Korean hip-hop (referred to as K-Hip-Hop or KHH) has come a long way since its inception over three decades ago.
Before rappers became a key position in K-Pop groups, K-Hip-Hop wasn’t widely recognised in the Korean mainstream. The general public didn’t have a palette for hip-hop, and the defiant nature of it was the complete opposite to the idol pop and ballad style music popular in Korea back in the nineties and noughties. But, as a subculture, all this actually helped the underground K-Hip-Hop scene grow.
Just ten years ago, it was uncommon to have a designated rapper in a K-Pop group. Now, every idol group – boy and girl – has at least a rapper or two and, while the underground community still exists and many popular Korean rappers start out in the underground scene, K-Hip-Hop has undeniably made its way into popular culture. Worldwide, the hip-hop industry is a male dominated industry, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t women killing the game – and that goes for K-Hip-Hop too. Whether already you’re already an avid fan or a curious listener, here are seven female Korean rappers you should know about.
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Born Natasha Shanta Reid, Yoon Mi-Rae is a veteran in the K-Hip Hop scene: active since the late ‘90s, she’s referred to as the godmother of K-Hip Hop. She is one of the most well-known mixed-race female rappers in Korea and is often cited as a source of inspiration for up and coming female rappers. Today, she owns a hip-hop label with her husband, Tiger JK, who is also a K-Hip-Hop legend. They continue to release music with Bizzy as a trio called MFBTY.
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In similar fashion to Lil Uzi Vert in the West, Jvcki Wai is considered to be one of the artists to popularise Emo-Trap in the K-Hip-Hop scene. She may seem like a newcomer, but Jvcki Wai has been making some serious career moves – featured on tracks by Simon Dominic (‘GOTT’), ZICO (“천둥벌거숭이”) AND GIRIBOY (“싱글 호랑이소굴”) to name a few. Additionally the title track from her first full length album, ‘Enchanted Propaganda’, was nominated for Hip-Hop Track of the Year at the 2019 Korean Hip-Hop Awards.
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하선호 aka Sandy is a rising teen rapper in the underground K-Hip-Hop scene with a seriously impressive flow. She started gaining traction as an artist after her appearance on a hip-hop competition show appropriately titled, High School Rapper, and since competing has changed record labels while, presumably, still attending school. Juggling life as a student and artist has understandably made it difficult to put out new music. But with her potential, and a flow that’s better than some of her male counterparts, it’s only a matter of time before Sandy makes a bigger name for herself.
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Rapper, singer and former model YUNHWAY When she first started releasing music in 2015 she wasn’t a hip-hop artist, however her sound has evolved into a melodic style of rapping – leading the singing/rapping trend. Most recently, she competed on the latest season of another reality hip-hop competition called Show Me The Money 8. Since appearing on the show, she has gained more recognition with the general public and international audiences who watch the show. Akin to artists like Post Malone and Lizzo she pushes the boundaries on what it means to be a rapper who sings.
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KASPER is a rapper and singer in Korea, but is more commonly recognised as a YouTube by international fans. She got her start in 2014 as a member of a co-ed hip-hop group called Play the Siren. After the group disbanded she remained active as an artist and appeared on a female-only hip-hop reality show, Unpretty Rapstar and Show Me The Money. Since her appearances on the shows (2015 and 2016, respectively) she has continued to make music as well as upload videos on YouTube. She has a softer vibe compared to the other rappers on this list, with a knack for using her low-key style to smoothly transition from singer to rapper.
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Not to be confused with the American rapper of the same name, Swervy is another teen female rapper to look out for, with her own unique style, melding trap, punk and rap. Swervy competed on Show Me The Money the same season as YUNHWAY and the season prior to that. Both tries she didn’t make it very far, but good things came out of her appearances – she got signed to a record label and grabbed the attention of viewers. Don’t let her teenage, brace-faced exterior fool you – Sshe may only have a few tracks under her belt, but she has established herself as a solid trap and punk rapper.
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If you’re someone who was a K-Pop fan prior to 2016, you know who CL is. Full name Chae-rin Lee, she is the leader and main rapper of now-disbanded but forever iconic K-Pop girl group, 2NE1. Although CL can be considered an idol rapper, she has arguably paved the way for other female rappers in idol groups. Now that CL has parted ways with her former long-time label, she has been able to release music. Flexing the vocalist and rapping skills she’s known for, she was finally able to reintroduce herself as an artist to fans in late 2019.
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Words: Debbie Aderinkomi
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