Why Tymee should be acknowledged as a Korean rap legend

tymee E.via korean rapper k-rap

If you’re a K-music fan who also keeps up with Western artists, you’re probably seeing many female rappers’ names in the music charts and awards, especially in the U.S. right now where Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Doja Cat are dominating. And you might also be thinking of many other female rappers who deserve more love, just as these amazing ones that are having their big moments right now.

In the case of South Korea, it’s not that female-fronted rap is at all unpopular — with shows like Unpretty Rapstar (2015-2016) and Good Girl (2020) we’ve been seeing female rappers getting more attention. Yet, some of these women’s stories remain unknown, or not acknowledged enough. One of these stories is Tymee’s, formerly known as E.Via, the Korean rapper and songwriter born Lee Okju.

Though newer Korean music fans might not be familiar with Tymee’s work, she has been releasing songs for 18 years, with recent years seeing less and less music from her. Some may know Tymee for the beefs she has been involved in throughout her career, such as the one with Jolly V before and during Unpretty Rapstar, or her super brief participation on Show Me The Money. Or maybe you’ll remember her as E.Via, the controversial rapper who released meme-worthy songs such as “Oppa! Can I Do It?” before memes were even a thing.

But Tymee is so much more than the dramas and the eccentric songs — she’s barely acknowledged by what they represented for the music scene in Korea. Here are eight reasons why she was a pioneer, a total legend, and why she should be acknowledged as such.

She Pretty Much Pioneered Aegyo-Rap

Lee Okju started her career as an underground rapper that went by the name of Napper. When she debuted in the Korean pop industry formally as the controversial E.Via, her impeccable flow and impressive breath control were still there — but the deep voice she used to rap with previously gave place to a cute, high pitched, almost unrecognizable timbre.

Along with her clothes and overall shy girl attitude, the baby voice was not exactly what one would expect from a serious rapper, and the aegyo merged with fire rap. E.Via’s songs would also be the first time Tymee would present her fast rap, a side of hers that would also become her signature – which was a peculiar combination too.

But, whether you’d find her laughable or good, you can’t deny that E.Via was somewhat fascinating to listen to, and years later, the aegyo rap she became famous for would infiltrate the K-pop industry, becoming basically a mandatory in K-pop songs by girl groups such as Girls Generation’s “I Got a Boy.”


Her Music Was Once Banned In Korea 

In spite of looking and sounding innocent, E.Via’s songs weren’t really all that suitable for kids. “Oppa! Can I do it?,” the lead single from her debut album, was pretty ambiguous. It wasn’t really clear what she was asking her oppa permission for: the album version included her moaning, while the lyrics also hint at E.Via asking him to hear her rap. The provocative content and slang led music shows such as Music Bank to ban her performances. E.Via, who wrote the lyrics of “Oppa! Can I do it?”, never fully addressed what the song was intended to be — but such suggestiveness would become a part of her brand.

As much as it may be disturbing to hear an infantilized woman performing sexually suggestive songs, or to hear a woman asking a guy permission to do anything at all, the song raised discussions about what artists and women can do, and the ban would only raise the public’s attention and interest to E.Via and her upcoming music.

She Featured Herself On A Song

So far, you’ve learned that Tymee went by different names during her career. Each one of these “personas” had their own features, but they’re all pretty much different sides of her, representing different stages of her life. But could these personas meet each other? 

Alter egos are quite common in rap, but there are very few cases of rappers featuring “themselves” in a song — and the most popular ones we can think of, like Logic feat. Young Sinatra’s “Warm It Up,” weren’t released before E.Via’s “My Medicine,” a song in which E.Via featured no one less than Napper, her old alias.

In this sweet yet sad song, Napper raps and E.Via sings. It’s not only an example of Lee Okju’s versatility and emotional depth – you can just feel the pain in her voice, even if you don’t understand the lyrics – but also her creativity. Who would think of such a collab? It’s just genius to bring your two personas to meet and perform with each other.

She Broke Free & Prioritized Her Artistic Freedom

E.Via brought Lee Okju fame and success, but she wasn’t happy, and was also severely mistreated and not properly paid by her talent agency, DLine Art. She couldn’t put up with it further than early 2013, when she announced that she was leaving the company.

But breaking free from her contract wasn’t easy: she had to go to court, and ended up with little to no rights to her music, and not allowed to use the name E.Via. She then changed her stage name to Tymee, and later signed to rapper Outsider’s ASSA Communication, where she would find more creative freedom and control. On the songs she released thereafter, such as “On The River,” she spoke about her mental health issues and how she almost gave up on music. The name “Tymee” would symbolize her desire to be “tied” to music, as a promise that she wouldn’t let anything or anyone steal her passion for it.

Was An IP Genius During Diss War

In 2013, when U.S. rapper Big Sean released “Control,” a featured verse by Kendrick Lamar would inspire the beginning of a diss war in the Korean hip-hop scene. Initiated by rapper Swings (with whom Tymee had history), the war consisted of many rappers shooting and firing back at each other by writing their own verses over the “Control” beat. The diss war had pretty much only male rappers doing it, until Tymee stepped in. 

Recently signed off from her previous label and recovering from what almost ended her career forever, she definitely had a lot to say, and she didn’t hold back. “Cont Lol,” which is a play on the words “Control” and “Laughing out loud,” referenced how she found the  other rappers’s skills comically laughable. There was also a reference to the video game series League of Legends, showing Tymee’s angry views on hip-hop culture, stating her place as woman in a male-dominated industry (“I’m not a king, but I’m a queen”), dissing rappers and everyone who mistreated her in the past, with no mercy or filters. And as if that weren’t enough, “Cont Lol” also brought back E.Via, — sort of. In a maneuver that would make Intellectual Property lawyers tremble, Tymee channelled her former persona without the need to say her name or to mention anything about her previous works or label, just by using the cute voice she was famous for.

She Was The Best Unpretty Rapstar Contestant To Not Make It To The Finals

After a short passage in Show Me The Money, during which she got eliminated for forgetting her lyrics, Tymee was given another chance to compete in a rap survival TV show, this time, one meant for female rappers only. Tymee’s participation in the first season of Unpretty Rapstar again got attention for her beef with Jolly V, a rapper who dissed her in the past, to which she responded. They both also competed in the same season of Show Me The Money. While Tymee didn’t make it into the semifinals and isn’t even featured on the TV show’s official soundtrack, her performances there were some of the best of her entire career. She shone in a battle against Jace, and later in a collaboration with the same artist. These two verses were so impactful that Tymee would incorporate them into later elements of her career, performing the first one at live concerts and using the second in “Octagon,” a collaboration with Outsider and other label mates.

When you hear Tymee’s crystal clear pronunciation in these verses, her incredible rhyme schemes, lyricism, fierce delivery, and flow, it’s hard to understand why she isn’t considered Yoon Mirae-level of reference for women in South Korea’s hip-hop scene, or why her skills aren’t given the same glory as Korean hip-hop icon Verbal Jint’s.


One Of The First Artists In Korea To Use The Word “Feminist” In A Song

Tymee’s history with Unpretty Rapstar wouldn’t end after she got eliminated from Season 1. In 2016, she would be invited to be a guest judge in the third season, and also released a diss song to the show on her Youtube channel. On “Fuck Pretty Rapstar,” she criticized the contestants who care more about their looks than their rap skills, and proclaimed herself as a feminist that wants to see a fair race in the show regardless of its gender scope.

There isn’t much, if any, history of feminism being mentioned in mainstream Korean songs before “Fuck Pretty Rapstar.” Feminism, as a term, wasn’t that widely known there in 2016 (when participating in a livestream, Tymee was even asked what that word meant). And to be fair, until very recently, it still wasn’t that well known or perceived, as we’ve seen from the controversies that follow female K-pop stars’ when they’re perceived being feminist.

Makes The Music She Wants

Nowadays, Tymee is a part of a music crew called Freezy Bone and isn’t under any label. She is an independent artist whose latest music is less hard rap-driven and leans more towards smoother alternative hip-hop, although her great lyricism is still present. She has said many times she’s not ashamed of her past, but as is noticeable from the abrupt change of style, she doesn’t let it define what she’s going to do either. 

With almost a 20-year career, having gone through underground and Korea’s mainstream, and several ups and downs, Tymee’s story is one of determination and overcoming adversity with her best weapon: talent. It’s also a story about identity. Tymee has been through many different phases, styles, and names, but her talent would always show through — even when she wasn’t being 100% true to herself, she still excelled as a rapper— and her love for music would always win. Regardless of what she’ll do in the future or what kind of music she’ll release, Lee Okju should be acknowledged for just how good she is, and for all the fields and forces she touched or impacted.

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Artist Spotlight: Giriboy

If you combine cute, good looks with a made for variety TV dorky persona, and rap-songwriting skills, what do you get? Not an idol, that’s for sure. Or at least not in Giriboy’s case. The up-and-coming not-so-underground-anymore Korean rapper with his big rimmed glasses and soft, melodic flow has been creating a flawless bridge between this genre and K-pop since his debut in 2011.

Signed under Swing’s label Just Music Entertainment, Giriboy has been taking the Korean entertainment industry one step at a time by releasing several solo albums, stacking up the featurings on other artists’ songs, and appearing on TV shows. Many might remember him from his participation in the hip hop competition program Show Me the Money 3 and as a mentor and judge on Mnet and Starship Entertainment’s survival show NO.MERCY.

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Hong Si Young’s stage name translates to “to see the way” in Korean, which, to him, means that no matter what he does, the things in front of him are bright and promising. “Giriboy” serves as the best metaphor for the multifaceted rapper and singer. Because even if he’s signed under the Show Me the Money 2 fierce winner’s label and on the roster with artists like Vasco, Nochang, CJamm, and Black Nut, Giriboy is the type of rapper the ladies love. No, seriously, he has a big female following…

giriboy profile korean rapper

via imcheol @ Tumblr

As opposed to what’s trending in hip hop nowadays, Giriboy’s style is similar to that of Crucial Star. His flow is soft spoken and tender, and the music and beats he tends to rap over are feel-good with melodies at the hook that are easy to sing along to. Which, in theory, completely clashes with the notion that Swings consistently features on most of his songs, starting with his debut single You Don’t Look Good To Me. And yet, Swings puts the yang in Giriboy’s yin. Swings generally kicks back and delivers a slower paced rap, never diminishing Giriboy’s style. In last year’s Camp, both artists contrasted swag with emotion seemingly effortlessly.

The thick rimmed glasses wearing rapper’s discography includes Fatal Album and Sensual Album, while his latest solo release is Evil Cut. As is accustomed by rappers, many other of his acclaimed peers have collaborated on songs for his albums, such as You’re a Chemical with Beenzino and 계획적인 여자 with Zico.

Last year, critics speculated that his distinct style might have been the reason why he didn’t perform as well as the other contestants on Show Me the Money 3. But even if he didn’t survive long among traditional rap heavyweights, he quickly won Tablo as a fan, who was eager to work with him, but Giriboy ultimately chose YDG’s team and the Epik High leader often sulked about it. Moreover, upon his increasing popularity, the mainstream rapidly jumped on his mellow flow. Some of his K-pop collaborations include Anticipation Note with NS Yoon-G and Arm Pillow with SISTAR’s Soyu and NO.MERCY trainee Kihyun, and this is only the beginning.

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Giriboy’s voice and flow are a great alternative to the traditional hard, jumpy, EDM infused hip hop that’s so hot right now. His assertiveness lies in his lyrics, proving that you don’t have to spit aggressively to be a valid rapper.

giriboy profile about korean rapper

via huckleberryb @ Tumblr

Do you like Giriboy? 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.

Artist Spotlight: DaeNamHyup

Nowadays, it’s not just K-pop that benefits from the Hallyu craze. Korean hip hop has been on the rise for the last two years, with more and more rappers achieving international fame and recognition, like Beenzino, Dok2, and Simon D. After years of struggle, Korean hip hop is rapidly finding and cementing its way to the mainstream. And while there are big names out in the game killing it, you can’t forget where they came from or the one’s who are still underground. Hell, some of our favorite idol rappers started out in the underground in crews.

Such is the case of DaeNamHyp, short for “great southern joseon [Korea’s last dynasty] hip hop cooperative,” a Korean hip hop crew comprised of rappers and producers Marvel J, i11evn, DJ Snatch, Supreme Boi, Kyum2, Samsoon, ILLIPS, Iron (아이언), Kidoh, and Rap Monster. Yes, you didn’t read that wrong. BTS’ Rap Monster and ToppDogg’s Kidoh are still part of the collective, even though they currently focus on their idol groups. Marvel J is the crew’s leader, and their ages range from 28 to 21-years-old, with several ‘94 liner members. They have been active since 2009.

DaeNamHyup profile

via rapmon-dongsaeng @ Tumblr

DaeNamHyp, or DNH, as a group, is not signed to any label and release their music the old fashioned way, through mixtapes. Their latest release 제 1차 회동 (First Meeting) features all of the members with the exception of Rap Monster (who was really busy last year with BTS) either rapping or producing. Their sound draws influence from Southern rap (the American South, of course) and krump. While their flows and rap styles vary, they all spit with a little aggression, dropping their verses hard. As opposed to the established rappers’ albums, 제 1차 회동 lacks overproduction, and its rawness and emphasis on the members’ rap is what gives the mixtape a fresh and authentic feeling.

Their rapping styles are best represented on the tracks where they show their clique love, DNH Cypher and Crew Love. As for sound, Do It and Uranus show the range of talent DaeNamHyp has, going from the hard hitting beats to the mellow, easy-going raps, but killing it either way.

Also on KultScene: 9 K-Pop Songs For Twerking Pt. 2

However, hip hop crews are not like idol groups who are always together. It’s more of a group of friends who share the same interests that sometimes release group material, but also pursue solo work. While Rap Mon and Kidoh are the only members currently in idol groups, Supreme Boi is a producer for Big Hit Entertainment and has worked with BTS before. He recently dropped the fresh and feel-good track Hawaii under Big Hit.

Iron, for his part, came in second place on the competition TV program Show Me The Money 3 and recently delivered a rap verse for SHINee’s Jonghyun’s first solo project Crazy. He previously released his first mixtape Ixtape, and has featured on other artists tracks, such as Hyorin X Jooyoung’s Erase. Iron has a deep, hoarse voice that is reminiscent of BIGBANG’s T.O.P, but his spit and demeanor are far more aggressive than the BIGBANG member’s raps. Moreover, Iron was once part of the original BTS lineup, but is now signed with Polaris Entertainment and is slated to debut in a group called HIVE.

Marvel J and i11evn are not as active as the previous members with their solo work, but do upload tracks to their soundcloud pages. i11evn is signed to Factory Boi Records and recently collaborated with Supreme Boi on Kidoh’s So Busy at 1 o’Clock off of his solo mini album Small Album.

As mentioned before, Kidoh is part of ToppDogg, but missed out on a group promotional cycle in order to release his solo mini album Small Album last year. This release was different from what was previously seen by him under ToppDogg or DNH since he sang more than rapped. The title song, Taxi on the Phone, is a jazzy, piano and electric guitar lead song. His fellow ToppDogg member Sangdo featured on the track, but Kidoh kept DNH love flowing by having Iron appear in the music video playing a drunk. Moreover, So Busy at 1 o’Clock, with Supreme Boi and i11evn, sounds more like DNH material, being the only traditional hip hop track on the album.

Rap Monster, as A.R.M.Y. (BTS’ fanclub) knows well, uploads solo tracks to BTS’ soundcloud now and then. His verses on these tracks show a less restrained Rap Monster, spitting about topics he wouldn’t on his idol albums.

Samsoon and ILLIPS, for their part, are said to be currently inactive in DNH activities and haven’t released any solo work lately. Kyum2 is currently in the army and has released solo songs, but requested that fans wouldn’t upload them to any platform. Lastly, DJ Snatch is still grinding, uploading pictures to his Instagram in support of Supreme Boi’s recent showcase and a video with Kidoh in a studio, which suggest he’s still working with his DNH members. He is also expected to debut with HIVE.

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DaeNamHyup’s released their latest mixtape early last year and had a showcase in March. They also held a concert with Royal Cla$$ in the summer, attended by Kidoh but not Rap Monster. And in order to bring 2014 to a close, Iron, i11evn, Kidoh, Supreme Boi, Marvel J, and DJ Snatch performed at Speakshow with other rappers like Crucial Star, GEEKS, and Giriboy.

Even if some of the DNH members are in idol groups and others are pursuing their own solo careers, the boys always support one another by holding showcases together or featuring on each other’s work. All of the members are still in their 20’s, which, contrary to K-pop idols, means they’re just getting started. Whether it’s as DaeNamHyup or as solo acts, the crew are on their way to slay the Korean rap game.

DaeNamHyup profile dnh

via dementho @ Tumblr

What’s your favorite DaeNamHyup song? 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.

5 Reasons to Attend Beenzino’s “Up All Night” Party in LA

After tearing it up at the Asian Music Festival in May, Beenzino is back in LA for his Up All Night album release party. The rapper has been making his rounds in Korean clubs promoting his latest record by the same name and now he’ll bring the party to U.S. soil.

Beenzino is one of the hottest rappers in the game right now, even collaborating with big names in K-Pop like Epik High and HA:TFELT. And since Korean rap is on the rise and might be the next big thing from Korea, it’s understandable that he’s performing in major U.S. cities like NYC and LA.

But if you’re not so well acquainted with Beenzino or are not really sure if you should attend the show, here’s a quick persuading list that might sway you into going. Truth is, there are many more reasons why the Up All Night party will be dope, but these are the highlights.

1. Music

Beenzino has made his mark in the Korean hip hop scene by professing his love for art and fashion through his lyrics. He raps about his art influences, fashion preferences, and, of course, girls and relationships. Because of this, his music has been well-received and seen as relatable by fans. All of this is embodied on his track Dali, Van, Picasso, his manifesto as an artist.

2. He Puts On a Hell of a Party

K-Pop shows are fun. You dance around, you wave your lightstick, you somewhat sing, but it’s still a concert. The Up All Night Release Party is, well, a party. The venue is a club where Beenzino will perform some of his songs from his latest album Up All Night. This will be a night to party, and dance, and sing, and grind, and drink, and have some adult fun. Here’s a video from the same party held in Busan on October so you can see what you’re in for.

beenzino los angeles gif

via jazzyfact @ Tumblr

Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: Beenzino

3. No Kids

Speaking of adult fun, the event is 18+ to party, 21+ to drink. Sorry kiddos, this is not the place for you. If you’ve ever been to a K-Pop show being over 18 yourself, you will have noticed the herds of teenagers, thus making you feel a little odd being there. This show however will have none of that. You’ll be able to turn up without someone complaining they can’t see their oppa. Or at least we hope so…

beenzino in la up all night gif

via drunkenanimal @ Tumblr

4. Small Venue

The fact that the event will be held at a club means that you’ll get the chance to see Beenzino in a small, more intimate and dynamic setting. It will feel as if you’re seeing an emerging artist or a regular hip hop show rather than an established artist who’s already famous. Furthermore, because of the size of the event and venue, hopeful attendees who purchase the different VIP tickets will get a chance to meet and greet Beenzino and even attend the sound check prior to the show.

beenzino la up all night

via xlinahx @ Tumblr

5. He’s Hot

Not to objectify him and say that him being crazy attractive is the reason to go watch his show, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. The way he carries himself onstage with full confidence and that little smug smirk give him a strong stage presence which make his performances great. Moreover, there’s just something very hot about a guy being fashion conscious and dressing stylish, which Beenzino has down, obviously. Check out the promo video for his LA and NYC shows looking hot and fly as hell:

Also on KultScene: Playlist Sunday: Korean Rap Edition

Beenzino’s Up All Night party presented by KTOWN Night Market in L.A. will be held at 333 Live on December 6th. Tickets start at $40 for general admission. The New York City show will he held a day prior at Stage48 (this event is 21+). For more info, go here.

beenzino la up all night gif

via thetakeone @ Tumblr

Are you going to Beenzino’s show? Because we’re going! Let us know 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.

[Picture by Cheonbong Ko for Freshness]