The summer is now over and as the beginning of the academic year approaches, there’s an increasing need for a shout out to all the late party-goers. As Subi noted at the beginning of the year, K-pop welcomes dubstep into its songs and has a long-lasting relationship with techno music and all its subgenres. But I’ll be focusing on something a bit more flavored: rap and electro-dance music. The two styles can be sometimes a match made in heaven, with both entertaining lines and rhythm that makes you move your feet. It’s hard to notice on a well-produced track, but as you find yourself spotting the flaws in the less perfected songs, you realize that it’s actually a challenge and not an easy one for the artist to fuse the two genres.
The first one to get my attention for this is Solbi’s “Ottogi.” The singer made her comeback on the 23rd of August with a song which bears similarities, as her fans were quick to notice, to Sak Noel’s “Loca.” The ‘latin-house’ version was promoted for an MV and Ji-yoon of 4Minute contributed with her rap. The whole track doesn’t seem to be arranged to fit Ji-yoon in. The addition of the rapper is more likely an afterthought to bring some light over Solbi, who’s been absent for more than three years from the music scene. The song just happened to be a techno-influenced track and features a rap break, like many other K-pop songs and I don’t think it was anybody’s efforts were spent on harmoniously mixing the two genres.
However, a different direction is taken by another long-awaited K-pop diva, Lexy. An ex-YG artist, she made a comeback recently with “Nolza” or “Let’s Play.” Lexy has approached the genre in the past and takes a shot at mainstream Korean music again. The song features Kim Ji-eun’s solid vocals and Lexy’s rapping. In comparison to Solbi’s comeback, she goes full-mode on combining hip-hop with dubstep. The lyrics are the usual for a club song:
Party up party people in the place to be
Without anyone left out, everyone enjoy this crazily
With a bit of bitterness left from past endeavors:
All y’all say the queen is back
Exactly how many queens is that?
The problem with rapping on fast-paced beats and crazy rhythm is the risk of losing breath, thus affecting the rapper’s flow. It’s exactly what happens with Lexy. Her lines forcefully match the music line and you can hear the way she strains her voice at times. Furthermore, with both Solbi and Lexy (and I might add Kim Wan-sun in the mix), this type of music looks more as something between regaining their old identity and a desperate attempt to get the younger audience interested.
This time from a hip-hop artist, E.Via gets playful again. With her single, “I Know How to Play,” she mixes good ol’ rapping with some Gangnam Style and a side of electro beats. While I’m far from appreciating the incoherent mishmash and the return from “Insanity Love” to cutesy voices, I wouldn’t hurry to take the single way too seriously. It’s fun and her rapping matches the beat of the track. The exact problem I had with the previous two tracks found its solution. The song is fluid, with the two parts — the rap and the melodic line — finally fitting each other. E.Via’s mellowed-out self and the slowed-down background track come together in a laid-back, upbeat and why-so-serious single:
Last but not least in the combo, from the depth of T-ara’s dirty laundry, Hwa-young teased with a 51-seconds track, with a distinct club feel and self-penned lyrics. I feel guilty for not listening to her more during her T-ara period because this is actually good:
The mix of hip-hop and techno isn’t by far a novelty in the world of K-pop or on the international music scene. It’s entertaining, and has its upsides and downsides. Sometimes, it’s just a lazy attempt at a comeback or debut and the lyrics or message get the second place. Some other times though, it can benefit from what’s best in both genres: addictive hooks, a nice rhythm and a good flow with attitude-filled lines. So what do you think of the songs above? Are they hits or misses? Got any suggestions?