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Scene Report

The 5 torchbearers for the future of Korean Hip Hop

Enter: 1300, Lee Young Ji, Huh, JMIN & Luci Gang

LiFTED | Sabiq Rafid | 3 Apr 2024

When it comes to the entertainment market in East Asia, Korea has arguably the biggest. Whether it’s movies, TV series, music, or Pop culture in general, things are crazy over there. Its Hip Hop circuit is thriving thanks to its pioneers.

Just like its Asian counterparts in Japan and the Philippines, one of the earliest influences for Hip Hop in Korea was through the cultural exchange of American soldiers stationed in the country. As sounds and bars from American-made tracks spread through the country, the early generation of South Korean MCs took to the mic. Seo Jung-kwon, also known as Tiger JK, played a pivotal role in the birth of Korea’s Hip Hop scene. He emerged onto the country’s music industry together with DJ Shine as Drunken Tiger, and released their debut album, Year of the Tiger, in 1999. This brought a new energy and flavor into the Pop music-dominated country.

The album essentially represented what Hip Hop represents - counterculture. At first, it was met with controversy due to its explicit lyrics and the rejection of the South Korean music industry norms. Unlike the K-pop stars then, the Hip Hop duo wrote their own material and expressed anti-establishment views. Drunken Tiger set out to shake up the industry, and that’s exactly what they did. Fast forward to present times, singles like ‘I Want You’ and ‘Do You Know Hip Hop? from said album are now regarded as classics. They went on to pave the way for more seminal likes such as Dynamic Duo and Epik High amongst others that do their thing without worrying about backlash, which allows for the scene to grow and prosper.

Now, even the K-pop market incorporates K-hop elements into their industry, whether that’s through dance or song. The TV industry also went on to produce Hip Hop reality series such as Show Me the Money, High School Rapper, and Unpretty Rapstar – of which many current Rap stars first introduced themselves to the country.

With the size of the K-hop market, there will always be a select bunch that stands out in a sea of names. Here are five MCs [or crews] that LiFTED thinks will be the torchbearers for the future of Korean Hip Hop.


Acid House? Off-kilter beats? Hyperpop? R&B? The Korean-Australian Rap collective 1300 has rhymed and bodied them all. Rako, Goyo, Dali Hart, Nerdie, and Pokari.sweat make up the outfit, and the one thing about them is that you cannot box the quintet into a specific sound category.

That’s the best part of the 1300 listening experience. You’re taken on a journey, and they’ll make you rethink all that you thought you knew about the constraints of Hip Hop. The creative crew embodies the idea of experimentation, bouncing between genres and throwing curveballs when you’re expecting it to come at you straight. In a time where everything tends to sound the same and formulaic, 1300 is the breath of fresh air everyone desperately needs.

Lee Young Ji

Lee Young Ji made history on December 30, 2022, when she was crowned as the first-ever female MC to win Mnet’s Show Me the Money. She achieved that feat at 20 and has gone on to cement her place within the scene. Despite her young career, she’s now touring the tours and selling out shows at home and beyond the South Korean shores.

There’s no room for second-guessing when it comes to Lee Young Ji’s abilities as an MC, she spits with absolute conviction. You can hear it clearly in her voice and the way she bobs and weaves through her bars. And like every great MC, she’s versatile with it; gliding throughfeel-good tracks or absolutely tearing it up when she’s on the smoke.


Gwangdo-born Huh is an MC to keep your eye on. He first started independently in 2019, before signing to Dynamic Duo’s Amoeba Culture in 2021, where he dropped an album and EP.

The EP,titled Voice tool tip.txt, was released in September of 2023. That six-track project serves as a testament to how dope and versatile an MC Huh is. On it, there’s an 808-heavy thumper, Trap music, an Afrobeat-inspired take, Pop hits, and even a Jersey Club number. He switches up his flows and delivery between the tracks, with a delivery that stays immaculate throughout.


JMIN is a Korean-American MC who began releasing his own tracks as early as 2018. Things began to shoot up for him when he signed with H1GHR music back in 2021, announcing himself once again via a brilliant seven-track project titled Homecoming.

JMIN is a rapper that is suave from his head to his feet. He’s at his best on a smoky R&B take or when the BPM is slowed way down. Take a dive into his discography and you’d be met with an East meets West flavor, just like his hot take.

Luci Gang

Luci Gang is one of the brightest lights in Korea’s underground scene. While she might not have a major label backing like some of the other named MCs on the list, she’s still consistently releasing great projects and singles since she began putting out tracks in 2020.

Not only does she Rap but she also produces and arranges the tracks that she puts out. Her latest album, C8H11NO2 CLUB, is a brilliant display of her prowess as both a producer and an MC because she traverses genres and employs multiple flows throughout.

She’s also one-half of the rap duo NEWTOWN BANGERS. Together with Lucky Bando, they drop some of the illest rap projects from the underground. Luci Gang’s music brings about that fire that’ll get your head bopping and body moving, and it’s all done in a DIY fashion–something that not everyone can say they do.