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.
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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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.
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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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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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.