It’s no secret that Kpop is Korea’s number one export worldwide. Their catchy melodies mixed with addictive choruses and imitate-able dances make for great sing-a-long tunes and are a great way for international fans to get acquainted with the Korean language. Kpop groups almost always feature a member or two that specialize in “rapping.” While these members do the nature of rapping justice, they do it under the umbrella of upbeat Kpop melodies, not the deeper underground sound many in the West associate rapping with. Unfortunately these rappers are often relegated to a single verse in the entire song leaving listeners yearning for more. For those unfamiliar with the world of Korean Hip-hop here is a brief list of artists every Hip-hop fan should listen to. Some will be recognizable names that have collaborated with mainstream Kpop while others create music exclusive to the Hip-hop genre. In no particular order…

San-E

San-E Allkpop

Despite his rather cookie-cutter Kpop appearance in the above picture, San-E is anything but an ideal idol type. His flow is full of double entendre and can range from course, raw, and foul mouthed (see Rap Circus) to speedy and illicit. His newest single “Body Language”, features another artist included on this list.

Beenzino

Beenzino tumblr

Beenzino sticks out here as he is the least flashy on the list. Visually his style is reminiscent of early 90’s rappers; usually sporting a plain T-shirt jeans or a basketball jersey. Don’t let his appearance fool you though. Beenzino has great delivery resonating from his tone and pitch. Be sure to check out his album 24:26 and watch his video for “Aquaman”, below to see just how his laid-back style contributes to his execution and delivery.

Dynamic Duo

seoulbeats_dynamic_duo

Dressed in the latest fashion trends these two look more like models than rappers. Dynamic Duo, comprised of Choiza and Gaeko, is one of the most recognizable names in Korean Hip-hop. With a career spanning 15+ years, these two have contributed to multiple tracks spanning the spectrum of Korean music.  They’ve recently worked with legendary DJ and producer DJ Premier on a new track called “AEAO.” Establishing their own record label in Ameoba Culture, DD looks to be around for awhile, both at the front-lines and behind the scenes.

Tiger JK (Drunken Tiger/ MFBTY)

tigerjk jpopasia

Half of the legendary group Drunken Tiger, Tiger JK is a Korean native that spent his youth growing up in Los Angeles. A UCLA graduate and witness to the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, his style is inspired by Bob Marley and you can tell with songs like “the Cure.” Tiger JK has been around the game just as long as American legend Snoop Dogg. He has established multiple companies, attributed to “The Movement” of Hip-Hop in Korea, and is still going strong.

GD and TOP

GD_&_T.O.P_2010--wiki-mod

Most definitely the embodiment of modern Kpop, GD and TOP have earned every bit of recognition they receive. Any and all recent boy bands to come out of the factory will feature a rapper or two who are modeled exactly after one of these two. Their unique voices and flare have made them an unforgettable beacon in Kpop. Their work together as a rap duo has also garnered high praise, collaborating with the likes of Diplo for their song “Knock Out.” Despite their pretty boy appearance GD and TOP are Hip-hop fixtures not to pass by.

Epik High

epik high http-::hyesena.wordpress.com:

Composed of rappers Tablo and Mithra Jin along with DJ Tukutz, Epik High is a Hip-hop group that traverses a variety of genres. They aren’t afraid to try out new sounds or try new approaches in their delivery. Their recent music has been made for a larger audience appeal but that doesn’t diminish the quality of work. These guys have been winning awards since 2005 so it’s best to pay attention when these veterans drop a track.

DOK2 /The Quiett

Illionaires hiphopkr.com

These two are grouped together due to their co-ownership of Illionaire records. Dok2 has been a part of Korean Hip-hop since the age of 12. He has produced work for many of the artists on this list including Epik High, Drunken Tiger, and Dynamic Duo. The Quiett, much like Dok2, is a venerable every-man of Korean Hip-hop. His sound is bass heavy with a flow to match and is perfect for a night out in the club. Their label is also home to rapper Beenzino.

Verbal Jint

verbal-jint kpopinfo114.files.wordpress

Debuting in 2001, Vj is considered a revolutionary figure in Korean Hip-hop. His legacy stems from his establishment of a true rhyme scheme with the Korean language. Before VJ, speaking fast was a passable excuse for rapping. His style has become the standard in Korean Hip-hop and has paved the way for the future generations of artists to thrive. He has also, unlike many of his rap counterparts, experienced mainstream success in Kpop, a feat not so easily achieved in such an over-saturated market.

Bumkey

bumkey-soompi

A Hip-hop/R&b vocalist that has worked with almost everyone on this list, Bumkey is one of the most recognizable names in Korean music, period. Known for his silky smooth vocals, Bumkey is the king of collaboration, appearing on over 30 tracks that are not his own. Signed to Brand New Records, Bumkey’s future looks bright as he is the newly appointed leader of our group to watch, Troy.

Zion T

ZionT unchartedsound.blogspot.kr:

Another name known for his collaborations, Zion-T is as much as a piece of the Korean Hip-hop puzzle as anyone else. His unique voice and style make him a perfect compliment to many of the rappers on this list. He actively works with artists such as Primary, Dynamic Duo, and G-Dragon. His solo album, Red Light, is also highly acclaimed within the Hip-hop industry winning best R&B and Soul album of 2013 at the Korean Music Awards.

Group to Watch: Troy

Troy jpopasia

Bumkey, Kanto, Changwoo, and Jaewoong comprise Troy, a new Hip Hop group from Brand New Music. Their first single “Green Light,” is an upbeat mix of lyricism, vocals, and dance that make for a catchy tune. Keep and eye out for more releases from Troy.

Photo Cred:
Tumblr | Allkpop | JpopAsia |Seoulbeats | HiphopKR | Soompi  | Kpopinfo114 | Unchartedsound | Wikipedia

 

We know this list is lacking but that just means it’s your time to shine! What Korean Hip Hop talents do you think deserve recognition, let us know.

About The Author

A California native with a passion for travel, JT has been living in Korea for the past two years. A health fanatic and a seeker of knowledge, JT co-founded SeoulSync because of a desire to create something larger than he could ever become alone.

Comments

  1. Dearestxx says:

    Come on, only male hiphop artists? Where all the ladies at?

  2. Baekhyun says:

    was pretty satisfied with everybody on this list apart from gd&top tbh. i love them and the rest of bigbang to death but seriously?… they’re still disrespected due to their “idol rapper” label and the fact they’re signed under yg entertainment, and tbh i think the songs they’ve released together aren’t very good representatives of their rapping abilities. once again, love them to death but pls no… having them on the list along the others is just laughable.

  3. Doorva Tripathi says:

    Where are Rap Monster and Zico? I think they’re as good as some of the artists on the list although most of these are known greats

  4. Sudarshan Aithal says:

    You put GD and TOP but no Leessang? That sucks ..!!!

  5. Gork says:

    Where Jay Park???