Think K-Pop is just flashy clothes and cool choreography? Think again. Beneath all those layers of BB cream lie quite an intimidating pool of talent. In fact, the genre is home to some of the most versatile rappers the country has to offer. Evident recently in PSY’s booming popularity, K-Pop rappers are a force to be reckoned with. Here are a few that Bibimbeats ensures can make the most skeptical hip-hop fans nod their head.
First we’ve got maknae-leader duo Bang Yong-guk and Zelo of B.A.P. The group has seen increasing success since debuting earlier last year, from selling out international venues to earning Best New Artist recognition from four separate award shows in 2012. Some critics attribute their early success to Yong-guk’s solo collaborations and Bang & Zelo’s sub-unit work prior to B.A.P’s debut. But then again, maybe it was Zelo’s killer 16-syllable-per-second rap in smash single “Warrior”. Either way, it’s safe to say Bang & Zelo are only getting started.
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As a member of a group that’s seven strong, it’s probably easy for a guy to get lost in a band like INFINITE. But with debut album “Fly High” released this January, rappers Dong-woo and Hoya of sub-unit INFINITE-H were able to do so effortlessly – and with some pretty well-respected back-up. Enlisting veteran hip-hop producer Primary and the talent roster of Dynamic Duo’s Amoeba Culture brought the album an ‘old school’ feel. Title track “Special Girl” enjoyed public praise from idols and rappers alike, and “Fly High” even bumped national darlings SNSD’s comeback off the top on charts across the board. (Whoops! Sorry, girls!)
Bibimbeats Recommends: “I Can’t Tell You” with Gaeko of Dynamic Duo
Next up we’ve got the only idol to make it as one of CNN’s “50 Reasons Why Seoul is the Best City” – BIGBANG leader G-Dragon. GD’s no newbie, beginning his rap career when he was just 13 years old. Citing Wu-Tang Clan as a major influence, his love for hip-hop doesn’t stop there – his vibrant, ‘fashion forward’ music videos being something of a reinterpreted nod to that of mid-90s Hype Williams. Last month, his second solo album “One of a Kind” reached platinum status in South Korea, selling over 225,000 copies and breaking a record that – and here’s the kicker – he previously set with his 2009 solo debut “Heartbreaker”.
Bibimbeats Recommends: “A Boy”
Maybe he doesn’t have a string of solo album successes, but B2ST’s Jun-hyung is easily one an idol rapper to watch. His determination as a lyricist has taken him to a holding his own in collaborations with esteemed rappers like Beenzino, Verbal Jint, and Outsider. Fans can currently check him out in production duo Brave Brothers’ project Absurd with fellow idols LE of EXID and FeelDog of BIGSTAR. With a 19+ language rating, Absurd’s “You Got Some Nerve” definitely breaks him away from the squeaky clean B2ST image. It will be interesting to watch Jun-hyung continue to evolve.
Bibimbeats Recommends: “Be Quiet” with Kim Wan-sun
When someone’s a protégé of one of the genre’s greatest, they’ve got to have something going for them – especially when it comes to Cho PD-trained Block B leader Zico. While Block B and their record label are currently in quite the legal battle, Zico remains a top rapper, evident in both his 2012 mixtape ‘Zico on the Block 1.5’ and pre-debut work with bandmate Kyung. Zico fans can check out rookie group OFFROAD’s comeback “Head Banging”, a summer anthem he both composed and produced.
“Feel So Young” with Ugly Duck & Crush