Thoughts on Korean Pop Music

Among the treasures that Becky brought me back from Korea and Japan were two CDs of Korean pop music. One was of Rain, whom I first heard about from this NYT article about him.

At 23, Rain, who has been labeled the Korean Justin Timberlake and the Korean Usher, is a serious and driven performer (with washboard abs, winsome looks and a Gene Kelly-like ability to leap through puddles while performing his hit song, “It’s Raining”). He wants nothing less than to break down barriers, build cultural bridges and become the first Asian pop star to succeed in America.

But while Rain isn’t much more than a fly-by-night Michael Jackson-esque pop star, the rap duo Lee Ssang (photo at left) is much more interesting to listen to, I find.

Avoiding the strong and aggressive style, Leessang pursues a relaxing and flexible rap in which the rhythms are alive. Humor and wit, and the utilization of a retrospective sound are the strong point of the rap duo. The duo first was created in 2002. The members of Leessang first put their feet in the show biz by participating as guest rappers for a band called Exteen in 1997.

Not that I can appreciate the Korean wordplay, but the melodies and the tone of this piece, 개리와 기리, (can anyone translate this?) is just really fun to listen to. It’s a chill track, and I can totally see myself driving down the California/Korean coast while bumping this.

Incidentally, it’s Kang Hee-gun’s (one of the singers of Lee Ssang) 28th birthday today! Happy Birthday!

Also, I found this blog entry from “Dignified Devil”:

Lee Ssang – Library of Soul
Korean hip-hop is starting to distinguish itself with production via MC Sniper
pilfering his parents collection of classical music for breaks and collaborting with dancehall accapellos and here Lee Ssang seems to use every hoe in Seoul to make these koreans playing soul and funk joints with korean mcs infested tracks burst with life. The closest collaborator to Seoul’s hip-hop is probably folks like Common and Kayne West, tracks are bursting with chorus and soul to make the whole thing rebound off hope. All that said, most of Lee Ssang’s best seller is crap. But there’s a few joints worth keeping. The other night I heard a perfectly amazing korean hip-hop group. When that music will make it off indies and onto majors so ignorant folks like me can digest it more easily I don’t know, but it’ll be a pub crawl like no other to get there.