As international audiences become steadily more exposed to some of the hottest Korean boy and girl groups, listening to inspirational legends in the Korean music scene will lead audiences to a deeper understanding.
According to ethnomusicologist Haekyung Um, hip hop was introduced to Korea only in the late 1980s and early 1990s through artists like Seo Taiji and the club culture of that time. Musicologist Mina Yang writes that more American influence was brought into the Korean scene by diasporic artists such as Tiger JK, who spent his teens and early 20s in Miami and Los Angeles when he debuted with then-duo, Drunken Tiger. Tiger JK later met and married Yoonmirae. Both of them have been active in the Korean hip hop scene since the late 1990s, leading well known and highly regarded groups such as the aforementioned Drunken Tiger, Uptown and Tashannie, as well as releasing individual projects.
Today, the husband and wife are active as part of the trio MFBTY (the acronym is a joke — it stands for “My Fans Are Better Than Yours”). They made their official debut with the name in 2013 with their first album “Sweet Dream”. The third member is the younger rapper Bizzy. Bizzy might not be as well known as the couple, but his talent must not be underestimated. FeelGhood Music, the agency of MFBTY which is owned by the couple, introduces that Bizzy has been active since 2002 and has appeared in the projects of various notable K-pop artists such as Jay Park.
On November 10, MFBTY released its long-awaited eight-song album “Dream Catcher”. The album is fronted by two title tracks, “Dream Catcher” and “Motel”.
Both Yoonmirae and Tiger JK have been considered legends of hip hop music in Korea for their distinctive rap styles. Showing humility, rather than braggadocio, they avoid lyrics that elevate themselves or diss other performers. Instead, they sing about personal growth, hope and love.
MFBTY does not rest on their past accomplishments but continues to develop artistically as shown in their willingness to collaborate with other artists. On “Dream Catcher”, they team up with one of the most famous guitarists in Korea, Shin Daechul. With the emergence of hip hop in the most internationally well-known Korean music, called “idol pop” domestically, MFBTY’s comeback is also significant as they are models for rising idol hip hop artists in K-pop as well. Billboard reports that RM from BTS said he grew up listening to Tiger JK’s music and that it inspired him to be a hip hop artist. In 2015, he was featured in MFBTY’s song “BuckuBucku” and Drunken Tiger’s music in 2018.
Younger female artists, likewise, look up to Yoonmirae. Song Myoung-sun, a scholar in Korean popular culture, writes that there has only been a handful of female MCs in hip hop in Korea and many have goals to surpass the aura of Yoonmirae. The three artists have constantly given inspiration to the Korean scene. In their genre-pushing “Dream Catcher”, they sing about how you should “try even if everyone says it won’t work.” It does.