08. Korean Black Music and its Culture: Soul, Funk and Hip-Hop


1. 펄 시스터즈, “커피 한잔”

1. The Pearl Sisters, “K’ŏp’ihanjan” (A Cup of Coffee)

From: Pearl Sisters t’ŭksŏnjip (Pearl Sister’s Selection Vol.1), Sinhyang/Taeji DGga-02, 1968, 33⅓ rpm.

The Pearl Sisters: vocal; Shin Joong Hyun: lyrics and music.



This song is the second track from the Pearl Sisters’ debut album, which was written by Shin Joong Hyun, the Korean “soul-psychedelic” legend. With another poppy song “Nima”, the Sisters not only topped the charts in 1969, but also led a “pop revolution” both aesthetically and culturally.

2. 김추자, “늦기전에”

2. Kim Ch’u-ja, “Nŭkki Chŏne” (Before It’s Too Late)

From: NŭkkiChŏne / WŏllamesŏToraonKimsangsa (It’s too late/Sgt. Kim who got back from Vietnam). Sŏngŭm SEL-13-06, 1969, 33⅓ rpm.

Kim Ch’u-ja: vocal; Shin Joong Hyun: lyrics and music; the Donkeys: all instruments.


This is the first track and one of the smash hits from Kim Ch’u-ja’s debut album. With this album, she boosted soul music to the forefront of the Korean mainstream music market. The man behind the album Shin Joong-hyeon infused the essence of soul into Kim’s funk-styled singing.

3. 사랑과 평화, “한동안 뜸했었지”

3. Sarang kwa P’yŏnghwa, “Handongan Ttŭmhaesŏtchi” (It’s Been Awhile)

From: Handongan Ttŭmhaessŏtchi [It’s been awhile], SRB SRB-0009, 1978, 33⅓ rpm.

Ch’oe I-ch’ŏl: vocal, electric guitar, mouth tube; Kim Myŏng-gon: vocal, mini moog, alto sax, string, keyboard, bass ; Yi Nam-i: bass; Yi Kŭn-su: keyboard, organ; Kim T’ae-hŭng: drums; Sarvo: bass.



This is one of the smash hits from the debut album of the “funk rock fusion” band, Sarang kwa P’yŏnghwa. Like “Changmi”, another hit in their second album, the song features their trademark sound of combining funky lead guitar and elastic “chopper” bass guitar. The band was influential to Korean black music such as “jazz-fusion” in the late 1980’s.

4. 현진영, “슬픈 마네킹”

4. Hyŏn Chin-yŏng, “Sŭlp’ŭn manek’ing” (Sad Mannequin)

From: New Dance. SM Entertainment SSM-001, 1990, compact disc.

Hyŏn Chin-yŏng: vocal, O Sŏn-hwa: lyrics, Hong Chong-hwa: music, Ham Ch’un-ho: guitar; Yu Dae-yŏng: scratch effect.


This song is the first track from the debut album of Hyŏn Chin-yŏng, the progenitor (or the pioneer) of Korean hip-hop. Arguably, “Sŭlp’ŭnmanek’ing” is considered the first Korean hip-hop song, as it features rapping with complete flows as well as Americanized breakdance when he performed. Interestingly, the album is the first one released by SM Entertainment, the current K-pop mogul.

5. 듀스, “메시지”

5. Deux, “Message”

From: Force Deux. World Music/Yedangŭmhyang WMCD-1009, 1995, compact disc.

Yi Hyŏn-do: vocal, music, lyrics and producing; Kim Sŏng-jae: vocal and styling.


This is the ninth track from the Deux’ third release, Force Deux, one of the best among all the Korean hip-hop albums that came out in the 1990’s. Yi Hyŏn-do, the musical director and a member of the duo, successfully blended jazz, funk, and techno into hip-hop. Deux is one of the most important and influential musicians in the earlier years of Korean hip-hop/rap history.

6. 버벌진트, “Overclass”

6. Verbal Jint, “Overclass”

From: Modern Rhymes EP. Ales Music, 2001, compact disc.

Verbal Jint: vocal and producing.


This is the opening track from the first EP of Verbal Jint. As with other tracks in this EP, he successfully elaborates and polishes Korean rhymes, flows and dictions with his own style. Eventually Verbal Jint played a major role for upcoming Korean hip-hop artists in terms of MCing and writing lyrics.

7. 더콰이엇, “Take the Q-Train” (feat. P-Type)

7. The Quiett, “Take the Q-Train” (feat. P-Type)

From: Q-Train. Tile Music TYLED-, 2006, compact disc.

The Quiett: producing.


This song is from the second solo album of Quiett, who was the producer and a rapper of the Soul Company, one of the earlier Korean indie hip-hop crews/labels. With his beat production, it features the lyrics and rhymes of P-Type. Quiett is currently a co-founder and co-leader of Illionaire Records, one of the most popular hip-hop labels in Korea.