For Yoongi’s birthday, I was going to do a bonus podcast episode all about Yoongi’s best verses/songs (to me). Think about something in the style of the MOTS7 or D-2 reviews but gushier – as the D-2 review did have some criticism that no longer applies. I’m feeling a bit ill and couldn’t do the podcast editing and recording in a timely manner, but I wanted to do this anyway.
So here are 11 of my favorite Yoongi verses, solo songs, or collabs so far in no particular order
(Lyric translations are from Wisha and Doolset and are linked for each song!)
Cypher Pt 2
I love a good diss track and BTS’s Cypher PT.2 Triptych is probably one of the best and most well-aimed weapons in BTS’s early arsenal of clapbacks. While all three verses from the group’s rapline shine like the blade of a knife, Yoongi’s verse is just so…. Delightfully mean. It’s smug, it’s sharp, it’s Yoongi thumbing his nose at rappers who do less but expect to get more because of embarrassing understandings of authenticity in hip hop. It also has a dig at B-free, who I loathe, so that’s nice. This is one of the songs I play when I’m in a fighting mood and Yoongi’s verse, his rough voice… that’s why.
Initially, I was just going to write like a TINY amount on the actual video for the DNA Remix that H1GHR just dropped for my Music Video Anatomy series on my site. But then Jay Park dropped that whopper of an essay in the comments for the video and I just… I had to do it to him. I had to make a video. Like my video pushing back at the content in the DKDKTV “bros drink soju and talk about BLM” video, this is just me airing my frustrations with a constant form of antiblackness I see. In this case, the way that Jay Park specifically talks down to Black Americans who express frustration with his persistent hood cosplay.
I don’t know that I get any particular vibes from the settings used in “Bermuda Triangle”? The video opens with a wasteland shot in black and white, swings to a neon-lit alley where the trio play at being gangsters for Zico’s first verse and part of Crush’s, the second verse is set in… maybe an outdoor restaurant… Then there’s the hotel room – very luxe even before the introduction of the money all over the bed and the hot tub surrounded by expensive alsochol bottles- and the church – because Zico’s Catholic faith is so important to him that it was actually maybe one of the first things I knew about him?
There are things about “Bermuda Triangle”’s different settings that I can… squint and see as nods to hip hop culture and other artists’ videos? Shots – like Zico in the hot tub – that give me “Godfather” energy and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was on purpose because of how hip hop artists worldwide reach for that film to signal at how hood and hardcore they are.
Missed what I’ve been doing with Music Video Anatomy? For the most recent installments, I covered Jay Park’s 몸매 (MOMMAE) and Taeyang’s MA GIRL! This time though, we’re looking at a girl group that probably should’ve quit before they got started… the since disbanded WA$$UP.
Title: WA$$UP (와썹)
The main setting of WA$$UP’s debut video is a basketball court in the middle of a city – I’m honestly still not sure if this was filmed in Korea or in the United States, actually. It’s an unsubtle callback to the origins of hip hop and teenagers coming up with rhymes while playing around in their neighborhoods. (Think of the kind of setting early in Netflix’s Roxanne Roxanne!)
There’s also a dark alley where one of the members does her own spin on ghost riding next to a very expensive car that I would be worried about crashing. I don’t think it adds anything to the music video, but it’s just… funny to me.
Setting: “MOMMAE” is set in a few different “places” (I’m using the term super loosely here). A dance floor in what almost looks like an abandoned club, a bed(room?) in bi flag colors, a tanning bed, a balcony, a pool, and what’s either a house party or a nightclub. It’s a video full of lots of lingering shots of women’s bodies in these places, as they’re dancing or lounging on every surface and you’re spending so much tieme looking at these women from the neck down that the body itself – the surface area revealed by the short shorts, sports bras and the like – could almost serve as a setting where the song’s themes play out?
Sound: It’s so helpful that Gray always drops a producer tag at the start of his songs. Like If I’m on shuffle or listening to a playlist and I hear that tag, I know I’m about to get some good music. Can that man produce things that aren’t absolutely enjoyable? I have yet to come up against an example!
Anyway, as long as I don’t actually look too long at the English translations for the lyrics, this is a great song. Looking at the lyrics – especially where Jay Park raps that “니 앞에 서면 비욘세 엉덩이도 납작해/When I’m in front of you, even Beyoncé’s butt seems flat – makes me want to lift and throw him.
I listen to music all the time. When I’m working on Day Job, writing the next thing that’ll make nerds frothy mad at me (because I’m right), or even now as I rewatch Love O2O for the millionth time, I’ve always got music playing somewhere. Last year, I did a similar list and I wanted to start a tradition by uh… keeping that energy.
Artist: Megan Thee Stallion
What Had Me Hooked: I love Megan Thee Stallion. I shamelessly and publicly have called her “my baby” when talking about her. I adore so much of what Megan does, how she carries herself, and how hard she leans in to having fun and being herself. “Body”, the lead single from her first studio album Good News, is a fun and sexy song where Megan and a bunch of beautiful dancers and celebrities basically celebrate their fine physiques. Every time I hear this song on one of my playlists, I have to dance!!
Setting: There is not much to say about the setting of this video beyond how this looks like the filming budget was light. Like I remember seeing a twitter meme asking for folks to name videos that looked like they cost $10 (an exaggeration, of course) and I honestly thought of this video immediately?
Sound: Written by Big Bang’s leader G-Dragon and with music/arrangement by Israel Dwaine Cruz, “Ma Girl” is a smooth R&B track that sounds like it was ripped from the 90s. It’s a love song with Taeyang crooning about missing a love that he fears that he’s in the process of losing, and I mean… in the end it is basic. It’s comfortable in its familiarity though, sounding exactly like something I could imagine hearing on the radio as a younger adult or teenager.
A high point is the feature where G-Dragon and T.O.P pinged that part of my brain that had imprinted on the group back in the day before I went back to being a casual fan for the better part of a decade? They’re so YOUNG here!!
Styling: Yes, I see those cornrows. In “Ma Girl”, Taeyang really showcased the Light Skinned Energy TM that he’d become known for in some circles of international VIP and wider K-pop fandom. (Okay, look… it’s largely the Black parts, but still.) It’s not enough that he sounds like Omarion in this track… he has to look like him too. Back in 2008, while Black fans of K-pop (they were there, trust me) undoubtedly caught themselves kekeing over the visuals in this song and praying for Taeyang’s poor scalp with those tight ass braids.
“Ma Girl” looks and sounds like this for a reason.
Back in Cultural Appropriation in the Age of K-Pop Part One, I mentioned that:
As talented as Big Bang was when introduced to the Korean pop landscape, they were still functionally a Korean B2K cover group. Voice, visuals, and styling all pointed to the same conclusion: that Yang Hyun Suk clocked that Korean audiences wanted popular Black music… but not from Black people.
The first setting of the music video – and the part worth clocking and commenting on for me – is a part of a strip mall that looks like something you’d see in the United States with English signs for a tattoo parlor, a corner store or bodega (the store on the right), and a pawn shop (trust me on that one). If I went outside right now, those three things are probably right close to each other in my own neighborhood. They are not anywhere near where any member of (G)I-DLE calls home because of where these businesses are located.
The use of the corner store/strip mall as a locale for the video is to ping viewers’ brains into going “ah, yes, they’re in ‘the hood’ and so this song is authentic”. You see similar attempts to situate Korean (and Korean American) artists accordingly in older videos like CL’s Hello Bitches or Dumbfoundead’s “Mijangwon” where the setting has its own very loud character.
Described as belonging to “the boom bap hip hop genre” both the music and visuals of “Uh Oh” were put together to evoke this sense of authenticity in hip hop that always makes my teeth itch. I do think that (G)I-DLE – and Soyeon in particular in the group – are really talented and make interesting and innovative music that their peers aren’t always doing. Like 4Minute before them, this is a hip-hop oriented group and that means a lot of their song stylings lean heavily on things like “boom bap” hip hop or trap or whatever they think will catch an audience that knows them but isn’t familiar with hip hop outside of them.
Clothing wise, the young women of (G)I-DLE are all wearing clothing meant to make you think they’re hip hop. Whatever hip hop actually means to them. From them on down to the back up dancers, this is a really good example of “hood cosplay” specifically because it’s the clothing and hairstyles in context. On their own, in a montage of the girls hanging out at an indoor mall or playing laser tag or something… the outfits would literally not have the context of “we’re basically cosplaying folks who live in ~the hood~” and you could handwave away some of that.
Also, at one point Yuqi does have what looks like bantu knots in her hair and even if we reset the video so it was entirely in the desert or they were floating in outer space… I have to say that that doesn’t help.
“I didn’t necessarily plan to make ’90s-style music when I started working on the song, but I wanted to do hip hop. So I thought about what kind of hip hop would be unique to (G)I-DLE and not too cliché, and I thought of boom bap hip hop.”
Last installment, we dove into BTS’ debut single “No More Dream“!
Title: 눈누난나 (NUNU NANA)
The main recognizable settings for “Nunu Nana” are a restaurant kitchen doing double duty as a gambling den, what looks like a loading dock behind a set of shops with plenty of room for a red convertible to serve as the main focus, a building under construction and used for money laundering, and a music show stage.
The car itself is a really notable set piece for me because you have three moments where It’s a huge hip hop focus: in the beginning where Jessi’s on the car and a dancer is throwing her back out in front of it, where Jessi is twerking on it after washing the hood, and then the end when she and Hyori are hanging around and in it.
It feels like calling back to video vixen visuals only Jessi is, across the video, both the star the vixen dances for and the vixen herself and while that could be good… with Jessi, it’s… just kind of funny to me.
There are a couple main settings for No More Dream. At points across the video they’re on a school bus. At others, they’re in an alley in front of it. At the start of the video, they get off the school bus into skatepark with a skatepark with a quaint neighborhood theme and then a skatepark with classroom… themes.
One thing I like noting within Music Video Anatomy is when a hip hop video doesn’t go with expected settings. With “No More Dream” you can tell that there’s a goal for there to be some clear hip hop connection but then, as you can see on the Behind the Screen site’s entry on the No More Dream music video, there are a lot of nods to what’s basically alt culture that isn’t related to hip hop in the US? Which is pretty cool.
Across Hanguk Hip Hop, Myoung-Sun Song seeks to answer several pressing questions about Korean hip hop – made by and for Koreans in Korea for the most part – and one of the ones that has stuck with me is simple, but pointed:
What is real or original about Hanguk hip hop? (6)
It’s a question that I’ve never been able to let go of as I listen to Korean artists, read translated interviews they’ve done, and watched a really large amount of music videos and live performances from a wide range of Korean artists.
It’s a question that has no real easy answer to me.
Because, if you watch Korean hip hop music videos or even the idol rappers work with their groups or forays into solo work, a lot of it sounds and looks like the stuff I’d be able to listen to on MTV or BET if they still played music videos. A ton of it looks like stuff I listened to in my teens.
Artist: pH-1, HAON, Woodie Gochild, Jay Park, Sik-K, TRADE L, Big Naughty
Setting: This music video – which does double duty as a lyric video – is set in a Mexican restaurant in what appears to be a strip mall. It’s different from the go-to setting that several past H1GHR Music artists have gone with in their hip hop pasts – high school gym, dark alleys, night clubs. The novelty of the setting works for the song… mostly.
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
So, I started watching Korean’s Honest Drunk Opinions on Black Lives Matter, Dreads and the N-word with a Black American on YouTube.
This is Daniel – Danny from DKDKTV. And so it has this introduction where he’s like talking to Mike, who is the black American.
And it’s like, the introduction already rubs me the wrong way, because it’s like, “should Koreans be expected to educate themselves” and it’s like Koreans aren’t infants.
Y’all need to stop infantilizing yourselves and your peers because y’all aren’t babies. Like, we should all be expected to educate ourselves about cultural sensitivities about complicated subjects.
Like if you’re going to have a platform, especially like DKDKTV does you should definitely be expected educate yourself and those guys really haven’t across the years. It’s been very like this – they have yet to do a video on blackness specifically and like anti blackness that hasn’t been kind of like shit.
And like when they brought it up in the past like when with Amber they called Amber’s like moments of anti blackness about the cops harassing that black man in the California train station. They call it a mistake her saying that he deserved what happened to him. And so these aren’t – these aren’t people that I really want talking about race, anti blackness, whatever, in general, but especially if at least one of the two is coming into it from this position of like we shouldn’t really be expected to care and like and like their their past has just been not great.
And so like, we are not even a minute in and I’m like *heavy sigh*
If you’re not on Twitter or don’t/can’t follow my main account, here’s what I’ve been up to since Friday… a twitter thread review of Monsta X’s new English CD All About Luv that I’ve turned into a blog post because I worked REALLY hard on it.