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|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Korean Wikipedia. (December 2011)|
|Origin||Seoul, South Korea|
|Associated acts||Jung In, Drunken Tiger, Yoon Mi-rae, Big Mama King, Hwayobi|
Leessang (Hangul: 리쌍) is a South Korean Hip-hop duo, composed of Kang Hee-gun ("Gary" or "Garie") and Gil Seong-joon ("Gil"). Formed in 2002, Leessang has produced 8 albums with at least one #1 hit in each. However, it is their last three albums, Hexagonal, Asura Balbalta, and Unplugged that broke numerous records and guided their entry to the mainstream Korean music industry. All the songs in the albums entered the top positions on all major and minor charts upon release and held its position for at least three days, achieving a very rare "all kill".
Leessang is composed of one vocalist and one rapper. The duo has released eight albums to date: two self-titled records in 2002 and 2003, Library of Soul in 2005, Black Sun in 2007, Baek-a Jeolhyeon (백아절현) in 2009, Hexagonal in late 2009, Asura Balbalta in 2011 and Unplugged in 2012.
- 1 Career
- 2 Reputation and critical response
- 3 Other ventures
- 4 Members
- 5 Album
- 6 Discography
- 7 Awards
- 8 The Movement
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Beginnings: Honey Family
In 1997, Gary joined X-Teen, a hip hop group, where he met Gil. They released two albums. Gary later said that he helped in neither the looks nor the talent department so they left the group. Gary and Gil then joined Honey Family. They released two successful albums in 1999 and 2000. The other members were Digitty, Park Myung Hou, Jura, Young Poon, and Su-Jung. To date, the group is still acknowledged as one of the best hip hop groups of all time because of their unique blend of rapping styles.
Gary, Gil, and Diggity, collaborated to form a "Leessam Trio ("sam" means three in Korean)," and released a compilation album called, "2000 Korea," in the year 2000. Diggity eventually left the group. Gil and Gary changed the name to "Leessang". Gary later on stated in an interview that part of the reason he left is when success came to his head and felt he is "a celebrity".
1st and 2nd Album: Leessang of Honey Family and Re-development
Gil managed to borrow 2 billion won to fund their first album. With no formal musical training, they learned as they were producing by spending 400 hours straight inside the studio. Through their efforts, they managed to produce 60 songs. On June 27, 2002, Leessang released their first album, "Leessang of Honey Family."
Their breakaway hit was the title track featuring Jung-In. The song, "Rush", won the hip-hop music awards from the Mnet KM Music Video Festival. Many credited the perfect blend of Jung-In, Gil and Gary's voices as one of the reasons for the song's success. This was also the beginning of their long partnership with Jung-In. "Rush" remains in Leessang's repertoire to date.
They released their second album, "재,계발 (Re-development)", the next year, May 22, 2003. Jung-In, once again, provided the female vocals for their second hit song "Leessang Blues". It which was written and composed by Gary. When they made their "Best of" album titled "Leessang Special", a workflow was developed that has loosely remained the same. Gary writes most of the lyrics, Gil does the music, and they both produce.
Despite their success, they were still largely underground. Gary said in episode 98 of "Strong Heart" that they were so "unknown" that they were blocked by security when they came to receive their first major award.
3rd to 6th Album and mainstream breakthrough
Their mainstream breakthrough happened when they released their third studio album "Library of Soul" on October 14, 2005. They sold 30,000 copies and 13 of the 16 tracks entered the "Max mp3: Popular music chart rankings.". It was nominated #1 on SBS Inkigayo and went to #1 music sites such as Cyworld, Nate, and Melon.
On May 17, 2007, the fourth album "Black Sun" was released. Leessang said that every song on the album tells a story of their life. The carrier single, "Ballerino", went straight to number one. They eventually won Cyworld Digital Music Awards: Song of the Month when the song stayed on the charts for 4 straight weeks.
It took them two years to release their fifth album, "Baek jeolhyeon". The title track, "Champion", was dedicated to boxer, Yo-Sam Choi, who was very close to Gary and Gil. Choi died on the ring in 2008. Gary decided to direct the music video, which was a move that set the precedent on all their succeeding MVs.
In 2009, Leessang signed with a new label Jungle Entertainment, founded by hip-hop legend Tiger J.K. (aka Drunken Tiger). It was later reported that Jungle is one of the few labels that give their artists more artistic control and gives probably the highest percentage in rights and royalties.
They released their long-awaited 6th album, Hexagonal. The carrier single, Girl who can’t Break-Up and Boy who can’t Leave, again, featured Jung-In. The song went straight to #1 in various music charts, including KBS Music Bank where it stayed at #1 for three weeks straight. Another song in the album, "Let's Meet Now", was a collaboration with the band Jang Gi Hwa and Faces. It was used for Fish & Grill's TV Commercial.
7th and 8th Album
Leessang's 7th album, AsuRa BalBalTa was released August 25, 2011. Within hours of release, every song on the album occupied the top positions on all charts including Billboard K-Pop Hot 100. Gary received an email from his manager, which contained a screencap of the top 10 of all the charts. He later said he thought he pressed the wrong button or that it was a photoshopped image.
Their title track You're The Answer To A Guy Like Me stayed at #1 for weeks on various music charts. One of their songs, Turn off the TV was banned by all TV networks and radio stations because of explicit sexual content. However, it went on to have the longest run in #1 to-date on the Melon Charts. It was also reported to earn US$500,000 within the first month of release. Gary later said that they were becoming more comfortable talking about different sensitive issues as they age.
Gary revealed in Strong Heart that the inspiration to his songs Leessang Blues, I'm not laughing, Ballerino, Girl Who Can't Break up, Boy Who Can't Leave and You're the Answer to a Guy Like Me was his ex-girlfriend of almost 7 years.
Leessang also announced that they created Leessang Company. They intended to create live events that were geared towards putting up quality and innovative live shows. Jungle Entertainment remains their label but they will produce and direct all their live shows under the new company.
In 2011, LeeSsang embarked on their first nationwide solo tour titled "Leessang Theatre".
On May 2012, Leessang released their 8th album, Unplugged. It was a fulfillment of their long time dream to collaborate with different artists from different genres, using a full band via an analogue recording. Once again, they achieved an all kill, #1 on the biggest music charts. All of their songs also entered the charts and stayed there for weeks. Their songs It's hard to be humble, My Love and Someday were the only ones battling it out for the #1 position for weeks.
They embarked on their 2nd solo nationwide tour. In December 2012, they performed a supposed one-night only show with the band YB with whom they collaborated for the song Someday, RUN and Madman. After strong public demand, they decided to do a short nationwide tour with YB.
They also went to their first U.S. Tour. They had a show in New York and Los Angeles. Both were sold out.
Collaborations, TV Career and Endorsements
Leessang continue to collaborate with other artists as a duo and individually. Gary sampled featured tracks from Diggity's solo debut, such as "Saturday Afternoon" and "Area of Battle," and released them in June 3, 2003.
On January 13, 2005, Gary was featured on BMK's song, "Rainbow."
Gary collaborated with Dynamic Duo for "It's Alright". Released October 26, 2005, it entered the top 10 on all major and minor charts. In June 2006, Gary wrote the lyrics for Jang Hye-jin's, "Fire Flower" and did the rap part. Leessang also appeared in the movie, "Dachimawa Lee" as a cameo on August 31, 2008.
In 2009, Gil joined Infinity Challenge as a guest and, later on, as a regular co-host. Gil also co-hosted Come To Play.
In July 2010, Gary joined a new variety show, Running Man.
Gary lent his rap and lyrics to Lee Hyori's "Swing" which was released on April 12, 2010. It went to #1 on almost all music charts even though it was not released as a single.
Gary again collaborated with Dynamic Duo for "Keep The Change". It won the 2010 Korea Music Award for best Rap & Hip-hop song.
In 2012, Leessang was involved in a controversy. Infinity Challenge's cast decided to stage a concert which was to be produced by Leessang Company. Netizens complained about the high price of ticket and seemingly unfair pricing. After the bashing became too much, they announced that the concert was canceled. Gil and Gary also announced that they would stop all their TV activities, which meant Gil would quit Infinity Challenge and Gary would quit Running Man. After fans expressed their support to Gary and Gil and the cast members and production staff of both shows spoke with Gary and Gil, they decided to stay.
In 2012, Gil joined Voice of Korea as one of the coaches. He is back for Season 2.
Gary was chosen by Coca Cola to rap and write the lyrics for their 2012 Valentine TV Commercials.
Gary also helped a former Honey Family Member Miryo in her song Party Rock released February 1, 2012. He also co-wrote the lyrics and wrote the rap part for Baek Ji-young's "Voice". It was released May 7, 2012 and went straight to #1 ranking on almost all music charts.
On July 15, 2012, Gary and Gil were both featured on Psy's "Seventy Seven 101." Psy, Kim Jin Pyo, and Leessang all worked together on the song. The song and the album were "restricted" because of explicit lyrics in "Seventy Seven 101". Psy jokingly said it's all Gary's fault.
April 2012, Gary became one of the image models for Galaxy R advertisements. Both Gary and Gil also walked the ramp as a model for the Seoul Fashion Week in the same month.
May 2013, Gary became the endorser of Doritos. He wrote the rap music used in the TV Commercial too.
July 2013, Gary collaborated with CLuv and Crush for the song Where Do You Wanna Go.
August 2013, Leessang Company announced that they are looking for new talents 
Reputation and critical response
Leessang has been respected even before their mainstream success. This is due to the fact that they, unlike many other mainstream artists nowadays, started organically. They didn't go through "training" common to idol groups in Korea and was never managed by big entertainment companies in Korea. They have maintained their creative independence even having to raise their own money to produce their first album. They write and produce their own songs, direct their own music videos and never got any of their personal lives involved in their career for the sake of promoting their work.
They also have formulated their own style. Gary is known for his off beat rapping. His rap is off tempo which makes it difficult to copy. It sounds like it is off beat but when put together with the music syncs perfectly. Gil's voice is husky and seems to fit better with rock music.
They have also consistently evolved, venturing in different genres. They often mix different genres in one song. More importantly, their songs are autobiographical.
They are also credited for being one of the few artists to help non-idol singers and musicians get some attention by the mainstream public. They are often regarded as "ugly" especially in the variety shows they are in. The success of Hexagonal, Asura Balbalta and Unplugged helped in raising awareness about other artists that may not be getting attention and marketing support or may not be good looking in the Korean pop context but actually make beautiful music.
They are also widely regarded for their live performances. Common on all review of their shows is the different kind of experience when watching them live. Their voices sound better live and the emotions are much more raw. Their shows are also characterized by having a story, particularly their story, their journey from being no one and having nothing to living their dream.
Oftentimes, tickets to their shows are sold out within 3 minutes from time first available. This shortage has prompted many fans to call the agency and request for more shows and made more seats available.
Leessang talked about being cheated of all the money in their bank by a friend who persuaded them into investing all their money on a business venture.
They have since been doing better. Outside of Leessang Company, Gary and Gil owns and operates two restaurants. In June 2012, they confirmed reports that they bought a building worth US$4.2 million.
Gary also tested his hand on a fashion label. He launched his line of t-shirt called "Garism". The shirts sold out in a matter of days. He has not followed up since.
Gil is an avid hiker. Both were amateur boxers for eight years.
- 2002.6.27 Leessang of Honey Familly LP
- 2003.5.22 《재, 계발 (再啓發)》 LP
- 2004.3.11 Lee Ssang Special Jungin
- 2005.10.14 Library Of Soul LP
- 2007.5.18 Black Sun LP
- 2009.1.8 《伯牙絶鉉(백아절현)》 LP
- 2009.10.7 HEXAGONAL LP
- 2011.8.24 AsuRa BalBalTa LP
- 2012.5.25 Unplugged LP
|2002||M.net KM Music Video Festival||Best Hip-hop||"Rush"||N/A|
|2007||Cyworld Digital Music Awards||Song Of The Month||Won||N/A|
|2009||Mnet Asian Music Awards||Best Hip-hop||"Can't Breakup Girl"||N/A|
|Best Picture||"Can't Breakaway Boy"||N/A|
|Cyworld Digital Music Awards||Bonsang||Won||N/A|
|Melon Music Awards||Sudden Rise of the Year||Won||N/A|
|2010||Cyworld Digital Music Awards||Bonsang||Won||N/A|
|Best Collaboration||"Rush" featuring Jung In||N/A|
|2011||Melon Music Awards||Top 10 Artist||Won||N/A|
|Mnet Asian Music Awards||Best Rap Performance||Won||N/A|
Leessang is part of the Movement, a Korean hip-hop crew, which includes several other well-known hip-hop artists:
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- By 03PopStar. "LeeSsang 리쌍 Clown Club | LeeSsang Fan Site". Leessangclown.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "힙합 듀오 리쌍 6집 음반 ‘헥새거늘’ 발표… 신곡 가요프로 1위 돌풍-국민일보 쿠키뉴스". News.kukinews.com. 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
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- "LEESSANG Songs". Songarea.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "故최요삼 재조명, 이시영 내레이션-개리 음악감독 나섰다(SBS스페셜) - 손에 잡히는 뉴스 눈에 보이는 뉴스 - 뉴스엔". Newsen.com. 2011-06-26. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Billboard Korea Staff. "Love Ballads Sweep Into the K-Pop Hot 100".
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- "KBS 심의 걸린 리쌍 '유희열의 스케치북' 출연 "첫방이자 막방"". Wstarnews.hankyung.com. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "Artist Highlight Of The Month: Leessang". KPop Savant. 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "The Letters". The Letters. 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- http://www.hiphopplaya.com/magazine/article/view.html? category=rcmd&category2=&mode=basic&page=1&sort=&num=9255&keyfield=&key=