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5 K-R&B Artists Changing the Korean Music Industry

When we think of Korean music, it’s likely that we’d only consider K-pop artists like BTS to be the sole heir to the throne. Just like in the US, pop music is only the tip of the iceberg. In the past decade, Korean R&B has emerged a soulful hero on the charts. Here are five artists to jam to this summer:

Dean

When it comes to alternative Korean music, Dean always emerges a top contender on the charts. He began his career at the age of 16, collaborating with popular rapper Keith Ape. By the age of 20, Dean was already writing and producing songs for some of K-pop’s biggest names, like EXO and VIXX. Now, he has made two full-length albums that feature big-name artists including Anderson Paak and Mila J. His sound is comparable to Frank Ocean’s, in that it’s smooth and easy to vibe to, complimented by impressive R&B vocals and memorable production.

OFFONOFF

OFFONOFF is a duo consisting of producer and rappers OChannel and Colde. They got their start on SoundCloud and were discovered by the illustrious music company, YG, to whom they are now signed. Since they’re from the underground rap scene in South Korea, not much is known about the duo, other than the music they release. Similar to Dean’s sound, the duo relies on a simple but intriguing production, complimented by their abilities to rap and sing. Overall, the mysterious duo has made a name for themselves in Korean music.

Heize

Singer and rapper Heize says that her stage name originates from the German language. “Heize” meaning “to make something hot”. When listening to her music, the name makes a lot of sense. Moving to Seoul from her hometown of Daegu, the singer worked three jobs at a time to afford rent and music production for her songs. Eventually, her hard work paid off, as she was featured on the popular Korean television show “Unpretty Rapstar”, where she competed with other female rappers in Korea. Though Heize did not emerge victorious in the show, her music might say otherwise. Heize makes music that’s perfect for a late-night drive to anywhere. She’s a great singer and an even better rapper and has created the success she has all by herself.

Eyedi

For me, a song is brought from good to great simply by having interesting production. In every one of Eyedi’s songs, the production becomes its own voice. The singer was originally training to be in a K-pop girl group when she decided it was best to go solo. After this decision, she began releasing her original songs, all of which carry heavy 80’s influences throughout. Eyedi’s music is very synth heavy and is all complimented with retro music videos that could be their own mini-movies. While Eyedi doesn’t necessarily have the popularity of Heize or Dean right now, she certainly has the skill to achieve mass popularity- sooner than we think.

Crush

Dubbed “K-pop’s prince of R&B”, Crush has made waves in the Korean music industry. Since first releasing music in 2014, Crush has gone on to perform at festivals like SXSW and has collaborated with many popular Korean artists. Crush has a pretty distinct sound, similar to Eyedi’s, as they both put a lot of effort into the production that backs their music. Contrary to Eyedi, though, Crush focuses on a more modern sound. Crush has found his niche in the fine line between pop and R&B, as all his songs are catchy and easy to listen to, while also being finely tuned and jazzy. Though there is not known about Crush himself, he has made it clear that he is not afraid to take risks musically.

by Emilie Renteria
Feature image by CJ E&M