This is the fourth in a series on producers, MCs, DJs and artists working in the Korean underground hip-hop scene. ― Ed.
Life has certainly gotten busier for the trio of Soul Dive. Since their win of season two of Mnet’s survival hip-hop show “Show Me the Money,” they have been busy with shows and receiving more calls, said member Zito.
“(We’re) kind of very thankful, because now we can see the money,” he joked.
The group, consisting of rappers Nuck, Zito and D Theo, were members of Meta Crew, headed by veteran rapper MC Meta from duo Garion, on the show.
Going on “Show Me the Money,” the group said, was one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced. Leader Nuck said they are peaceful guys, but to be on the show, they had to be aggressive ― after all, it was a competition.
“It was difficult to go up to par with material that is suitable to go on air, and for it to be entertaining. During the first few episodes, all our interviews got edited out and they only showed us performing,” he said.
While it was the most challenging experience as a group, it was, at the same time, the most rewarding, Zito said.
From left: Zito, D Theo and Nuck from Soul Dive. (Soul Dive)
The close-knit group said they learned animal instinct as the show went on, though it was difficult to adjust. But they had to beat the other teams in order to move forward on the show.
Nuck said there were bad aspects and good aspects of the show. One that was a bit of both was the fact that the program is on the air at all: The good performances will be remembered and could be inspiring, but the bad performances could have a negative impact on the industry.
Zito added that the show has created more fans of hip-hop, but one bad side effect is that many are focusing on the controversy in the scene rather than the music.
Each member has his own favorite performances from the show, Zito’s being “3 MCs and 1 DJ,” which was sampled from the famous Beastie Boys song. He said it showed their skills and how well they can work together as a team. Nuck said his favorite performance was “Youngsooni,” which had a style and sound he called unique and different from other hip-hop, whether in Korea or the U.S.
D Theo said their performance of “Missing” was a heartwarming experience. The crowd had flags with the team’s logos printed on them that they waved throughout.
“Seeing them from the stage was a really touching experience,” he said.
The group was formed in 2008, though the three had been rapping before that. Nuck was a member of Infinite Flow and D Theo and Zito had been friends since middle school. Zito said in 2001, he and D Theo attended a show at a club where they saw Nuck performing.
“He was like a really famous superstar. And at the time I was a fan of his team,” he said.
Zito said they started up a conversation in the rehearsal room, which led to a close friendship. Years later when Infinite Flow broke up, Zito proposed starting a group and Soul Dive was born. Their first album was released in 2009.
Though Soul Dive is a hip-hop group, leader Nuck says he’s inspired by culture when it comes to writing, drawing inspiration from music, books, movies, nature and the like. He enjoys going to museums and exhibitions and calls himself a “freak,” though Zito jokingly says the leader is a nerd.
Nuck said the key word to describe the current Korean hip-hop scene is “reconstruction” and that it is in the process of being destroyed and rebuilt.
“People are fighting with each other, but then they are also making new things,” he said.
On the recent issue of the “Control” trend that hit Korea a few weeks ago, Nuck said he wants to differentiate between the battle that started in America and the one in Korea. He said the one in the U.S. started by rapper Kendrick Lamar was more about the artist calling on artists to wake up and make music. But in Korea, he doesn’t believe it’s really a diss battle since everyone is talking about their personal stories.
He calls it a personal battle between two artists, which is why they can’t participate, especially since they don’t even know if everything being said is true or not.
“On one side, it’s kind of sad that this is happening, but also I think it’s bold of them, because they are able to express themselves freely,” he said.
With “Show Me the Money” behind them now, the group are busy performing and working on their second album. They have an upcoming show in Hongdae on Sept. 13 and will be performing at One Hip-hop Festival in Ilsan on Sept. 7.
Their latest single, “The Night is Young,” dropped on Aug. 30. They said the song has a good message, which is to not throw away your dreams and to just do your thing.
Nuck hopes that someday people overseas will recognize Korean hip-hop as an independent genre, much like how Americans recognized Japanese hip-hop as “J hip-hop,” and separate it from K-pop.
By Emma Kalka (firstname.lastname@example.org