Monday, March 21, 2016

Currently Listening 3.21.16

Apology for K- Hip Hop

EVERYTHING is a hyperlink~ So click away!

Korean hip hop is authentic.
Korean hip hop alive.
Korean hip hop is awesome.

It disappoints me that people continually doubt this genre.
So here is a RADICALLY CONDENSED summary of what I think makes K- Hip Hop a legitimate art, my thoughts on not-so-constructive criticism of k-hip hop, and anything else I deem relevant to share with those poor misguided unfortunates who seek to judge, disparage, and discount rather than listen, appreciate, and enjoy~~~

* Korea is a Leader in the Game

Did you know that South Korean hip hop is almost as old as its American counterpart? The birth of American hip hop took place sometime during the mid to late 1970's. Korea was not far behind. In the early 1990's, hip hop revolutionized the music industry. Early groups like Seo Taiji and Boys and Uptown paved the way for both the k-pop, and the k-hip hop that are global phenomena today.

(Yes~~~ k-pop and k-hip hop are actually different genres.)

Throughout the 90's and the early 00's, with the help of artists like Tiger JK & Drunken TigerTurboDynamic Duo, The Quiett, and Jinusean, Korean hip hop began to take on identity of its own. Although American influence is understandably inextricable from the k-hip hop genre, Korean hip hop has a life of its own now. And so I say that Korean rappers are not "acting black," or "stealing our music." They are practicing an art that's been a part of their media and culture for at least as long as I've been alive.

The most popular and acclaimed Korean hip hop artists of today include CL, G-Dragon, T.O.P., Jay Park, and Simon Dominic. There are many faces of k-hip hop today, these artists represent pop-fusion, electro, trap, old school, and many, many more.

* Foreign Artists in Korea
There are so many foreign-born and/ or raised artists and musicians operating in Korea that it is completely impossible for American music and fashion trends to not be pervasive in Korean media.

Here is a fairly comprehensive (but definitely incomplete) list of Korean musicians born and/ or raised abroad. This may give you some idea of why Korean music and culture is so popular worldwide, and why/ how Korean music and its artists embrace that which international community has to offer.

* Korean artists always acknowledge their American influences
There is no shade-throwing in K-hip hop when it comes to giving credit when and where it is due. When asked about their influence, K-hip hop artists always tell it straight. Michael Jackson, Usher, Chris Brown, and Wu Tang Clan are a few of the many American artists cited as most influential on musical style, and career aspirations.

To that point, here is a breakdown of the super group BIGBANG's musical style, visual aesthetic, and overall influences both as a group, and in their individual solo activities.

*** American artists on the Korean hip hop scene
Let's talk about collaborations! (In no particular order)
~ feat. 2NE1- Take The World On
~ Diplo x CL x Riff Raff x OG Maco- Doctor Pepper
~ G-Dragon feat. Missy Elliot- 닐리리야 (Niliria)
~ Tablo + Joey Bada$$- Hood
~ Psy feat. Snoop Dogg- Hangover
~ Keith Ape feat. A$AP Ferg, Father, Dumbfounded, & Waka Flocka Flame- It G Ma (Remix)
~ Amerie feat. 4Minute- Heard 'Em All
~ Amerie feat. 4Minute & Beast- Heard 'Em All (Remix)
~ JYJ feat. Kanye West & Malik Yusef- Ayyy Girl
~ Wonder Girls feat. Akon- Like Money
~ XIA (Junsu) feat. Quincy- Incredible
~ Skrillex & Diplo/ CL & G-Dragon- Dirty Vibe
~ Jay Park feat. Gray, Loco, Simon Dominic, & Trinidad James- 미친놈 (Success Crazed)
~ Jay Park feat. Crush, Honey Cocaine, Ugly Duck, & Simon Dominic- Mommae (Remix)
~ Se7en feat Lil Kim- Girls

(This is a list of hip hop collaborations. There are many more throughout various genres. Furthermore, these are just the collaborations I am familiar with... there are likely many more- and there likely will be many more in the future!)

... I guess the point I'm trying to make is that if so many of the hip hop artists we know and love are willing to accept Korean hip hop, and participate in it, there must be something there... Right?

* Awesome music. Awesome lyrics. Awesome style. Awesome dancing. Awesome everything.

Best "I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but it's pretty awesome" video ever.
Best cross-genre fusion ever & best visual music video ever.
Best 'you ain't got nothing on me girl group ever.
Best political statement in a music video- ever.
Best unexpected couple dance ever.
Best swagged- up girl group ever.
Best flow ever & best swag ever.
Best jazz- inspired song ever.
Best 'Boomshakalaka' ever.
Best old school vibe ever.
Best party song ever.
Best dance ever.
Best trap ever.
Best everything EVER!~~~ The song that sparked my interest in Korean music.

Click any one... I dare you! What..?
Afraid you might like it???

*** Let's stop beating around the bush...
Let's discuss black people in Korea...

So... I am well aware that a big reason behind much of the ill feelings toward k-hip hop is racial tension. It seems odd that a country known for being xenophobic and racist towards black people should be so invested in a style of music that is almost always synonymous with blackness. Indeed, I find it quite troubling that in a country where about 30% of the entire revenue is generated by an industry that was highly dependent upon, and is still highly motivated by black culture, black people can be openly (and legally) discriminated against.

However, I find it equally troubling that this is a global issue. Xenophobia and racism are not exclusive to South Korea- the occur EVERYWHERE. Anyway, since I've already disproved the myth that Korean hip hop artists are "acting black" (by explaining how it is that hip hop in Korea has a history, style, and life of its own), I will now attempt to rectify this racially charged aspect of the cognitive dissonance many seem to associate with k-hip hop.

~ Chonunmigooksaram
~ MySoKoAdventure
~ Glenn GoGo
~ Charlycheer
~ SmilingSeoul

These are all people of color who have either lived in Korea for a number of years, or are currently living in Korea. I trust them to really understand the workings of Korean society, and to share the truth on their Youtube channels. According to all of them, racism is the exception rather than the rule in South Korea. Furthermore, rather than xenophobic, they all report that "xenocuriousity" is more pervasive-- that is, Koreans will be that much more interested in learning about you if you are a non-Asian foreigner. These Youtubers have many videos in which they share their experiences, and talk about race. They are almost alway treated well and respected~ Yaaay! SmilingSeoul has said that people have talked behind her back (but within earshot) thinking that she doesn't understand Korean. Can you believe they had the nerve to say that she is pretty, and that they like her hair??? The nerve!!!

Do racist incidents occur in Korea? Yes.
Do they occur often? Probably not.
Is this at all related to Korean hip hop music? ... Not really. Well... maybe sometimes...

*** Being black in the Korean music industry
... I need a Cha Cha beat boy!

If you ever hear a song start with those words, prepare yourself! Chase "Cha Cha" Malone is a singer, songwriter, dancer, and producer operating in South Korea. He is often associated with his friend, and fellow AOM (Art of Movement) b-boy dancer, Jay Park. And guess what??? Wait for it...

Cha Cha is (half) black!

Despite the fact that he has only been active for a few years, Cha Cha is one of the hottest producers in Korea right now... Here's why~~~

Click any one! I promise, you will not be disappointed!!!

Yoon Mi Rae is a rapper, singer, and songwriter operating in South Korea. She is best known as a member of Uptown (one of the aforementioned originators of k-hip hop), and a member of the hip hop trio MFBTY. She is married to her fellow MFBTY member, and the "godfather" of Korean hip hop, Tiger JK. Yoon Mi Rae is actually her Korean nickname. Her legal name is Natasha "Tasha" Reid, and guess what??? Wait for it one more time...

Tasha is also (half) black!

Once upon a time, in the early 90's, Tasha accompanied her friend to an audition for a Korean record company.While waiting for her friend's audition, the two young women were practicing their vocals. The story goes that one of the executives heard what was going on in the hall from his seat in the audition room. He came out, and offered Tasha a spot in the then unnamed Uptown, which would skyrocket her to fame, and forever change the Korean music industry. It was all set!

But then... they realized that Tasha was black. That was a setback. It would be hard to promote a mixed-race idol in a homogneous society such as South Korea. But then again, she was mixed-race. She was only half black- what an easy fix! They would just slap some white makeup on her to hide the tan skin, and ask her to never mention the fact that her father was black. Problem solved!

Tasha refused to deny her blackness, and years later, would go one to release a song that explained who she is, and the struggles she faced because of her ethnic background.

(Please turn on subtitles for English lyrics... Unless you understand 한국어 :) )
Yoon Mi Rae~ Black Happiness (2007)
Absolutely, Incredibly Stunning~~~ Lyrical perfection
This is mandatory viewing... Seriously. Watch it!
Or else...

I mention Cha Cha and Tasha because I think they represent an impending, ever-so-slowly occuring change in the Korean music scene, and hopefully in the world. Skin color doesn't matter- Duh! 

So I hope you feel the same way when you truly, honestly give k-hip hop a chance this time...

Honestly (and quite clearly), I can go on forever about this stuff. However, I think this is a good place to stop. :D

Other topics to consider include:
~ The nature of hip hop: Culture vs. Aesthetic
~ The artist and the art: Musicians and Experimentation
~ The "ownership" of art: Can art or style be owned? 
~ Transnational hip hop: The diaspora, and its effects
~ Hip hop & experience: The black experience and the Korean experience (similarities) 

For a more detailed history of the hip hop diaspora in Korea, Click here and here.
For a more in depth analysis of the relationship between American hip hop and Korean hip hop, click here.
For alternative views concerning the issue of race within the Korean music industry, click here.
For a brief wiki-view of k-hip hop, and a list of notable k-hip hop artists, click here.

For ENTHUSIASM, and further questions, or suggestions, click...

~ Clinton.

1 comment:

  1. This is terrific, Clinton! Not only a powerful introduction to a rich, complex, and immensely popular realm of global music, but also a thoughtful engagement with issues of Blackness in Korea and racial authenticity in cultural form. For more on Black-Asian cultural politics, you might take a look at _Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans_, edited by Bill Mullen and Fred Ho: