This is the second in a series on producers, MCs, DJs and artists working in the Korean underground hip-hop scene. ― Ed.
According to Korean rapper Paloalto, promotion is difficult for independent labels in Korea. Lack of financing limits their promotional reach and makes it difficult for promotion companies to want to work with them.
But a recent show put on by underground hip-hop label Hi-Lite Records saw hundreds crowd into the venue to support the artists, while the musicians jumped from one side of the stage to the other, exuding an energetic force that was infectious.
Three members ― Paloalto, who started the label, B Free and Huckleberry P ― recently sat down with The Korea Herald. The group wrapped up a three-stop tour not too long ago, hitting Busan, Daegu and Seoul. The tour highlighted the label’s first compilation album, “Hi-Life,” which dropped on June 25.
“First of all, it’s our third year since establishing Hi-Lite Records. Since it’s been three years and we’ve been together for some time, we thought it would be fun to come together with all the artists in the agency to make a compilation album,” said Paloalto.
|Members of Hi-Lite Records (Hi-Lite Records)|
Its title from a song off B Free’s first album, the album draws from the experiences of the Hi-Lite artists, experiences which vary widely ― Paloalto and Huckleberry P have been in the underground scene for about 10 years, while others, such as B Free, who grew up in Hawaii, have only been around for about 4 years.
“What we’re talking about is from our experiences, like how to survive in this business, in the industry. And basically just trying to guide other kids or future artists, show them the right way,” said B Free. “Tell them about our experiences, not one in particular, but as a whole what our mindset was, what our goal is, what we’ve been through.”
Paloalto said it was difficult initially to get the album together since all the artists have different ideas and musical tendencies. He credited B Free for getting things going and then passing it on for others to finish.
The artists at Hi-Lite were all doing their own thing before the label started three years ago and it wasn’t until all the members joined that they really started working together, according to Paloalto. But once they joined the label, the artists grew closer.
“We talk to each other a lot so when we’re having a conversation and ideas for songs or concepts come to mind, we’re able to work together. For creating music, there isn’t an exact time and place it happens,” he said. “We meet and everything happens naturally.”
The rapper said that some of the challenges they face as an underground label involve creativity, how to keep their work fresh. However, the biggest challenge is financing.
Big agencies have all the money, which makes promotion easier since they can utilize a variety of media from TV to the Internet, said B Free. As soon as an album is released, it’s online and everyone knows about it. But it’s much harder for smaller labels that don’t have the same resources.
“We can’t beat the big agencies. That’s why we’re trying to put out better quality music and think of new ideas to make good content,” said Paloalto.
“Our music isn’t mainstream in terms of sound or lyrics. Also, a PR company looks for artists that can make them money, who are already well known and popular, so it’s difficult to find a team that will promote an indie label.”
The group says they see social networking services more as a way to reach out to their fans rather than a medium of promotion, since most of the people who follow them are diehard fans already.
They each said that in the future they hope to keep being creative, find new things to do, and to not be afraid to express themselves. The group’s biggest goal is to not be afraid to say what they want about society ― something they say they’ve never shied away from, especially when it comes to commenting on the Korean education system.
“We want people to know it’s okay to pursue your goals and do whatever you want to do,” said Huckleberry P.
And it’s creativity that feeds the underground hip-hop scene, according to Paloalto. He said today there are a lot more talented and skilled rappers than when the scene first started out. Back then, it was more raw and people really just loved the music for itself.
Nowadays, people get into the scene for the love of the music, but also, with the dream of making it big. This pushes artists in the underground to be more creative. It’s more than just the music; now they have to have a good album design and pay attention to style.
They hope that more talented artists keep joining the underground hip-hop scene.
“Because those kinds of artists need to keep popping up in order for the underground hip-hop scene to continue existing,” said Paloalto.
By Emma Kalka (email@example.com)
Cha Yo-rim contributed to this article. ― Ed.