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Get to know the Korean artists turning up at SXSW 2018 and pull up

If you’re going to be attending SXSW 2018, you should drop by Korea’s Spotlight showcase to see some dope performances by these Korean artists.

Formerly know as K-Pop Night Out, Korea’s Spotlight is an annual showcases of talented Korean artists at SXSW.

Going on its sixth year, this rendition will feature showcases from R&B singer Crush, Pop star Lee Hi, indie band Hyukoh, k-pop group KARD, rapper DPR Live, electronic vocalist CIFIKA, and indie-rock Say Sue ME.

Whatever genre of music you’re a fan of, you’ll get to enjoy it at Korea’s Spotlight which takes place Friday, March 16th at the Belmont.


Crush, 24, is a R&B/hip-hop singer signed under Amoeba Culture, owned by Korean hip-hop duo, Gaeko and Choiza. He has an undeniably unique voice that draws the listener in. He’s also a member of the hip-hop crews Fanxy Child, Club Eskimo, and VV:D. In South Korea, many of the hip-hop artists are part of a larger “crew.”

These artists come together to collaborate and make projects together.

Crush made his debut with the single “Sometimes” in 2014. He then came out with the banger “Hug Me”, featuring rapper Gaeko. He then released his Crush on You album in June 2014. Then his Wanderlust EP October 2016.

His voice is also known in the TV industry in South Korea because he went on to record the OST (original soundtrack) “Beautiful” for one of the biggest TV shows (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God) that came out in 2016.

But he is popularly known now to be part of the Fanxy Child crew. Last year was a good one for them with a couple of their tracks  (“Fanxy Child”, “Paradise”, and “Bermuda Triangle”) becoming big hits.

The members are currently the “cool kidz” in Korea hip-hop. Crush always puts on a show, he’s definitely one to catch at SXSW.

“Sometimes” (feat. Gaeko)

“Fanxy Child” (Zico Feat. Crush, Dean & Penomeco)

“Bermuda Triangle” (Zico Feat. Crush & Dean)

Lee Hi

Lee Hi, 21, is a singer-songwriter signed to YG Entertainment, a record label that houses one of the biggest K-Pop groups Big Bang.

Lee Hi has a husky, yet soulful voice that almost seems bigger than her. In 2012, she became known after she won the runner-up of K-Pop Star Season 1. 

She released her debut single “1, 2, 3, 4”  afterwards and it went on to be number 1 on the Gaon Digital Chart. She released the single “Rose” the following year. This was also a big follow up to her first single. Lee Hi dropped her EP First Love, pt.1 2013. Then the Seoulite EP in 2016.

Her voice can’t be missed, even on collaborations with industry vets like rap group EPIK HIGH, rapper DOK2, and producer Code Kunst. She also recorded an OST for the 2016 TV show Moonlovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.

I would highly encourage anyone to check out her stage at SXSW because she’s a delight to watch and she will definitely give you a show.

She’s never the one to lack stage presence or put out a weak show, which you can tell from all her live performances.

“1, 2, 3, 4”


Hyukoh is an indie rock quartet. They are signed to the independent sub-label HIGHGRND. They debuted with their 20 EP in 2014. But they were only really known in the underground music scene.

They blew up in Korea when they participated in the variety show Infinite Challenge Summer Music Festival. Members of Hyukoh are known for their quietness and keeping things simple.

Their one-word responses especially of the leader Oh Hyuk were refreshing to the audience, in contrast to the talkative hosts of the show.

After the show, their mini-second album 22 was in the top ten Billboard World Albums Chart 2015.“Wi Ing Wi Ing” (20) and “Comes and Goes” (22) are two of their most popular songs.

In November 2015, Oh Hyuk recorded an OST for the hit drama Reply 1988. The band has gone on to appear on festivals in Beijing and Shanghai. Their first full length album 23 was released April 2017.

They had their North America tour across seven cities last year. Even if you’re not a fan of indie rock, you should check them out at SXSW. Oh Hyuk’s voice is surprisingly captivating. You might just become a fan afterwards. 

“Comes and Goes”


Kard is a four-member K-Pop group signed to DSP Media. It consists of two women, Ji woo and Somin, and two men, B.M. and J.Seph.  

Before their official debut, they released their reggaeton-influenced singles “Oh Nana”, “Don’t Recall”, and “Rumor”, which all peaked within the top 10 of Billboard World Charts.

Then they made their official debut in Korea with the first EP Hola Hola July 2017.

You don’t get to see a lot of co-ed groups in South Korea. But this group has been able to maintain their success and large fan base within and outside of South Korea since their 2017 debut.

Before their official debut in South Korea, they toured the States and Latin America. They also performed at Kcon (annual Korean wave convention held around the world) USA 2017.

So if you’ve never heard or watched a K-Pop group, check them out at SXSW. They are definitely a good group for you to get introduced into the world of K-Pop.

“Don’t Recall”

South Korean rap is lit: 10 of the hottest songs from ‘SMTM’

If you have never heard about South Korean rap, let me be the one to introduce you to a different world.

Show Me the Money (SMTM) is a rap competition show on MNET in South Korea.

Rappers (rookie and experienced) compete with each other as they go through rounds of different competitions until one rapper is crowned the winner.

The rappers are judged by a team of producers or experienced rappers who are like mentors on the show. Other than the fame some rappers get after the show airs, the winner goes home with about $100,000 and an American muscle car.

Snoop Dogg (season 4), Timbaland (season 5), and Swizz Beatz (season 6) have appeared as guest judges on SMTM.

A very nice team of volunteers (@Khiphop Subs) subtitle the show in English a week after it airs in Korea. So many of us poor souls that are not fluent in Korean are able to watch and fully appreciate the show.

SMTM actually has a large following outside of Korea. 49,000-plus people are following the Facebook community page of K hip-hop and that number is growing everyday.

But SMTM is a very controversial show when it comes to hip-hop discourse in Korea. Since it began, this show has caused a divide among rappers in Korea.

Some rappers have dissed other artists about the show and said they would never go on the show… but still ended up going on SMTM. Some rappers feel like it’s an insult to the hip-hop culture and it’s all for TV ratings.

So yes, SMTM producers or editors love DRAMA. I think they sometimes forget this is a rap competition and not a Korean soap opera.

It’s no wonder many rappers have called them “the devil.” These producers love to make unnecessary dramas among the rappers that sometimes frustrate the viewers. But after a couple of seasons, you get used to their “evil” editing.

But one thing that can’t be denied is that SMTM has pushed some underground rappers or rookies into the limelight.

SMTM just wrapped its sixth season a few months ago. And it definitely brought producers and rappers together that would have never had the opportunity to work side by side. Most importantly, it has given us, the fans, some great tracks.

In no particular order, these are few of my favorite tracks and performances from SMTM thus far:

SMTM6 – “Producer Cypher”

First of all, let me introduce to you the Season 6 producers/mentors.

This was the first time in all of the seasons that SMTM made the producers have a cypher before the season started. But that was because the legendary rappers Tiger JK, Bizzy, and Dynamic Duo finally came on the show.

Tiger JK is like the “grandfather” of Korean hip hop. He’s known as a prominent figure that helped push hip-hop into the mainstream.

SMTM6: Hanhae“Lobby” (feat. Dynamicduo, ChungHa, & Muzie)

For this great performance (yes, I’m a big fan of these rappers) from season 6, two of the greatest Korean producer and rapper duos came together for their rapper Hanhae.

Dynamic Duo already have this undeniable color but Hanhae’s flow on this track was something else.  He was very comfortable and in his element.

Of course, they brought the musician Muzie to open the show. It seemed like the performance had “Uptown Funk” influence. Just watch it below and see.

SMTM6: Junoflo – “Eyes On Me” (feat. G. Soul)

This season 6’s performance was from West Coast’s own Junoflo. He definitely always has to remind you that he’s from the West Coast.

Junoflo came back again in season 6 after he lost in a neck and neck battle against a rapper named Hash Swan in season 5.

For this semi finals track, he enlisted one of my favorite R&B voices, G-soul.

SMTM6: JaMezz – “Birthday” (feat. Jay Park & Dok2)

Two producers Jay Park and Dok2 join one of their rappers, JaMezz for this season 6 party track! This is a straight party jam, which is always expected from both Jay Park and Dok2. You can’t talk about South Korean rap without talking about Dok2 (Gonzo).

He’s one of the most recognized rappers and co-owner of a major hip-hop label, Illionaire. And of course, Jay Park is a well-known and a very talented rapper-singer and co-owner of hip-hop labels (AOMG and HighrMusic).

SMTM4: Team ZicoXPaloalto – “Turtle Ship”

The “Turtle Ship” track was originally done by the producer Paloalto. His rappers decided to do another remix of the track for their team battle track mission.

This was such an unexpectedly lit performance! It has a crazy hook that kind of forces you to be hyped, the energy from the four rappers was just through the roof. I think some of the producers forgot that they were not hyping their own teammates.

SMTM6: Nucksal & Woochan – “Brrr Get$” (feat. Don Mills)

Another season 6’s favorite comes from a team of “mother and son”. Actually, a 12-year-old Woochan and 30-year-old Nucksal.

This little boy Woochan is a monster. He’s the youngest rapper through all of the seasons thus far and he held his own throughout the show although he was eliminated after the semifinals.

But this performance was FIREEE! Nucksal’s label mate, Don Mills was the feature rapper on this track.

SMTM5: Team Simon D & Gray – “Who You?”

Gray is one hell of a producer. This was one of the hottest songs of season 5. This track was pure FIREE!

This season 5 Team stage performance was almost great, but two of the rappers forgot their lyrics (c’mon guys, you had one job) so I’m posting the studio performance instead. It’s just as hot as the stage performance. Everyone came to have fun on this track.

SMTM5: Team Dok2 & The Quiett – “Air DoTheQ”

When the first rapper, Kim Hyo Eun walked out, I knew this track was going to be flames. His tone is so damn good!

The rappers on this track couldn’t be more different from each other in tone and style. But each brought their color to this track.

I mean the golden voice of Flowsik ended the track. Just watch.

SMTM6: Hanhae – “One Sun” (feat. Shin Yong Jae)

I have to post another track by the rapper Hanhae again. He did unbelievably well in Season 6 even though he didn’t win. Hanhae was in SMTM4 but he was eliminated early.

It didn’t help that he was involved in a controversy that made him get some heat from Koreans. His SMTM6 comeback was a true redemption. He really got to show his potential and growth as a rapper.

SMTM5: Special Stage – “Dokkaebi” feat. Flowsik, Hash Swan, Boi B, Woo Taewoon, and G2

I’m going to end the list with this group performance at the finals. SMTM sometimes have some previously-eliminated rappers do a special track at the finals.

This was that track for the season 5 finals. What’s not to love when there’s a catchy hook and three of my favorites on the same track?

FYI, Dokkaebi is known as Korean goblin.