Korean hip hop

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Korean hip hop is music associated with South Korea's hip-hop culture, and often that of the Korean diaspora (locally commonly known plainly as hiphop[1] and internationally as Korean hip-hop,[2][3][4][5] K-hiphop[3][4][5] and K-hip hop).[3][5] The movement has had mainstream growth since the early-1990s and has been gaining international attention, with Koreans winning global championships since the early-2000s. The hip-hop cultural phenomenon has particularly flourished in Seoul, Busan and Daegu. Aside from mainstream K-pop infused hip-hop, there is also an underground scene that has developed throughout South Korea. The culture is also supported by webzines, including HiphopPlaya Magazine(힙합플레이야).

Hip hop music[edit]

DJ DOC performing at Cyworld Dream Music Festival

Early artists included 3534, Seo Taiji and Boys, Deux, and DJ DOC. The Korean language was used almost exclusively. Seo Taiji, coming from a heavy metal music background, often featured heavy metal guitars in his mixes, and other artists also incorporated techno influences. A few artists, such as Seo Taiji and Yuk Kak Soo (육각수), also incorporated influences from traditional Korean music such as pansori or nongak (farmers' music). One that was distinctive was Seo Taiji's "Come Back Home", with its vocal/production style resembling Cypress Hill. The first "rap" album that featured rap in every track was Kim Jin Pyo's first album in 1997. First Hip-Hop song in South Korea was Gim-sat-gat (김삿갓) by Hong-seo-bum (홍서범). According to Epik High's rapper Tablo, "The form [of Korean Hip Hop], at least, has definitely been mastered now — the beats, the rhymes, the performances, the look — it's indistinguishable from the United States scene. The social relevance, however, has a long way to go. The message is slowly catching up to the medium."

Many rap artists have been successful in the mainstream of Korean music, including rappers: Verbal Jint, Double K, Jinusean, T.O.P., G-Dragon, Zico, Outsider,Tymee (former E.via), 1TYM, MC Sniper, Beenzino, Bumkey, Cho PD, Kidoh, Dynamic Duo, Drunken Tiger, Jay Park, Supreme Team, Untouchable, Dok2, Leessang, Epik High and Rhythm Power.

As elsewhere, there has always been a conflict between mainstream and underground listeners. As many K-pop groups use hiphop in their songs, people became used to associating hip-hop with these sugar-coated lyrics. Underground rappers and their fans have heavily criticized this, which fuelled many skilled underground rappers to stick with working as an independent artist rather than under a major mainstream label.

B-boying scene[edit]

LG Electronics' CYON B-Boy Championship 2010

B-boying enjoys a great deal of popularity in South Korea,[6] so much so that it has become a great cultural export for the country as the South Korean government tries to promote a dynamic image of South Korea. South Korean B-boys say that the B-boy movement dates as far back as the 1990s where young men took up the activity as a result of the lack of diversion to military duties. But it is wasn't until 2001 that they received international recognition, when they debuted at the 2001 annual Battle of the Year competition in Germany represented by the crew Visual Shock, although coming 4th in the competition the following year (2002) the Korean team Expression came back to win the competition.[7] Since then South Korea has won several Battle of the Year titles, and breaking crews frequently appear on national television.[8] As of 2009, South Korea is the world's leading country in breaking.[9] Some of the well-known breaking crews include Rivers crew, Drifterz crew, Gamblerz crew, T.I.P., Jinjo crew, Extreme Crew, Last For One, Expression, Maximum crew, Lead Mos, TG Breakerz, 20th Century Bboyz, Soul Kingz, Floor Gangz, Universal Crew, People crew and Visual Shock.

As the Korean bboying scene became internationally renowned, it sparked the Korean government for supporting to host Korea's own bboy championship for the international audience. R-16 Korea is one of the most recognized bboy championships that invites bboys from all around the world to now Asia's bboy capital South Korea.

Yoon Mi-rae and Tiger JK performing at LG Electronics' CYON B-Boy Championship 2010 finals

Bboy scene in Korea has been proactive in blending the bboying style with other dance forms and inspirations. Whilst keeping the essence of American style of bboying, many bboys in Korea have infused their own traditional style into bboying. With elements of Korean traditional dances like Pungmul (which also incorporates head-rotating and complex jumps) and Taekwondo-inspired moves, Korean bboys have benefited from taking two different cultural styles and putting into one unique style. In 2006, the apartment company e편한세상 released a TV ad where bboy members from Last for One were shown dancing to a hip-hop remix of Pachelbel's Canon blended with the traditional Korean Gayageum. The mix of cultures caught a global audience on YouTube. Since then various hip-hop/Korean-traditional hybrid music bands began to appear with examples like Sorea (Sound of Korea) which made the hit track 'Seoul in Panic'.

Korean-American director Benson Lee has captured this 'blending' phenomenon very well in his bboy documentary Planet Bboy where there is a scene of Korean bboys reflecting the North-South Korea conflict. North and South Korean guards (all played by South Korean bboys) battle out in the DMZ border.

As it is hard to have a stable income source for bboys, many crews have ventured out to doing theatrical performances and musicals. Since 2006, Expression crew have been performing a new style of bboying called the Marionette, which incorporated puppet-like movements and was responsible for influencing JabbaWockeeZ crew who have successfully used this style during their performances on America's Best Dance Crew. Extreme crew has combined Ballet with Bboys as they ventured into the musical 'Ballerina who fell in love with a bboy' (비보이를 사랑한 발레리나).

Hip-hop dancing is also pretty popular in Korea. Some well known hip-hop dance groups include Prepix.[10]

Another well known dance group, is popping group K-OGS. Their member Pop Kun won the UK BBoy Championship in 2008 [11] Other well-known popping groups are Cyborg G (Popping Hyun Joon, well-known member of the dance community), FREEZE and Newest35.

Aside from various dances involved in hip-hop, Krumping has also become popular within a niche underground supporters. The krumping crew Monster Woo Fam lead by Monster Woo has been one of the many crews that have gained a great international attention via YouTube.

Freestyle rap[edit]

As the underground hip-hop scene became increasingly popular throughout the 2000s, people started taking interests in various subcultures within hip-hop. With cyphers in Hongdae playground and annual freestyle competition/events such as Freestyle Day and Freestyle One, freestyle rapping really caught on to the underground listeners.

One of the leading artists who have been pioneering this freestyle-rap culture since the mid-2000s is Sool J. He is well known for winning Miller 2005 Freestyle Rap Battle and has then set his goal in popularising this freestyle-rap culture. He was responsible for hosting the internet freestyling show Mic Swagger, where famous rappers are invited to have a freestyle session with him similar to Rap City over in the United States. He was also the founder of Freestyle Day and has toured all over South Korea to find young freestyling talents. He is currently hosting a 'no-beat' battle show called Boxer. Other artists who have been heavily associated with freestyle rapping would include Huckleberry P (of Pinodyne), JJK, Dragon A.T, Dumbfoundead, Seo Chul Goo and many more.

As the aftermath of heated freestyle battles can end up in a violent manner from time to time, a new type of battle was invented in Korea in order to encourage freestylers and hip-hop fans to maintain peace and respect. It is called 'compliment battle' (칭찬배틀) whereby the competitors have to freestyle not against their opponents, but to freestyle about their admiration for them and to praise each other's skills and success. The winner of this battle is measured by the skills, wit and also their sincerity of respect. Compliment battles are usually carried out at the end of a normal freestyle battle, which leaves both of the opponents feeling more-or-less respectful of each other and prevents any aftermath violence/hatred.

Notable artists[edit]





Active companies[edit]

Defunct companies[edit]

Notable producers[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hiphop Playa". Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Korean hip-hop music". Retrieved 3 January 2014. 230 people (Used 901 times) 
  3. ^ a b c 'Korean hip hop' and less popular names:
  4. ^ a b "K-hiphop music". Retrieved 3 January 2014. 148 people (Used 738 times) 
  5. ^ a b c "K-hip hop music". Retrieved 3 January 2014. 131 people (Used 645 times) 
  6. ^ Breakdancing Takes South Korea By Storm
  7. ^ South Korea embraces breaking craze
  8. ^ South Korea Breakdancing Craze
  9. ^ Wikipedia Battle of the Year 2009
  10. ^ Prepix Official Website
  11. ^ Sony Ericson UK BBoy Championships World Finals 2008
  12. ^ a b "6 K-pop Producers Who Are Crushing It". MTV Iggy. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "15 Korean Rappers You Should Know That Aren’t Psy". XXL Magazine. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  14. ^ ": Idol star producers, GD + Junhyung... and the next is Zico!". Naver (in Korean). Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Beat Kings of Tomorrow: K-Pop’s Top Eight Next Generation Producers". MTV Korea. Retrieved 27 July 2014.