As a K-Pop fan, it can be easy to get so wrapped up in the world of infectious, addictive pop and idols that you can almost forget that there are many other thriving genres and sub-genres of music in South Korea.
Of course, one of these is hip hop! Though the genre is still fairly new in South Korean music terms, many artists have already taken it on as their own and made significant names for themselves as hip hop artists. Just a quick search through a few songs shows how much talent is actually present in this area.
So today, we offer you a selection of South Korean hip hop, which will hopefully please the already established Korean hip hop fans and pique the interest of potential new ones! Remember to also let us know of your favourites!
1. Jay Park (Feat. Simon Dominic and GRAY) – ‘Metronome’
We are kicking off this playlist with a man that actually began his career in K-Pop as the leader of 2PM. Thankfully, after much controversy and difficulty, Jay Park now has a strong solo career as a hip hop/RnB artist. He spends much of his time nowadays working closely with fellow rapper and AOMG label co-founder Simon Dominic. This particular song also incorporated the talents of the TASTEmakers which consists of director Jinooya, fashion designer Ho Been Kwak and photographer Young Jun Kim. The song and MV are arguably more RnB than hip hop, with their sultry and sexy rhythm, but of course that hip hop style is still present in the slick rap verses.
2. Dynamic Duo (Feat. HyoLyn of SISTAR) – ‘Hot Wings’
Okay, so this is another track that is more on the RnB side, but anyone familiar with Dynamic Duo will know how incredibly versatile they are as artists. Both Choiza and Gaeko can switch between smooth and slow vocals to an aggressive rap flow easily. The inclusion of SISTAR member HyoLyn’s vocals in this song will also be welcome by many K-Pop fans. One gets the impression that Dynamic Duo don’t carry much ego with them and that they simply concern themselves with the creation of music. This is a plus in a genre that can often be populated with rappers bragging about their fortunes and building themselves up in their songs.
3. Supreme Team – Supermagic
Sadly, Supreme Team have now gone their separate ways due to E-Sens contract termination with Amoeba Culture. Having seen that Simon Dominic is still doing well for himself, fans are undoubtedly keen to see what E-Sens solo career will produce.
As a duo. these two have a quite raw hip hop style, but the MV we have chosen to include in this playlist is one that shows their more laid-back and humorous style. ‘Supermagic’ is a song that will definitely have you bopping along to it’s infectious beat.
4. Dok2 – ‘Outchea’
Dok2 has worked with a plethora of Korean artists in his time, even at the tender age of 24. Probably the most well-known of these include Epik High and G-Dragon. His gravelly rapping voice is very distinguishable and the way he forces out every word oozes confidence. He is a producer, composer, lyricist and rapper than means business. In fact, he is also the co-founder of independent Korean hip hip label Illionaire Records. If you are into more ‘hardcore’ hip hop, Dok2 is certainly someone to check out.
5. Verbal Jint – ‘You Look Good’
Verbal Jint has done very well for himself and is gaining a lot of popularity lately. He is one of few hip hip artists that has managed to break through into the mainstream. Interestingly, he is credited with helping to introduce the concept of rhyming words in Korean rap verses as opposed to just ‘talking fast’. Even if you are not a Korean speaker, this obviously makes a difference to the type of listening experience you receive. This MV is his latest release and tells a story of a man crossing paths with his ex-girlfriend and somewhat struggling to come to terms with how much she seems to have moved on from their relationship. The beautiful K-Pop singer NS Yoon G is featured.
6. Primary (Feat. Choiza of Dynamic Duo and Zion T) – Question Mark
Primary, a music producer that wears a cardboard box over his head (no, really), is another artist that has made a real name for himself over the past couple of years especially. This MV is almost as kooky as Primary himself, as it feature a set that appears to have not gone through the editing process just yet – everything is just a labelled box (maybe he loves the boxy theme). This is a really simple, yet creative idea. Dynamic Duo’s Choiza and the very unique Zion T’s voices complement each other very well and this song has a very catchy, smooth beat. Zion T’s cheeky aura and Choiza’s humour all add to this rather strange concept.
7. San E (Feat. BUMKEY) – ‘Body Language’
Everyone, get ready for some major nosebleeds! This song and MV are very much on the sexy side and will probably have you blushing away (maybe that’s just me). Sexy content aside, this song is very catchy and BUMKEY’s softer vocals go very well with San E’s rhythmic rap. The MV itself is also great as it’s full of a light-hearted and silly humour which really balances out the raunchier stuff. When artists go full on into sexy mode, it can come across as a little awkward and forced, so the sillier moments definitely ease up the viewing experience a lot for those of us that are easily flustered.
8. Epik High (Feat. Jisun of Loveholic) – ‘One’
Epik High are arguably one of the most famous hip hop groups in South Korea, probably partly due to their joining of YG Entertainment in 2012. However, having been active since 2001, they were already a very established group by this time. We have selected an MV release from back in 2008 for this playlist – the very dramatic ‘One’. It is a beautiful song with Jisun’s lovely vocals and a music video that really manages to stick in your mind. Haven’t the guys ever heard of compromising the evidence though?!
9. Gary (of Leessang) – ‘XX Mola (Zotto Mola)’
Gary is one half of the hip hop duo Leesang and is well-known as a member of the weekly variety show ‘SBS Running Man’ which began in 2010. Early this year, he released his very first solo mini album entitled ‘Mr. Gae’. Despite his usually jovial and silly side shown on television, much of Gary’s music tends to show a much darker side. His lyrics are sometimes self-deprecating and full of deep questions about life and love. This particular song illustrates just that as he tells the woman he loves that she will never understand his feelings for her. This song had quite a few bans slapped on it for it’s clear use of curse words, but it can be said that this makes the song an even more plain portrayal of his emotions. (Monday couple-shippers are still hoping that this track is directed at Song Ji Hyo!)
10. Drunken Tiger A.K.A MFBTY (Feat. Yoon Mi Rae and Bizzy) – ‘The Cure’
Drunken Tiger are an unofficial group comprised of Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae and Bizzy. The nature of their arrangement is very fluid, and their names will often be swapped around in song titles to suggest that it is not always two that feature with the other. They are also known as MFBTY, which stands for ‘My Fans are Better Than Yours’. Tiger JK has often been accredited with helping to bring hip hop to South Korea – he and his wife Mi Rae are both seen as heavy hitters in the genre and are held with very high regard. This is a beautiful track that is said to be for Tiger JK’s father who suffered with lung cancer, but also for any fans going through tough times.