Not every K-pop artist can sing and rap. And not every group has a rapper in tow. And even if you are a rap act, sometimes you know your song will sound that little bit more special if you enlist the help of another hip hop star.
For all these reasons and more, K-pop simply abounds with great songs featuring verses by guest hip hop artists. Over the years, there have been some great tracks in this vein, and there have also been some great vocal featuring spots too. But now it’s time to shine the spotlight on these talented featured rappers.
So have a look through our list, tell us your thoughts on our picks, and let us know about your favorite rap featuring moments in the comments below!
HyunA always manages to rope in the very best when it comes to rap collaborators.
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, this LE collaboration was so much fire it could burn down the entire Internet.
Your monitor could burst into flames watching this. Your speakers could implode. Your…OK, you get the picture. I’ll stop now.
Then there was her solo debut, where she drafted in the assistance of Cube Entertainment labelmate Junhyung of BEAST.
Not forgetting, of course, this hidden classic from Trouble Maker’s “Chemistry” album, featuring Asiatix’s Flowsik.
However, although rap fans will probably prefer the flow of her Dok2 or LE collaborations, her latest song not only has star power, it positively bursts at the seams with dance-fueled energy, which arguably peaks just as BTOB’s Ilhoon makes his entrance. Electric stuff.
And while we are talking about 4MINUTE and rap, this almost-forgotten 2009 track deserves a mention.
HyunA can rap – better than most, in fact – but even her skills pale in comparison to those of her bandmate Jiyoon.
Even in this hot mess of 4MINUTE rap, Jiyoon steals the show with her bars.
Woo Yi Kyung had but a brief dance music career. If you blinked, you probably missed it. Nowadays you will probably only catch her doing soundtrack numbers, with the odd crooning appearance on tracks with the likes of Bigflo.
And even if this track, released the same year 4MINUTE debuted, was not otherwise all that memorable…
…it certainly gave the group’s fans a tantalizing early taste of Jiyoon’s ability on the mic.
Almost seven breathless minutes of frantic, furious hip hop gymnastics reaches an insurmountable peak during Outsider’s now-legendary speed rap section on this timeless track.
Using an instrumental base assembled using samples from Bill Conti’s “Going the Distance,” from the soundtrack of the movie “Rocky,” the song builds into a crescendo of noise that will test your Korean skills like nothing else on this green earth.
The track put Outsider onto the map, although he has since shown the ability to slow it down (just a little) every now and then.
The benchmark for all would-be hip hop stars, especially anyone with pretensions of becoming a speed rapper. If you have only one Korean rap song on your music player, it really should be this one.
K-pop’s ultimate “whatever happened to..?,” Lena’s bars on Sunmi’s “Full Moon” were for many, the best part about a very good song indeed, a strong (if mildly visually creepy) return from the Wonder Girls star.
Before the rap verse, all I am hearing is the track’s great beat. When Lena turns up, it’s more like a case of “What beat?”
Unfortunately, the verse is what you might call short but sweet. Which is rather a fitting metaphor for Lena’s K-pop career.
Even as recently as February last year, JYP Entertainment was releasing statements claiming that Lena was set to debut in the talent agency’s long-awaited new girl group, reputedly called 6mix.
Instead, though, Lena decided to walk away, resurfacing in a totally different guise this summer as a beauty contestant, winning a Miss Korea USA title.
From an objective standpoint, it is great that Lena is doing what she obviously loves, as she has previously bagged the Miss Hi-Teen award in 2009, at the tender age of 16.
But from a purely musical point of view, it is a crying shame – K-pop’s great “what might have been?”
Is it me or has SM Entertainment really been upping its musical game in recent years? At the risk of stepping on toes here, I will admit that much of their musical product has never really gripped me in the past.
But even skeptical old audio junkies like me have had to swallow our words after some quite astonishing recent releases from SHINee and TVXQ to name but two.
This Taeyeon solo effort is a real keeper, too.
Musically, it is like nothing ever heard before in K-pop, drawing its guitar sounds and bass from the post-rock genre.
Instead of the usual deep house, neo-disco, and electro-pop stylings that K-pop producers tend to favor, this track sounds like something conceived by the likes of Hammock, Mogwai or even an electronica-post rock crossover act such as Tycho.
The cherry on the top of “I,” however, is certainly the Verbal Jint rap.
Verbal Jint is possibly the biggest crossover star the K-pop/Korean hip hop scene has produced; so you knew this was going to be special right from the outset. The final product certainly did not disappoint.
But Taeyeon, Verbal Jint and post-rock? Now that I did not see coming.
If you are a fan of ballads (I, as a rule, am not, but that’s just me), then you probably consider Zia to be an essential K-pop artist.
For this kind of thing, however, even non-ballad fans sit up and take notice. Cheska (who has since quit the group) is a decent rapper in her own right, but Yezi can drop some serious bars, as her co-contestants on “Unpretty Rapstar Season 2” are currently discovering.
FIESTAR is a decent-enough act, but as they are primarily dance-orientated, their songs tend to have fairly short rap sections. Take for example a track like “Vista.” You cannot help wishing the entire song had been constructed in the vein of Yezi’s rap verses.
Instead, it drags a little.
Not so on “Such a Woman.” Both get ample time to shine – this could almost be a Yezi and Cheska song that features Zia, rather than the reverse.
And give Yezi time on the mic and she will instantly steal the show, as she is currently proving on “Unpretty Rapstar,” to the chagrin of her co-competitors.
It is something of pity that it never seems to have come together for Kahi. As a member of After School, she seemed to have all the tools that a solo star would need – charm, a pretty decent voice, and some killer dance moves.
For one reason or another, Kahi’s solo has never really set the world alight, despite its undoubtable musical worth (this is my personal favorite).
This track was noteworthy for a range of reasons, however. Not least of all was the fact that it is one of the few times that Korean-American rapper and sometime A$AP Ferg/Waka Flocka Flame collaborator Dumbfoundead has rapped in Korean, rather than English.
He actually does a decent job, and leaves you wanting more.
Further Kahi-Dumbfoundead collaborations would be nice, even if they seem somewhat unlikely at the time of writing.
Leaving her Brown Eyed Girls work aside, Miryo is a very accomplished rapper with very little left to prove.
Her pre-girl group material with Honey Family established her as a leading figure in the Korean hip hop scene. Brown Eyed Girls activities have drawn her deeper into the world of pop and electronica, however. It is something that she has never since escaped, even with her solo work.
This song is absurdly good, though.
But this 2003 album track by Digiri, a key member of the Honey Family collective, is a welcome blast from the past, coming three years before Brown Eyed Girls made their debut.
Miryo more than holds her own, dropping some heavy bars on a song that features not only Digiri himself but two other massive K-pop names – Gary of Leessang and dance music pioneer Kim Wan Sun (yes, that Kim Wan Sun).
Stands the test of time, and reminds you that Miryo really can step with the very best.
Speaking of K-pop dance veterans, they really do not come any bigger than Uhm Jung Hwa. Despite her somewhat advanced years, she has lived up to her billing as the “Korean Madonna.”
And even if recent years have seen her focus on her acting career, even as recently as late last year she proved that she is still one of the sexiest solo stars in the history of Korean music.
Despite a bill that contained big-name acts like Kim Gun Mo, Turbo, Jinusean, and Kim Hyun Jung, Uhm Jung Hwa was the standout on the “Infinity Challenge” 1990s special – and her tracks “Poison” and “Invitation” rocketed back up the charts in the wake of her performances on the show.
Back in 2008, though, she had a mini renaissance thanks to an album that just brimmed over with YG Entertainment rap star power, a result of Uhm Jung Hwa’s long-established friendship with the YG higher-ups.
But the piece de resistance is undoubtedly T.O.P’s “D.I.S.C.O” cameo. Funky, sexy, cool, it has since become a dance music classic, and is memorable for throwing together two of the sexiest stars in K-pop.
This was a solid dance track from Ivy. But for most idol group fans, this song was notable for its rap featuring section.
Not only did it feature Wonder Girls’ gifted Yubin on the original, and for the first week of music show performances (jump to 2:01 for some Yubin rapping action)…
…it also gave two other girl group rapppers the chance to work their magic.
Rainbow’s Woori made a fist of it (jump to 1:52 for some instant Woori).
And miss A’s Jia was predictably great (jump to 1:51 to cut to the Jia chase).
If nothing else, it provided thousands of net users the chance to quibble about who did it best for years to come.
Personally, I’d have to say Woori, but that is possibly only because of my insatiable Rainbow bias. There’s no point in having a sense of judgement if you don’t allow it to get clouded every now and then, right? Isn’t that the whole point of K-pop?
You’ve read our thoughts, now it’s over to you, Soompiers! What is your all-time favorite rap featuring performance? Is there a rapper you would like to hear lending their skills to your favorite group’s next release? Tell us what you think in the comments below!
Playlist: “10 Unforgettable K-Pop Rap Featuring Performances”
timmydee is a music geek with a penchant for pop, an enthusiasm for electronica and a hankering for hip hop.
*The views expressed in this article solely reflect those of the author and do not represent Soompi as a whole.