[[The World of Korean Hip Hop and Tiger JK, the Pioneer of Korea Hip Hop]]
아이반이 바라본 한국 힙합, 그리고 타이거JK >>
by Ivan Li
There are many genres in the world of music. Each genre is loved by many people and hated by others. This is true for all genres, especially hip hop. All over the world, hip hop has had to face a lot of hardships before it could be placed with mainstream music. In the United States, hip hop faced a lot of hardship, with many media outlets labeling hip hop as a bad influence to kids. It didn’t help of course, that artists were coming out with songs that pretty much lived up to the labels put on them. Even though rap finally started breaking through to the masses in the early 90’s in the United States, many countries still held strong to the labels and stereotypes given to rap.
Which takes us to South Korea, where these days, hip hop music is becoming huge as many artists are creating hit after hit and many of the K-pop groups are starting to incorporate hip hop into their music. Before all of this though, Korea kept hip hop underground, as many of the people stereotyped the music negatively. There were many hip hop artists that had some success, but it wasn’t until Tiger JK came into the scene that the world of hip hop changed in Korea.
Tiger JK, whose real name is Seo Jung Kwon, was raised in Korea until he was 12 years, when he moved to Los Angeles. As he lived in Los Angeles, he witnessed first-hand the 1992 Los Angeles riots where a lot of racial hate between Korean Americans and African Americans reached a boiling point. After witnessing the riots, Tiger JK, who was already an avid hip hop fan, decided to use his music to bring both races closer together.
At the age of 16, he was able to release a solo album but it received little publicity as it was censored due to content. Tiger JK went on to form ‘Drunken Tiger’. Even though members of the group kept changing, ‘Drunken Tiger’ continually succeeded with multiple albums. Even though there were many negative labels given to Tiger JK, such as a bad influence on Korean youth, he managed to not only succeed, but change the public’s view, as his music and lyrics showed that rap and hip hop is more than just about violence and gang life, rap and hip hop can be much deeper.
Korean rap has come a long way from what it used to be, Tiger JK brought a Western hip hop style which was different from what Korean hip hop was before, when it used a lot of traditional Korean music. After bringing rap to the masses, many artists have started popping up and becoming successful, such as ‘Leessang’, ‘Dynamic Duo’, and many more.
Unfortunately though, with the rise of hip hop and rap, many K-pop idols have started using hip hop in their songs. Though this may sound like a good thing, many people are starting to group hip hop with sugar coated lyrics that usually come with K-pop songs. Many of the fans of hip hop believe that rap and hip hop should be tools used to create a message and should be sung from your soul with passion.
Even though hip hop is showing up everywhere, “true” hip hop will still be produced by people like Tiger JK and many more under the label ‘Jungle Entertainment’, which was founded by Tiger JK himself. Hip hop in Korea still has a way to go, but it’s quickly rising in fame. There is already a lot of talent, but with more people listening to the music now, who knows how big hip hop can get in Korea, there is still a lot to see from the industry.
5 Korean Hip Hop Artists You Should Know About!
1. Yoon Mi Rae 윤미래 (aka T) – Female rapper married to Tiger JK. Recommended song to listen to first: ‘Black Happiness’
2. Leessang 리쌍 – Hip hop duo that have achieved huge mainstream success, comprised of Gary and Gil. Recommended song to listen to first: ‘Girl Who Can’t Break Up, Boy Who Can’t Leave’
3. Epik High 에픽하이 – Hip hop trio comprised of Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz. Recommended song to listen to first: ‘Fly’
4. Dynamic Duo 다이나믹 듀오 – Hip hop duo that were part of CB Mass originally, comprised of Choiza and Gaeko. Recommended song to listen to first: ‘Solo’
5. Supreme Team 슈프림 팀 – A hip hop duo that is still quite new, comprised of Simon Dominic and E-Sens. Recommended song to listen to first: Then ‘Then Then’