This is the seventh in a series on producers, MCs, DJs and artists working in the Korean underground hip-hop scene. ― Ed.
When some people hear the name Insane Deegie, they think of the grandfather of the Korean diss battle: the young, angry first-generation hip-hop artist who filled his songs with curse words and was not afraid to go after anyone, even former President Lee Myung-bak.
They might not think of the smooth sounds of jazz hip-hop, which is the concept Deegie has been using for his personal series of albums since 2004. The second was released in 2011 and the third will drop next month. He is considered the first jazz hip-hop singer-songwriter in Korea.
Deegie chose the concept because he wanted a sound that was more luxurious.
“I started at 17. And at that time, every hip-hop (sound) was just so simple. I thought, ‘I want to be luxurious. ... I want to be really Gangnam, noble,’ something like that,” he said.
For his next album, due out on Oct. 4, Deegie said he worked with international jazz artists and traveled to Malaysia with half of his studio. He said he gets inspiration from traveling and puts together all his personal albums abroad ― the first in Malaysia and second in Bali. Sometimes even mid-flight, he’ll get an idea for a song. And with more than 250 songs completed and waiting to be used on his computer, he certainly has no lack of inspiration.
The new album also features some songs from Singapore and Europe although most were recorded in Malaysia, with a special appearance from comedian Na Gyun-pil, who gained notice from mimicking the famous singer Kim Gun-mo during an appearance on jTBC’s TV program “Hidden Singer.”
He said he made a song dedicated to Kim and needed his voice, but since it is not serious ― a more fun, experimental album ―he didn’t want to ask him directly. So he asked Na to feature on the song instead.
“One day, I want to perform together. But that’s more serious music. This is kind of experimental and funny. So that’s why I just borrowed his sound,” he said. “I’m really first in the world, probably. It’s kind of a DJ remix, but I just wrote a genuine, real human being’s song. I just brought another original artist’s voice.”
The album also features DJ IT scratching and other foreign jazz artists, he said.
Deegie has been in the Korean hip-hop industry for more than 15 years now. He started out as a rapper, but then gradually taught himself to write music. He said when he first started out he used the drum kit on an electronic keyboard. However, his turning point as a singer-songwriter came when he got his first Mac computer. He said there were very few singer-songwriters in Korean hip-hop and not many artists actually created their own music and lyrics, and then performed them.
In the past few years, however, he has been producing albums for other artists, which is why he wants to focus on his personal work. And he says that now that he is older, he wants to work at better communicating through his music. None of his previous songs could be played on TV due to their explicit nature. But he hopes to change that with this latest album.
Although writing music comes second nature to Deegie, he said writing lyrics is the most challenging part of making music for him.
“When I was (in my) 20s, I wanted to spit it out. All the words and cursing ... I didn’t want to communicate,” he said.
“But now, over 30, I want to (be a) good communicator. I want to be that kind of musician. That is my big challenge. It’s really hard to write like that. So, that’s why I still envy the rappers still like Drunken Tiger, Garion, I really envy them.”
However, he added that the “king of diss” will have one diss track on his next album, though it will be a hidden track, a new aspect he is experimenting with.
Deegie said that now the hip-hop industry is booming and that rap is the highlight of the music industry. He likens underground hip-hop to an R&D department. He says artists can experiment and find what works before moving into more mainstream music, and that a lot of the producers in K-pop have a hip-hop background.
Part of what helps hip-hop, in his opinion, is the crew system. For hip-hop, your crew is your family and they work together and support each other, which is something that other music genres doesn’t seem to have.
“Everyone said Korean hip-hop would die within two or three years (but we are) still staying,” he said. “And (we) still all collaborate, work together. ... So that’s why we can still sell albums.”
By Emma Kalka (firstname.lastname@example.org