Year in Review

2016 in Review: The Year of the Korean Rapper (Part 2)

Sneak Peek: The Korean hip hop scene went mainstream in 2016, and a new wave of Korean rappers emerged from the underground, enjoying bigger stages and brighter spotlights in what was, without a doubt, the "Year of the Korean Rapper."

Introduction

In 2016 in Review: The Year of the Korean Rapper (Part 1), the behind the scenes stories of how season five of Show Me The Money helped the Korean hip hop scene go mainstream in 2016 were revealed. But that was only half the story, detailing the music releases, special performances, and guest appearances made by Korean hip hop artists at South Korea’s old school hip hop record labels.

Arguably the Korean hip hop scene’s most explosive year yet, 2016 also saw a new wave of Korean rappers come out of the darkness and into the light. Some of them were discovered on Show Me The Money season five while some of them appeared out of nowhere, emerging from the darkness of the underground to stand on bigger stages and in brighter spotlights. It doesn’t matter because all of them brought never before seen styles and new sounds to the Korean hip hop scene.

As the Korean hip hop scene boomed like never before, Korean new wave rappers like Superbee, Myundo, and Junoflo were scouted and scooped up by Feel Ghood Music, one of South Korea’s old school hip hop record labels. It wasn’t long before brand new Korean hip hop record labels were established, giving Korean new wave rappers like Hash Swan, Changmo, and Kim Hyo-eun a place to call home in the Korean hip hop scene. After all, Korean hip hop artists, including one of the Korean hip hop scene’s highest-paid producers, Gray of AOMG, are known for working and living in their studios. Right, MKIT Rain?

South Korea’s New Wave Hip Hop Record Labels

  1. HIGHGRND (EST. 2015)
  2. MKIT Rain (EST. 2016)
  3. The Black Label (EST. 2016)
  4. Ambition Musik (Est. 2016)

Fun Fact: HIGHGRND and MKIT Rain were established before the Korean hip hop scene went mainstream in 2016, and the Korean new wave rappers at both labels would go on to make their mark on the Korean hip hop scene with and without the help of Show Me The Money.

Together, South Korea’s new wave hip hop record labels bring traditional and trendy subgenres of hip hop to the Korean hip hop scene. They’re where boom bap meets trap. They’re where gangsta rap meets grime. They’re where classical music meets autotune. Korean new wave rappers aren’t afraid to try new things, whether they’re successful…

Or not.

Keep reading to find out about the music releases, special performances, and guest appearances made by Korean hip hop artists at South Korea’s new wave hip hop record labels in 2016!

1. HIGHGRND (EST. 2015)

Current Artists

  • Incredivle
  • Punchnello
  • Code Kunst

HIGHGRND: 2016 in Review

Incredivle

After appearing on season four of Show Me The Money in 2015, Incredivle signed to HIGHGRND in 2016. He featured on Lee Hi’s album Seoulite, performed at Club Lucidream, and made special guest appearances at popular hip hop clubs, bars, and lounges in Hongdae, such as The Henz Club.

Punchnello

After Punchnello signed to HIGHGRND in 2016, he dropped a mini album, Lime, and released a single, “Worth It” featuring Hoody.

Although Hoody is signed to AOMG, she is still one of the most underrated Korean R&B singers in the Korean hip hop scene.

Punchnello, Live, Sik-K, Owen Ovadoz, and Flowsik all featured on “Eung Freestyle,” the Korean hip hop single that went viral and swept YouTube by storm with its “freestyle” bars placed perfectly on top of a fire beat.

Code Kunst

A producer, in 2015 Code Kunst released “Parachute” featuring Oh Hyuk and Dok2. Although they have two different styles and sounds, rock and rap respectively, Code Kunst worked his magic, making one of the hit songs of 2015. In 2016 he released “Beside Me” featuring BeWhy, YDG, and Suran, and it was another hit.

2. MKIT Rain (EST. 2016)

Current Artists

  • Loopy
  • Nafla
  • Owen Ovadoz
  • Bloo
  • Young West

MKIT Rain: 2016 in Review

Loopy

Loopy released two singles, “Goyard” and “Rrrr,” showcasing his laid back, low key style and sound.

In high demand, he performed at Korean hip hop clubs, bars, and lounges in Gangnam, such as Hidden Lounge and Monkey Museum. The latter is owned by Seungri of Big Bang. He also performed at Hiphopplaya Festival with his label mates. Together, they were the opening act on the very first day of the famous festival.

Nafla

Nafla dropped an EP, New Blood, and released several singles including “Dopeboy” and “Mercy” featuring AP.

Also in high demand, he performed without his label mates at Rapbeat Show and Secret Society 051, Busan’s hottest hip hop club owned by Bill Stax (formerly known as Vasco) of Just Music.

Owen Ovadoz

Owen Ovadoz dropped an album, P.O.E.M., and released a single, “City.” He ended 2016 by performing in China with his label mates, but he was plagued by serious controversies that continue to haunt his otherwise successful career.

Bloo & Young West

Bloo dropped a mixtape, Tony, which is available for download here, while Young West released several singles.

3. The Black Label (EST. 2016)

Current Artists

  • Zion. T

The Black Label: 2016 in Review

Zion. T

Zion. T appeared as a judge on SMTM 5 alongside Kush. They produced two top-charting singles, “Knock” and “Machine Gun” featuring Mino.

After leaving Amoeba Culture and signing to The Black Label in 2016, Zion. T had a quiet year. Rumor has it he’s contacting top producers and preparing to drop his first album since Red Light.

4. Ambition Musik (EST. 2016)

Current Artists

  • Hash Swan
  • Changmo
  • Kim Hyo-eun

Ambition Musik: 2016 in Review

Hash Swan

Hash Swan, who received rap lessons from Bill Stax with Changmo when he was 18 years old, dropped six singles in 2016! He also performed at Hidden Lounge in Gangnam.

He shot to fame after appearing on SMTM 5. Despite an early elimination, he lasted long enough to beat Junoflo and catch Illionaire’s eye. After signing to Illionaire’s brand new, new wave hip hop record label, he appeared on season two of Mic Swagger where he showed off his highly coveted tone and flow.

Changmo

Changmo, who is famous for his skills as both a classical pianist and a trendy rapper, released several singles, dropped a mixtape, MOTOWN, and dropped an EP, Time To Earn Money 2.

“High With Me” by Changmo

Was it beautiful?
I’ll leave the night behind.
The darkness is only temporary,
and I’ll start a new journey.
Bottoms up!
Are you high with me?
Are you high with me?
Are you high with me?
Yeah. Yeah.

The music industry can fuck off. I’ll never sell out.
PB, my older brother, tells me that I grew up a lot.
So I just want to have fun now.
[I went] from [having] financial difficulties to [having] financial freedom.
However, this business comes with new restrictions and restraints. I feel it.
I’m a kid called Changmo, who is living the life of a rap star.
From paying 400 dollars to some thousand dollars a month for rent,
I don’t know how to balance my budget. Damn.
However, I don’t need to know.
Right now, my clan is filled with ambition, and they got my back.
ILLI fuckin’ NIRE.
My veterans: Makesense, P, and Black.
I don’t believe in you, because you don’t need me to.
I believe in my dreams, my record label, and my voice.
To me, music is just a game amateurs play.
However, for the fool who risks it all
it’s worth millions in any currency.
My heart is made of iron. It doesn’t stop. I’m Tony Stark.
I smoke Marlboro Red. The smoke rises.
Go away. All the different drinks and different minds…
Fuck off. All of you. I want it: number one, one, one.

Was it beautiful?
I’ll leave the night behind.
The darkness is only temporary,
and I’ll start a new journey.
Bottoms up!
Are you high with me?
Are you high with me?
Are you high with me?
Yeah. Yeah.

I remember sitting in front of the Han river as inspiration flowed.
Nothing could change my mind.
I was suffering and needed money.
Why didn’t Illionaire…
Why didn’t they choose me?
The Show Me The Money rappers…
Half of them don’t have any passion or interest in music. They’re just wannabes.
Why do they get to make money?
Why am I eating bagged ramen [bagged ramen is cheaper than cup ramen]?
Why do they have girls lining up just to meet them?
Why did I hit rock bottom?
However, I couldn’t stop. The hustle life was my life even if it killed me.
I opened my third eye,
and realized rap was like a sport.
Looking cool would never be enough to win.
My ideas about rap and being a rapper [literally, my philosophy] were right.
Wannabes, just look at me.
I’m living at the top of the top of the top.
The gods above this sky—their anger…
A fan of the suns and skies, [I prayed].
Eventually my hand bashed a piano, and I finally started making money.
To the fools who come after me,
putting their necks on the line…
Don’t give up. On and on.
Time To Make Money [/the name of the album] is just one chapter of my life.
It’s the end now. The sun shines on a new day.
Four years of passion… I was like a larvae growing.
I broke out of the prison I was in and stretched my bird-like wings.
The person chasing a dream gets lonelier as the night gets longer.
We’re small beings [literally, cells] following the world’s logic and reason.
In the end, the sun shines on everyone.

Was it beautiful?
I’ll leave the night behind because darkness is only temporary,
and start a new journey.
Bottoms up!
Are you high with me?
Are you high with me?
Are you high with me?
Yeah. Yeah.

Source

He also performed at one of Hongdae’s hottest hip hop clubs, The Henz Club, and appeared on Mic Swagger season two.

Kim Hyo-eun

After an early elimination from SMTM 5, Kim Hyo-eun was signed by Illionaire, who liked his lyrical, almost poetic verses delivered over boom bap beats. He performed with Illionaire on tour and dropped his highly anticipated EP, My Ambition.

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