• http://twitter.com/sebsobandsky Sabah

    OOOOOh!  I really liked this article.  Very astute, insightful and thought provoking.

    I used be fascinated at how Kpop seemingly could embrace a culture and history but not its people. I too used to cringe at certain rap portions of songs, the complimenting lingo and attire.  That cheap imitation wallowing in shallowness. Yet…

    For me it is like the appreciation of a child for art.  They know what they like and what they don’t like.  They might even go so far as to explain the reasons why, such as the bright colours or movements within the piece.  However an art critic’s appreciation is upon a ‘different’ level for they would understand and comprehend things beyond the child simply because they have studied art and the artist.  Whether that ‘difference’ is greater or better depends upon who is seeking that appraisal, for at the end of the day, after all the detailing and discussions, the critic speaks the same words of the child, ‘I like it.’ 

    For some, me included, the worth of praise is dependent upon the person.  As an artist, I am flattered that a child likes my work but then I can not deny that elation when a respected critic says the same words as that child. 

    This ‘imitating’ of sorts also has levels.  There are people who like the style of hip-hop and assimilate it into their own music.  However there are also people who have read about its history, understand its roots and have spent many decades perfecting that hip-hop sound.  One cannot help but have more respect for the latter; granting it a label of authentic rather than pretentious.

    HOWEVER, before I begin to sound elitist, I am reminded of a wonderful speech from the film American Desi, by a character who was Indian by birth but had seemingly created for himself a ‘black’ persona, or as his friend calls it, ‘Afro-centric, Hindu Homeboy thing.’

    “I’m just trying to keep it real man. Blacks and Indians have a hell of a lot more in common than you think. I mean, we share a common ancestry. You know, India used to be a part of Africa?”

    :S “You know about plate tectonics, right? Well have you noticed how the West coast of India fits in perfectly with the east coast of Africa? Once upon time man, we were one land dawg! One people, but India drifted east and hit the Asian land mass. So what is Gujarat used to be Tanzania or something.  I am just rediscovering my original roots!”

    Despite the convoluted reasoning, I realized that though we may be able to estimate the depth of understanding of a person’s interest in hip-hop, we can not comprehend their affinity towards it, nor their love for it. 

    Just like that child, there are so many things wherein my knowledge is poor, my understanding weak but nonetheless, I shout out with all my heart and soul, ‘I LIKE IT!’ 

  • Almira Agathas

    I’m not familiar with hip hop and rap because in my country, hip hop and rap are not as popular as pop songs. It’s kinda embarrassing because I know hiphop and all its sub-genres after playing G*A S*n And*eas. After playing it, I was googling and listening to gangsta rap, West Coast – East Coast up until the hip-hop we know today. I can say that hip-hop has gone through many changes, from rebellion to violence and end up in sex and party (the last part saddens me D’:)

    After reading your article, I can draw some conclusions about hip-hop in KPop industry. I think the idols are trying to adapt the western hip-hop culture and integrate it to their own music. They only take the ‘bling-bling’ part, which is quite safe for the Korean audiences, and discard the violent part. South Korea’s population is not as big as America’s. People ranging from kids to elder people are watching KPop almost everyday (I remember about a nursing house that plays Gee for the elders when exercising) If the idols adapt the violent part of hip-hop too, be it in the lyrics or the MV, I believe they will get harsh scolds from the broadcasting commission.

    You are so considerate to put Epik High and Tasha (I think they’re not idols but real musicians) in your article. Both of them are the real hip-hop artist in Korean music industry. They are talented and know how to compose a music that reflect hip-hop fully, be it on the lyrics, compositions and style. I’ve been listening to Epik High last month and I was impressed by their ability.

    • http://twitter.com/azurechango Azure Chango

       You’re not digging deep enough :p there’s always been a very conscious thread in underground and mainstream rap here, they’re just no as well known to the public at large as “party and sex”.  The party and sex just get more play time and wider appeal, it’s not necessarily raps fault, it’s what the public is attracted to.  Kind of like how kpop has a wider appeal then say Korean hip-hop, “indy”, R&B, or rock.

      • Almira Agathas

        Well, can’t hurt to give an opinion. I’m not American or Korean. I live in a country where Hip Hop and rap are not the mainstream music. And I’m not blaming rap about the sex and party, so please don’t misunderstand me. 
        Thanks :)

        • http://twitter.com/azurechango Azure Chango

          I think you misunderstood me, I wasn’t criticizing you or anything, or saying you blamed rap xD.  I was just pointing out that, the reason you hear more party and sex in rap is that it’s what the public wants and eats up.  And by public I’m including the rest of the world.  I’d say the majority of rap songs out there, past and present, has to do with struggle (and gangsta falls under this), so at it’s heart it’s always really been the same.

          A lot of people don’t really wan’t to listen about someone else’s struggle, especially if they can’t relate, and so those types of songs don’t get exposed as much.

          I guess I was trying to say, you only really scratched the surface when it comes to rap.  There’s a LOT more out there so don’t be afraid of digging a little deeper, even for rap in your own county. :D

  • Streby

    Thank you for that picture of Dongho. Whenever I doubt whether my existence on this planet has any impact, I go and look at this picture and feel good about my life. It really makes me feel badass and awesome. 

  • http://twitter.com/BlazeinMulti Marc Pernell

    As a pioneer of hip-hop and rap music (Yes, I’m Black American*and helped to move these genres to the mainstream consciousness of the USA), I am torn on this issue of other races embracing “blackness” and emulating the gestures, way of speaking, dressing like “black” folks and even being influenced by black culture, art and music.

    The Pros:

    It shows that the world HAS become a smaller place through technology and the internet just like Prince predicted.  It shows that other cultures are open to MY culture–black culture, which I had a small part in helping to create with other black people from my era.  It make me feel that all out hard work of growing our culture and have it take on global wings worth all the literal blood, sweat, tears, agony, tear gassing and having been made to sit at the back of the bus.  So I raise a middle finger to the racist white folks of the KKK and Nazis and declare a small victory!

    The Con(s):

    I think before kids start to emulate OUR culture, they should STUDY the HISTORY of where we as a black people came from and where the music comes from.  They might find that Black music came from slaves finding a way to communicate to each other in the fields while slaves masters beat the holy hell out of them.  It may have been used as a prayer to God to deliver them from the shackles of slavery.  And the rhythmic nature of black music could have been used as a way to keep time and pace while picking crops in the fields.

    If young people only knew what my great-grandparents and grandparents went through and what I personally had to go through as a small child, you would consider it an honor to even be able to let the names of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Tupac and Biggie to cross your lips.

    That’s just a few of my 2 cents worth on the topic.

    P.S.  I prefer to be called Black American, not African American.  Why? Because I grew up, we were negros and niggers. And no offense to Africans, but I don’t think MY family tree is all African.  I’m a mutt and a mongrel.  And I can trace my family tree on my mother’s side back to Ireland. Lots of white folks at MY family reunions.  Dad’s side–lots of Native American Indians who just happen to be really, really Wesley Snipes black….

    • bchay26

      For your cons, I recall my Music Appreciation in uni that I’m about to finish. The banjo (which technically was the banjo’s early relative) was also used as a form of expression as well.
      I agree, the industry itself is full of people who don’t understand the music culture and history of other “groups” (“groups” used in order to cover a large mass of music cultures) because the profit is technically all they care about. That thought is very sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Broadus/100003245734823 Nate Broadus

    Normally, I would probably write a novel on the subject. However, Chris Rock said it better than I ever could.


    K-Pop rapping, on the whole, is mostly a novelty for me. I don’t see any real depth and substance, it’s just there to garnish the main dish, so to speak.

    • http://twitter.com/JohnDeSims JDSono

      Saying Kpop doesn’t have any real depth and substance (which is so true) on a Kpop site, is blasphemy 

      That’s like saying humans aren’t mammals or warm blooded. Or that the Bible is a kids bed time book at best

      • jaefuma

         He said “kpop rapping,” not kpop in general.  And it’s true. They use it as a filler or to add some spice to a song without really understanding what it’s for. When it’s done right, it can make you go “wow” and take the rapper and the group seriously. A good rapper in k-pop is not to be messed with and should be respected. Tasha is a forced to be reckoned with not cause she’s cute or an idol, but because she’s fierce and can can rap well as well as get a message across.

        When you have pop groups throwing in raps/quick talking with a beat just because it’s “in,” it uses it’s affect. You need the meaning and the power behind it, regardless if it’s a broken heart or just a “we rock” song. If not, you’re just listening to gibberish (regardless if you understand korean or not).

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Broadus/100003245734823 Nate Broadus

          Thank you, Jae. 

          Yes, rapping in K-Pop is too much of a trendy move for my tastes. I have yet to really hear something from mainstream K-Pop that felt even the slightest bit relevant, either socially, politically, psychologically, or otherwise. 

          Now K-Rap? Some of that is very good. Great, even. Tasha is an incredibly skilled lyricist. DT is another that comes with some substance in his material. Dok2’s wordplay is among my favorites. Epik High can also be complex when they want to be, even while they tackle the mainstream. 

          Hearing rap in K-Pop just reminds me of how modern rap, in Korea or even in America, is really losing its relevancy. Trying to find something beyond bling raps caked in vocoder shit is daunting. It’s like trying to find a diamond in the rough.

          When you find the diamond, though, it’s a relief to know some cats still carry the torch for intelligent rap. Like Lupe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3Z4K_WWeBA

  • Khaulah Nik Rushdi

    You’ve written this way better than my attempt at giving a presentation in front of my class about the authenticity of hip-hop in the east. I concentrated on Japan, but I feel like Korean hip-hop and rap had evolved to be a more meaningful genre whereas Japanese hip-hop is still in many cases club music. Maybe it’s because Korea concentrates more on the lyrics and beats of the song rather than the whole package. You mentioned “..just rap?” – Koreans do not have their own “hip-hop fashion” (despite GD)…maybe because I’m looking at underground rappers who dress normally) nor are they as much into B-boying as Japan is, and they don’t have world-renown DJs, so I think that in Korea it is mainly just the rap aspect of hip-hop culture. Japanese Nigo had produced the Bape clothing brand sported by American stars; Korea doesn’t have that yet (but we’re all looking at you, GD, to start something).
    But they’ve got the message down. Epik High follows Common and Nas’ formula in rapping about social issues in their country and the world. They aren’t emulating black culture: they recognize it but have moved on to make hip-hop their own thing and use it to acknowledge the struggles in their own culture that need to be addressed. That’s why I love them so much. Also, Korean hip-hop has influenced and is being influenced by Korean-Americans back in the States like Dumbfoundead, so there’s a whole other bridge there. I’m pretty sure Koreans have made hip-hop their own.

    But that’s real Korean hip-hop. Pointing out the rap portions in K-pop songs made me cringe, because it’s all so dull and true.

    • Life LOL

      Dumbfoundead is real good! You’ve also got A class at those king of the dot, freestyle battles. It’s not easy for asians to excel in that culture, seems quite intimidating but for them to emerge with props and respect is something real inspiring. 

    • Ditu3ka

      “nor are they as much into B-boying as Japan is” – did you mean Korea is not into b-boying? Because Korea is for sure a B-boy planet. I don´t know how much Korean b-boys know about hip-hop culture or roots of b-boying (I think history of b-boying in Korea is like 15 years…) but they can dance and made pretty good name for themselves, their own style (many say it´s all about muscles and no heart, too much technical for their taste but I´m not an expert).

    • http://twitter.com/azurechango Azure Chango

       R16 annual hip-hop competition in Korea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-16_Korea it’s an international one, small, but still.  Main event is the b-boying.

      http://youtu.be/S-5jLBPaXAw Jinjo (Korea, left) vs Massive Monkees (US, right), MM won.

  • waynecollections

    I think this article is one of the best articles I’ve read here. I’ve been wondering though. Ever since catching up on Running Man with the hip hop special with the guests like Supreme Team, Simon D and others I can’t remember and them would they be an example of legitimately being able to rap? Cuz I’ve never heard of their songs before but after watching their movements and notions of “swag” I feel like what you exactly phrased in the article that they “they consume the culture without comprehending it, then regurgitate the incomplete leftovers”.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/LimaCake LimaCake

      The RM hip hop special is one of my favorite episodes (i’ve watched it so many times). I actually remember that it was Tiger JK and Tasha who were egging on Yoo jae suk to do the whole swag thing. I thought it was quite hilarious. I consider Tiger and Tasha to be outside of the idol-rap conversation for a few reasons. 1) they’re not idols 2) they can actually rap 3) their experience of Hip Hop is different than idol-rappers since they both grew up with hip hop in America. I think perhaps they have a more well-rounded idea of it. In fact, Tasha, being half black, also has the black experience framing her music. Tiger JK grew up in predominantly black communities, and experienced the Los Angeles riots which was partly fueled by tension between blacks and Koreans. My point is, there’s real context to their music.

      Back to RM. Yoo jae suk, Kwang soo and ji suk jin definitely played up the “rap image” in that episode. And the real rappers (Dynamic Duo, Tasha, Tiger) played along because when all is said and done, it’s a comedy show. When you’re doing a comedy show, that gives you the room to be ridiculous and i thought it was hilarious how they parodied the hip hop image. However, there is an element of some of the RM cast not comprehending hip hop culture. Absolutely. Anyway, I had to comment since I’m an RM fan as well :)


  • http://twitter.com/JohnDeSims JDSono

    I think there should be a requirement for you to rap in Kpop. You must first listen to the collections of Jay-Z, Nas, Talib Kweli and Wu Tang.

    That would solve so much of that cringe worthy rapping

  • straighttohelvetica

    (Long-ass comment alert: blame my complicated feels for hip-hop culture in K-pop.)

    Spot on, Salima. I feel like I could have written this myself. I’m kind of proud that something that’s so related to black culture is as popular as it is, but at the same time, I’m very protective of it. More so than I would be any other part of American pop culture. R&B in k-pop doesn’t bother me. Neither does jazz. Just hip-hop. There are a lot of people—American people included—who don’t get hip-hop. They don’t get why it is/was so angry. They don’t get that rap is just one of (originally) four aspects of hip-hop culture. And they don’t get why people are so hesitant to see other cultures in it.What’s interesting. though, is that early hip-hop artists were protective of hip-hop, too. In fact, hip-hop culture seems to be obsessed with this idea of protecting hip-hop. The culture’s been personified almost to the point of a mother or lover (i.e. way too many to list: Lupe Fiasco’s “Hip-Hop Saved My Life”; Common’s “The Corner”; Erykah Badu’s “Ode to Hip-Hop/Love of My Life.” The video more so than the song itself. Actually, now that I think about it, the way rappers refer to hip-hop in their own songs deserves an essay all it’s own. It’s interesting. Maybe that’s the bigger point. Maybe it’s not that idol artists “get” hip-hop; they just aren’t as emotionally invested as a lot of American artists are.) That’s why Nas can cause a controversy by naming one of his albums “Hip-Hop is Dead” (more of the lover motif in the title track song, too) and why there are so many books wanting to know why white kids like hip-hop. It’s part of the reason why companies get mocked so relentlessly when they try to be cool by incorporating hip-hop slang or aesthetic to their promotions.    But the thing is, I don’t think it’s unwarranted. Early hip-hop artists learned their lesson about cultural appropriation (I’d say that’s an appropriate term) following the success of rock and roll. What was a black form of music ad what was originally deemed as “too black” for white audiences, was pretty much taken over by white artists. The music form created by Little Richie and Fats Domino now brings to mind artists such as Aerosmith, U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sure, there a few black rock artists—Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Jimi Hinidrix—but black participation in the genre is no where what it was when it was created. In fact, there are some audiences (black and white) that think black people don’t belong in rock music.

    That protectiveness has helped keep hip-hop as a “black thing” (or at least a non-white thing) in America. The Beastie Boys and Eminem are the few white hip-hop artists who are seen as legit, with others seen sort of as a novelty. 

    So, going back to Korea. I appreciate that K-pop artists like and respect hip-hop. What I don’t appreciate is that sometimes that appreciation is horribly shallow. I can’t really add much from what was already written in the article; I’d just extend all of what has been said to the fans, too. Many people don’t know hip-hop’s history. Heck, a lot of k-pop fans don’t even know what good rapping sounds like. I mean, thinking back to that Seoulbeats poll a few months ago, they must not to actually argue that Key can rap. Rap is not just speaking very fast; it’s involves wordplay, stresses and emphasis and flow. For a lot of old school fans, it also involves a certain level of spontaneity and wit as seen in freestyle battles. I can’t think of a single idol rapper who I think could freestyle.

    IDK about Korea and idol hip-hop. I just hope the more indie/independent Korean hip-hop artists have a better grasp of what it is they’re actually taking part in and aren’t just in it for the cool points. If k-pop is going to have hip-hop, at the very least they could do it right. I get that in a industry of shine and sparkle, they may not want to delve too deep in the history of black poverty and oppression. Fine (not really, but I’ll deal with it). But if they can’t even get the basics right, then they’re doing more harm than good to the genre they claim to respect and enjoy. 

    • MAR_M3anie

      Oooo!  I’m getting all these warm feels with this article and the comments.  Great insight in the history of Hip-Hop and basically how I feel at times when witnessing some of the stuff these Idols do.  Notice I said Idols not actual Korean hip-hop artists who some have a better grasp at least to the history.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/O2O6HOX2UMCW2SHVJNJ6G7DOYY sonia

      Zico can freestyle, but ya, your point is spot on.

    • http://twitter.com/azurechango Azure Chango

       “What I don’t appreciate is that sometimes that appreciation is horribly shallow.”

      This is my biggest problem with hip hop and rap in particular in kpop.  They try so hard to belong to it and the fans will defend that to the death, but ultimately it’s all surface glitter, a poor imitation of the art.  And anyone who truly understands hip hop understands that it’s hidden depths is what makes up it’s lifeblood, not the image or the cliche words.

      BTW, from what I understand, the actual hip hop community in Korea is well aware of hip hops history and why it exists.  And they use it in the same manner artists here actually use in.  In fact a lot of the more popular Korean rappers are either mixed and/or grew up here.  Topics range from party, the sex abuse scandals, dis tracks, history, the thought provoking and the silly.

    • Hafeeza

      I completely agree with your comment, but I just want to add some informations on one thing : Rock and Roll originate from black american culture, anyone who is educated on the subject knows that. And Rock and Roll is the ancestor of Rock Music.

      Now if I would make a childish analogy, Rock Music could be compared to veggies, because it’s a group with MANY and very different genres in it- just like vegetables are a group of food, but each veggies taste very different from one another. Many genres of Rock Music other than Rock and Roll were not created by black americans, such as the Punk and New Wave genres (which started around 1976). And from these two genres, to take them as an example, many many others where born, and so on till this day, which make Rock Music one of the most diverse and interesting group of music, overflowing with various genres and sub-genres as well.

      Rock Music was built by black and white artists over the decades. All over from North America to the The United Kingdom. (Unlike Hip-Hop and R&B for example, who originate from black american culture and were built as well by black artists).

      Ok now this is the end of my little information sharing :)

      -From a random arab girl who is really into rock music and it’s history ^^

    • Yan


  • Life LOL


    • http://twitter.com/sebsobandsky Sabah

       ” Like I think Ice T said it, no one wants to live in the ghetto, everyone wants to get out.” “But when you’re selling out platinum CDs, making heaps of money, I
      wonder how those artists in the industry can still claim to keep in

      I might be wrong, but after success ‘keeping it real’ becomes not forgetting your roots by returning to those people and helping them.  It’s about not denying where you came from; not being ashamed of it through acknowledging those roots and then trying to change those issues that you talked about.

      I do agree with you in regards elitism and hipster mentality but truly most people don’t care.  If you are labelled a wannabe does that lessen the song’s impact upon your soul?  Are you not allowed to purchase an album because you don’t have the right credentials?  Let people talk. You just listen to the good music.  

  • http://1nspirit96.tumblr.com/ Mrs_KimSungGyu

    Hmm. I’ve said so much on this topic in the past so I’ll reiterate briefly here.

    If and when I am craving some Hip-hop, K-pop isn’t and never will be the place I go looking for it. 

    That having been said, Epik High and Tasha for example? Bring them on. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MMRQEZEPSNJ26LJ7XJNDDM5NCI JasmineA

    Sometimes I feel like black music in Kpop almost feels like they are pulling an Elvis Presley….Rock music was created by black people as well and it was looked as devil’s music when it first came out, now that black people are not the dominant race in rock music people do not look at it in that way anymore. It annoys me really to see that with kpop too.
    It’s not necessarily the idols that make me feel like that but mostly the fans. It irks me when I read comments like this- “these kpop rappers are better than those black rappers”, or “I didn’t like rap before but kpop has opened me up to it because they dont sing about vulgar things, they actually sing about meaningful things”. I’ve even heard comments like this – “Kpop has suprassed black music in terms of quality”. This annoys me because its like as a race we can do something and its looked at in disgust, if you live in the US you know that rap music is pretty much looked at as ghetto, trash, not real music at all, but then these kpop fans praise these idols for being medicore rappers, some of them even refuse to acknowledge that kpop is heavily influenced by black culture. Or they will start arguing that blacks should not feel upset by the appropriation of black culture since music is export, yet these same people will argue that kpop is mostly for Koreans geared to Korean culture so blacks shouldn’t expect Koreans to be racially sensitive since there main target is Korea. Well if music is exported then that includes Korean music as well, these artist know by now that people around the world are watching them, they brag and over-exaggerate about it all the time, which is why they need to be more careful or at least bother to understand the music they are so influenced by.
    I dunno if you guys have seen this, but there were pictures of SNSD Sunny and Shinee’s Onew with Quincy Jones and many kpop fans were like why are they smiling next to some old black guy, they didn’t even know who Quincy Jones was! Boy bands like BIGBANG, Block B, and B.A.P can wear braids, dreadlocks and baggy clothes and its cute, not ghetto. BIGBANG can go to New York and film a video in the hood without taking in the real implications of living in an area like that for the fun of it, whereas Black rappers who film in hood and rap about it are talking about their real struggles living in a place like that or GD saying his life revolved around the word “Gangster”. Youg-Guk, Hoya, and Onew have all said they wanted to be reincarnated as a black person because of either body built, or singing,dancing, and rapping abilities. While they are not racist they are defiantly misguided about hiphop/black culture and it just rubs me the wrong way. Now of course there are rap songs that are vulgar but the whole genre isn’t like that, and just because kpop rappers don’t sing about sex and drugs does not mean they are singing about anything meaningful, I usually look up the lyrics to songs I listen to and the majority of the time these raps don’t make any sense, especially SM rappers. This to me shows how racially prejudice people still are that everything black is usually associated with being ghetto or negative but someone else can do the exact same thing and its sooo cool.
    I don’t mind kpop idols being influenced by “black music” and wanting to sing/rap like there favorite artist, and I like that they like part of our sub-culture because theres a lot more to black people and culture than just rap/r&b and these are not the only genres black people have created you can also throw in rock, parts of Jazz, and gospel music, but what I do have problem with is how they use it as a gimmick like you said.
    I’m also suprised you didn’t bring up MIR’s comment on how to talk to a black baby, its like geez we can’t even come out the womb without being stereotyped. Why would anyone think a black BABY would speak like that is beyond me. I really hope he was joking but Koreans seem to be very stereotypical of black music. I mean 90’s hiphop gear is not exactly how rapper dress nowadays.
    And yeah I agree that rappers in America need to be more careful about what they show to rest of the world, but like Kpop I do think there are some aspects of American music that is controlled based on what people want to see, not to extent of Kpop but it’s there. A non-stereotypical black person is not interesting to the general American audience sadly. People who adopt to the status quo are and they are the ones that get signed and get all the attention. I think a lot of people who discover rappers in the US usually go for the ones who are more stereotypical, same with acting jobs for Black Americans. If a black person does not want a stereotypical role in a hollywood film they most likely will have a really hard time finding work, there are plenty of black people who are willing to take the part just to live their dream. Sad but true.

    • http://twitter.com/CocoaBunneh Wesline

      Can I just marry this comment? Everything that needed to be said has been said by you.

    • MAR_M3anie


    • Medusaspeaks

      I hear you.

    • kyiele

      Mir was definitely joking. He’s not THAT dumb.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/MMRQEZEPSNJ26LJ7XJNDDM5NCI JasmineA

        Do you know Mir personally? Probably not. None of us do. Were just fans after all. I hope he was but who knows, also even if it was joke its not all that funny, it’s still pretty insensitive.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Broadus/100003245734823 Nate Broadus


      Yes, there is more complexity to rap than just vulgar party raps. For every Minaj, there’s a Black Thought.

    • straighttohelvetica

      Not at all surprised that k-pop fans don’t know who Quincy Jones is. There’s this big segment of the fandom that’s really proud that they don’t know about anything outside k-pop. They posts stuff like “I don’t even know any popular artists from my own country anymore” and the like. The ignorance of basic pop culture outside k-pop is kind of unsettling to me. (And I’m sure it’s just k-pop, too. None of those fans seem to listen to much Insooni or other non-k-pop Korean music. Sheesh, it’s like crack. How does it do it?)

      • Mer

        That is really irritating!  I remember on AKP when there were a bunch of articles on Will.I.am and the little knuckleheads were like “why?  he’s  not even relevant anymore.”  Seriously?  What planet do they live on?  His production value for one session is probably more then they’ll make in their lifetimes!  These kids don’t have clue.

        • http://www.facebook.com/chibijoshie Josh Chinnery

          I’m not bashing you, but if will.i.am’s latest concoctions are any indication of what that 2NE1 English album will be like, I don’t want it. I honestly think the thing that made me fall in love with K-Pop is that it’s *K*-Pop, as in Korean. I don’t think it’s bad that they outsource production to American or European producers (my favorite K-Pop songs were produced by Europeans producers), but the fact that these artists are trying to make themselves more western kind of weirds me out.

    • UncleFan

      Edit: moved incorrect reply.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/MMRQEZEPSNJ26LJ7XJNDDM5NCI JasmineA

        I don’t get how your comment relates to mine? Why didn’t you comment on the entire article sense thats what you seem to be addressing. It’s fine if you don’t agree with most of the comments or with me, your free to your own opinion honestly…Im confused as to why your speaking directly to me. I highly doubt people will even remember or see Amber as rapper at all.  Kpop is fun tho…I’ll give it that. Unique? Hardly. Memorable? Depends on the which group honestly. Brilliant?…to each their own. I find parts of Korean music to be brilliant but none of it is the pop music.  

        • UncleFan

          Sorry, hit reply in the wrong spot – I’ll move it somewhere else.

    • http://twitter.com/DeniseHuxxtable Thank You Sun God

      Wow you summed up some of the problems I have with kpop and its fans perfectly.

    • kmoo4986

      I can’t agree more. You pretty much described everything that pisses me off about k-pop and their depiction of my people.

    • nkolika

      What are you angry about,many people copy things not because they understand it, but to be fair to koreans hip pop artists they mention many Black Americans as those who influenced their choice of music starting with Michael Jackson,Usher etc. They are not ignorant of where the music came from but they infuse their own into it which is okay and the group display r choreography helps them to attract more attention, in fact that is what I watch most of the time. To be candid, they have a lot of meaningful lyrics.

  • http://twitter.com/DeniseHuxxtable Thank You Sun God

    This is a good article. I agree with it completely. 

  • Medusaspeaks

    Thank you SO MUCH for this article Salima.  You have articulated so many thoughts/feeling I’ve been marinating on for quite some time.  This is what we call a “teach-able moment.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3O73S4PB7NZRSRVPOOCIH3ZG34 Susan

    Great article.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/O2O6HOX2UMCW2SHVJNJ6G7DOYY sonia

    I’ve been waiting for this article! I think another problem is that, and correct me if I’m wrong, these k-pop “rappers” are selling this image in areas where rap/hip-hop culture is not embedded in society, let alone part of the consenus. So fans come out thinking, “OH, Junhyung can rap,” when in reality, he can’t. They see the image perpetuated by these members and think that is rap, and it’s not. It’s a watered-down cheap imitation most of the time. Lyrical quality, flow, and style aren’t prevalent in k-pop “rapping”. I do believe, however, that their are some exceptions, such as the ones you pointed out in the article. I also think their are some good Korean rappers, as well. But most of the time, it really is just for “cool” factor, which is sad.

  • Sabaku no Myth

    I love this article. I must admit, the only experience I’ve had with hip-hop is the kind on the radio (which, as I have found out, is nothing like actual hip-hop at all), and the reason why I switched over to Kpop, Big Bang in particular, is because I hated the lyrics on the radio. I didn’t have to look up the lyrics to Kpop songs if I didn’t want to, and could just enjoy the music. Shallow, I know. >.< But I've been thinking about the way Kpop treats things it 'borrows' from the West, and I agree that there is quite a bit of ignorance involved. They really shouldn't be making comments like, "I want to be reincarnated as a black person," because it's disturbingly stereotypical.

    That being said, how do you think Kpop peoples should act when they use hip-hop imagery? Because obviously they can't really post a picture of themselves in cornrows on me2day with an explanation of the hairstyle's cultural history. The only way I could think of is perhaps just to work on sensitivity overall, so when they do use that imagery it doesn't seem like they're making a mockery of it.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/LimaCake LimaCake

      I think that’s a really, really good question that you brought up. I think it has to do with K-pop idols viewing black culture as a commodity. Remember the intro to Mblaq’s “War”? They used an important speech by Malcolm X that had nothing to do with the music video. Why? Because it sounded cool? It’s the lack of understanding or regard for what that speech means to black americans that’s annoying. 

      The hip-hop image has changed so much throughout the past few decades that there is no more a single, monolithic idea of what the image actually is. Kanye used to wear nerdy backpacks, Lupe Fiasco was skateboarding, and Lil Wayne wears pink skinny jeans. So, the K-Pop perception of the hip-hop image is sooooo antiquated and stereotypical. 

      Big Bang’s all-red gang banger performance? I don’t think they should give an explanation of the history on their Twitters. I think they should have understood the image they were recreating enough to NOT do it in the first place. In regards to Epik High and Tasha (and others), they don’t pretend to be something they’re not. They just write great raps and make great music, and that’s what i’d like to see mainstream k-pop focus on.

      • Lo7us

        MTE thank you

      • http://twitter.com/azurechango Azure Chango

        “The hip-hop image has changed so much throughout the past few decades
        that there is no more a single, monolithic idea of what the image
        actually is.”

        That’s what kpop doesn’t get, which is sad because I think they’d be received a lot better if they weren’t trying so hard to be something their not.

      • http://twitter.com/DeniseHuxxtable Thank You Sun God

        Very well said. I shook my head so hard when I heard Malcolm’s speech in that video.

  • Cece Jenkiopou

    This is a really good article! ^_^

    I think people taking things from Black culture is really nothing new. Rock&Roll was originally a Black thing like other people said, and it was taken over by Caucasians. It annoys me to no end when a black person tries to make rock music & people say they shouldn’t do it (i.e. Fefe Dobson) or when the original Rock singers aren’t remembered and credited like their counterparts.

    Sooner or later, other cultures would have to try to imitate hip hop culture because that’s what’s being happening since the beginning of time. I think it’s called cultural diffusion? South Koreans, the Japanese, Caucasians. . .I don’t think they’ll ever really be able to understand hip hop. And that’s fine as long as they give credit to the people who made  it a real genre of music back in the late ’70s to 90s.

    I think people get this image of Black people not from hiphop, but from media in general. When they see things like BET movie & there’s no people of the race there so they can see what majority of the people act like ignorant things happen. IF Korea starts becoming less uneducated only then will Kpop only take off in my opinion.

    Regarding South Korean idol rappers, sometimes they do manage to make very good songs. Like G-Dragon song She’s Gone — those lyrics were amazing. And Japan does have some good hiphop; as someone that knows a lot of Japanese I can understand their lyrics so I know there’s some quailty stuff. ^_^

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed3nsaiga Eden Saiga

    So you’re telling me, you’re trying to tell a POP genre not use marketing schemes?? 헐…This article is ridiculous. It’s called POP for a reason. Everyone is supposed to fit a certain image and they learn that from Americas pop, especially our old boy group scene. The second issue of cultural misuse or misconceptions is kind of to be expected. Unless the writer wants to educate them on hip hop and american culture and what you should or shouldn’t do – America’s image..the good, bad, old will continue to be duplicated because to them (The Korean Music Industry)- that’s what works and it is what inspires some of the artists like G-dragon. You’re talking about a country who has a minimum exposure to “foreigners” or non-Koreans. Of course all they will know is images. The thing about u-kiss is nothing but nit-picking from the writer. So many kpop groups introduce themselves that way…stating who and what they do in the group to the point that it can be annoying and played out but that’s their thing. I’ve worked for companies like Goldenvoice, worked at some of L.A. biggest venues, and have done booking for a lot of local bands – I think with my experience – it allows me to take a step back before agreeing with this article. While most would be quick to hate on pop or in this case, the marketing technique of Kpop – I would advice this writer to first ask why things are the way they are instead of rushing into a critique of a music industry that is still young and to remember that the real target audience is Korea and not America. The goal is to be an idol in Korea, to be a fashionista, a trend setter, and so on in Korea. American debuts and fandom only follow later. There is of course, like with any music scene in a country, a counter group that isn’t into pop. The underground. Korea has a fast growing underground scene right now. Perhaps, the writer might want to listen to this genre instead of Kpop since most underground rappers rap from the heart instead of trying to make money…right? Artists like Dok 2, Tiger Jk, Zion T, and even indie bands like Achime and Glen Chek are a good example how good Koreas underground is right now. I think any serious music follower can understand that a change in Koreas pop world is inevitable. Expect more solo artists, more duo groups, and perhaps “idols” or popular artists that are actually not so bad at the things they claim to do. You might want to check out the group, Geeks who are currently liked by a lot of Koreans but we don’t hear about it…why? cause it’s the underground. The Idol turned bad boy/rapper tell it like it is – Jay Park is currently helping by bringing more attention to Koreas underground…isn’t it ironic that an idol would do so? See..? Pop ain’t so bad…otherwise how would all of America know about the latest dance styles etc.? 

    • http://twitter.com/pixiestate Sergeant Buzz Zille

      Reading comprehension is a skill you need to acquire. And Dok2 Dok freaking 2 is one of your examples of good underground khiphop. And your reply to Lo7us shows that you clearly dont understand what the author is talking about. And not it isnt “black” culture IT IS BLACK CULTURE. And since they are appropriating black culture is becomes a race issue. Stop denying our experiences!

  • kyiele

    Do you know ANYTHING about Yongguk? I understand that you like No Mercy and may even be a fan of B.A.P as a group but do you actually know about Yongguk’s past as a rapper? He isn’t like Dongho or any of these other Korean “rappers” who are just spewing out lyrics written for them that they don’t understand. He writes meaningful songs and raps and tries to learn as much as he can about the cultures outside of his own. Him wearing braids wasn’t him trying to “look black” or whatever, but it was him sporting a style that he likes. He came up with the idea to wear them because he genuinely likes the style. And although he may throw around the phrase “gangsta rap” a lot I think he really understands the origins of hip hop and how it’s not just about acting or sounding tough. He’s a brilliant musician and deserves a lot of credit.

    • Lo7us

      And why does Yongguk “genuinely like the style”? It’s because cornrows have always been associated with black people and hip hop and he is probably trying to “channel” this sort of aesthetic into his videos.  

      The author acknowledges Yongguk can rap and is legitimate; the problem arises when Yongguk/Taeyang sport cornrows or Big Bang dresses like the Blood Gang and appropriate parts of black culture without understanding it. You may think he “understands” the origins of hip hop but no one can really do this unless they have grown up in such a community… 

      Yongguk has been in Korea his whole life; he is as far removed from American hip-hop culture as is possible. You cannot understand a community or culture by reading books or watching videos about it. 

      However, this does not mean artists cannot use rap as his own creative expression but should rather avoid using ideas and symbols that have originated in the actual black community because of hip hop, especially when they don’t understand them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ed3nsaiga Eden Saiga

        You mean, American culture, not “black” culture. Following your logic, they shouldn’t use ideas or symbols that have originated in the U.S. because they don’t understand them. Not just hip hop, that includes pop, indie, punk etc. Stop making this into some race issue when it’s not. You’re failing to understand the very idea of promotion and image making. Take for example, the recent even R-16 of break dancing. Should those people stop battling and dancing because they understand how it came about? It’s pointless trying to tell someone, “oh you’re stupid because you don’t know the origins of what this means” because it has already gone global. Snoop Dogg and all them gangsters are no longer the angry “NWA” but popular artists that everyone imitates. 

        • Lo7us

          No, I meant black culture. Cornrows and gangsters were always associated with black people and they still are. The black community is also where hiphop originated from, which is why these symbols are used quite frequently in hip hop.
          I’m not exactly talking about racism, but rather cultural appropriation, which can happen to any culture. (See, 4Minute’s “Bollywood” parody of Volume Up). Yes, I understand promotion and image-making, and the fact that hip hop culture has also been appropriated to the ends of the earth in the US so that it could sell. Obviously without this, it wouldn’t have become as big as it is today.However, cultural appropriation is not mutually exclusive to this process and I honestly don’t see a problem in acknowledging those problems either. As I said in my comment, there really isn’t a problem with Korean artists rapping (or breakdancing) because those are legitimate art forms, regardless of how they came into place, but using certain ideas and symbols that they have absolutely no clue about just to sell an image isn’t always the right thing to do because it does a huge disservice to the said community itself:For example, I don’t care if Yongguk parades around in cornrows long after the trend has passed (a prime example of bad image-making) but you have to admit that Big Bang clad in blood gang costumes crying out, “Sorry I’m a bad boy” makes them look pretty fucking stupid, especially when they also cater to an international fanbase.

          In this case, what Big Bang’s supposed bad-ass image really did was cause international fans to side-eye them heavily, so your contention that marketing schemes are the second coming or what else is really false.

          • http://www.facebook.com/ed3nsaiga Eden Saiga

            You keep saying “black people” but those “black” people are Americans. You are therefore talking about American culture.

          • http://www.facebook.com/ed3nsaiga Eden Saiga

            Also, what about white Americans and or more relevant, Asian Americans who portray images of “black culture”. Are they doing the right thing? What makes you think they all know something about gangs? Like I said, it is a popular image – a trend. That was my point. Idols are images – think of it this way: it’s silly to say “oh what…you’re dressed like a punk but I bet you don’t know shit about punk” to Avirl Lavigne…or Sum41 just like it’s silly to say. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. It’s everywhere especially in the U.S. industry. Just take a closer look and you’ll see why nobody wastes their time writing about these noob subjects. I’m just sayin…learn to stop associating what you know about something when someone else does it because it doesn’t mean the same thing….like shouting west side or east side…duh fuck do lil kids know about those rivalry’s? nothing right?

          • Lo7us

            I don’t even know whether to take your comments seriously anymore…

            You cannot dismiss the African American community as simply being “American.” Also hip-hop and rap started in the black community for a specific reason. You should look into that before you equate it with punk, rock, and metal music.

            And if you actually read my comment, you would see, through my examples, that using such images is fine as long as they don’t cross a certain limit, as Big Bang did.

            While marketing and image-making have benefits, they also have detriments. I also suggest you look up “cultural appropriation” before you talk about “noob subjects.”

  • Erisadesu

    Respect to the author and to this article

  • http://twitter.com/azurechango Azure Chango

    That Big Bang incident made me cringe and any excuse fans try to come up with isn’t going to fly with me, I grew up in Long Beach, CA in the 80’s and 90’s, I know exactly why they wore them (and wore them THAT way) and so do they, even if they didn’t bother to understand it.  If they’re smart enough to associate the bandanas to American rappers (and they did, thats no coincidence) then they should be smart enough to find out why some rappers wore them.  If it was just the bandanas that would be fine, but it was the whole package, the faux attitude, the posing, the baggy clothes, the fact that it was supposed to be hip hop, the manner in which they wore the bandanas, the girl in what looks like Dickies and a Raiders jersey, all signs were pointing to imitation.  And it was a stupid thing to imitate.

  • AshBradford

    I hate to say it, but I’ve been analyzing rap recently, and it seems that rap “legitimacy” comes from a combination of 2 of the following three thing:
    1. Being black. It sounds odd to say it, but if you’re the right colour, you get automatic “cred” points, as it were.
    2. Being raised in a poor environment. I notice that a lot, although not all, of the popular black rappers were born poor. Hate to say it, but it gives you the “tough” cred points.
    3. Rap with appropriate lyrics. This can either be use of strong language or go old school with social base lyrics, it doesn’t matter. Without the strong language in one way or another, the rap falls into the pop category and not into the legit rap category.
    The issue for K-rappers is that there is no way they can fulfill 2 of 3 categories. Honestly, if they at least met number 3 they could be taken semi seriously, but due to whatever reason (I blame S. Korean censorship rules most of the time)  they rarely qualify for anything. Aside from that, many artist obviously think that they ‘get’ rap, which they clearly don’t. I just wish they would really look into the roots and progression of rap so they understood what true rap is.
    I don’t have an issue with the poppy rap interludes, I just don’t enjoy people thinking that they ‘get’ western black culture, or that their raps are legitimate in the true N. American rap sense. K-pop raps are pop and nothing more. I’m fine with them if they understand that and stick to only that.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/MMRQEZEPSNJ26LJ7XJNDDM5NCI JasmineA

      You don’t have to be black or a from the hood to be a rapper. Drake and Will.I.Am are not from the hood, and Eminem has gotten more credit than any other rapper in the game probably because he’s not black actually.This article isn’t about rather kpop idols should not be rappers, they can rap all they want, its about appropiating hiphop culture. K-hiphop are not considered people who appropiate part of black sub-culture because they rap about things that are important to them, they use their own experiences, they don’t try to be an image. Psy is going viral for a reason compare to these kpop stars who have been trying much harder than he is to break into western markets, he could care less about an putting on some fake image.

      • AshBradford

         You didn’t read what I wrote. Drake, Will.I.am and Eminem all meet the EXACT specs of what I said. They can meet 2 of 3 of the things I listed. Drake and Will.I.am are black and don’t restrict the stuff they rap about. Eminem’s raps have extreme mature content and he grew up poor.
        Please note, I never said people had to grow up in the ghetto, just poor. They aren’t the same thing. Adversity itself gives cred.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/MMRQEZEPSNJ26LJ7XJNDDM5NCI JasmineA

          I still don’t agree with that, I think as long as you have some kind of struggle to express in your lyrics that’s enough. One and two don’t matter. I honestly think that khiphop has more appeal globally than kpop for that very reason. The first two sound stereotypical.

  • http://arbitrary-greay.livejournal.com/ Arbitrary_greay

    Yes, understanding the historical significance of music is good, as it can enrich your appreciation of the genre and think more deeply about how to perform it. In Nodame Cantabile, one of the overarching storylines is Nodame learning not just to read the music and interpret willy-nilly, but to study its context to bring out a true recreation of what the composer meant for it to sound like.

    Yes, most greats became great because they studied the old greats. (When will Kpop realize where Michael Jackson got his best tricks from and stop treating him as the end-all-be-all of inspiration?) 

    Yes, I roll my eyes a lot at what passes for “rap” in Asian pop sometimes. I also roll my eyes when they insert classical music inappropriately. Double fuck you, Shinhwa’s T.O.P.

    But generally, I have problems with accepting the importance of authenticity in music. 

    I used Nodame as an example above supporting going back to roots, but I also have to agree with the title character when she bursts out, “What is wrong with playing the piano freely as you like?”

    As I wrote previously here on seoulbeats:
    “What’s wrong with death of the author? A child may pick up a novel beyond his/her understanding, and spin their own equally fantastic story from the pictures. Who’s to say that the child is wrong for doing that? Wouldn’t songs that have been coopted, not the least of which is Yankee Doodle Dandy, inherently be disrespecting their original intent?”

    If music is so universal as it supposedly is, what does it mean to be authentic, other than to enjoy it only as music, without context? Why isn’t there more outrage every fourth of July when Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture undergoes one of the worst cases of inappropriate reappropriation ever? 

    The majority of the most ingenious music moments I’ve encountered in Asian pop have been when no fucks were given to context, convention, or credibility, and cute little girls sang in genres they had no business singing. Sometimes all of the genres, in the same song. Or even at the same time. And so they created some of the most awesome music I’ve ever heard, by flipping the bird at standards and boundaries raised by people concerned with purity or authenticity. Such is how new genres are innovated. 

    So that’s my rant. But I also have a genuine question for the author: what’s worse, pop songs with inappropriate insertion of rap in a song/image that does not need or want rap at all, or a song/image that is vaguely trying to “keep it real?”
    Because most of what I wrote above about ingenious music moments is in Jpop, which doesn’t care about their image internationally, while yeah, Kpop that is trying oh so hard to appeal overseas comes of as, pardon the pun, try-hards. So in Jpop and 90s Kpop you get this attitude of “Wheeeeeee imma do what I want and put rap here lol” while I feel that modern Kpop’s attitude is more “Rap will make this sound cooler, more like current western pop music.” 
    It kind of reminds me of my beef with the Harry Potter books. JK Rowling began writing them as a children’s series, but as it evolved for a more mature audience, the whimsical behaviors of the characters in the earlier books became more and more problematic in hindsight. If she had stayed in child lit territory in tone, that wouldn’t have happened. As an analogy, sometimes imagery that may be problematic in its original setting can acceptable in a foreign environment in a “suspension of disbelief” manner, given a sufficiently removed tone, but a transference into a setting that evokes the original may feel uncomfortable.

    Whew, I avoided Godwin!  

    • https://twitter.com/#!/LimaCake LimaCake

      Before I answer your question, can we just talk about Shinhwa’s T.O.P. for a second? I never realized this until re-watching the video just now, but Eric uses the word “nigga” in that song. In fact, a quick google search shows that he uses the word frequently in quite a number of his raps. I don’t know if it’s because Eric spent so much time in the US or what but I just found it strange. 

      I don’t feel offended by it, partly because I’m one of those irritating people who rarely gets offended by anything. But I do have strong feelings about “nigga” being used by anyone (that includes black folks). It’s just such a loaded word with so much history and heartache behind it. So why is Eric tossing out the word “nigga” like it’s an every day vocab word? You put forth the quote, “What is wrong with playing the piano as freely as you like?” Should Eric be free to say the word “nigga” all over his music or should he have understood that it’s historically hurtful? That’s the importance of understanding the culture. You can’t just say things like that and think it’s okay because you’re only speaking to a Korean audience. It’s one of the reasons why I respect Eminem so much. He’s arguably one of the greatest rappers alive and he became that 1) without ever using that word, 2) just being a guy who loves rap.

      I don’t know if music can exist without context. There’s always some kind of meaning, situation, story behind a piece of music/lyrics, don’t you think?

      We live in a remix culture and that’s beautiful! So why aren’t idol rappers doing some damn remixing? Why is it just a regurgitation of the same old stereotypical rap images? Globalization has blurred the edges of “authenticity”, and that’s a good thing! So stop trying to “act” authentic and just write some good lyrics. 

      To answer your question, they both suck. ;)

      • http://arbitrary-greay.livejournal.com/ Arbitrary_greay

        Thanks for the response!

        It’s an interesting debate from all directions. On the one hand, yes it may be disrespectful to the people who had to deal with the history and for whom the word always causes heartache. On the other hand, there are reclamation movements for words like slut and bitch, and a more trivial “cultural reappropriation” example in the word otaku, which is a derogatory slur in Japan for shut-ins, but due to the rise of geek chic is possible, the otaku has been reclaimed to no longer be an inherently negative label. Meanwhile, older generations of geek grumble about the purity and authenticity of being called a geek and complaining about today’s geek-lites.

        I don’t know if music can exist without context. There’s always some kind of meaning, situation, story behind a piece of music/lyrics, don’t you think?
        I personally disagree. Some may always seek meaning in music, but I’ve generally enjoyed music without any heed to its background or lyrics. So for me, music can exist without context or meaning other than sounding good. That’s from the listener point of view, though. It’s highly possible that all music was written with a meaning in mind by the composer/songwriter, if but only “must write song to make money,” or a story behind its writing/inspiration/influences. But that’s different from whether music can or can not exist without context.

        Do all of those remakes count? XD Sometimes the in-house songwriters do change the arrangements and such, after all. But then again, the companies are probably just too cheap to pay the fees to sample. Oh wait, but they can afford Akon and Snoop Dogg themselves. Nevermind. 

        Do you think the position of rap and hip hop culture in Kpop has changed from the 90s/early 00s? The Seo Taiji and Boys video I just watched was pretty lulzy, while the rapping was definitely Bel Air era Will Smith-esque.

        • https://twitter.com/#!/LimaCake LimaCake

          The debate about the word “nigga” is still a topic of contention in the black community. It hasn’t been reclaimed, at least not in a way that’s  beneficial. So why would K-pop try to claim something that blacks are still trying to re-claim? Still trying to sort out? 
          On the point about context, I don’t know if you ever saw the episode of American Idol, when this one guy sang Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” as a tribute to his parents. Talk about your strange context lol.But you take something like hip-hop that’s so closely tied to race and politics, and everything has context. Everything has meaning. What american can watch Big Bang wearing Bloods clothing and not think to themselves “These guys are dressed up as KILLERS”? Or hear mblaq’s intro to “It’s War” and not think, “They’re using one of Malcolm X’s most famous speeches”? Should we be expected to become blank slates when we listen to music? Should we not think those things? We can’t because it’s tied to our experiences. Imagine if I took the Korean national anthem and put it into a rap song because I thought it sounded “cool.” I couldn’t do that! Because the Korean national anthem has a history and meaning behind it that’s important to millions of people! You can’t just erase the context of it.

          I haven’t listened to much 90s kpop raps. Too entranced by the glitz of the new stuff -__- lol

          • http://arbitrary-greay.livejournal.com/ Arbitrary_greay

            Do Americans have any right to have subjugated the term otaku the way they have? Or on the Kpop side, casually sprinkling oppa into their comments? They’re not examples with anywhere near the amount of baggage “nigga” does, but one also has to think about the fervor over the recent “Clouds” Seoul Tower Design, where many Americans saw the collapsing twin towers. Words and imagery do not necessarily belong to any one culture, and it is that protectiveness  and pedestal-placing that can prevent reclamation in the first place. “Goddamn” used to be the worst possible exclamation in a more religious past, but thanks to the trivial usage of it by seculars, probably sorely offending the religious in the process, now it pales in impact to the usual four-letter swears. 

            What american can watch Big Bang wearing Bloods clothing and not think to themselves “These guys are dressed up as KILLERS”?
            What American can listen to the 1812 Overture and not think of the success of Russia over Napoleon’s invading force? (Oh wait…)
            What right did the British have to use German Beethoven’s 5th Symphony fate motif to symbolize victory during WWII?
            On that note, do I take offense at David Murphy turning said 5th symphony into disco? 
            Should the fact of Wagner’s anti-semitism shadow every wedding at which his famous “Here Comes the Bride” melody is played?
            Do we revile Pucchini’s Turandot for its portrayal of mythical China? 
            What about the glamorizations of Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Medieval Europe in various adaptations of their historical figures? 
            Is The Da Vinci Code valid literature? 

            My answer to “Should we be expected to become blank slates when we listen to music?” is no. I’m glad that articles were written scolding Big Bang’s choice in fashion, because discussion about when cultural respect is warranted is good. But at the point at which different peoples’ experiences are different, the weight which they lend to certain imagery is different, and to try and assign a standard weight of association, a measure of authenticity, to anything based on a certain culture, risks setting that culture as superior, whereas another treating the imagery in their own fashion could in fact create something equally significant, by coming from a foreign point of view free of the “original” context. Why shouldn’t someone be able to market sharpie-moustached Mona Lisa merchandise?

            That’s why I think a vague attempt at “keeping it real” is a worse than a shameless use of rap outside of its intended setting, because the latter can be simply a matter of experimentation, while the former is flirting with the cult of authenticity, badly. 

            Then what is your opinion on that “more light-hearted” type of rap? Is it a matter of intent? 

  • Viviana Scott

    Ah, I’m not much of a writer. I make grammar mistakes all the time and I don’t like speaking those long wordy words, so let me just try to get to the point. I mean there are so many things I want to say, but I’ll just stick to my first thoughts. First, I would like to tell you, my perspective is different from others, who’s isn’t. Quite frankly, I believe society is too sensitive. I’m not saying what they did was right, but come on people, you live only once, they are just having fun by singing and performing, I can tell you that when I was young and looking at concerts and shows and M/Vs, I didn’t see rappers and thought, “Oh, they are in a gang, oh they shouldn’t wear those colors it represents so and so. They are not cool. Why are they singing about that?” All I thought was, “Omg, they look so cool. I love the colors.Ooo I wanna dress like them, because it looked cool.” So I guess you can say the hip-hop Korean groups are in baby stages? Maybe, they’ll learn as they continue on singing. 

    Now, I’m tired of people bashing on others and I’m sorry, but I’m tired of people talking about black culture. I hated Black history month and I still do. I’m black, before someone blows steam at me. I just feel like a whole month is too much. I just would like to wonder why people are trying to catch someone, anyone, doing something wrong or inappropriate. Seriously, do you have anything else to do? Huh, you news reporters! Find something more interesting and not so common!

    I do gotta say when people mention the ‘N’ word, I do have to laugh. My white friends even gasp and look at me when it suddenly slips out of their mouth, usually when they try to re-tale a story. I just shrug my shoulders and tell them it’s just a word. The only people I believe should be offended by that word is to the people that were raised around it, literally. When I hear people say, “That’s offensive.” (No, I don’t say it.) I like to go, “In what way? Where you born when that word was first invented? Made-up? No? Well, then you are not allowed to be offended until you know the the real reason why it’s so offensive. When you do, then you may show sympathy, but that’s all you’re allow.” 

    Maybe, a little harsh, but that’s what I feel. Then the issue about Mir,. Oh my gosh, do you people think that only Korean believe that that’s how black people act? Heck no! I live in America and I get view like that 24/7. His remark didn’t surprise me at all. I laughed at it saying, “Omg, there too!” But after that comment I knew right away he was going to be criticize. Still, I can tell you this, I love Yongguk’s cornrolls. He looked mighty fine in them too. 

    Another things, it’s as people don’t realized, hello, they are Korean. Of course they won’t know the background of Black American culture. Just like hello, I listen to K-pop, but does that mean I try to look into every symbolic image they put in an M/V? Nope. Yes, Koreans can go and dig a little deeper in hip-hop, but if you think about it, the hip-hop of the past is definitely, different from the present. I can’t even stand rap now. I used to love it when I was younger, because I felt a story through the music and I felt like they knew exactly what I was going through. But seriously, it’s weird how people are chastising Koreans, when people in America are doing the same thing. Shouldn’t Americans already know better?

    Let’s face it, everyone looks about what is portray. No one wants to go deep down unless they are interested. Now, Let’s all just hug it out and shout, “Sorry, I’m just human!”

    • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.w.rodgers Shannon Wmk Rodgers

      um wow…

    • bea roal

      You know, I think you’re right in general. Still, rap/hiphop in k-pop bothers me because it’s all the same, that is, most of the groups have rappers that do the same, but that’s just “personal taste”.

      Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I’m really glad that there are people out there who think the same way as I do. I’m white, in a “white” country, and I’ve been called racist by my white friends for saying things like “the black guy over there” while pointing out a black person surrounded by caucasian people. People nowadays are stupidly sensitive, in my opinion.

      But what can we expect of the world, when what Hollywood tells us is that a caucasian girl ends up with a caucasian boyfriend, and if we mix races there’s gonna be trouble (Kutcher’s Guess Who), and the best break-dancers are poor black guys or a random white guy who lives in a black neighborhood full of criminals. Aah, stereotypes! In this sense, I agree with the author of the article.

      All in all, the biggest problem is not rap in k-pop music, but the behavior of the Korean people when they meet someone AA, Indian, etc. Because even if you, Viviana, think that it’s not such a big deal, I don’t like when foreign people talk to me about “toros” (bull-killing in a cruel way) and assume that I’m a part of that just because I’m Spanish. And the first time may be OK, but after the tenth… It’s a little bit like being too aware of people who seem “Arab” because they may be terrorists. People should learn more about other cultures and races and forget stereotypes, because IMO lack of knowledge is what causes true racism.

  • UncleFan

    Totally disagree with the article and the comments supporting it, but then again I’m old enough to remember “authentic” African-American rappers like Kid ‘n Play, the Fat Boys and MC Hammer! I also remember…

    In the 1980’s people said Sade wasn’t an “authentic” jazz/soul singer.
    In the 1990’s people said Stone Temple Pilots weren’t playing “authentic” grunge.
    In the 2000’s people said My Chemical Romance didn’t make “authentic” emo.

    All of it was nonsense, of course, and I can promise you that in 20 years nobody will wonder or care if Amber was a more authentic rapper than Dr Dre. All people will remember was that K-Pop was unique and fun, and some of it was even brilliant.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/LimaCake LimaCake

      It’s been over 20 years and Vanilla Ice is still considered a joke. And he was the master of appropriation (not just black appropriation either! lol)

      • UncleFan

        LOL, well there’s a reason I didn’t use him as an example! Vanilla Ice may need another 20 years to launder his resume.

        My point is that this argument over authenticity is VERY old, and is often rendered irrelevant for any given artist. Heck, Shakespeare, Mozart and Andy Warhol all got slammed with the same kinds of criticisms, but it’s all “academic” now.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/LimaCake LimaCake

      It’s been over 20 years and Vanilla Ice is still considered a joke. And he was the master of appropriation (not just black appropriation either! lol)

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/O2O6HOX2UMCW2SHVJNJ6G7DOYY sonia

      Yes, but we’re not talking about American/hip-hop, which has a rich history we can look back on. We’re talking about K-pop, which has no ties with rap culture, yet uses it without thought or context. Most k-pop “rappers” are placed to exude a sort fo cool factor, which really just comes out try-hard without actually rapping. I don’t think they see it as a form of expression that is emphasized with word play, flow, and style, which is why most of the time, it sucks.
      And, if Amber had legitimacy then we really wouldn’t, but she’s not a rapper thus that won’t even be a discussion in 20 years. Plus, some can argue that My Chemical Romance reformed, or at least contributed to emo. Can you honestly say that Taecyeon or Eunhyuk (for example) contributed in any way to South Korea’s blossoming rap history, like you can say for Epik High or Tasha?

    • http://twitter.com/DeniseHuxxtable Thank You Sun God

      I can promise you that in 20 years nobody will wonder or care if Amber
      was a more authentic rapper than Dr Dre.

      You’ve got to be kidding? Nobody in their right mind will believe anything like that. Dr Dre had enormous contributions to hiphop. 98% of kpop “rappers” don’t even right their own raps.

  • real_stuff89

    I think k-pop needs to understands the importance of “hip hop”. Hip-hop/rapping isn’t something you do. It’s a source of freedom of words, it’s a way to overcome the stresses of the world and the stresses that one deals with everyday. I’m not going to lie, I do get pissed off when there’s a k-pop group rapping without meaning. It’s like “Oh yeah we’re rapping we’re cool…”…it’s like they don’t understand it at all. And I also think k-pop lacks  paying homage to the creator’s of hip hop. One thing anyone in this world should know about hip hop is where it came from and how it originated. Of course we should all keep hip hop alive and keep the torch lit but if one thing I wish k-pop as a whole would understand if they continue to imitate hip-hop culture, it would be that they know the background instead of using it as an after thought.

  • fantasticelastic

    I somewhat agree.

    Hip Hop/Rap is not fully understood in the Kpop industry. But what do you expect when Hip Hop/Rap isn’t even fully understood in North America. Ask most American people what hip hop is and they’ll tell you it’s just about sex, drugs, and crimes.. oh and degrading women of course. Very few people know the origins of hip hop and how it began as a tool to actually empower the black community and give them a voice. They don’t know how it sparked movements and enlightened individuals. They only know the mainstream aspects of it. American starlets and pop groups have looong before kpop idol groups “appropriated” hip hop culture. Hip hop has been merged and mixed with elements of pop beyond the point of recognition at this point (ex. Are Flo Rida and T-Pain even hip hop artists? What does Ke$ha do exactly?).  Mainstream hip hop /ITSELF/ is moving further and further away from its origins and only becoming a caricature of what it used to be. As many have said before, Hip hop is dead. I am not putting Hip hop artists to blame either, they are after all only giving the mass public what it wants (also a lot of authentic hip hop artists remain albeit most of them are underground).

    So this is why I am not surprised at all at Kpop’s take on hip hop. In a way (and as usual), American media is to blame. I do think some groups are a little more educated on hip hop based on who they are quoting as influences and have a genuine interest in hip hop. Those group usually have a hip hop influence that spans over a big part of their discography and identity as a group. Unfortunately for others, hip hop is just a passing concept like “sexy” and “cute”. Meh. That’s pop music for ya! 

    Honestly, I think it’s cool that the kpop groups I like might very well appreciate and seek inspiration from the same hip hop artists I love. I squealed like a fangirl at the Big Bang Bad Boy performance above because I felt like they were referencing the good olde early 2000s when I would as a young girl squeal over B2K and Puff Daddy performing in the same type of gear. (also it reminded me of their debut days but that’s a whole ‘nother story!) But I think what upset people is that race is still a very lightly-touched upon subject in Korea so how is it that they can reference black culture without bothering taking the extra baggage that comes with it such as actually educating themselves about racism? Yes, that part does bug me too. 

  • http://twitter.com/walk_that_mile leave it

    just a comment on the picture in the article: this was for a commercial styled by the clothing company. maybe a more representative picture would have been the big bang “bad boy” performance which was actually styled by their in-house kpop stylists.

  • ArielLM13

    I think that the only real problem is that people have associated an image with hip hop which actually has no actual bearing on the musical genre itself. They feel like they need the image or else it’s not hip hop. There’s a rapper named MGK who looks like a stereotypical rocker. My brother saw and said “why does he look like that if he’s a rapper”. The bottom line is one’s personal style really has no bearing on music but concept’s are tied in with genre’s so people feel obliged to follow them. You don’t have to be covered in tattoo’s to rock out, you don’t have to be clean cut to do pop, and you don’t have to be gangsta to be hip hop. It’s music not fashion.

  • http://twitter.com/Destined2beboss Destiny

    I completely agree with this article.
    I don’t really have a problem with the way they try to come off as hard and tough in image because tbh those are the most identifiable traits when it comes to “hip-hop” and in a field that is more imagery and less substance they sort of have to put on this faux-gangsta image for people to even recognize that what they are doing is supposed to be rap. How else do you explain all the fly swattin’ going on onstage? They sure aren’t doing it to keep flow; just to give off some form of “real thing” feel to their false hip-hop reality.

    My problem starts when (like the author stated) they mix the real thing and its meaning with what they do. That video with the guy from CN Blue had me doing some serious face-palming. He should have the understanding of what such phrases are for and that just because he was in the presence of someone who he sees mainly as the face of hip-hop does not mean he should use it whenever hes in the presence of someone of that race. This isn’t my first time seeing this. In WGM JoKwon greeted a Black UK man with ‘Yo man wassup?’ Its like people assuming all asian people they meet know Karate.

    When I heard the members of BAP wish to be black so they can do music, the music they already do, I just had a mega wtf moment. So your telling me the only significant thing to being AA is being able to do music? Why can’t you stay as you are with your respect for AA culture and continue to practice that music? This is where imitation has to meet some sort of understanding.

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  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/KowQVYV.1YGAwbTNGkeBN9Y0XtnCmIVxyg--#cc66b AinHI

    I do agree with this article for the most part, and I’ll add to it with:

    I think a good way to remedy this sense of disconnect would be building a better bridge between the African American music community and that of Korea. Take “Bad Boy” for example. The girls featured were strictly Caucasian with a couple of Asian girls. Plenty of rap embellished songs completely omit any positive imagery of actual black people. They still seem to associate black people with carelessness and lower standards (hence the tolerance of haphazard rap verses in Kpop songs) so while they take on the cool confident persona, they don’t actually want to invite actual black people to directly influence their imagery. This is counter productive however because some of the most hardworking, influential, and powerful promoters in American and global music are (and to a certain extent, have always been) black people. On the flipside, I believe many rappers on the inside of America have yet to fathom their actual social power which is why they are not more careful of how they sell themselves on the market. But I expect BET would be more welcoming to Kpop stars trying to get into the American market than say, CMT. Juuuust a hunch…and on a side note, plenty of rap is politically informed, anti-violent and pro-women. But US radios barely give that a play so why would foreign audiences? I think communication is truly key, for all world artists to unite yo! lol

    • http://twitter.com/Millienand1 Lissa Millien

      i’m late finding this article and it’s a great one. I also love what you said. I love hip-hop…i mean real hiphop not what’s on the radio. I’m a hiphop head if you will and i see the disconnect between radio and what’s real and kpop and what’s the perception. I hope it can all come together one day but people have to let down there barriers and fears about race first.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001064117531 Kimberly Figueria

    This is a random comment, but when I watched the Big Bang performance video you linked, the thought along the lines of “THEY’RE LIFEGUARDS!! XD” came across my mind. Anyways, I thought about what you said about the whole gang thing, and how they didn’t know that gang did that and so forth. But the song their singing is “Bad Boy”..in which gang members are bad and bad and good are sometimes hard to stick together unless they work at it…. That probably makes no sense… Just putting that out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ariel-Ries/642256507 Ariel Ries

    Oh this is a really good article :D

  • Jacqueline

    I get where  this article was going. I agree with some aspects of it. I agree with others about the groups and artists that use rap in their acts. When it comes to Jiyong of Big Bang, because of his entry into hip hop through Wu Tang Clan, I’m sure that he and his group are pay homage to rap artist of times past. I’m sure he has done some work on learning more about rap. I grew up with Grand Master Flash. Melle Mel, Afrika Bambaataa, KRS One, Doug E Fresh, Rob Base, Eric B and Rakim. You get the point. I’m from the old school of hip hop – the roots. Jiyong (GD), has the vibe right. I’m sure that he’s trying to ease everyone into hip hop culture which slowly introducing African Americans into more of his video (the little children if ON OF A KIND). As far as African American women, well, that is a reflection of South Korean culture and society. From the appearance to the outside world, South Korea comes off very racist in their society. The people don’t seem to like “black people”, let alone even think about dating and marrying a “black woman”. Isn’t is against their culture to marry a non-Korean? Which is sad since they are going global, it leaves out everyone else. Yet, I am hopeful that Jiyong and/or Big Bang will put an African American woman/women in one of their music videos. I love this article. Thank you for your insightfulness.

  • http://twitter.com/poetdiva28 Sherelle Reid

    Oh that Big Bang performance. I said the same thing and in my head I was like, “No GD, just…no. Take that off & don’t wear it when you get to the States. Or ever again.” It was unfortunate. And yes, there needs to be more awareness on both sides. I can’t tell you how often I change the channel on one of today’s American artists because they seem to think they’re only catering to a domestic audience and that’s not the case anymore.

  • EllyFoster

    Fun fact: on the subject of hangul in her video, Nicki Minaj said how much she liked Japanese pop culture and wanted to pay homage to it. No mention of Korea once. Doh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alecia-Hamilton/1237714697 Alecia Hamilton

    Although I have often cringed at the missteps these guys make, like the above mentioned gang related fashion disaster, I have to say that GD is musically extremely impressive. I was shocked to hear a teenage Korean kid referencing Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. Heck, most AMERICAN kids don’t know who they are. We’re all in trouble when he discovers Eric B and Rakim. Man, I’d honestly love to hear what he could do with a sample of “I know you got soul!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alecia-Hamilton/1237714697 Alecia Hamilton

    Although I have often cringed at the missteps these guys make, like the above mentioned gang related fashion disaster, I have to say that GD is musically extremely impressive. I was shocked to hear a teenage Korean kid referencing Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. Heck, most AMERICAN kids don’t know who they are. We’re all in trouble when he discovers Eric B and Rakim. Man, I’d honestly love to hear what he could do with a sample of “I know you got soul!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alecia-Hamilton/1237714697 Alecia Hamilton

    Although I have often cringed at the missteps these guys make, like the above mentioned gang related fashion disaster, I have to say that GD is musically extremely impressive. I was shocked to hear a teenage Korean kid referencing Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. Heck, most AMERICAN kids don’t know who they are. We’re all in trouble when he discovers Eric B and Rakim. Man, I’d honestly love to hear what he could do with a sample of “I know you got soul!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alecia-Hamilton/1237714697 Alecia Hamilton

    Although I have often cringed at the missteps these guys make, like the above mentioned gang related fashion disaster, I have to say that GD is musically extremely impressive. I was shocked to hear a teenage Korean kid referencing Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. Heck, most AMERICAN kids don’t know who they are. We’re all in trouble when he discovers Eric B and Rakim. Man, I’d honestly love to hear what he could do with a sample of “I know you got soul!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alecia-Hamilton/1237714697 Alecia Hamilton

    Although I have often cringed at the missteps these guys make, like the above mentioned gang related fashion disaster, I have to say that GD is musically extremely impressive. I was shocked to hear a teenage Korean kid referencing Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. Heck, most AMERICAN kids don’t know who they are. We’re all in trouble when he discovers Eric B and Rakim. Man, I’d honestly love to hear what he could do with a sample of “I know you got soul!”

  • Tickleme Elmo

    So….. Big Bang is dressed up as Bloods, but are doing some sort of Crip walk? *facepalm* -_________________________-

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  • paul81

    “they consume the culture without comprehending it, then regurgitate the incomplete leftovers.”

    God damn that was perfect

  • Yoonbreadface

    Thank you so much for this. You managed to eloquently express what we, fans of both hip hop and k pop, has been meaning to say.

  • mistertibbs4u

    As an African-American male, I can say that I am extremely pleased when I see Korean bands incorporate African-American culture into their acts. In all honesty, I find Asian innocent incorporation of African-American culture (Hip-Hop, in particular) refreshing and frankly better than some of the misconceptions our own countrymen have about us in general.

    For instance, the crips and bloods were political offshoots of the Black Panthers, meant to protect neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area. It wasn’t until the American government (under the supervision of the Reagan administration) allowed CIA-backed movements of cocaine to be brought into majority African-American neighborhoods.

    But the bloods are dangerous, right? At least when Koreans borrow from Black culture, there’s no spat of ignorance of one’s own country’s nefarious activities present.

    Hip-Hop on, Korea! You don’t have to be accurate, just look good while you’re doing it and you’ll forever get a ghetto pass.

    And THAT’S why I’m all for direct black to yellow relations. Looking at Koreans who appreciate black culture through the eyes of someone who is neither… that time is over.

    • mistertibbs4u

      Oh, and by the way… great article.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/114376662641691632223/posts Radical Edward

    best comment thread i have ever come across. I too agree with this article.