Mnet recently broadcasted the first episode of Show Me The Money, which has been promoted as a rapper version of I Am a Singer. Actually, Show Me The Money is more like a mix between Superstar K and I Am a Singer, where rookie rappers audition to be in the first selection of 21, and then will compete against each other to be a part of the eight finalists which will be paired up with the panelist, composed by renowned rappers such as Verbal Jint, MC Sniper, GariOn, Double K and Miryo among others.

The hip-hop scene seems to be in a good moment in Korea, but this is the first time it is the protagonist of a reality show, and probably the first time the emphasis is made in the discovery of new rappers. Is this the beginning of a new mainstream hip-hop trend, or just a reflection of the rich underground scene?

Hip-hop has been present in the mainstream scene in one way or another for a long time. Duos such as Supreme Team, Mighty Mouth or Leessang promote on musical programs and are present in variety shows; they move in the same circles as idols, yet they still have a different status — they write their own songs, but they aren’t as popular as top idol groups in the music programs (Leessang maybe being the exception).

However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg: most of the hip-hop artists still remain in the underground circuit. The underground scene in still considered the household of hip-hop and underground experience is highly valuable when debuting in a group, so even though some hip-hop mainstream acts are still well considered (such as the aforementioned Leessang, Drunken Tiger or Verbal Jint), they are still only a few. And the underground circuit is especially important for rookies.

So hip-hop is not alien to the mainstream culture, but the format of Show Me The Money can only mean that they are hoping to compete with other similar shows and therefore with the idol scene too. This aim is pretty obvious if we take a look at the panelists, a mix between acclaimed but not widely known rappers such as group GariOn, Joosuc and Double K with artists that will sound familiar to the general public like Verbal Jint and Brown Eyed Girls‘ Miryo.

Which will be the response to Show Me The Money? Well, hip-hop as such is just a genre, and doesn’t imply it has to remain underground forever. And fans in Korea seem to be especially fond of hip-hop as a sub-genre, since there’s no idol group without a “rapper”, but the new artists that emerge from the program will probably be unable to compete with idol groups in music programs (which are designed for idols after all). It was announced that in the first broadcasting, popular underground rapper TakeOne auditioned — he is actually signed under Grandline Entertainment, one of the most renowned hip-hop labels in Korea, and has already released a mixtape with them. Even a former member of 45RPM (whose current members are panelists) auditioned and passed the first round. So Show Me The Money can actually turn not into a platform to discover new talents, but in a medium for underground artists to make themselves a name among the general public.

This is the reason I’m a little torn when it comes to this show — not because it’s wrong to give unknown artists the chance to get more popular, but because the format seems a bit lacking for that purpose.

However, with those panelist and those prospective participants, Show Me The Money will be definitely worth following.

(TV Daily, Mnet)