Kpop and mainstream Khiphop have certainly won my heart in the past few years…deservedly so. It is polished, slick, and produced (over produced?) with the audience 100% in mind. It is shouting “Hey, Noona, love me! (subtext: spend money on me and care for me because I make your cold dead heart feel something – is that just me?).” I am noone if not a pleaser, I will do what they demand.
The entire industry was created to bolster South Korea’s exports at a time when the government KNEW that it couldn’t compete with stronger nations in the more tangible parts of the economy. Because of the subsidized success of the industry, so many musically talented, and not so talented, South Korean youths yearn to be signed as trainees at one of the major labels. But not all of them want that life…
There are those idol singers and rappers (ummm, Zico’s new single Bermuda Triangle!!!) with immense talent which are so fresh and different from the rest of the herd that they just shine. They gobble up the spotlight. But, there is also a strong and thriving underground music scene, though sometimes the line is a little blurred as groups move fluidly back and forth between being considered underground and being as mainstream as they come…at least in my eyes. Think Epik High and Jay Park (AOMG). They are extremely well known and yet have all of the cred they deserve as talented artists in it for the music.
Samuel Seo, member of the underground hip hop crew New Block Babyz, does not get enough notice as far as I’m concerned. He released his first album in 2013 having written, produced, and performed all of it….that alone is pretty stand out for the Korean music scene. Most of the artists we know aren’t given that kind of freedom from their agencies until they have been active for years. Seo’s music is rich and ambient and reminiscent of 90’s hip hop with a little something extra. You can feel the influences from his time in the U.S. and Canada. His voice is clean and smooth and at just the right moment, he blows it out with real emotion.
His most recent release, Entourage, is chill. It IS riding in your car with some friends and singing at the top of your voice. It embodies all of those nostalgic shivers I get when thinking about cruising in high school in a small rural town, in college at a major university, and living abroad and being lucky enough to find friends with a car that have a similar taste in music. It feels like a comfortable song that fits like that high school hoodie I still wear. Even after the first listen it settled into my bones. Enjoy. Really. I think you will.
Samuel Seo, Entourage