Music Transcends Languages: Korean Rap and R&B

Mei Tomko, Freelance Writer

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DPR Live, Sik-K, Punchnello, Owen Ovadoz, and Flowsik sing “Eung Freestyle” in Hongdae.
Photo courtesy of recording via YouTube video by hangawe

The Billboard 100 is always filled with hot names like Selena Gomez, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, but some foreign artists have recently been able to crack the charts with songs not necessarily in English. A few common examples are the popular “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and “Gangnam Style” by PSY. Most recently though, the K-Pop group BTS has been able to climb the charts with songs sung in Korean.

Aside from K-Pop, two other trending foreign genres are Korean rap and R&B. When “It G Ma” by Keith Ape went viral in 2015, many American listeners and American rappers responded positively to the track. Korean rap often features western-sounding beats, similar to Big Sean, Lil Uzi Vert and 21 Savage, but the difficult-to-describe rapping style often used is unique to Korea. This style appeals to a large audience on both sides of the world. Many Korean rappers and R&B artists focus on the flow of the song, where western rappers tend to focus more on how the beat sounds.

Loco’s album is titled “bleached.”
Image courtesy of kn2 blog

While most foreign music is not commonly played on the radio or talked about in the mainstream western world, it is certainly a rising genre that has made a name for itself in the ever-growing music industry. Because of the internet and social media, people can consume content from all over. Music is a prime example of globalization that is prominent in daily life. Music undeniably brings people together no matter what age, gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity they are .

And, as BTS’s leader, RM, said, Music and performances transcends language . . .” I wholly believe this statement. There are many elements that make up music, language only being one. If people are able to recognize this they can expand their horizons to a whole new world of music and culture from all over the world.

Listed below are a few songs and albums that have meshed eastern and western styles to create a new sound. Give these a listen! (* = available on Spotify)

Punchnello’s album is titled “lime.”
Image courtesy of kn2 blog

“Eung Freestyle” by DPR Live

“Eung Freestyle” has gained immense popularity since its 2016 release after being featured in a Google Music ad. The single’s lyrics are in both English and Korean, highlighting multiple rappers each with their own sound and flow.

*130 Mood: Trbl by Dean

Debuting in 2016, Dean is a fairly new artist, but has quickly gained popularity. His smooth voice paired with a variety of relaxing and funky beats makes it difficult to not replay the 24 minute EP. A favorite by him is “21.”

*Lime by Punchnello

Punchnello has a rapping style unlike anything else one has heard. He has a smooth flow put over fresh-sounding beats. Listen to “Green Horizon” to understand.

*Her by DPR

Her is DPR Live’s second studio album that brings a clean, relaxing sound, somewhat similar to Khalid, but with more of a R&B twist. “Jasmine” has a majority of its lyrics in English but definitely incorporates Korean R&B elements.

*Bleached by Loco

Loco’s album, Bleached, has a similar sound to DPR Live’s Her, but with an overall darker sound and a heavier rapping style, prominent on some of his best tracks “입버릇처럼(Like I’m Saying)” and a “지나쳐(Too Much).”

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Music Transcends Languages: Korean Rap and R&B