It’s hard to miss fans of the idol groups and singers, but Korean hip-hop (Khip-hop) fans are much harder to find. I know they exist, but you wouldn’t KNOW it looking at fan activity on the Internet. There are some real reasons why they might want to think about standing up and being heard.
You can say what you want about idol fans, but one thing they do exceptionally well is provide information. With numerous websites, forums, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, you are hard pressed not to know details about your favorite artist or group. When you decide you are going to break down and like Super Junior, E.L.Fs, the fans of Super Junior, are more than happy to provide you with all the details, ranging from eye color to that song that you really like but can’t find because you don’t know the name of it. They give you pictures so that you can pick them out of a crowd and they provide a community where you can spazz out with like-minded people.
Some Khip-hop fans might be too cool for that. Very few run websites; a cursory search brings up few results. A few may peep their heads out to review an album or engage in the age-old debate of what is “real” hip hop versus “fake” hip hop in a forum. But, for the most part, you can’t find them.
That’s a shame. I like my share of Khip-hop, so y’all might want to rethink your Internet presence for a few reasons. If you don’t provide information for people who may be interested in Khip-hop, you are denying potential fans. I faced this recently when I got all excited about Primary‘s See Through. Other than finding images of Primary with that box on his head, I found precious little information about Primary, his history, and how he came to work with Gaeko and Zion T. Sadness.
When Khip-hop fans don’t write about Khip-hop, they also give the power to others to define it. Trust me, you do not want National Public Radio (NPR) telling the world about Tablo. Rather than focusing on his talent, NPR followed the digital blood trail from the accusations that he failed to receive a degree from Stanford University: “He’s a rapper and one of Korea’s most famous artists. He’s also been at the center of a media storm, but not because of his music. His is a story of pop-culture paranoia and conspiracy.” No mention of his music, the development of his career or his significance to Korean hip-hop. If fans don’t take responsibility for how people see KHip-hop, someone else, probably less knowledgeable and invested, will. And it won’t be pretty.
Another reason Khip-hop fans might want to increase their web presence has to do with another form of responsibility. Part of this responsibility involves calling out tomfoolery when you see it. Let’s consider Jay Park‘s mixtape Fresh Air: Breath It. Its 100,000 downloads received lots of attention; major online outlets reported on the mixtape’s viral status.
Far fewer outlets addressed the lyrics, many of which hellokpop can’t even publish. Salima described the mixtape as “a string of sexually aggressive and overzealous songs that do much to highlight the fact that Jay Park’s got a lot of sex on the brain.” At the same time, other writers, like IATFB, aren’t really bothered by those lyrics: “ I’m not saying the mixtape is poor because it offended my sensibilities or anything (it’s hip-hop/R&B, man).”
Here’s my issue: that isn’t hip-hop. At least not all of it. Even if you don’t think Jay Park is “real” hip-hop, it’s hard to deny that he’s working the hip-hop vibe. With no Khip-hop fans calling Park out for, at the very least, using lyrics to reinforce the myth that all hip-hop is anti-woman, people like IATFB will continue to think that this is par for the course. And it is not. Grandmaster Flash, acknowledged by everyone as one of THE elders of hip-hop, said in an interview that this misonception is the one he hates the most:
“I think that somebody went around and said that in order to cut a hit record, we have to disrespect our brothers, sisters, mothers and children. What people don’t realize here is that hip-hop has a large influence on people. What you say maybe just frivolously, somebody can seriously go out and go do. I’m not saying that what we’re doing is not right, but it shouldn’t be the only way that a record is made. Like if you listen to ten records, seven of them is either disrespecting our sisters or hurting people” (55).
American hip-hop fans have been dealing with this for years: the myth that “real” hip-hop translates into the objectification of women. It’s so pervasive that people think that is true. And they will continue to think similarly wrong things about Khip-hop unless fans step up and set the record straight. This is what “real” hip-hop fans do: love hip-hop, but love it enough to criticize it. If you are going to be down with hip-hop, then you have to deal with some of its problematic aspects.
So Khip-hop fans, in the words of Taeyang, “Where U At?”