BTS Pre-debut History
Written by baepsayed
Original source: part 1, part 2, part 3
The original Bangtan logo from 2010 (Then abbreviated as B.P.B). The logo will change twice more before debut.
I want to say at the outset that this is going to be an incomplete history because there’s a lot that happened in these three years that we simply don’t know about. This is also going to be way more detailed about the rap line than the vocal line because the rap line members were the only ones really in the public eye until the end of 2012.
I’m going to try and stick as close to the facts as I can and I’m going to try and really clearly mark anything that’s speculation (this will mostly be in part 2). I’ll try to be mostly chronological but I may have to jump around a bit because not everything is firmly dated.
Also as I was writing this up it seemed too big for one post so I’m going to divide it into 2 (?) parts. This portion will cover the early formation of Bangtan until the start of the second Hit It! Auditions.
These posts is going to get long and unwieldy, so here’s some basics:
1. Bangtan first officially appeared in August 2010 with only Namjoon and Jung Huncheol (Iron) revealed as members. Namjoon had joined Big Hit in May 2010. I have no info on when Iron joined except that it was after Namjoon.
2. Bangtan was originally abbreviated as B.P.B which came from their English name, “Bullet Proof Boys” (No boy scouts at this point). The switch to BTS as the abbreviation happened mid 2011 with the release of Satoori Rap
3. There were about 30 trainees for Bangtan but not all of them were ever in the official line up. The official members were: Namjoon, Iron, Shin Donghyuck (Supreme Boi), Choi Ikje (i11evn), Yoongi, Hoseok, and someone named Park Yeong-man that I have no other information on other than he was older than 94 line.
4. Bangtan featured on five official tracks in 2010-2011, always credited as Bangtan (rather than the members’ names) and Namjoon was on all five. Hoseok also featured on Jo Kwon’s “Animal” in 2012 and was credited as “Jung Hoseok of BTS”.
5. Bangtan also released a few tracks during this time including, “We are B.P.B” (later reworked into “We are Bullet Proof Pt 1”) and “Hook Gayo”
2010 – Mid 2011 B.P.B
Bangtan’s existence began with a night of drinking between Big Hit producer Pdogg and Sleepy, a rapper from the duo “Untouchable.” Pdogg is actually a rapper as well, though I don’t think he’s done much of it since Bangtan’s debut. Over drinks, Sleepy asked Pdogg if he wanted to hear a really talented high school aged rapper he knew and when Pdogg agreed Sleepy played him some of Namjoon’s underground stuff. By this time, Namjoon was actually on a bit of a hiatus from rapping and focusing on his school work (I have another post that goes through his pre-debut work as Runch Randa here).
Pdogg was impressed enough that he played the songs for Bang PD and Bang PD told him to have Namjoon come in for an audition. Namjoon came in and apparently signed a contract immediately after his audition.
There doesn’t seem to have been any real plan in place at the beginning. Bang PD mentioned in an early interview that they didn’t have any trainee system in place at the time, didn’t have any vetting period for trainees, didn’t have any dorms to stay in. Basically, they seem to have signed Namjoon and then tried to figure out everything else after that.
In a 2017 interview, Bang PD said he wanted to make a hip hop group with Namjoon at it's center and that that idea later morphed into an idol group as the years went on. (I've seen some bts history posts in the past claim that Iron was the original leader but I've never found any evidence to support that claim which I assume is only based on the fact that Iron was older than Namjoon. But considering this interview, the fact Namjoon is the first member, the only member on all pre-debut tracks, and was confirmed by an ex-trainee Jihoon to have been the leader since before Jihoon joined in summer 2011, I think its safe to say that Namjoon was the leader from the start.)
Between May and August, Namjoon would go to Big Hit after school and then later go back home. When Big Hit got their first dorm for male trainees in August, he was the first to move in. I’m not sure if Iron ever stayed in the dorms or not. I’m also not sure how early Supreme Boi joined though he was definitely in the group by September 13th, 2010. It could be that Namjoon was the only person actually in the dorm at first.
SLIGHT TANGENT: According to Namjoon’s lyrics in “Move,” 9 trainees stayed in the dorms, but I’m not sure if he’s counting everyone that was ever in the dorms or if he’s talking about a specific period of time when the dorm had 9 trainees in it. Jihoon, a former Bangtan trainee, lived in the dorms before Jin moved in. If Namjoon meant 9 total trainees, then only one more member would have ever been in the dorms (However, I tend toward the interpretation that the song is referencing a specific point in time when 9 trainees lived in the dorms so I don't know how many trainees in total stayed in the dorms).
EDIT: I was reviewing my notes for part 3 and Yoongi said in "714248" "Ten trainees" in their 15 pyeong dorm so it had to have been a specific period of time they were each talking about when they said 9 or 10 in their lyrics.
The First Hit It! Audition
Bangtan was first revealed to the public on August 30th 2010 with promotions for the first Hit It! Auditions. The two revealed members were Namjoon and Iron. The fancafe was opened for the group at the same time.
Namjoon and Iron were billed as having underground experience and the group was advertised as a hip hop crew. But at least from the comments on HipHopPlaya, Namjoon seems to be the only one people knew of.
Iron also came from the same academy in Gwangju as Hoseok so it’s possible Big Hit may have picked Iron up through them. Pdogg mentioned that after getting Namjoon they looked at a lot of people like Beenzino and Basick before holding the first open auditions.
Along with photos of Namjoon and Iron, they released two solo tracks apiece. Namjoon’s were “Seventeen” and “Dreaming” and Iron’s were “Show” and “ING.” Contestants for the Hit It auditions were required to use the music from one of these four tracks and write and perform their own rap about school life or a societal problem.
Directions for participating in the first Hit It Auditions
Contestants then needed to upload a video of them performing their song to Daum TV (which unfortunately shut down last year so all the old videos are lost) or go to one of the auditions in person.
Yoongi’s entry used the music from Namjoon’s “Seventeen.”
After being filmed, the entries were uploaded for people to vote on on a site/app called Love Beat. Yoongi’s performance came in first place and he along with two other people from the Love Beat voting were selected by the judges to go to the Hit It! Finals. Yoongi is credited on the poster for the finals as Love Beat first place winner Min Yoongi and Ikje is credited as the Daum TV first place winner.
Poster for Hit It! Final Yoongi is credited as "Love Beat 1st place Min Yoongi" (top left on under the Rap-Battle Tournament heading)
The Hit It Finals were held on October 24th at NB2 in Hongdae. The format was a rap battle and according to the poster Yoongi and Ikje were seeded opposite each other and faced off in the final round. 8eight (a co-ed group made up of Lee Hyun, Joo Hee, and Baek Chan), San E, and Bangtan (by this time 3 members with Supreme Boi added) were there and Bangtan performed afterward.
Yoongi placed second to Ikje in the rap battle but was promising enough that Big Hit took him in anyway (only 1st place was guaranteed a spot). There’s footage of them performing at the club that night, and both of them later re-recorded their raps. Yoongi’s “Swagger” and “Diss” both come from this night.
The “Diss” re-recording also has an additional line. In the live performance Yoongi ended by saying it was obvious he won. In the re-recording he adds a line saying “but I lost. Damn.”
Early Song Releases and Features
Backing up to September 13th, 2010, Bangtan released their first group track, “Hook Gayo” (sometimes also called “Brave Brothers Diss Track”). Namjoon, Iron, and Supreme Boi were all on this track.
The track was a response to an earlier track by Brave Brothers (who is 1 person not a group) that had dissed Bang PD among others.
About 2 weeks later on September 30th, 2010 the group had their first official featuring on Lim Jeong-Hee’s “Ashes.” RM and Iron were the two members that featured on the song and wrote their own raps, but only the group as a whole was credited on KOMCA (the Korean music copyright association). All of the early promotion and features on 2010-2011 only ever credited the group as a whole, much like how “Waste It On Me” was billed as a BTS feature despite only having Namjoon and Jungkook.
“Ashes” is also the source of the very first Bangtan Bomb/Episode which is a short video of Namjoon and Iron working with Lim Jeong-Hee to record the track.
Then on October 12th 2010 they released “We Are B.P.B.” This song gets often confused with “We Are Bullet Proof Pt. 1”which reworked this song and was released on Soundcloud by the group in 2015 in preparation for the BTS Begins concert. Namjoon’s part was kept in the new version but split between him and Jungkook. Supreme Boi’s and Iron’s were dropped and new lyrics added. What makes it even funnier is that Yoongi then reused his new verse in “We are Bullet Proof Pt. 1” in “Agust D” a year later.
On October 26th 2010, Bangtan featured on 2AM’s “Love U Hate U.” RM, Supreme Boi, and Iron were all featured in the song, though Supreme Boi and Iron’s verses were split in half (i.e. they got 4 lines each while Namjoon had the typical 8). I’m not sure if theirs were