Wednesday, August 15, 2012
[Editorial] 'Mean Girls' - the Korean hip hop edition
The abundance in Korean hip hop compared to just a few years ago isn't much different for the fact that the amount of rappers out there spreading their name and mixtapes may be the same, but the amount of music labels created is definitely different. In this case, more music labels have been created than before.
I'm sure there were labels floating around but you have to admit, Soul Company was pretty much that chubby, cute guy with the top hat and cane in Monopoly collecting all of the money in the game with Jungle Entertainment and Amoeba Culture coming in close second. You can say that this was the SM-YG-JYP of your Korean hip hop a few years ago. But with the disbandment of Soul Company and Jungle Entertainment prioritizing their 'idol hip hop group' M.I.B, you can say the two out of the three in the holy trinity of what Korean hip hop was began crumbling.
The Quiett left Soul Company to pursue his own 'thang' in setting up Illionaire Records alongside Dok2 and that was really the beginning of Soul Company falling apart, Loptimist leaving soon afterwards to join Jungle Entertainment (to which, I still don't know why he did to this day) and the label disbanding fully in November of 2011. Then everyone really went their separate ways. Minos, Kebee, and RHYME-A- set up Standart Music, DJ Dopsh & Crucial Star headed for Grandline Entertainment, and everyone else just popping up at shows or with their new albums every few months or so.
In the case of Jungle Entertainment, they decided to push for mainstream once Tiger JK and T hit it off as partners for the summer special performance with MC Yoo Jaesuk on the popular show "Infinity Challenge." With Paloalto having left to establish Hi-Lite Records and Leessang still technically under Jungle Entertainment but setting up their own music label, Leessang Company, other artists such as Bizzy, Jungin, Jo Moongeun, and TEBY are under the label as well but aren't seeing much light (thanks M.I.B!) sad to say.
But among the Three Musketeers is one hopeful music label which is Amoeba Culture. Like the other two, they too had their downtime when Dynamic Duo, the face of their company then, had enlisted into the military and E-Sens of Supreme Team being blown over his marijuana scandal. However, instead of the music label disbanding or prioritizing on their 'hip hop idol group,' the company has been working extra hard to step their game up, and it's thanks to their recent recruitment of artists Jtong and Zion.T. Also working hard is producer Primary who has been releasing nonstop singles after his long hiatus as well as Dynamic Duo the moment they had discharged from the military.
However, you can't necessarily always depend on old music labels to continue their reign because with Korean hip hop constantly growing with incoming new faces, this also means that you're at stake of being overthrown from your throne. And it already looks like there are new faces in the scene (run by some old face rappers) to take over.
As of lately, it's been a battle between the three labels: Grandline Entertainment, Hi-Lite Records, and Illionaire Records. Why these three? Because they're the only three companies who have been active with not only promoting their artists, but hosting their own shows as well. Grandline Entertainment has been hosting shows every few months, I'd say once every six months and they've been doing the best in terms of revenue. It's thanks to the artists and their insane networking that the lineup is worth going for, but it's also bad that the lineup is what they depend on to break even. Hi-Lite Records on the other hand may lack in income, but the artists together have a strong built bond (you always see them collaborating, from mixtapes to EPs and even free songs) as well as a strong 'fanbase.' By strong fanbase, I mean that people who are fans of artists in Hi-Lite are usually fans of all the artists under the label so you have loyalty guaranteed for whatever release pretty much. And finally, in the case of Illionaire Records, you have what these two companies don't have yet: mainstream. Although Grandline Entertainment may have some crazy network, nothing tops what Dok2 and The Quiett alone have through collaborating with mainstream artists like Jay Park and Hyuna to being friends with idols such as Junhyung from BEAST. That alone gets you spotlight and fame from not only your experience in the underground scene, but from the mainstream scene as well. I've seen some fans of BEAST follow Illionaire since Junhyung became friends with the two, and you know fan girls - they'll buy your CDs (and call you oppa).
With what was the Holy Trinity of Korean hip hop having led so much artists as well as majority of the underground scene so well yet still crashing and crumbling, it makes me wonder if these new labels of the underground generation today can stand a chance and live up to the saga from before. Are they the new kid from Africa who learns and adapts from what the underground scene had been before? Can they be considered the Cady Heron who overthrows Regina George? Or are all these companies and labels just mere names of a Burn Book and we're still waiting for a Regina George to take full reign over Korean hip hop? Who knows what will happen in the span of the next few months, years, or decades but I hope they still wear snapbacks on Wednesdays.