The Haters Can't Stop this K-Pop Rap Star
As is plain from Best Band in the World winner 2NE1, K-pop is repping hard in 2011. The industry, dominated by a few savvy entertainment companies, has made Seoul into a millenial Detroit, with acts like Girls Generation and Super Junior churning out catchy singles and beautiful choreography to challenge the golden age of Motown.
But Motown is one thing; Death Row is quite another. Rap’s rebellious message has been a tougher product to market in the glossy K-pop scene and an analogous golden age of Korean hip hop has yet to surface. That’s not to say there are no Korean rap groups: 1TYM or Drunken Tiger and Tasha, and their loyal fanbases jump to mind. And of course, every group act also has a designated rapper or two who takes turns filling out the hooks with a few bars of rapid-fire spitting. But a Korean Kanye West? Not quite yet.
Enter Tablo, the outspoken Korean hip hopper, whose first solo album topped the iTunes charts in November. Fever’s End focuses Tablo’s lyrical wordplay on sober subject matter. Alienation, not rage, is his muse. He touches on his two years of surreal persecution by anonymous bloggers who essentially accused him of identity theft and nearly ended his career. But the epic hooks and pristine arrangements that are becoming a YG Entertainment trademark cut against any bathos. Tablo suffers just enough to make you sigh, repeatedly, as you listen to singles “Tomorrow” and “Bad” over and over again.
The intellectual heartthrob started out as frontman of the indie rap hitmakers Epik High. The hip hop group went independent, unprecedented in Korean music, founding their own label, Map The Soul. But financial difficulties, plus the mandatory military service of two out of three members, put the trio on hold. Finally, this year Tablo signed with major Korean label YG Entertainment, who put their support behind his solo effort.
Fever’s End showcases what happens when K-Pop meets meets tortured soul…meets Q-Tip. Major label support, plus a charismatic young artist with something to prove, brings something new to the Korean pop pool.
Tablo’s latest music video “Tomorrow,” featuring Taeyang: