The Beginning of BTS: BTS’ Origin Story to Their Powerful Debut in 2013
With their popularity skyrocketing further with each passing day, I think it’s time we look back to BTS’ roots. At the very beginning, BTS didn’t even have an inkling about how popular they would become—it was a near-impossible dream for them.
So… what is the beginning of BTS? How did they all come together and what were they expecting to become? BTS’ origin story is quite the tale of strangers coming together and sharing their passion for music—it was all that mattered to them then and it is still what matters to them today.
Without their passion for music, the group would have been very different. Luckily, the members of BTS all found each other.
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The Beginning of BTS: Basic Information about Their Debut
BTS made their official debut on June 13, 2013 with the song “No More Dream.”
Their debut album, 2 Cool 4 Skool, features a total of seven songs—including the typical things you’d expect in a hip-hop album: an intro, skit, interlude, and outro. They also released a music video for the song “We Are Bulletproof pt. 2” from this album.
At the beginning of BTS, the group was expected to stay in the hip-hop realm. In fact, BTS was first constructed off of the idea that they’d be a hip-hop group (there wasn’t supposed to be any dancing or any major singing… we see how well that worked out, though).
BTS’ full name, 방탄소년단 (bangtan sonyeondan), when translated to English is “Bulletproof Boy Scouts.” When asked about the meaning of their name in their 2013 Kiss the Radio interview, member j-hope explained that their name was created with the idea of being the shield—or blockade—of oppression and discrimination of adolescents. They were aiming to protect them and their values.
Many of their earlier songs tackled ideas of life’s pressures of becoming an adult and the harshness of specific social constructs (like school). Like their debut song, the beginning of BTS was aimed at a younger audience that felt like they didn’t have a dream in a world that demanded they did.
How Each Member Joined BTS
From 2010 until 2012, the members of BTS each joined HYBE/BigHit Entertainment one by one as trainees. At the time named BigHit Entertainment, their company carefully selected who would be the members of the upcoming hip-hop idol group. While there were a few other trainees originally positioned to join the group, the company eventually settled on these seven.
RM (Kim Namjoon – September 12, 1994)
As the first member to join, RM is quite literally the beginning of BTS.
BigHit Entertainment signed RM as a trainee when he was only sixteen years old. At the time, the high school student had more pull in the underground rap scene than many others (note: underground rapping refers to those who are not in the “mainstream” scene). He was not only recognized for his skills as a rapper but he was respected for them, too—he went by the name Runch Randa, you can still find many things today on the internet about his time as an underground rapper.
After being rejected by another company in 2010, RM scored an audition at BigHit Entertainment and landed the first spot in the hip-hop group BTS. Because of RM’s skills as a rapper and a producer, BigHit wanted to form a group around that idea—RM is basically the reason BTS exists today.
Though he was still quite young, RM’s passion for music and tenacity helped bring him to where he is today: the leader of the most popular group in the world, a producer with over 170 songs credited to him, and someone who sells out major stadiums on the regular.
As the true beginning of BTS, RM deserves the amount of recognition he gets.
SUGA (Min Yoongi – March 9, 1993)
The next member to join BigHit Entertainment as a trainee and join the lineup for BTS was SUGA.
SUGA moved to Seoul when he was seventeen years old after signing to BigHit as a trainee. Originally, he had applied to become a producer for the company—as he also had experience in the underground rap scene like RM. His past experience writing songs and selling them to others gave him plenty of experience. He wanted to work as a producer for other artists as he wasn’t too fond of being in the spotlight himself.
However, BigHit instead asked him if he wanted to join their forming hip-hop group. After some discussion (and a promise that he wouldn’t have to dance…), SUGA decided to join the group.
In BTS’ 2017 Mnet DNA Comeback Stage, SUGA mentioned that he first started writing music and working in MIDI (a music program) when he was about thirteen. Those his parents weren’t always the most supportive, he did everything he could to get his work out into the world.
In the underground rap scene, he went by the name Gloss—which is a translation of his name Yoongi into English. Like RM, you can still find various things on the internet about this time of SUGA’s life.
Through the struggles of trying to make a name for himself during the beginning of BTS—including the financial struggles he talked about in the DNA Comeback Show and the accident he had as a delivery driver pre-debut—SUGA prevailed. He not only succeeded in debuting, but he is now one of the top producers/rappers in the business.
j-hope (Jung Hoseok – February 18, 1994)
When j-hope joined BTS, things started changing for the group. As the third to join, member j-hope was the beginning of a new BTS.
Much like the first two, j-hope has a background in the underground scene. However, his background lies in dancing rather than rapping (similarly, the underground dancing scene refers to those not in the mainstream scene). j-hope was well-known for his skills in dance and had even won multiple local prizes for it. He was part of the dance crew NEURON until he signed with BigHit as a trainee in 2012 soon after RM and SUGA.
His love for dancing eventually led him to an interest in singing and rapping as an idol. After he was accepted as a trainee and moved to Seoul, j-hope learned how to rap from RM and SUGA (j-hope talks about this in a 2013 Japanese fanclub magazine biography). The group was still set to be a hip-hop group when j-hope joined; however, things were starting to change with his background of dancing. Suddenly, the group had the chance to change into a different kind of group.
j-hope, despite the hardships the group faced during pre-debut and at the beginning of their career, still holds a positive attitude—much like his stage name, he aims to be the hope for fans. He gives his 110% to everything and has since the very beginning of BTS.
Jin (Kim Seokjin – December 4, 1992)
The fourth member to join BTS is none other than Mr. Worldwide Handsome himself, Jin.
After j-hope’s addition started to alter the way BigHit thought the group should go, Jin was introduced to BTS as the first vocalist for the team. He was scouted while in university—a BigHit employee saw him getting off a bus while going to/from university and convinced him to audition.
However, much like SUGA, Jin didn’t initially audition to be a member of BTS. As a theatre major in university, Jin auditioned at BigHit to be an actor. He had no prior singing or dancing knowledge, but the company had a few other ideas for him. With some convincing, Jin joined as a trainee for BTS.
With no background in music, Jin worked hard to get to where he is today. He not only has strong vocals now but he’s got an amazing presence in the group. He’s even ventured into learning instruments and helping write songs.
As the oldest member of the group, Jin took on a lot of responsibility at the beginning of BTS. He would help the members with meals and assist RM in keeping the other members in line. He worked quite a bit during their pre-debut years to prove his worth, and he no doubt has done so.
Jungkook (Jeon Jungkook – September 1, 1997)
Shortly after Jin’s arrival to BTS, maknae Jungkook also joined the group.
At the age of fourteen/fifteen, Jungkook auditioned for Superstar K (a South Korean talent show). He sang. While Jungkook was not selected for the show, the young singer did receive numerous casting offers from entertainment companies—seven different companies, to be exact.
While some of the other companies were good, Jungkook chose to go with BigHit after seeing RM’s performance at the time. He felt RM was really amazing and wanted to work alongside him. He was signed as the second vocalist of BTS.
As a trainee and even at their debut, Jungkook was quite young and inexperienced. He did have a good voice and he knew how to dance for the most part. However, he went to Los Angeles in 2012 to improve his dance skills further. By the time their debut rolled around, Jungkook was a proper dancing machine.
Despite his young age at their debut, Jungkook was a powerhouse at the beginning of BTS. He danced, he sang, and he rapped. His talent was no joke back then. But, of course, it’s only gotten better over the years.
V (Kim Taehyung – December 30, 1995)
The sixth member to join BTS is member V.
Out of all of the members of BTS, V’s story of becoming a trainee is probably the funniest. He never even intended on auditioning for an entertainment company. However, he ended up at BigHit to support his friend during their audition. While there, he was asked to audition himself.
Sadly enough for his friend, V was the only one who ended up passing. So though he didn’t intend on auditioning, he ended up becoming the sixth member of BTS. V briefly talked about this moment during their 2021 interview with Jimmy Fallon—you can watch it here.
V was considered a “secret” member at the very beginning of BTS. He wasn’t shown in their pre-debut videos, wasn’t active on their social media, and wasn’t included in the discussions of the lineup for BTS. He was not officially announced until days before their debut.
Although V didn’t initially intend on joining an idol group, he has surely made a name for himself in one. He brings a unique sound to the group and has ever since the beginning of BTS—perhaps that’s why he was kept a secret for so long. But there’s no denying that he’s someone everyone finds themselves looking at.
Jimin (Park Jimin – October 13, 1995)
The last member to join BTS is Jimin—the missing piece they needed.
Out of the rest of the members, Jimin had the shortest trainee period—joining the company in 2012. Jimin, at the time, was a student enrolled in the Busan High School of Arts. He studied contemporary dance and was the top student in that department. Because of his high skill level in dance, Jimin’s teacher suggested he audition with BigHit. Of course, Jimin passed the audition and moved to Seoul shortly after. He was quickly added to the lineup for BTS.
One funny moment from Jimin’s pre-debut years probably comes from the moment he met member j-hope. Since Jimin was someone who liked dance, j-hope picked him up from the bus station when he first arrived. Unfortunately, because of his polite nature, Jimin thought j-hope was a member of staff there to pick him up. The members talked about this during their appearance on tvN’s You Quiz On The Block in 2021.
Despite his shorter training period, Jimin showed his talents from the get-go. He worked hard from the beginning of BTS until now—still pushing himself to be better and better each time he performs.
What did the beginning of BTS look like?
Honestly? Small. With BigHit Entertainment being one of the small companies at the time, BTS didn’t have the recognition or fame they do now.
The group talked about this throughout many interviews—including the one with Jimmy Fallon mentioned earlier—but they first started off in a single-room dorm. There were three bunk beds in one room and hardly enough space for their things. If you’d like to get a better look at their first dorm, you can see it on their reality show Rookie King (2013). It’s available on Viki to watch if you have a VikiPass Plus.
Before their debut in June, the members of BTS took to uploading video logs on their YouTube channel. Starting with leader RM on January 7, 2013, the members talked briefly about their daily lives as a trainee and what they were working on.
Unfortunately, most of these video logs don’t have English subtitles for them, so you’ll need to find those somewhere else if you need a translation for them. Here’s a link to the full playlist on their YouTube.
Another sad part is that V, as we mentioned earlier, was not a part of these videos until after their debut. He’s talked briefly before about sitting in the corner of the room while the other members were filming logs, not able to fully join the fun. He’s also mentioned filming the videos by himself—though they were never uploaded—just to make them.
The first video log with V in it is with Jin, a few days after their debut.
The Beginning of BTS is Vastly Different from Where They are Now
If you’ve learned of the tough times BTS had to go through both before and after their debut, their success story only seems that much more like the perfect underdog tale. And though we don’t want to sit in the past, it’s always nice to remember how BTS came to be.
If you’d like to read more about BTS, be sure to stick around! It’s only the beginning of BTS Week and we’ve got plenty more blogs coming your way. Feel free to check out the blogs we wrote last year for BTS week! And keep an eye on our K-Pop Category as the week goes on.