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Origin Seoul, South Korea
Genres Hip Hop
Years active 2002–present
Labels Jungle Entertainment
Associated acts Jung In, Drunken Tiger, Yoon Mi-rae, Big Mama King, Hwayobi
Website Official Website
Members Kang Gary
Revised Romanization Rissang
McCune–Reischauer Rissang

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".[1][2]

Their first single for 2013, Tears, a collaboration with Duble Sidekick ft. Yoojin of The SEEYA, also became the first Perfect All-Kill for 2013 despite the lack of promotion by either LeeSsang or Duble Sidekick.[3]

Leessang is composed of one vocalist and one rapper.[4] 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.[4]


Beginnings: Honey Family[edit]

In 1997, Gary joined X-Teen, a hip hop group, where he met Gil.[5] They released two albums. Gary later said that he had neither the looks nor the talent so they left the group. Gary and Gil then joined Honey Family.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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".[6]

1st and 2nd Album: Leessang of Honey Family and Re-development[edit]

Gil managed to borrow 2 billion won to fund their first album.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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", 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.[12]

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.[13]

3rd to 6th Album and mainstream breakthrough[edit]

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.".[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

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" featured Jung In once more. 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[edit]

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.[1][17] 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.[10][18]

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.[19] However, it went on to have the longest run in #1 to-date on the Melon Charts.[20] It was also reported to earn US$500,000 within the first month of release.[21] Gary later said that they were becoming more comfortable talking about different sensitive issues as they age.[6]

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.[13]

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.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24]

Collaborations, TV Career and Endorsements[edit]

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 also worked with Kim Jong-kook twice, for "Come back to me" and "Words I want to Say to You" together with Ha Dong-hoon, a co-host in Running Man and reggae singer.

Kim Jong-kook and Gary again worked together in 2012. This time, they helped their Running Man co-star, Lee Kwang-soo in his movie Wonderful Radio through a cameo role.

Gary again collaborated with Dynamic Duo for "Keep The Change". It won the 2010 Korea Music Award for best Rap & Hip-hop song.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28] The song and the album were "restricted" because of explicit lyrics in "Seventy Seven 101". Psy jokingly said it's all Gary's fault.[29]

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 [30]

Reputation and critical response[edit]

Leessang has been respected even before their mainstream success from skipping on the typical "training" other K-pop artists commonly take, ranging from behavioral guidelines and extended periods of vocal/dance training and also by signing with a fairly non-mainstream label. They are known to write and produce their own songs, direct their music videos, and keeping their private lives separate from their professional work.[31]

Gary is known for his off-tempo rapping while Gil's voice is nationally known for its huskier approach.[32]

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 a physically unappealing group, especially in the variety shows they partake in. However, the success of Hexagonal, Asura Balbalta and Unplugged has been known to support themselves along with other artists that do not receive the same media attention as other K-pop artists do based on their attractive looks.[31]

They are also widely regarded for their live performances. They are known to receive constant favorable reviews for their live performances and are particularly known for showing personal stories of their own upbringing.[33][34]



Main article: Leessang discography


Year Award Category Result Ref
2002 M.net KM Music Video Festival Best Hip-hop Performance "Rush" [35]
2003 M.net KM Music Video Festival "Leessang Blues" (리쌍부르스) [36]
2005 M.net KM Music Video Festival "I'm Not Laughing" (내가 웃는게 아니야) [37]
2007 M.net KM Music Video Festival "Ballerino" ft. Ali [38]
Best Music Video "Ballerino" ft. Ali
Cyworld Digital Music Awards Song Of The Month Won N/A
2009 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards Best Hip-hop "Can't Breakup Girl" [39][40]
Best Music Video "Can't Breakaway Boy"
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 [41]


  1. ^ a b "Leessang's 7th album, 'AsuRA BalBalTa', achieves a perfect all-kill". allkpop.com. 2011-08-24. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  2. ^ "Latest K-pop news, Korean drama & movie - enewsworld". M.enewsworld.interest.me. 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  3. ^ http://hallyu8.com/topic/35452-first-perfect-all-kill-of-2013-goes-to-leessang/
  4. ^ a b 03PopStar. "LeeSsang 리쌍 Clown Club | LeeSsang Fan Site". Leessangclown.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  5. ^ "힙합 듀오 리쌍 6집 음반 ‘헥새거늘’ 발표… 신곡 가요프로 1위 돌풍-국민일보 쿠키뉴스". News.kukinews.com. 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  6. ^ a b c "[INTERVIEW] LeeSSang member Gary". Tenasia. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  7. ^ "Honey Famliy Profile - Want to know more of Honey Famliy? | Mwave". Mwave.interest.me. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  8. ^ http://enews24.interest.me/news/01/2906203_1161.html
  9. ^ "Come.To.Play.E262.Movement.Special.090928.[eng sub]-part 1". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  10. ^ a b http://10.asiae.co.kr/Articles/new_view.htm?sec=ent5&a_id=2011090917383679670
  11. ^ JoanCNBLUE. "110909 LeeSsang (리쌍) - 개리와 기리 + Rush". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  12. ^ "[INTERVIEW] Leessang (2)". Tenasia. 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  13. ^ a b "STRONG HEART WITH KANG GAERI EP. 98 ENG SUBS". YouTube. 2011-11-16. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  14. ^ "Kang Gary (강희건)". My Kpop. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  15. ^ "LEESSANG Songs". Songarea.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ Billboard Korea Staff. "Love Ballads Sweep Into the K-Pop Hot 100". 
  18. ^ "Leessang talks about their success with "AsuRA BalBalTa"". allkpop.com. 2011-08-27. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  19. ^ "KBS 심의 걸린 리쌍 '유희열의 스케치북' 출연 "첫방이자 막방"". Wstarnews.hankyung.com. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  20. ^ "Artist Highlight Of The Month: Leessang". KPop Savant. 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  21. ^ "The Letters". The Letters. 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  22. ^ http://www.dkpopnews.net/2012/05/news-leessang-opens-management-company.html
  23. ^ http://www.hiphopplaya.com/magazine/article/view.html? category=rcmd&category2=&mode=basic&page=1&sort=&num=9255&keyfield=&key=
  24. ^ http://kpopsavant.com/2013/01/22/reminder-leessang-1st-us-tour-concert-la-ny-show-and-vip-information/
  25. ^ http://www.newsen.com/news_view.php?uid=201003091125501002
  26. ^ http://hallyu8.com/topic/20841-akp-op-ed-about-leessangs-controversy-over-super7-concert/
  27. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3fm4KTTmHU
  28. ^ http://news.heraldcorp.com/view.php?ud=20120905000079&md=20120908003641_D
  29. ^ http://www.allkpop.com/2012/07/psy-says-gary-is-to-blame-for-the-explicit-lyrics-in-his-album
  30. ^ http://www.leessangcompany.com/
  31. ^ a b http://www.dailytop10.net/top-10-recommended-asian-musicians/
  32. ^ http://www.ristle.com/2013/01/asian-music-recommendation-leessang.html
  33. ^ http://enewsworld.interest.me/enews/contents.asp?idx=9915
  34. ^ http://kpopfever.com/2011/11/leessang-theater-an-honest-story-of-2-men-we-can-relate-to-and-sympathize-with/
  35. ^ "2002 M.net Korean Music Festival Winners list". MAMA. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  36. ^ "2003 MMF part 1". Mwave. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  37. ^ "2005 MKMF part 1". Mwave. Retrieved 2014-08-28.
  38. ^ "2007 Mnet KM Music Festival Part1". MAMA. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
  39. ^ "2009 M.net Korean Music Festival Winners list". MAMA. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
  40. ^ "2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards Part1". MAMA. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  41. ^ "2011 M.net Korean Music Festival Winners list". MAMA. Retrieved 2014-06-12.

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