Saturday, May 25, 2013

Simon D, Dynamic Duo and Epik High and the Story of How I Got into Korean Hip Hop

That's a long title, I realize, but I found this (albeit kind of old) fantastic clip of a bunch of my favorite big-name Korean rappers and I thought I simply must share it. But then another idea popped into my mind, which was that I have never shared with my blog audience how I came to like Korean hip hop in the first place! So now I shall take this opportunity to introduce both this clip and also the origin story of one of my primary interests. So, without further ado . . .

If you are my friend or know me personally, then you must surely know I love me some Korean hip hop. In fact one could say that I listen to Korean hip hop more frequently than probably any other genre of music and that would not be an exaggeration. It all began when I started dating my first Korean (that's native Korean, not Korean-American) girlfriend, who was studying English in Toronto for a year, and realized I didn't know too much about Korea beyond a bunch of movies I had seen. I decided that this simply would not do, as I figured my girlfriend would probably enjoy talking about her own country and its pop culture with me from time to time, so I started indiscriminately downloading Korean music and music videos, of which I had heard or seen only a little. Among some random Rain, TVXQ, BOA and SG wannabe videos (this was 2006, by the way), one of the videos I happened to download was Dynamic Duo's "Ring My Bell" and MC Mong's "Ice Cream."

Now I realize MC Mong was never considered a real rapper by most of the Korean rap community and has in recent years fallen from grace after a military scandal that was big news back in 2011. However, I would argue that "Ice Cream" is most certainly a piece of hip-hop music, and it sounded pretty cool to me and was packaged with a pretty hilarious video. However, what really got me going was Dynamic Duo with their hilarious music video, a mix of haphazard movie parodies of Drunken Master, The Exorcist and '70s cop dramas mixed with other screwball imagery. This was all capped off with the excellent flow of the song that the video was produced for, "Ring My Bell," which borrowed its chorus from an old disco song of the same name. Here are those two videos so you may relive my experience!



Naturally at the time I had no idea what they were rapping about but it sounded pretty legit. I must have watched that video countless times, and when I went to karaoke (or norebang) with my Korean friends, I would try to sing the song phonetically. I was hooked. I could tell by the video that Dynamic Duo had a great sense of humour and could laugh at themselves while still taking their music seriously, which is something I really respect in artists. Part of the major intrigue about the whole thing was also that at the time among non-Koreans, Korea was known for being a country of hard-working and conservative salarymen and factory workers who ate kimchi all the time, went into the army, and didn't know how to have fun. So I (who was also woefully ignorant of Korea at time) was pretty surprised to find a thriving hip-hop community that had been growing since the early 1990s! Thus I immediately dove into the world of Korean hip hop with much enthusiasm and zeal!

All I can say is, thank the heavens for the Internet! On YouTube and other video sites that deal more with East Asian media, I was able to find many songs and videos from Dynamic Duo's library, and never was I disappointed. To this day I have yet to hear a track from them that I utterly dislike, and I own all their albums in CD form (including albums from their previous incarnation as three-man team CB Mass). In searching for more Dynamic Duo I happened to stumble upon many other Korean hip-hop greats, many of whom were closely affiliated with Dynamic Duo. These included such legendary names as Drunken Tiger (often hailed as the father of modern Korean hip hop), Yoon Mi Rae (a.k.a. Tasha), Epik High, Leesang, Yang Dong Geun (a.k.a. YDG), Bobby Kim, Bizzy, MC Sniper, and a slew of others. From that point on the ball kept rolling and I found more and more artists, both mainstream and indie, who I couldn't help but add to my playlist. Which brings us to the present and the finding of this clip that I would like to share with you!

Here's the clip!


So this apparently happened last winter. What we have here is an introduction and, I would guess, the first act of this mega-concert, which features a number of prominent Korean artists performing their hits for a massive audience. The track in the introduction is sort of like five mini-tracks in one and was available on hiphopplaya.com (a prominent Korean hip-hop website) as a free download. Originally I just wanted to share the track with you all, but then I found this video! The track is a collaboration between Dynamic Duo, Simon D, and Epik High, three heavy hitters in the world of Korean hip hop presently. I have to say that in the opening track, Mithra Jin (the guy in the limo) I feel has the best flow, but they all do a pretty damn good job, and it's really fun to see them all chilling together. To add to the awesomeness, they all arrive in a stadium at the end and mix a bunch of lyrics from their famous tracks into a hip-hop reworking of Psy's "Gangnam Style." Woo!                    

       

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