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HAON celebrated the release of his debut project last month, encapsulating the development of a talented newcomer with huge potential. The winner of Korean hip-hop TV competition “High School Rapper Season 2”, the 18-year-old demonstrated ambitious determination and a youthful spirit to impress audiences across the nation, and has transitioned from amateur to professional rapper with ease. His first EP ‘TRAVEL: NOAH’ alludes to the biblical figure of Noah (also conveniently HAON’s name spelled backwards), as he describes his journey across seven songs. On the titular opening track, HAON delivers his mischievous vocals over a Latin-infused melody, holding his own as he ably exchanges verses with elite Korean stars Jay Park and Hoody.
Korean duo Offonoff met at university, and developed such chemistry in their musical collaborations that they decided to drop out of school together. Comprised of vocalist Colde and producer 0channel, the pair released their official debut single ‘Bath’, and Colde has now made his solo debut with a project called ‘Wave’. Crossing multiple genres, the enterprising singer’s drowsy but absorbing voice has a unique quality to draw in the listener and create an easy, laid-back atmosphere; lead single ‘Sunflower’ sees Colde’s murmuring voice spinning a relaxed melody, describing his adoration towards his crush with a hazy energy reflected in the song’s visuals.
Born in Korea and raised in the US, rapper pH-1 was making music alongside his day-job as a web developer when his delightfully uplifting sound began to attract attention on both sides of the Pacific ocean. The musician wanted to distinguish himself by making respectable music that he could sing for his family without any shame, whilst staying true to his emotions and artistic vision in creating his own style, earning him a record deal with Korean label H1GHR MUSIC and gaining recognition from the likes of Jay Park. His latest release sees him team up with PENOMECO; on “Cupid” the mischievous duo exchange romantic verses in both English and Korean over a uptempo synth-heavy beat.
Indulge in Code Kunst’s rich and deep music world. Over the last five years he has become one of Korea’s most successful hip-hop and RnB producers, with an internationally-renowned reputation inspiring projects such as “Hood” with Joey Bada$$. 2018 has been a big year for him, after signing to rising label AOMG and appearing as a judge on South Korean TV rap competition ‘Show Me The Money 777’; building on these successes, Code Kunst shares new double single “BLESS” collaborated with Loco & Woo Won Jae. The low-pitched melody and Woo Won Jae’s indifferent style of rapping creates a tranquil and relaxed vibe, alongside melody variation and support from Loco, while B-side “11” is driven by dream-like acoustic guitar ethereal vocal samples, showing Code Kunst’s skill of controlling tempo and deftly putting the right factors in the right place. The producer explained the message behind the release; “We always pursue our own BLESS and do explore, but usually, find ourselves getting more depressed in the progress. However, despite the desperate situations, we are still blessed existences that can constantly try to reach for the bigger dream.”
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SUMIN defines versatility. As a producer, creative director and singer-songwriter, the Seoul based artist’s talent was fostered under the care of her piano teacher mother, and music became the focus of her life. After years of successful projects in the K-pop scene, this year she finally released her first studio album ‘Your Home’, a diverse project filled with multi-faceted songs that express her perspective on love. Under this romantic theme, factors like affection, anger, difference, and sensuality are portrayed through the different styles & genres that represent each emotion at its best, with blasts of 80’s synthpop, R&B and house. The title track ‘너네 집(Your home)’ featuring guest vocals from Xin Seha, creates a fantastic feeling of dazzling adoration as synthesized dream-like melodies flow through a pulsating beat.
Paloalto takes his name from the city in California’s San Francisco Bay Area where the veteran rapper used to live when he was young. After moving back to Korea, he became a founder of Hi-Lite Records, the heavyweight hip-hop label that has been so influential in the country’s scene over the last decade. His reflective messages are delivered in a baritone voice which embodies the depth of his music, built by sincere experience and growth over his lengthy career. Paloalto demonstrates his technical ability and mastery of flow on ‘Joy’, the first track of his newly-released album ‘Summer Grooves’, a laid-back summer anthem with an uplifting vocal melody courtesy of guest Korean American singer-songwriter Ted Park.
OLNL has been making waves in the Korean hip-hop and RnB sphere, establishing his own fairytale-like world through imaginative lyricism and escapist imagery. Now he’s teamed up with the childlike rapper and producer Cosmic Boy to create a new collaborative project under the name of ‘Areyouchildish’. On their single ‘Merry-go-round’, OLNL’s characteristic slurred pronunciation floats over Cosmic Boys’ uplifting melodic soundscapes, as they lament the immature behaviour of adults.
Korean singer Crush has been establishing a reputation in the contemporary R&B world through his sensual vocal presence. Just in time for the sunshine months, the Seoul based artist served up summer-ready EP ‘Wonderlost’, launching the project as a sequel to last year’s ‘Wonderlust’. While the previous release was a collection of downbeat and calm introspective stories, the latest offering is a stark contrast, filled with lighter melodies and uplifting beats driven by Crush’s mellow vocals. Lead single ‘Cereal’ is an infectiously smooth anthem, with guest support from rapper Zico, one of the most striking characters in Korea’s hip-hop scene through his work with the K-Pop group Block B. The chemistry of these two 27-year-old peers pumps the energy of the track up and exemplifies the country’s exciting and diverse pool of talent.
Former jazz student Jvcki Wai has morphed into a venomous trap artist and one of the most exciting female musicians in Korea’s hip-hop scene. Her music is weaved with piercing auto-tuned vocals and bleak melodies, spitting bars without reserve as she aggressively delivers frank introspection as well as wider social messages, speaking on her experiences as a woman and showing solidarity with others. ‘Enchanted Propaganda’, the title of her debut studio album and also the fifth track of the album, represents her unique style channeling her internal anxiety in a modern, cyberpunk way.
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Adding the perfect feature to a song is a delicate art-form, and SHAUN knows how to caramelize artists as an ingredient to enhance his up-tempo songs. ‘생각나’ (Thinking Of) is the third track of his newly released EP ‘Take’, as the Seoul based DJ/producer serves up a springy and fast-paced beat for his guest vocalists to paint the picture of a hollow and empty relationship. Rising singer-songwriter SUMIN contributes a sweet, angelic voice to deliver the lover’s frank confession without weighing in sorrow, while freshman rapper Ovan strikes back his feelings for her with heavy bars as he admits that he can’t help but think of her.
Sincerity thickens when a veteran rapper confesses his deepest feelings. Born and raised in Busan, South Korea, Simon Dominic was a former member of hip-hop duo ‘Supreme Team’; now joint-CEO of independent record label AOMG, he returns with new album ‘DARKROOM : roommates only’ three years on from the release of his last project ‘₩ & Only’.
On his past records, Dominic was known for embodying various characters and aliases; however, this time around he narrates candid conversations without any guest features, channelling all of his struggles into a melancholic album with the smooth power of his delivery, tackling themes such as the pressures of his environment and his fear of being left behind. On ‘Jung Jin Chul’, he broods over loss of his uncle who disappeared when he was a child, weaves remembrance, yearning, and his distress at reality together through his lyricism.
However, this story of the grief of separation had a remarkable happy ending; two weeks after the album’s release, Dominic shared a picture on Instagram of his father side by side with Jung Jin Chul himself, announcing that they had found and reunited with the long-lost uncle.
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Koreans are becoming increasingly familiar with the phrase; ‘Trust and listen to Jeebanoff’. The 26 year-old singer has gained this faith as his star has risen in recent years, winning ‘Best R&B/Soul song of the year’ at the 2017 Korean Music Awards just a year after releasing his debut single ‘Hide’. Hailing from Ansan, his self-produced songs are mostly nostalgic and down-tempo, but never lacking in energy thanks to his fluid melodies and dynamic usage of percussion. This pacing is balanced by his lilting voice, depicting personal memories of love and everyday life in his songs. Taking another step forward a full-length independent project, he announced his forthcoming album ‘주마등:走馬燈’ (Panorama) with a self-directed trailer with Japanese styling; on pre-released track ‘Good Place’, the artist bears his insecurities about a past relationship over a powerful piano melody.
Born and raised in Pasadena, California to Korean parents, in 2016 Nafla moved from the US to rock the hip-hop scene in the country of his heritage. He quickly became emblematic of the resurgence in boom-bap rap among the new generation; as trap influences began to dominate the Korean hip-hop scene, fresh tracks like ‘Wu’ and ‘Locked and Loaded’ stood out with a fresh take on a classic 90s-influenced hip-hop sound. Nafla’s unique aggressive, sharp vocal tone has won him fans on both sides of the Pacific; after proving his skills on rap, he also explored other styles with songs like ‘Mercy’ showing that there’s no limit to his powerful delivery. Now seen as a trendsetter of boom-bap in Korea, in June he returned with new single ‘B.I.G’, paying respect to the legendary Biggie Smalls.
The charismatic DPR LIVE is rapidly making a name for himself as one of Korea’s most exciting new creative talents. As a member of collective/label DPR (Dream Perfect Regime) he enjoyed a successful debut in 2017 with the album ‘Coming to You Live’, weaving together a unique style of intricate raps and soothing melodies. Based between Seoul and Guam, the rapper pursuing experimental sounds incorporating future bass, trap, and soul to craft his own dream-like sound.
With his futuristic aesthetic, DPR LIVE’s visuals have a distinctive modern, technicolour quality; his latest single ‘Playlist’ fuses an up-tempo tribal drum beat with a classic bossa nova sample for a departure from his usual vibe, yet still retaining his rhythm and romantic energy for an undeniable summer banger.