Ego tripping, & not, in Korean female rap


korean female rappers rap women cheetah jessi yoon mirae tasha tymee

In rap music, ego tripping is the attitude of an individual who brags about themselves in a display of confidence and high self-esteem. Despite not being a necessity for rap lyrics, the confident swagger of ego tripping is definitely a part of hip-hop culture. When it comes to Korean hip-hop, it’s not uncommon to see men rapping about how amazing, rich, and successful they are but, when it comes to the ladies, ego tripping is not as well received in K-hip-hop.

Probably the most relevant female names in Korean rap right now, Jessi and Heize, illustrate very well how Korea feels about female rappers. They both rap, sing, write songs, and have been contestants on the female rap competition show Unpretty Rapstar. However, their styles are very different, and it’s this difference that may explain why Koreans prefer Heize’s music over Jessi’s.

While Heize’s music has more R&B elements and her delivery is a softer rap style with sentimental lyrics that stays away from the more abrasive side of hip-hop, Jessi’s music varies between melancholic ballads and hard-hitting rap anthems. It is on those raps, though, that Jessi showcases the figure that made her become a reference of a “tough unnie” (or ssen unnie in Korean, like her single by the same name), a confident and intimidating female with strong opinions, who raps unapologetically about her skills, looks, and overall awesomeness.

Also on KultScene: This is NOT a competition, Jessi slayed her Los Angeles show

Jessi’s outspoken behavior on the first season of Unpretty Rapstar in 2015 gave her huge success among the global K-hip hop audience. But all of this popularity hasn’t translated into sales for Jessi, at least not in Korea. Her latest mini album, Un2verse, was released in mid-July, and ranked number four on the Billboard World Albums chart a month later, but only reached number 64 on the Gaon Album Charts, the chart of the best-selling albums in Korea.

On the other hand, while we’re writing this in late-August, Heize’s latest mini album /// (너 먹구름 비) is at number 47 on Gaon, even though it’s been almost two months since it was released. Her current single off the album, “You, Clouds, Rain” featuring Shin Yong Jae, is charting at number three at the moment on Gaon. The first single from the album, “Star”, achieved an all kill (a number one position on all of the most relevant Korean charts); this is something that has never happened to any Korean female rapper before. Ever!

Another female hip-hop artist worth mentioning is Yoonmirae (also known as Tasha of MFBTY), the Queen of Hip Hop in Korea, who is kind of an exception. Like Heize, she has reached number one on the charts, —but only with pop ballad songs released as OST for TV dramas, similarly to how Heize’s only peaked with less softer tunes; proving that even though hip-hop itself is a vehicle for empowerment, displays of boasting and self-confidence from Korean female rappers are not as well received as songs that focus on vulnerability and romantic relationships.

Yoonmirae, for example, has paved her way as the most relevant Korean female rapper mostly due to songs in which she raps about her personal struggles as a biracial person in Korea. She became an icon of resistance, representation, empowerment, and freedom for women and multiracial people. Even though she’s also an amazing singer with a delicate voice, it’s her rapping what made her the legend she is, though none of those rap tracks topped charts. Yoon is a strong, fierce woman; she has a bass in her voice when she raps, she curses, she does ego tripping all the time, and she has absolutely no fear or shame to sound cocky.

However, even with all these features and history, Mirae’s most famous solo rap tracks are “Memories” and “Black Happiness,” which, in spite of having straightforward and sensitive lyrics, are ballads. Meanwhile, songs like “Pay Day” or the tracks she released with MFBTY, her hip-hop group with her husband Tiger JK and Bizzy, in which she shows more confidence and brags about her power and confidence, sometimes even confessedly ego tripping (“Oh yes I’m ego trippin’ / Middle finger I’m flippin’ / Oh yes I’m chain heavy / So much ice, look how I’m drippin’”), are never as successful as her softer songs.

Other female rappers who have similarly released ego-trip tracks have also seen minimal success: In “Gucci,” Jessi boasts about driving her own car, being “self-made,” speaking “nothing but the truth,” and having a “gangsta attitude.” In “Cinderella,” Tymee, another Unpretty Rapstar contestant, calls herself “hip-hop god mama” and “rap queen.” In “My Number,” Cheetah, who won the first season of Unpretty Rapstar brags about how being “a TV show champion” made her “a rap star, a celeb, and part of the fashion people.

What do all of these songs have in common? They were released by bold spirited women who are greatly talented and with considerable notoriety in Korea. Everyone knows who Jessi, Tymee, and Cheetah are. They’ve all been prominent figures on Unpretty Rapstar, and they have thousands of followers on social media. But did their singles sell as well as Heize’s? No.

jessi los angeles show concert belasco jessica h.o

And that’s not due to their lack of skills. Cheetah and Jessi were, respectively, the winner and runner up on season one of Unpretty Rapstar and are largely respected as rappers, being called on to participate as guests on rap competitions or features in songs of male rappers quite often. Tymee has one of the most long-lived careers as a female rapper in Korea, being respected as an underground rapper way before turning into E.via, who was sometimes mocked by her controversial concepts, but still praised for her rap skills after switching over to her Tymee name.

Heize, for her part, is a talented and well known rapper too. She was even on Unpretty Rapstar as well. So, basically, what distinguishes her from the ladies we mentioned above is the fact that her style is way more focused on her own fragility and emotions towards sensitive aspects of life and love.

It certainly is not due to the lack of sonic appeal of each woman’s songs either, since all the previously mentioned tracks follow the same hip-hop trends we’ve been hearing in male rappers’ songs on the music charts. It may just be that South Korea isn’t ready for a chart-topping abrasive female, opting for the more sentimental side of these hip-hop artists.

Also on KultScene: ‘Unpretty Rapstar,’ crooked or boost to female Korean rappers?

We’re not going for any girl-hate here, but why is Heize’s music easier to consume than music released by women who have no pudency and are not ashamed of taking pride for their qualities and achievements? Are people not comfortable with women ego tripping?

And this is not an isolated trend to Korean hip hop. We can see this mirrored in K-pop as well, where the resurgence of cute K-pop girl groups have pretty much annihilated the ones with a stronger and empowering concept. (But that’s a story for another time…) It’s simply important to note that this is not something that exists in a vacuum.

So why is this happening? It may or may not have something to do with personal taste in South Korea, where coffee house music reigns, or maybe even with cultural factors. As foreign fans, it’s easy for us to point out the sexism and patriarchal values that explain why a man is most likely to achieve success and respect for bragging about himself than a woman is. But it also may be disrespectful, and imprudent, to single out Korean culture since we’re not Koreans.

The fact that Heize stands between Korean rap’s hottest names is indeed something to be celebrated, but the ideal scenario would be to have other female rappers join her. The problem is not a lack of talented female MCs, so why not?

The female rappers we previously addressed are nothing but a few examples of women who are just as deserving as Heize or any other male rapper that is on the charts right now. If Jessi, Tymee, Cheetah, or Yoon Mirae were men, or if they had stuck to a ballad-ish emotional concept, they would certainly sell better in Korea. It’s unfortunate they haven’t been able to reach the success Heize has at the moment by being themselves. And while Heize’s success is well deserved, the larger theme is that some people are still intimidated by strong, empowered females. But, whatever the reasons for their confidence and ego trips be a limiting factor for success, it’s undeniable that persisting on their truth and sticking to their personal preferences regardless of how they’re seen is an act of resistance from these ladies —and that alone is something worth of great respect.

What are your thoughts on female rappers that ego trip? Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

This is NOT a Competition, Jessi Slayed her Los Angeles Show

jessi jessica ho los angeles show concert belasco

Words like “humble” and “down to earth” are commonly used to describe artists and idols, but they’re often merely decorative and empty adjectives to make them seem more human and relatable. Not in Korean-American singer/rapper Jessi’s case though. For her first ever show in Los Angeles, CA at the Belasco Theater on October 16, the “Unpretty Rapstar” runner-up proved she cherishes her fans and the position she’s in currently while completely owning her performance.

But a headliner needs excellent opening acts to pump the audience for the main performer. And even though their set was short, Yung Koconut, Lyricks, Ken Nana, and the rest of their squad had a massive bro party on stage, throwing water at the audience every five seconds and dancing all around, to songs like “Mollah” and “Revenue.” Even rapper Dumbfoundead made an appearance, jumping up and down and serving as a guest hypeman.

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Korean hip hop duo Mighty Mouth were next up, receiving loud cheers from the audience. Members Sangchu and Shorry J followed suit keeping the energy at 100, performing their hits including “Lalala,” “Movie Star,” and “Bad Boy.” The guy’s excitement was visible, especially Shorry’s, revealing his abs, flirting with fan cams left and right, and even giving his microphone briefly to a fan during a song. Mighty Mouth lit up the venue and set the perfect pace and energy for the main act.

mighty mouth los angeles show concert shorry j

by Alejandro Abarca

Once Mighty Mouth’s stage finished, the screen above the stage played Jessi’s now famous “this is a competition” speech which made her a household name during “Unpretty Rapstar.” Having a venue filled with Jebbies (her fan club name), cheers and woo’s boomed throughout the Belasco and served as the best welcoming for Jessi.

Unfortunately, a few mishaps with the CD almost ruined her intro, but Jessi made the best out of an awkward scenario by taking the time to introduce herself and dissing us all Californians by saying In-n-Out Burgers “wasn’t as good as [she] expected.” But this wasn’t the only instance Jessi took to throw shade. Oh no. In true Jessi ssenunni fashion, she continually asked the audience why they weren’t drunk enough, said “Unpretty Rapstar 2” is “not as fun as it used to be,” and playfully complained that the guys from the opening acts didn’t help her out onstage as her hypemen. From another artist, this might have been frowned upon, but coming from Jessi, that’s just her being real, and being real is what made her massively popular in the first place.

Among the songs she performed, Jessi especially shined when she belted out “I Want to be Me” as her first full song and replaced the n-word in her cover of Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” with “baby” — which other artists should take note on. Aside from her new hits like “My Type” and “Unpretty Dreams,” the singer took her fans back to 2009 by performing “Life is Good,” which she shared it was still hard for her to sing. She also did a medley of a few songs including a cover of Guy Sebastian’s “Battlescars,” her verses in “Me, Myself, & I” from “Unpretty Rapstar 2” and Vasco’s “Bonnie & Clyde,” and gave her intro, a mashup of “My Type” and a few verses from “SSENUNNI,” another shot. However, the song that received the most excitement from the fans and her alike was the latest single “SSENUNNI.”

jessi los angeles show concert belasco jessica h.o

by Alejandro Abarca

Before the encore, Jessi told the audience “I’m never gonna forget this moment,” and that sentiment was her set’s whole mood. Right from the get go, Jessi was all smiles, even with her jetlag, repeatedly thanked the audience for coming, and expressed her excitement perform in LA. And as mentioned before, these were not empty words just to make the fans feel special. Throughout her set, Jessi took every cellphone she could get her hands on from the audience and took videos and selfies with them. Seriously… she took the phones of everyone in first two rows, at least. For the encore, Mighty Mouth came out onstage with Jessi and followed suit by also taking as many selfies and videos as they could, as well as the traditional one with the audience as the background.

jessi concert show los angeles belasco jessica h. o la

by Alejandro Abarca

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However, once the show ended, the fan engagement was clearly not over for Jessi. Security guards and staff urged Jessi to get off the stage, but she wouldn’t, she kept on taking phones from the audience. Even when a security guard whisked her away, she somehow cheated him and ran to the pit to dance, hug, and keep on taking pictures with her fans. To say Jessi was truly happy and genuinely wanted to meet her fans is an understatement. Jessi gave her fans a whole experience rare in the K-pop field, and Jebbies loved every second of it. Turned out this ssenunni isn’t that bad or mean when it comes to her fans.

mighty mouth jessi jessica ho los angeles show concert belasco

by Alejandro Abarca

Check out more pictures from the show here:

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Are you a Jessi or Mighty Mouth fan? Why do you like best about them? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

8 Jessi Songs To Get You Ready For Her Los Angeles Show

jessi jessica h.o. los angeles show u.s.

2015 has definitely been Jessi’s year. Not only did she win runner up on “Unpretty Rapstar” but her popularity surged because of it and her now famous “this is a competition” diss,, which everyone in and outside of Korea made a meme out of. Jessi made appearances on other shows and collaborated (not competed!) with other artists, and now she’s gearing up for her very first show in Los Angeles. With more than 10 years in the business, Jessi has built up a sizable repertoire of songs, so let’s check some of them out to get us ready for the upcoming show.

1. “Can You Hear Me”

After a five year hiatus, Jessi came back as part of the trio Lucky J as their power female vocal and released “Can You Hear Me.” Even though she’s now famous for her husky spit, Jessi has the same tone when singing, which is equally amazing. The girl not only can drop fierce bars but her vocals are just as powerful.

2. “Get Up”

As mentioned before, Jessi made her debut back in 2005 as Jessica H.O. with “Get Up,” a pop song embellished with the R&B sounds that were on trend back then. Not to put her on blast with this throwback, “Get Up” shows how much she has evolved as an artist and a woman.

3. “Unpretty Dreams”

Fast forward to the present, as it was the hit show “Unpretty Rapstar” that made Jessi a star. Sure, she stirred up some trouble in the show, but she always keep it real and showed us that she had the chops. And even if she lost the competition only to Cheetah, her semi final song “Unpretty Dreams” was her manifesto that this time around, she was here to stay.

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4. “My Type”

As advertised on every episode, “Unpretty Rapstar” is Korea’s only female rap competition show where the contestants strive to win features on songs on the show’s compilation album. Sadly, Jessi never got her own track but shared her win with the other queen of the show, Cheetah. This, of course, is not a bad thing given that Cheetah is a superb rapper and lyricist (she did win the show, after all!), and together they released one of the most fun songs on the album, “My Type.” And, oh yeah, Kangnam of M.I.B sang the chorus.

5. “Who’s Your Momma?”

After “Unpretty Rapstar,” Jessi became a coveted rap feature, and one of the lucky artists who got to collaborate with this queen was Korea’s king of soul, J.Y. Park. Jessi’s rap on “Who’s Your Momma?” may be brief, but it’s full of sass and she gets to showcase her amazing body.

6. “Just Like U”

Another feature that she did was on Primary’s “Just Like U” off of his superb album “2,” which contains a myriad of wondrous songs. Along with rapper Yankie, Jessi not only rapped but sang a bit on the chorus and together they created an interesting contrast with a sweet-sounding love song while saying things like “I just like you, but I don’t love you” and “I really like this kid, I do, but fxxk, he calls me late at night like I’m some kind of booty call.”

7. “I Want to be Me”

As mentioned before, Jessi is also a talented singer and has the vocal range to make power ballad singers in the industry take several seats. Not only is her voice husky, making her tone unique in the genre, but the listener can sense genuine pain behind her voice. And the song that perfectly encapsulates this and showcases her as a versatile artist is “I Want to be Me.” Jessi needs no features on her songs to help her out; she can rap and sing and slay the whole performance.

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To wrap this up, we couldn’t forget her latest release “SSEUNNI.” On this track, Jessi stayed true to her brand — bad and fierce chick — and made it hella fun at the same time. This girl can put on a show and “SSEUNNI” is just the jam to turn up to.

Jessi’s show will be at the Belasco Theater on October 16 at 8 p.m. Moreover, the opening act will be none other than hip hop duo Mighty Mouth. Tickets went on sale on September 11, but you can still cop them through TicketGate. The cost ranges from $35 for general admission to $156 for the meet and greet package. And if you’re not over 21, worry not for the show is all ages!

jessi los angeles jessica h.o. belasco theater

Check out this video greeting from Jessi about the show!

What’s your favorite Jessi song? Let us know in the comments and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Unpretty Rapstar: Semi-Final Review

I’m going to start this review off with saying that I have watched none of Unpretty Rapstar, so I may not be in the best position to really speculate on the outcome of the show. But after watching a couple of the raps, I felt compelled to listen to them all. What followed were four blistering tracks showing a great range in emotion and tone but all were personal for better or worse. I’m trying to look at these in a purely musical way ignoring the troubling mechanics of the show in order to get a better grasp of these girls as rappers. If we do that, then the show can turn out to be a force for good in giving some of these smaller female rappers a stage to shine on.

The semi final was split up into two rap battles, one between Cheetah and Jimin, the other between Jessi and Jolly V. These were less rap battles and more match ups, as they just performed one after the other.

Cheetah Coma 07

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