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About that Hip Hop in KPOP

By January 24, 2011One Comment

By Joyce
New Organizing Project blogger

I have a confession: I love kpop. I really do. I can’t pinpoint why. Maybe it’s because kpop reminds me of the bubblegum pop days of the late 90s [yes, I was indeed a Backstreet Boys fan]. Who knows. What I do know is that when I heard ‘Wedding Dress‘ by Taeyang a year ago, the sweet piano melody had me hooked.

‘Wedding Dress’ on repeat for about two weeks, led me to venture out into the world of kpop. Before that, I generally hadn’t listened to Asian music.


Big Bang when they first debuted.

I soon found out that Taeyang was part of an idol group called Big Bang — one of the most popular groups in Asia. I was struck by their concept and overall ‘look,’ especially during their debut. From the way they dressed [baggy clothes, high tops and cornrows] to the way they spoke [American slang frequented their songs] and the way they labeled and marketed themselves to the general public, Big Bang was seemingly exploding with hip hop’s influence. Yet, the concept seemed a little forced and unnatural, like a caricature of hip hop bordering on gimmicky and completely not acknowledging hip hop’s historical context. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Big Bang but I was left searching for the authenticity in their use of hip hop influence.

Many times, writers and interviewers would suggest that Big Bang’s hip hop influence somehow made them more ‘Black.’ This got me thinking about the larger issue of appropriation and the globalization of hip hop. What constitutes authenticity and who gets to decide what makes something authentic, especially with something like hip hop that has reached so many different cultures and countries?

For me, what I think bothered me is that the practice of ‘consumption without comprehension’  was/is so prevalent. There didn’t seem to be any acknowledgment of the originators and pioneers of hip hop nor an understanding of the ways in which hip hop grew out of a state of oppression and its use in engaging multiple social movements. At the same time, there are Korean artists like MC Sniper who use hip hop as a way to talk about Korean society and social movements. Fellow blogger MK7 actually wrote about one MC Sniper song that talks about Korea’s democratic movements around 1980. But this is still overlooked and overshadowed by bubblegum kpop.

Like any other movement, hip hop is constantly growing and evolving and with the increasing globalization of the culture, it’s bound to go through changes depending on the audiences it’s reaching.

My friend, Brandon, raised a lot of good question when we were talking about this particular topic of authenticity in hip hop:

Were the members of Big Bang more “authentic” when they were “underground”?

Once a group has the backing of a major label, does that change their intent?

Is “authenticity” connected to the artist’s relationship to how the art actually started in the first place?

[and so on]

Frankly, these questions interested me, but also made me more confused. Defining authenticity in the realm of art and appropriation is a hard topic whether the genre is hip hop or blues or rock or you name it. So while concrete answers remain elusive though new questions continually surface and complicate matters, I appreciate that kpop has made me think more deeply about appropriation. [Now that’s something I hadn’t expected to say when I first heard ‘Wedding Dress”].

And so, dear readers, this is where I leave you and I’m sad to say that this is my last post as a NOP blogger. I hope that my writing has been interesting and made you think about things you might not have previously considered. Thanks for stopping by and please be sure to check back so you can keep up with the happenings of NAKASEC!


*Photo Courtesy of