Trapped in Korean Rap

When trying to find a Digital Asian topic to research and gain an understanding of, I was inundated with ideas that could be potentially used as part of my digital artefact. Listening to the other students talk about their ideas, like ramen noodles and Japanese toilets, really put into perspective how I should approach this topic. My original idea was to use Japanese metal as part of my digital artefact, however, was changed just a few days ago when my friend showed me a video on YouTube.

The video was called Rappers React to Higher Brothers, where rappers such as Lil Yacthy (lol), Migos, KYLE and a bunch of other rappers reacted to a Chinese rap group called the Higher Brothers. Throughout the video, they are comparing and contrasting to American culture, however, most have their own input about the beat, the lyrics and the music video itself. Watching these rappers react to something they had never seen or experienced before was something I could relate to, simply because I had never seen or experienced underground Chinese rap before.

After seeing this video, I finally made my decision on what to use as my Digital Asia text, but change the origin of the country. Considering Rich Chigga (even though he is Indonesian) has just become a somewhat household name in American rap, and now the Higher Brothers getting attention from mainstream media, I decided to stray away from China and focus on underground Korean rap.

I though trying to find underground Korean rap would be a much more difficult and arduous task that would involve travelling into the deep web and end up with me trying to decipher Korean writing and find the music. But just a simple Google search of “underground Korean rap” did the trick. Or did it?

No, it did.

Anyway, so when I googled underground Korean rap, the first link that popped up was a Tumblr paged dedicated to Underground Korean music called Discovering the Korean Underground. The page was a mixture of underground genres ranging from rap to pop. The first song I discovered was called 리빠똥 by 차붐(CHABOOM).

Now I don’t like to talk myself up, but being a musician and listening to rap music for a very long time, I can distinguish between good and bad flow, how hard a beat goes and the overall feel the song gives the listener.

First off. This song goes hard. The flow is there and the beat is A1. Although I don’t know what CHABOOM is saying (except the occasional swear word), this is a very good rap song.

The Tumblr page wasn’t giving me the fix I needed after I had a new-found addiction. After watching the video again on YouTube, this time I was greeted with a number of different YouTube channels such as STONE SHIP, LEGIT GOONS and MKIT RAIN that promoted underground Korean rap.

MV 뱃사공 – 마초맨(Feat.차붐,deepflow) was the next video I stumbled upon. The video had some Yakuza vibes to it, like late 80s vibes. The way they dressed, the way they acted was very gangster. Even so more evident when the instrumental kicked in. Old school, slow methodical beat, with that guitar lick over top, reminds me of New York rap from the 90s. I thought it was very cool in the way they mixed the music with the video.

It was getting late at that point and it was time to get some shut eye. One more video I thought, this is the last one, and I mean it. So, after watching three more videos, it was around midnight and I knew I had to get up at 6:30 to get to uni. The final video that would end my escapade into the unknown world of underground Korean rap was Drivers Film M/V by Legit Goons.

The cinematography for this video was really good, and I began to realise that each video had something in common. The videos were all filmed really well, like I mean really well, like MTV good. Another thing I noticed was all the references to Western culture. The money, the cars, the clothes all synonymous with Western culture. But this is autoethnography, we ain’t supposed to be comparing to western culture. Welp, broke that rule a few times.

And that’s what was unusual about this experience. The idea of autoethnography is to have epiphanies about what you experienced with the text and the new culture. But underground Korean rap, for as underground that it is, still has an essence of Western culture spliced throughout the videos and songs. The random English words and western culture references, how they dress, how they act. But what makes them different is, well, they have taken this western rap culture, and twisted it into their own thing. And that’s what makes it so different.


  1. It’s cool to see how your initial epiphany was spawned from a viewing a single video rather than already established interest in the topic. Hip Hop and rap are so intrinsically connected to American culture that it is interesting that it has flourished abroad. But as we know, with the influence that the US has had over South Korea in the post-war period it was inevitable that Hip Hop would be welcomed there (even if it is still relatively underground). The records you chose were great; a hint of traditional Korean influence on the beats, and the code-switching between Korean and English is good for opening up to a more global audience. I suppose one thing to consider when viewing these from a western experience is that the themes of ‘money, cars and clothes’ transcend cultural trappings and are present in hip hop as a global medium.

    Keith Ape, a Korean rapper was in Sydney last year for a show. You may have heard his song ‘It G Ma’ ( Anyway, I had some Korean friends go to the show and laugh about how all these white kids were screaming out the Korean lyrics better than they could. So it’s interesting to see how something that is relatively underground/ unknown in Korea can influence Australia the way it did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s really interesting to see your progression through this epiphany you had when watching the american rappers react clip. You really talk through the process from your personal experience with it which speaks true to Ellis et al (2011) Auto-ethnography reading is all about. Korean rap seems to be, as you say, a mimic of western culture ideas i.e. women and money. However, in saying that, it is really putting a stamp on Asian rap in general. Each sub culture of Asian hip-hop seems to speak true to a cause and it gives the artists a voice to really get to their people through the lyrics. It is cool to see how all the different videos reminded you of old school hip hop that you had heard when you were younger. Korean rap must be somewhat new and at the same time nostalgic experience for you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s