2015 in Review: Day 4 – Rap and Hip-hop

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[The 2015 in Review Series]

1. Prelude (Best Album Art)
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Staff Picks
16. Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

Korean hip-hop had a huge year in 2015. Yes, E Sens took up a lot of attention, but there were several other releases that made it extremely difficult to pick the field. Most encouraging was the fact that, in addition to mainstream and established indie artists, a large range of newer faces ranging from Bassagong to Don Malik contributed very meaningful works to the scene. The future is still bright.

Important: as in previous years, the Album of the Year and Song of the Year (and their runner-ups) are not included in the genre categories. That means that, for example, there could be a rap album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that all “First Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best Rap and Hip-hop Album 2015

E Sens - The Anecdote

E Sens – The Anecdote

The most anticipated Korean hip-hop album of the year, if not ever, The Anecdote had impossible expectations to live up to; Deepflow’s Illmatic comparison was just the beginning. And yet, incredibly, it managed to not disappoint us. E Sens writes without pretense and delivers dryly, telling these very personal (yet technical) stories of struggle, pain and growth in that inimitably natural flow of his, but mostly without the showmanship of old. Obi Klein’s beats are austere but hard-hitting, as if to one-up the rapper. Aside from one short verse, E Sens is the only voice you hear throughout the album, and he thrives under the load. I’m not ready to say whether this is an Illmatic or not, but The Anecdote is a landmark album in its own right.

Runner-up Rap and Hip-hop Album 2015

Deepflow - Yanghwa

Deepflow – 양화 (Yanghwa)

I almost feel bad about putting Yanghwa here; in pretty much any other year, Deepflow would have ran away with the top spot. Take a moment to appreciate the sheer ambition and magnitude of this work. Rock-solid boom bap production that has as much attitude and swagger as the thudding drums powering each beat; weighty, sometimes ominous rapping that gives the album a taste of smoky film noir; the incorporation of traditional elements both lyrically and sonically. Featured artists also perform out of their minds – Huckleberry P and Dragon AT are particularly memorable. It’s a very complete package.

The First Ten Out


Best Rap and Hip-hop Song 2015

Huckleberry P – Everest

“Everest” is a little deceptive. It starts out a smooth jazz-rap track, with only the corpse imagery in the lyrics potentially betraying what’s coming. Huck P progresses through his bars with deepening finesse until about halfway through the track, when voice turns steely, emotions flare, and cymbals crash alongside the crescendo of frantic piano. The imagery – the rapper as mountaineer, scaling an Everest of the industry among the death and failure of those before him – is engaging throughout, and by the song’s end, convincing.

Runner-up Rap and Hip-hop Song 2015

Song of Wi Jaeryang – 살아가는 곳 (Where We Live) (Featuring Choi Sam, Chailo)

The Song of Wi Jaeryang project aimed to adapt the works of the titular poet into hip-hop. The greatest payoff is found right here. Yes, most of the emotional impact comes from the searing power of the source poem, which captured the existence – love, joy, suffering – of the working class in partly lamenting and partly detached language. Still, Choi Sam took some liberties in adapting the poem into this song’s opening verse, including imposing a first person perspective into the original’s mix of second and third person. As the “you” and “they” turn into “me” and “us”, Choi’s original second verse and personally charged delivery begin to make a beautiful kind of sense.

The First Ten Out

Bassagong - 출항사 (Departure Log)

 Bassagong – 마초맨 (Macho Man) (Featuring Chaboom, Deepflow)

Beenzino - We Are Going To

Beenzino – We Are Going To

Bulhandang - ATCN

Bulhandang – A.T.C.N. (Featuring Sean2Slow)

Cjamm - Good Night

C Jamm – Good Night

Deepflow - Yanghwa

Deepflow – 개로 (Featuring Dragon AT, Satbyeol)*

Don Malik & Mild Beats - 탯줄 (Umbilical Cord)

Don Malik & Mild Beats – About Muse

Chunjae Nochang - GOD

Genius Nochang – God (Featuring Seulong, Shin Jisu, Lovey, Shin Bo-hye, Jun Hyo-jin)

Hwaji - Yippee Ki-yay

Hwaji – 히피카예 (Yippee Ki-yay)*

JJK - Noble Collision

JJK – 고결한 충돌 (Noble Collision)*

Nuol - Bassline

Nuol – Bassline (Featuring King Kong, Huckleberry P)

Honorable Mentions


BLNK TIME – Color Unique
Chamane – 20
Chunjae Nochang – My New Instagram: Mesurechiffon
C Jamm – Good Boy Doing Bad Things
Crucial Star – Boyhood
Dclat – Sumo
Dok2 – Multimillionaire
Dopflamingo – Spectrum Range
Eluphant – Man on the Moon
Gary – 2002
Giriboy – 성인식 (Rite of Passage)
Hangzoo – BestDriver
Ja Mezz – ¼
Jay Park – Worldwide
JayT – Delivery Man
JJK – 고결한 충돌 (Noble Collision)
J-Tong – 이정훈 (Lee Jung-hoon)
Keystones – Back To Back
Liquid – City Lights
Nior – What’s Your Name?
Owen Ovadoz & Joe Rhee – OJ
Pento – Adam
Primary & Ohhuyk – Lucky You!
Rhyme-A- – NBA
Sapo – Sapo Pensee
Soul Dive – Sin
Suda – Bukgajwa-ong 349-17
Young Jay – From Paju To Seoul
Young Vinyls – Too Young


5% – 일요일 아침 (Sunday Morning)
Andup – 기시감 (Déjà vu) (Featuring Dalchong)
Big Bang – 뱅뱅뱅 (Bang Bang Bang)
Brand New Music – Brand New Day
Chamane & Jay Moon – BVO
Code Kunst – Parachute (Featuring Ohhyuk, Dok2)
Day Jam – Proto Type (Featuring Verse85, Dilli Jinn)
Dclat – XSLXQIM (Featuring Qim Isle)
Deepflow – 잘 어울려 (Fits Well)
Eluphant – 크레이터 (Crater) (Featuring Kim Feel)
E Sens – Next Level
E Sens – Tick Tock (Featuring Kim Ximya)
E Sens – 주사위 (Dice)
Gaeko & Yankie – Cheers (Featuring Beenzino, Potent)
Giriboy – 왕복 30분 (30 Minutes Back and Forth) (Featuring Shin Zisu)
Hyorin, Zico, Paloalto – 다크팬더 (Dark Panda)
iKON – 이리오너라 (Come Here)
Illinit – Beer In My Backpack
JayT – Delivery Man
Mayson The Soul – Somebody (Featuring Paloalto, Ugly Duck)
Quadrough – Go Hard
The Quiett – Bentley
P-Type – 광화문 (Gwanghwamoon) (Featuring Taewan)
P-Type – 시차적응1 (Jetlag 1) (Featuring Nafla)
Pento – ADAM (Featuring Park Geun-hong)
Rhyme-A- – NBA
San E – Me You (Featuring Baek Ye-rin)
San E & Hyorin – Coach Me (Featuring Joohun)
Soul Dive – SIN
Suda – 유랑가 (Featuring Noize Mob)
Tablo, Joey Bada$$, Code Kunst – Hood
Tiger JK – 반가워요 (Nice To Meet You) (Featuring Yoon Mi-rae)
Unjake – 지진 (Earthquake)
Verbal Jint – 귀아래 (Under The Ear) (Featuring LE)
White Rain – Think About You (Featuring WonderFlow)
Yankie – 똑바로 써 내 이름 (Write My Name Right)
Young Jay – From Paju To Seoul

*No studio version on YouTube.

Sources: header image and album art from Bugs Music.

Editing by MaliVai Tjong Ayong

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