Sunday, August 24, 2014

50 Most Influential K-pop Artists: 10. Drunken Tiger

[Series Index]

We are finally in the top ten countdown! Because the top ten musicians usually show a huge spectrum of music that is not sufficiently covered by a single "representative song," TK added a "Further Listening" section at the bottom to give additional examples of the artist's work.

10. Drunken Tiger

Years of Activity: 1999-present 

Tiger JK - rap (1999-present)
DJ Shine - rap (1999-2004)
Roscoe Umali - rap (2000-2003)
Micki Eyez - rap (2000-2003)
DJ James Jhig - rap (2000-2003)

Year of the Tiger (1999)
The Great Birth [위대한 탄생] (2000)
The Legend of (2001)
Roots [뿌리] (2003)
One is not a Lonely Word (2004)
1945 Liberation [1945 해방] (2005)
Sky is the Limit (2007)
Feel Ghood Muzik (2009)
Let's Live (The Cure) [살자 (The Cure)] (2013)

Representative Song:  You Think You Know Hip Hop? [너희가 힙합을 아느냐] from Year of the Tiger

(Note:  Lines in blue is in English in the original song.)

너희가 힙합을 아느냐
You Think You Know Hip Hop?

음악 같지 않은 음악을 이젠 모두 다 집어치워 버려야해
Music that is not worth being called "music" has to be all scrapped
우리가 너희들 모두의 귀를 확실하게 바꿔줄께 기다려
We will change all of your ears, just wait

하하 참으로 놀라와 진짜인 우리가 돌아와
Ha ha, truly a surprise, we are real and we have returned
조금씩 너희가 있는 곳에 서서히 올라가
Little by little, we will slowly climb up to where you are
거기 가짜 거기 있어봤자
You there, posers, no point standing there
진짜를 보여줄께 우리가 거기 닿자마자
We will show you what's real as soon as we get there
세상 이상 너무나도 괴상
World is strange, so very weird
너희가 최고라니 그건 너무 환상
You're supposed to be the best? That's too much of a fantasy
우리는 타이거 또한 차원의 차이가 너무 나는 바로 우린
We are Tiger; we are in a different dimension, we are
What! 드렁큰 타이거
What! Drunken Tiger

내 마음에 가득 차있는 나만의 슬픔
The sorrow that completely fills my heart
두 뺨에 타고 흐르는 내 눈물의 의미 너는 알고 있니
Do you know the meaning of my tears, streaming down my cheeks
그렇게 그렇게 힘들고 지쳐 외로워도
Although I'm tired, exhausted and lonely
너희들을 위해 진정한 힙합을 위한 너희들을 위해
For you, for you who stand for true hip hop
나는 꿋꿋이 버텨나가 그렇게 이겨나가
I stand tall, that's how I persevere
한 발 한 발 조금 더 용기를 내 영원한 힙합을 위해서
Step after step, summon a bit more courage for my eternal hip hop
나는 DJ Shine, 영원한 시인 (Number 1 Korean)
I am DJ Shine, the eternal poet (Number 1 Korean)

눈을 감아 들어봐 온몸으로 느껴진 전율
Close your eyes and listen; the chills that travel down your whole body
주는대로 받아 먹는 건 이쯤에서 그만두어야 해
Time to stop feeding off of what is given to you

You and you W-A-C-K who? 
You and you W-A-C-K who?
You and you W-A-C-K who?
Come back home, see me tapping your boo 

하나 같이 꼭두각시
Everyone is a puppet
모두 같은 줄에 매달려서 춤을 추는 슬픈 삐에로
A sad marionette that dances, all hanging on the same strings
이대로 그냥 갈순 없어 슬픈 미래로
We can't just keep marching into this pathetic future
술 취한 호랑이 두 마리 We be coming from ghetto
Two drunken tigers, We be coming from ghetto
진실만 말하는 거리의 시인들
Poets of the streets who only speak the truth
하지만 너의 편견에 빠진 우리 아이들
But our children who is trapped in your bias
인생의 아픔 기쁨 모두 다 들어봐야 해
We gotta listen to all the life's pain and joy
가식으로 엉킨 세상 풀어줘야 해
We gotta untangle the word twisted with hypocrisy

나는 랩퍼 랩퍼
I'm a rapper, rapper
내가 지금까지 살아오고 살아왔던 얘기들을
The stories of how I have lived and lived until now
나는 랩으로 너희들에게 얘기하려 해
I wish to tell you with this rap
이젠 날 지켜주는 건 진정한 힙합의 무대
Now what protects me is the stage of true hip hop
그리고 언제나 밝은 웃음으로 날 반겨주는 사람과 사람들
And the people and the people who always greet me with bright smiles
이제부터 마이크로폰에 나의 영혼을 나의 열정을 남김없이 쏟으리
Now I will give all my soul and passion into the microphone
그리고 진정한 랩퍼가 되리
And I will be a true rapper

Put your hands up 
Put your hands up
All the players in the house put your hands up 
Put your hands up 
Put your hands up
All my Crown-sipping niggas put your hands up
Intoxicated Tiger dropping topics
Hypnotize in illogical melodic sonic, boom up your optic 
Sippin' gin without a tonic, under the disco light I rocked it
Why? It ain't no optical illusion, it's only logic

갑자기 나타나 반짝하고 빛나다가 사라져 버리는 그런 이들과 비교하지마
Don't compare us with some shiny flash that suddenly appears then disappears
우리에게 와 내 앞으로 와
Come to us, get in front of us
힙합을 사랑한다면 다같이 취해봐
If you love hip hop, let's all get drunk

눈을 감아 들어봐 온몸으로 느껴진 전율
Close your eyes and listen; the chills that travel down your whole body
주는대로 받아 먹는 건 이쯤에서 그만두어야 해
Time to stop feeding off of what is given to you
음악 같지 않은 음악을 이젠 모두 다 집어치워 버려야해
Music that is not worth being called "music" has to be all scrapped
우리가 너희들 모두의 귀를 확실하게 바꿔줄께 기다려
We will change all of your ears, just wait

In 15 words or less:  Undisputed king Korean hip hop (they still call him Tiger you fucking haterz)

Maybe they should should be ranked higher because...  Made hip hop a mainstream genre. What more is necessary?

Maybe they should be ranked lower because...  At the end of the day, how big is hip hop (in its purest form) in Korea?

Why is this artist important?
Development of Korean hip hop is a fascinating story that deserves a closer chronicling. It is a modern case study of how an utterly foreign musical genre spread, took root, and eventually integrated itself into an essential part of the local pop music scene. This process, of course, did not happen by itself. Korean hip hop can be considered a forest, with many a skilled hand that planted, tended and lovingly nurtured each tree. And the credit to the tallest, most majestic tree goes to Tiger JK and Drunken Tiger.

The history of hip hop in Korea arguably dates back to 1989, when a mid-major singer named Hong Seo-beom [홍서범] included a rap track in his album. However, it would take a decade before Korean pop musicians to produce any music that the international audience would recognize as hip hop. The hip hop-esque music from the transitional period of 1990s is sometimes referred to as "rap dance," a genre that is still alive and well in Korea. "Rap dance" is chiefly a dance number, of which varying portions are dedicated to rapping. (This format can easily be seen in the contemporary K-pop idol music.) Although rap dance did much to introduce the Korean audience to hip hop, it still had some distance from hiphop proper, characterized by the rhyme and flow of mostly spoken words over rhythmic beats.

Drunken Tiger was the group that bridged that gap. Tiger JK grew up in Miami and Los Angeles; DJ Shine, New York and Los Angeles. Having cut their musical teeth during the hip hop's "golden age," the two Korean American youngsters were eager to flash their authenticity in the music scene that, in their view, peddled dance music with a false label of hip hop. The provocative title song said it all: "You Think You Know Hip Hop" [너희가 힙합을 아느냐].

Sure, the early attempts were often cringe-inducing in their cheesiness. Drunken Tiger's early emulation of American black culture frequently fell flat. It would take years, and many interceding talents such as Verbal Jint and Leessang, for Korean hip hop to completely overcome the language barrier and create a rhyme and flow in the Korean language--a critical development that finally allowed Korean hip hop to convey a new level of authentic emotion. 

But why does any of that matter? For a very long time, Drunken Tiger was the only K-pop hip hop artist who refused to compromise, releasing album after album filled only with rap rather than taking the easy path of rap dance. It is an overstatement to say that Drunken Tiger single-handedly made hip hop mainstream in Korea. But they did raise a forest from what seemed to be a hostile, infertile land--a feat that required no less fearlessness than any of their American counterparts.

Interesting trivia:  Tiger JK comes from a storied musical heritage. Tiger JK's father Seo Byeong-hu [서병후] is considered Korea's first pop music critic. The elder Seo founded Pops Koreana, Korea's first pop music magazine. He was also the Korea correspondent for the Billboard magazine. Tiger JK's mother Kim Seong-ae [김성애] was a leader of a band called the Wild Cats. Tiger JK then married Yoon Mirae [윤미래], the best female rapper in Korea's rap scene.

Further Listening:  Observe Drunken Tiger's evolution into incorporating parallel rhyming with both Korean and English by listening to Die Legend 2, from Feel Ghood Muzik.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I just stepped into a time machine, back to middle school. Drunken Tiger, Nostalgia Overload~

  2. That is a great piece of music. I've avoided American hip hop and rap because the culture is so relentlessly misogynistic, but I'm finding that a lot of Korean hip hop is more palatable. Of course, it helps if you don't understand the words. I talk to a variety of people about music, ranging from American hip hop recording studio owners to the 30-something Chinese men in my apartment complex, and when I say "K-pop" the first response they have is "Drunken Tiger!" Clearly Tiger has left an international mark on the scene.

  3. Ugh, these guys always struck me as colossal posers. 'Tiger JK' didn't grow up in Los Angeles- he lived in Beverly Hills, with everything that implies. I once spent a long night drinking with DJ Shine/Mark in Seoul and he acted like a complete tool. The worst stereotype of a middle to upper middle class kid who tries to act hard (although his friends from college said he wasn't bad when he was at SUNY Albany). He ended up challenging obsequious waiters at a Gangnam club to fight (real tough), knocking several hundred dollars worth of alcohol and food from our table, and then basically passing out. I should've written 'tool' on his forehead with a sharpie.


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