Rap is a mandatory source in K-Pop now, and rappers from underground crews are succeeding in the mainstream market.
With the first mainstream idol hip-hop group Big Bang, K-Pop has explored the hip-hop genre more than ever. And with later groups such as Block B and B.A.P, hip-hop is now a natural source in K-Pop.
The significance of these idol rappers is that the rappers are also from the underground hip-hop scenes of Korea. The term “Underground” refers to the scene where music of their own are not involved with mainstream and the intention of music is only for artistic reasons. With the appearance of these underground rappers, rap is no longer a thing tone-deaf idols were faced with performing.
Big Bang’s charismatic rapper T.O.P is an ex-underground rapper idol. In his underground years, under his alias ‘T.E.M.P.O’, he actively performed around in Korea. Block B’s Zico, P.O, and Park Kyung are also from the underground scene of Korea. Zico and Park Kyung started rapping since their elementary school years and performed in various events, and Winner's Song Minho was also involved in the underground scene.
B.A.P’s leader Bang Yongguk is part of the crew Soul Connection and BTS' leader Rap Monster, and Topp Dogg's Kidoh are also in a crew called Daenamhyup.
BTOB's Lee Minhyuk was also an underground rapper, under the alias ‘Heota.’ Lee Minhyuk previously worked with Zico and Park Kyung in recording tracks for a mixtape. Other crews and underground-idols include M.I.B's Sims, Speed's Taewoon, and EXID's LE.
Idol companies prefer underground rappers because they are already skipped at rapping from a base line. Companies are able to work much more efficiently with these rappers, especially ones that are able to also assist in composing and lyrics writing.
In the cases of these hip-hop idols, their own songs often make top hits. In case of G-Dragon, his hit song “Lies” became an instant hit, and Block B’s Zico participated in producing his group’s album, showing good results. Most underground rappers participate in their songs in some way, and their abilities are far better than that of non-underground-scene rappers.
So then why are these rappers coming overground? One insider reveals, "Underground musicians usually start with passion of music, but end up facing the fact that they cannot succeed by doing what they want, so they are expanding the market now. They want to be known to more people."
LE of EXID revealed, "The outsiders view of being an idol rapper may not be that great, but I want to succeed in music and through that I want to do the music I want. Being an Idol is just a piece of my career."
But not all underground rappers succeed overground. Kim Sunghwan Pop music critic revealed, "A talented musician and a professional music producer can make great music, but using these underground rappers as a form of marketing and not investing in their musical abilities will eventually fail."
In the end, the ability to go beyond the level of named “Hip-Hop” idol, depends on the company and it’s artists.
*Note: This is a translated op-ed from 10Asia.
Source: 10 Asia