You know how people say “ball is life”, well they forgot to include hip-hop cause bruh, hip-hop is life. Like many of you, I’ve grown up in the era of Kush and Orange Juice, Burn After Rolling, More About Nothing, G.O.O.D Fridays, 1999, and LiveLoveA$ap(RIP YAMS). Hip-hop culture is, and continues to be, one of the most important aspects of my life. I remember being 14, going to parties and rapping all the words to Cam’ron and Lil Wayne’s Touch It Or Not, or B.I.G’s Juicy and wanting to be as cool as Kanye in his Can’t Tell Me Nothing video. Though it’s clear I took a liking to hip-hop culture and rap music early on in life, it wasn’t until I went to Korea last year that I realized the power and influence of hip-hop culture internationally as well as the extent of my love for hip-hop culture itself.
When I tell you hip-hop culture in Asia is HUGE, that’s because it’s bigger than anything any of us could ever imagine. Hip-hop in Asia, specifically South Korea, is everywhere. Walking down the streets of Korea, all I saw were kids rockin’ fresh kicks, crisp timbs, basketball jerseys, and fitteds. High school students break dancing in their school uniforms for snack money. Large walls covered in graffiti where rappers sat on their little boom-boxes spitting bars. Cafes, stores, doctors offices, restaurants all played the latest American and Korean rap joints. TV’s everywhere broadcasted hip-hop and freestyle battle shows. People on the streets dressed like ASAP Rocky, Tyler the Creator, and Kid n’ Play while bumpin’ Joey Bada$$ from their Dre Beats. I’m talking about straight levels to this shit.
Hip-hop culture in Korea works similarly to the way it does here in the U.S. and other places around the world; it works as an outlet for the youth. As we know, Hip-hop culture stems from the oppression of minorities. Created in the South Bronx of New York during the 60’s, hip-hop culture and rap became a way to combat oppression through its spirit of rebellion, a connection to the streets, materialism, and aggression. Hip-hop is music for the oppressed, by the oppressed. With the exception of bubblegum rap and wack ass Iggy Azealia songs, every element of hip-hop comes from a place of struggle. Lyrics paint pictures of oppressed situations, the need for release, and lavish things. In Korea, hip-hop does the same thing, though there are large cultural differences with regard to content and context. Compared to America, Korea is by no means hood. There are no guns, low crime rates and drug use, but a struggle still exist. The struggle manifests itself in different ways such as the societal pressure to be the best, to provide for one’s family, to be homogeneous, find love, settle down, etc.
Korean hip-hop goes in and I’m not just saying that because I lived there for a year, joined a hip-hop crew, or fell in love with a Korean rapper. I’m saying it cause it’s true (also cause bae’s mixtape was straight fire). When I first started getting into hip-hop and rap outside of the U.S., I thought it was problematic and sometimes it really was. There are rappers that steal flows, beats, aesthetics, styles from US rappers, all while okasianally rockin’ fake curly afro perms. Though I do believe hip-hop is global, I believe that every country of origin in which hip-hop culture is created has to make its own music that contains its own social and cultural symbols. Copying a style and/or aesthetic altogether without its own cultural tones is appropriation and I by no means support Korean rappers stealing US rapper’s flows, beats, and copying that Nelly ‘Tip Drill’ aesthetic. What I do support is the idea of innovation.
I support the idea of hip-hop being a global outlet for groups of people looking for an outlet and using the basis of hip-hop to create one’s own subculture to help the oppressed; currently, Korea is doing that. You have young kids in Korea dreaming of being artists, rappers, dancers, and DJ’s, while more and more sub genres within Korean hip-hop are emerging; such as your standard backpack rap, fuckboi trap, hard trap, your hardcore Wutang inspired rap, and plain ol’ good ass songs that you can Netflix & Chill to. Like I said before, LEVELS.
So basically what I’m trying to say, and have been trying to say for the past 5 paragraphs, is that Korean hip-hop is dope and you should listen to it. Though you might not understand everything that they say in their songs, I guarantee that you will know when they’re spitting pure flames and killing the beat with their flow. Why? Well because hip-hop is global. Hip-hop is everywhere and is a tool to challenge our oppression. HIP HOP SAVES THE YOUTH. HIP HOP OUT HERE SAVING OUR LIVES B. OUR LIVES.
*P.S* there’s a world outside of ‘it g ma’. The song is dope but it in no way defines Korean hip-hop as a genre. There is a world outside of it. I’ve linked a couple songs below. Kinda like a starter pack to Korean hip-hop.