Music Video Anatomy is something I’ve been considering for a few weeks now especially in the context of my ongoing project on anti/blackness in Korean pop and hip hop. I tweet a lot of music video links during the day and I wanted to collect some of my thoughts and music recs somewhere more organized than that site. Hence this new recurring feature. It won’t all be modern Korean pop/hip hop – I have been revisiting older pop and hip hop here in the US – but it’ll skew heavily towards that!
Title: Born Hater
Artist: Epik High featuring Beenzino, Verbal Jint, MINO (Winner), Bobby (iKON), and B.I
Setting: The MV set for “Born Hater” is largely a bathroom? Shot in a vertical shot that really looks great on my phone but uh… abysmal everywhere else, it eschews familiar and almost traditional settings in order to make its point. In fact, in the making film, DJ Tukutz says that:
“Because the music video of “Born Hater” carries stories of people who don’t like us, it goes well with the toilet setting that symbolizes our need to eliminate and excrete.”
Sound: “Born Hater” is a hip hop standard diss-track where all of the artists involved clap back at the haters that’ve been dogging them across their respective careers. You’d think that a song like this would raise warning flags for me – as many diss tracks rely heavily on AAVE in order to get their very pointed point across.
Style: Surprisingly, I don’t actually think the artists across “Born Hater” are relying on familiar overt and obnoxious “hood cosplay” to get the point across that they are in fact “real rappers” to be taken seriously. They’re all comfortable, casual, and settled in their skins as rappers and in the roles that they’re playing across the video. (Also, if like me, you saw the brown skinned woman in the video and worried that this was another case similar to occasional blackfishing IG baddie h__1won, it apparently is not!)
I love a good diss track and that’s exactly what “Born Hater” is. Rather than solely zero in on their peers in the way and starting shit through that, it’s all about HATERS.
All of the rappers in this song tackle their haters and clap back at wrongly held perceptions that folks have about them.
Tablo references the scandal that revolved around Korean fans not believing that he had a degree from Stanford – which escalated to a large amount of harassment that threatened his wellbeing and his career.
Beenzino brings up how people think his success comes from his looks and pushes back against wannabe critics that they think they know him because they might know shit. Verbal Jint’s approach to the haters is to view them as pests that should be smacked down (he references mosquitos and their annoying buzzing!)
Mithra Jin makes it clear that he’s consistent as hell, rapping that:
My friends are already all rap stars
But I’m like the floating oil in between
When they start naming not the best but the worst
My name is always on the top 10
Mino and Bobby are both boy group members in addition to being rappers outside of their respective groups and you know from either past experience or pieces like mine about rappers’ POV on idol rappers, that shit isn’t easy. In Mino’s verse he’s pushing back against the assumptions and showing his growth from idol rapper to “real” rapper outside of WINNER, ending his verse by letting his haters know that, “Before you criticize, look into the mirror/If I’m on TV, then just turn it off”. Bobby’s verse is similar because he too is dealing with that push and pull of being idol/rapper where those two careers are seen as directly opposite one another, but he focuses more on how his success makes HIS haters anxious!
B.I in the making film cutely says that “I don’t hate anyone. I learned that I shouldn’t hate people from [my] mom, but his lyrics (used as a kind of chorus) are all about the fact that no matter what, he is better than his haters. They’re cowards spending time coming for him and he’s doing is his best. (Super relatable if you know the year I’ve had!)
In the end, I like “Born Hater” because it’s clear catharsis for all of the rappers involved because they’ve all had to reckon with valid and nonsensical hate because of who they are (idol/rapper) or who other people thought they were (boujee ass Beenzino, a faker for Tablo, etc).