“How well do you remember Korean Hiphop artists?”
This was a question that was raised as I was talking to a mutual on SNS.
It started with the comment of how “wack” the scene has become this year. I commented that I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing. I just really didn’t know. But the conversation then shifted to how there were good projects this year, and some that didn’t stand out. And I agree greatly.
Ever since the popularity of television rap shows such as Show Me the Money and Unpretty Rapstar, it paved the way for underground artists to go overground and be known. Now, this topic is another issue to be talked about, the popularity and the impact of rap shows to the scene. But in general, whether you like or not, a lot of artists have depended on these shows to be able to spread their music and gain more following. In return, audiences depend on these shows to discover new talent and music they haven’t heard of before.
This leads us then to artists making use of that popularity to create more material, gain more attention and perform more. It’s not a bad thing to do, it’s very much practical. But what’s making it so ugly is the fact that people abuse that opportunity and we’re faced with immense oversaturation in the scene.
What is oversaturation?
Oversaturation is when you have too much products in one market, making the choices too many, but the audience very little. That is what’s happening in the Korean hiphop scene now. All right, we’ve had enough many rappers even way before. But the thing now is that there are emerging names from left and right, all wanting a shot at being famous. It’s not so bad. But what the problem is becoming into is when all of those names try to release material all the same time.
Why is it a problem? It may not be a problem to the artist’s dedicated fans. Having more material, more songs, more videos is always eye candy, is always something we all love. The problem lies in the artist’s capacity to stay remembered.
I have noticed rappers from Show Me the Money grab the opportunity of releasing material while the hype was still high, releasing songs after song after song in just a span of 3 months. That’s cool. Keep your name in the game. But of all the songs they released, which one of those really left an impression on the public? Most big labels in the scene do strategies where they make their artists create material and release EP’s, albums and mixtapes almost every month, if not, every other or quarterly. This happens to underground artists as well, releasing singles and songs almost every week. Not to discredit any of the artists, let this be an honest to goodness observation.
Oversaturation in the scene gives us too many choices to listen to but leads us to actually not have enough time to get a grasp of every song that comes out in the market, subsequently telling yourself, “This is my favorite”, “I want to see this performed live.” And if one artist releases songs more than the number of days in one month, how can you even remember each of them?
The scene definitely is becoming wack compared to those first names, regarding both the musicality and lyrics content where you’ll have enough time to repeat an album over and over again. Unlike having to release short EPs in the frequency of 3 months where they sound all the same and the topics all revolving on the same old stuff, with promotions that just repeat the same cycle every time.
The usual cycle goes like this:
Day 1 – teaser
Day 3 – abum release
Day 6 – release party
And bam. Nothing else.
And after a week or so in promotions, people stop listening; waiting for new releases they think would be more lit, more suited for a party. They’re not giving us enough time to listen. Not even enough time to realize the difference and growth from their first release.
This observation may be personal, but I have always appreciated artists that take their time, effort and immense sacrifice to actually come up with an album, producing the songs and then writing the lyrics, to actually producing the whole concept and artwork. That’s why I am a big fan of the likes of Epik High, Paloalto, Fana and more. It may take them years to actually release an album, left alone a single, but when they do, they make sure, it’s worth your listen, your money, your time. With lyrics that talk not just about your usual shit, girls, love, money, booze, self-proclamation, and with music that actually show growth both as an artist and musician, they make the waiting game worthwhile.
Being a fan of the scene since 2010, I can say that the reason that I was really hooked to it was because of the ability of the artists I’ve heard to stay in my head. And after 7 years, I can still assure you that they are still embedded in my head. With the new rappers emerging, I can name a few that I like because of their style, their raps, their songs. But honestly, how do I remember them? One-hit wonders, some of them are. It’s not bad. Sometimes, you just have to find that timing and once you get it, once you’ve found that attention, it’s great to follow it up. But what’s next?
Thriving on the scene’s current popularity is a good thing for both the artists and the audience. But when the scene gets too crowded, for a very minimal number of audience, the competition to stay remembered. ANd if artists continuously try to water-down hiphop to stay “lit”, then I don’t think we’ll be seeing some proper and well-written material in the next few years to come.