When you think of Korean music, is K-pop the first thing that pops into your mind? Indeed, K-pop has grown into the biggest and most well known music industry in the world. And when we think about K-pop, the names BTS, Blackpink, Twice and BigBang often come into mind. K-pop is a big umbrella term that covers Korean music with the influence from hip hop, R&B, jazz, electronic, rock, dance and more.
Apart from these mainstream artists, South Korea also has plenty of talented underground musicians. Most of these underground or indie artists specialize in R&B, soul or hip hop and often diverge from the spotlight of mainstream K-pop. Here is a list of South Korea’s underground artists that you may or may not have heard before.
OffonOff is a duo group consisting of vocalist and lyricist, Colde and the producer and DJ, 0Channel. This duo started out in Soundcloud and later joined a sub-label, HIGHGRND. A fun fact about this group is that both of them were discovered by Dean in Soundcloud. Then, they were invited to join Club Eskimo, which is an underground Hip Hop crew formed by Dean in 2015. Eventually, Offonoff debuted with the song “bath” in 2016.
However, their single “Photograph” is a particular gem. This song talks about sharing a moment with someone as if the world has stopped just as a photograph captures a moment. You wouldn’t be able to stop your feet from tapping to the clicking beat of the song. “Photograph” has its high and low, the strong and soft sounds that makes it both warm and soothing.
Jang Eun Sung or Summer Soul is an independent singer-songwriter and producer. Only 22 years old, Summer Soul possesses amazing talent in singing and producing. Despite being born in South Korea, she is currently based in Malaysia due to her father’s job. She is a member of LIVOFFMIND crew along with Ioah and K.vsh.
Like any other indie artists, she started putting her songs out on Soundcloud in 2015. Her voice is uniquely beautiful, with an airy and floaty kind of dreaminess, that can instantly transport you either back to your memories or a magical dreamland. As a talented producer, her songs takes on a minimalistic R&B vibes, incorporating muted piano and simple beats that enhance her vocals to the focus. Listen to her songs when you need some calm and chill music!
DPR Live’s songs will strike you like a refreshing afternoon tea. The term “DPR” is an acronym for Dream Perfect Regime and it is a multi-genre music and video group that aims to produce creative visual works. Hong Da Bin aka DPR Live is a hip hop rapper that joined the group in 2015. He named himself Live because of two motives: “to always live life in the present, both through ups & downs and through success & failures” and “to always remain honest and true to one’s self and one’s craft”.
Personally, his songs are the perfect night drive playlist. They have the right amount of upbeat and low tone that is both relaxing and groovy.
Underground Korean R&B soloist, Shin Bo Kyung or Boni has been hidden away from the spotlight of K-pop. In 2006, she was recognize by a duo group 015B which set a stage for her. She later featured in 015B’s and G-Idea’s songs in 2006 and 2009. However, her official debut as a R&B solo artist is in 2010 under Inplanet.
According to Boni, she is a total sucker for simplicity and that could be obviously seen in her music. Her voice is straightforward and shines talent even with simple tunes.
A producer, songwriter and singer, Bevy Maco may not be new in the R&B music scene, but a search of his bio in Google results in a nought. As mysterious as he seems, his music otherwise gives out the authenticity and truth of his soul and sound. His brand of R&B is a harmonious combination of fresh alternative style as well as staying close to the roots.
“So faded” is a raw and simple R&B track of his that is calm and sweet. I recommend “Bad Dream”, a song that also features Summer Soul. The sounds are light and lifting, like a lullaby that repels nightmares.
Other than producing soothing tracks, he also produces R&B dance music. “Polaris” is not his usual style but it certainly serves as his successful testament in discovering new ways to produce music. This song contains more layers and dimensions than his previous works.
Nicknamed as the “Korea’s R&B Angel” and “AOMG’s first lady” is our girl crush Hoody or Kim Hyun-jung. She was once a member of the underground Hip Hop crew, Amourette. In 2015, she joined AOMG and became their first female artist.
She wasn’t just known for her heavenly vocals but also her producing skills. She actively participates in songwriting and music-arranging. Her first EP On and On was released in 2016. Since then, she is famous as a featuring artist in her labelmates Jay Park’s, Gray’s, and Loco’s music. You might recognize her from songs such as “Me Like Yuh” and “Solo”. Even so, don’t miss out on her own songs like “Adios”, “Like You”, “Hangang” and “Good and Evil”.
Lee Yeong-sin or better known as Punchnello in the industry is a rapper under the label of AOMG. Punchnello is known for his fast and sharp rap, but at the same time, he delivers a mellow and emotional singing style. In 2019, he released his first EP Ordinary and in the same year he won the rap competition in South Korean TV show, Show Me the Money.
His EP Ordinary is in fact not ordinary at all. It takes the listeners on a ride through his emotional journey of happiness, anger, sorrow and pleasure. Ordinary is a well-curated EP with the help of his colleague, 0channel, who produced the title track “Blue Hawaii”. Additionally, this playlist features various artists such as Crush, SAAY, Simon Dominic, Tabber, and Sogumm, which creates a diverse and well-rounded EP.
Yeom Haein or Nieah is a R&B singer-songwriter. She debuted in 2013 with her digital single album Belief. One fun fact about her is that her stage name Nieah is the reverse of her birth name “Haein”. She is part of the ChillWithUs team, along with Jay Dope and Mute. However, before joining this team, she was with the Amourette, together with KittiB, Hoody and Seri Nam.
Nieah is being dubbed as the “Korean R&B Goddess” and there’s plenty of reasons for that. She is passionate and wholly involved in writing and creating her own songs, from lyric-writing, beat-making, to vocals and producing. Nieah has a slightly raspy and warm voice that is both unique and lovable to the public.
Having been together since school days makes the ChillWithUs team get along well and easier to work together. The three certainly created a distinctive music brand of their own that stands out from the others. Give a listen to their latest album, 1%.
Another artist hidden from Google and the mainstream music is B-Jyun. Despite this, his music attracts 18,344 monthly listeners on Spotify. After giving a good listen to his songs, you will see where these fans are coming from.
B-Jyun is a hip hop rapper that works under Jay Co Bees. His music has an addictive groove and beats that are comforting to the ears. Not to mention, his vocals are as godly as his raps.
Another member of Club Eskimo is Miso, the independent singer. Not much information of her could be found as she has a reserved and mysterious image. It’s easy to get her mix up with another Korean singer with the same name Kim Mi So. The Miso we’re featuring here was born in 1992 while the other was born in 1995.
Miso is fluent in both Korean and English because she spent her childhood in England. Thus, half her songs are in English. Her discography is often characterize as soft beat and modern.
Dept is a singer, producer and DJ under the agency Dept Music. He debuted in 2016 and has released more than 10 digital singles of his own and collaborative singles with Seo Actor. His tracks are calm and soulful, which makes a perfect study playlist.
Here you go! How many of the artists featured are the ones you already knew? I hope you enjoy these music as much as I do!
Written by Melody Wong