make-up.

Each set is shot through a vivid filter, giving every moment a golden sense of warmth. Extras exchange laughs in the background, while cotton-candy clouds are clearly CGI. It’s sweet in a curiously surreal way – turning what could be a cut-and-paste cute concept into something more. This isn’t a world that tries to feel real, but instead leans into a pure flight of fantasy – the type of gorgeous whimsy that takes its cue from children’s stories and Pixar movies.

As a song, “Cosmos” continues the smooth combination of crunchy hip-hop beats and cool, crisp hooks that define B.I’s skill as a songwriter and producer. The bassline bounces along as the camera follows B.I’s fresh white sneakers – the sound and imagery coming together for a perfect tracking shot that introduces B.I’s creative universe as he starts his day in this pretty pastel-toned town.

The track follows in the footsteps of iKON’s irresistible hit “Love Scenario” and builds on the gentle flow of “illa illa” and it’s English sister single “Lost At Sea” featuring Bipolar Sunshine and Afgan – demonstrating B.I’s deft way of eliding rap and singing into a light, lilting melody that’s all his own. Spiraling synths and silvery backing vocals give the song space and depth – that chorus is built to be echoed by an audience – and come together to create a lovely ethereal quality that echoes the MV’s soundstage of dreamscapes.

In a sea of rookie K-pop visuals that rehash the tired tropes of stylised school uniforms and love-struck confessions, B.I elevates his sophomore single with moments of beauty. This is a world where cars can soar among the stars, mysterious shops are filled with rainbow fairy lights, and balloons allow one to simply take flight.

Whether he’s rocking a Dumbledore-worthy beard of shaving cream while brushing his teeth or dancing through a lunar field of flowers, this is B.I as both the boy next door and the dreamer. These two identities come together to give “Cosmos” a more mature worldview – we might have been dropped into a teenage daydream, but it’s so well-drawn as to almost be nostalgic. That warm filter is almost sepia tinted to echo past innocence, and the romance is as fleeting and ephemeral as the spring blossoms that drift across the frame during the bridge. The lyrics leading up to the chorus allude to this sense of bittersweet yearning:

Please live and breathe in my imagination

Like the intangible depth of the unknown galaxies

So I can love you forever

You are my Cosmos

My universe

Don’t lose that shine that makes you hard to stare

You are my Cosmos

My universe

Don’t fall like the petals on flowers

By comparing the innocent romance pictured in the MV to the heartsick wrench of a fading spring, B.I infuses “Cosmos” with a hint of darkness. He loses sight of his love interest for a moment when they’re up in the clouds – but he finds her again when he returns to earth. The pair stand surrounded by a cascade of falling flower petals in a softly lit scene that seems to illustrate both joy and grief. It’s a subtle metaphor that could evoke B.I’s connection to his fans – who have remained by his side through the highs and lows of his career thus far.

But more than this, “Cosmos” appears to represent not just an imaginary world, but the importance of treasuring such dreams. If those drifting petals symbolise the transience inherent in this youthful moment of innocence, the balloon B.I wistfully lets fly in the video’s closing scene could be a bittersweet nod to the hopes and fears he’s been holding on to. Now he lets them go before moving on to follow this new path as a solo artist. As the credits roll, he’s seen writing a note to his Cosmos (to be sent via airmail), suggesting that the heart of this video is not a rose-tinted love story, but a love letter to one’s creative universe – and the desire to continue to dream.

On the surface, “Cosmos” is a cute, quirky showcase of B.I’s duality as an artist. But this beautifully-drawn daydream reveals itself to be more than the sum of its pastel-hued scenes. In his second solo outing, B.I has given his fans, young and old, a reminder of the power of creativity, and a moment to lose ourselves in a flight of fantasy before the world spins on.

(YouTube [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]. Lyrics via Genius. Images via 131 Label.)