Duh-ruhnken Tiger

A while back I made a post about what Korean punk music I was listening too, and now it’s time to appreciate another genre: Korean hip hop.


This is Drunken Tiger.

Not only does he have an awesome band name and killer abs, but he’s also a bit of a badass. According to wikipedia, Drunken Tiger’s Korean debut in 1998 was controversial due to its sexy and anti-establishment lyrics. In 2000, he was under criminal investigation for drugs which led to being banned from public performances for 2 years.

But many of his current songs aren’t very controversial at all.

From “Monster”:

Crazy jiujitsu but a hapkido flow
You only throwin hands playin kai-bai-bo

Hapkido (합기도): a traditional Korean martial art that uses weapons like swords and short sticks.
kai-bai-bo: Korean for rock-paper-scissors, ridiculously popular with people of all ages to settle any manner of disputes. Rapping about rock-paper-scissors may seem strange, but anyone who has lived in Korea can tell you it really is that popular over here.

Many of his lyrics are about Korean culture:

Make hits, brung jewels that style perfects
Great swift like the Hangul alphabet
The chosen career, call me king Sejong

Sejong the Great: founder of hangul (the Korean alphabet) and one of the country’s most respected historical figures.

These excerpts are from the English version of “Monster.” Drunken Tiger grew up in Korea and LA and can rap in two languages. I can’t even rap in one, so I find that quite impressive.

“Because I’m a man”

Anyone’s whose spent some time in Korea would appreciate these lyrics:

some squid, red pepper paste, and
11 and 1/2 shots of alcohol
take away the pain
Some hot kimchi soup calms me down from a tough day

Talks about taking shots of soju (one shot (one shot)) and erasing all previous troubles in a friendship, no more betrayal

Kimchi and soju and red pepper paste and squid? All of the finest of Korean cuisine together like that almost seems like a cliche, and I’m not really sure if it’s celebrating the culture or poking fun at it. Although the “one shot! one shot!” mention seems to signal towards the latter. (For those not in the know and can’t figure it out, “one shot” would be shooting or chugging your drink, and is a common repetition among groups of drinking Koreans.) But whatever the intent, I can appreciate his lyrics because they remind me of all my good times English teaching in Korea.

Drunken Tiger

He’s got an English language site, check it out!

EPIK HIGH – Wannabe

EPIK High is my other favorite Korean hip hop group. Their song “Wannabe” criticizes the conformity among KPop bands and their listeners, and the video references the famous Korean horror movie The Host – both things I can appreciate.

The Host

They’ve apparently been on hiatus since 2009 when DJ Tukutz had to serve his mandatory military service. Another member, Mithra Jin, is also in the military until 2012. That compulsory military service can really get in the way of your plans, Rain would know.

If you’d like to see the conclusion of the drama from that first video, just watch this video for the song “Trot + high technology:”

Trot (pronounced “tuh-rot-tuh”) is the oldest form of Korean pop music, developed around WWII (wikipedia). It is traditionally sung by a woman in a sparkly dress and appreciated by ajummas at small festivals and on TV.

The lyric translation I found over here reminds me of many of my visits to noraebangs, with older people who always tend to bust out a super emotional pop number. I can only assume what they’re singing about reflects this sentiment:

my life crying with one glass of alcohol and smiling with one tune
my trot
no matter how much they look down at you or look straight at you
they’re all the same when they’re drunk waves in the stomach
every time they stir riding the glass
legs and arms swaggering holding onto the mic
ddan ddaraddaraddaddadada to the trot rhythm

now – chachacha row that boat jjakjjakjjak
as if you’re wearing sparkly clothes lalala
the intonation is shaky just like my lifestyle

my image reflected in the soju glass is pitiful and bleak
who’ll understand my heart
sing it out loud the life getting soaked in the booze

By the way, this is trot:

Soju Fest + DJ DOC

Ulsan University’s spring festival – nicknamed “soju fest” for obvious reasons – mostly caught my attention when I heard DJ DOC was playing. I haven’t particularly taken to K-pop in my time in Korea, although it’s always fun to dance to in the clubs, especially in comparison to techno. But there are a couple K-pop songs that I’ve really come to like, mostly because they are absolutely inescapable every time I leave my apartment. One of these songs – the most omnipresent song in the entire country for the past 8 months – is by DJ DOC. It seemed only fitting that this would be my first K-Pop concert.

The festival was mostly tents sponsored by different university groups, serving food and alcohol, crammed with as many plastic tables and chairs as could fit without entirely obstructing the walkways. By the time I got there late Friday evening, every single chair was taken – the campus was swarming with young people there to see DJ DOC (or maybe just looking to drink outside on a nice spring evening).

Maybe it’s my American background, but I would assume crowded mess of drinking college students + no open-containers-in-public laws = mass chaos, riots, fights, etc etc etc. Yet everything was completely civil and orderly. Why?? Koreans certainly know how to party – I’ve learned that from going out with my co-workers, and seeing many a Korean black-out drunk after a night at the bar. And University is the time they can finally let loose after 18 years of non-stop cramming through high school. Ulsan University also isn’t the most prestigious of universities, so I’m sure the students there are partying. And they can all legally drink, anything, where ever they please. In my mind, all of these things should add up to mass chaos. But the worst I saw was a few people who had had too much drink stumbling out with the help of some friends after the concert. Which is nothing, really. I was impressed.

As for DJ DOC – they were great fun, and I very much enjoyed boogieing to some KPop in a giant crowd of university students. The stage was set up on a big astroturf soccer field, which had been filled with plastic lawn chairs. I was stuck behind the people standing on their lawn chairs. Which was a bit unfortunate, as I couldn’t see, but DJ DOC didn’t seem like much to see – they don’t really impress me with their style or anything.

Here is the DJ DOC song. It’s pretty catchy – watch out!