Hip-hop artists come together to create something new in Korea

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Photos by: Blair Kitchner and Bryan Watkins
Photos by: Blair Kitchner and Bryan Watkins

Hip-hop artists come together to create something new in Korea

by: Emma Kalka | .
Groove Korea | .
published: February 03, 2017

Collaborations are certainly nothing new in music, even in the Korean music industry. But in a scene dominated by K-pop, some of the most influential members of the indie rock and underground hip-hop scenes have decided to work together to create something new and unique. And to change any preconceived notions the public may have about rock and hip-hop.

Rock and hip-hop have been considered an unusual combination in Korea, according to rapper MC Meta, one half of duo Garion and one of the leaders of the Snowball Project. He said that though he himself was a fan of rock, often in the indie music scene, people were either rock or hip-hop and there wasn’t much overlap.

“A lot of people were thinking that a long time ago, and we want to change that thought and make a new vibe and new songs. Like a snowball, we want to bring in many other artists and make this project big so a lot of people will listen,” he emphasized.

Groove Music shoot-6514The seed for the idea was planted about four years ago when Garion performed in the same concert with band Harry Big Button. Band leader Lee Sung-soo met with MC Meta and the two began mulling over the idea for a rock and hip-hop collaboration similar to the soundtrack for movie Judgment Night from the 90s.

But it wasn’t until last year that the two started making concrete plans. They named it the Snowball Project with the idea that it would be ongoing and they would pick up more and more artists as time passed.

Garion is considered first generation hip-hop and Lee has “been around here a long time,” which he said helped push the two to start the project. They have a responsibility as artists, Lee said, to create something different and unique.

“We are creating every day, not only our own project or individual project,” he said. “But we want to expand things together. Like a snowball – we are just rolling small snowballs off the top of the mountain and it just gets bigger and bigger.”

Like a snowball – we are just rolling small snowballs off the top of the mountain and it just gets bigger and bigger. – Lee Sung-soo, vocalist/guitarist for Harry Big Button

So far there are three teams officially on board – Garion and Harry Big Button, Choi Sam and Danpyunsan and the Sailors, and finally P-Type and Crying Nut. Lee said they plan to add another two teams by the end of the year and more following that. Lee recruits the bands while MC Meta recruits the rappers.

The first track released was Garion and Harry Big Button called “Make My Day.” It featured a heavy rock sound with Garion rapping the verses and Lee singing the chorus. The two are planning to release a second track soon called “Dope Days,” which will feature more hip-hop elements, with MC Meta joking that it may be trap.

The second track released was “Hasta” by Choi Sam and Danpyunsan and the Sailors. The rapper and Jang Do-hyuk, percussionist for the band, said they were honored to take part and work with artists they have long respected. Choi said she didn’t hesitate when MC Meta asked her, looking forward to collaborating with artists that she had only even seen on TV or the internet.

Jang said, after Lee suggested the band collaborate with Choi, he checked out her music and immediately thought it would be a good pairing. “It turns out it was a much more spectacular grouping than we anticipated. Again, it’s an honor and I’m grateful that we were able to put such a great track together,” he added.

Choi said the process was very much a collaboration, with the band creating music that reflected her feelings at the time – anger – and her writing the lyrics. They then came together and discussed the track, and recorded it once everyone was happy with the result.

Jang continued that he studied hip-hop and really thought about how to compose music that would blend well with rapping. He put in a lot of looping, but kept a lot of the band’s color.

Choi said that it was a completely different experience then what she had expected.

“Hip-hop and rock, it’s not a common collaboration in Korea, but especially with a woman rapper collaborating in the project, it’s more extraordinary,” she said.

Hip-hop and rock, it’s not a common collaboration in Korea, but especially with a woman rapper collaborating in the project, it’s more extraordinary. – Choi Sam, rapper

The next track to be released is “Outsider” featuring legendary rapper P-Type with equally legendary punk band Crying Nut.  The band provided instrumentals for Mighty Mouth in the past, but this is the first true collaboration with a hip-hop artist that they’ve done.

“P-Type is very heavy,” bassist Han Kyung-rok admitted. “When we meet together to discuss the track we want to… while beatmaking and playing with our instruments, we want to make the collaboration together so we have a higher quality song.”

Accordion player and keyboardist Kim In-soo said so far they have been able to collaborate quite well.

Groove Music shoot--2“While discussing everything with P-Type, it was a relief that he had some similar ideas as us. We were thinking about the lyrics while composing, so going back to writing everything, there is a good bond,” Kim said.

Lee said next they hope to bring rapper NUCK on board. He added that any rapper or band is welcomed to join, “Anyone that’s good,” he said with a smile.

He continued that Harry Big Button hopes to make tracks with other hip-hop artists within the project, as do the other bands. At the moment, he and MC Meta are already thinking ahead to a third track together – one that hopefully blends hip-hop and rock into something new that transcends any particular genre.

As for what comes next, anything is possible. They plan to release a Snowball Project album and eventually hold a concert. On December 1, they will perform on KBS Chuncheon’s “All That Music” program, which will be their first official performance. MC Meta joked that perhaps if they do a festival in the future, they could convince some of the groups on “Judgment Night” to come perform as well.

And as MC Meta and Lee said, they only hope that as the project continues, like a snowball, it will only get bigger.

“We want to continuously make more tracks,” Crying Nut bassist Han added. “Keep going! Rock and roll!”

To keep up with upcoming releases and shows by the Snowball Project, follow their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/snowballprojects/posts/?ref=page_internal.

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