This is the 10th in a series on producers, MCs, DJs and artists working in the Korean underground hip-hop scene. ― Ed.
Producer and owner of hip-hop club In2Deep Onesun considers himself lucky. Back when he first became interested in hip-hop ― in the ’90s ― there was almost none to be found in Korea.
Because of its explicit nature, hip-hop wasn’t imported to the country. But, Onesun listened to the Armed Forces Network and went to France in middle school. Through that he was exposed to popular music and MTV for the first time.
“People who were my age, they had no chance to get into hip-hop.” For them, the chance to “touch” or experience hip-hop and hip-hop culture was important.
Onesun’s journey into music started when he was a young child. His father gave him a tape of classical music when he was 3 that he said he listened to day and night. Because of that tape, he started playing the piano at age 5. His introduction to non-classical music came in fifth grade when he listened to “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
“That was a shock to me. How can they make these sounds, deep and wide, and something very interesting,” he said.
From there he followed the Billboard charts. He said getting into hip-hop was a matter of following the trend, since popular music at that time in the U.S. was moving toward hip-hop.
In 1998, when he started university, he began looking for places in Hongdae to listen to hip-hop, but there wasn’t much, just two bars ― Soul Train and Bar Honey.
He found a home in Soul Train, dancing, serving or acting as DJ. It was there that he met other aspiring rappers. They found themselves with the opportunity to perform at the famed hip-hop club Master Plan in late 1998 and he debuted in a crew called Dope Boys. Eventually he began performing solo, hoping like many to become a famous rap star.
But four years ago, he changed his mind.
“I had a bad accident and I was kept in bed for two months. I was thinking about my past and what should I do? What do I have to do?” he said. He decided that he should start being a “helper” and help others become hip-hop artists.
“What you can do and what you want to do is quite different. If these two things are the same for someone, then he is a genius. But there very few geniuses. And I’m not a genius.”
He wrote his own lyrics and produced his own music, and while he wasn’t a good enough rapper, he was a good producer and planner, he said. So he quit rapping and focused on making music for others.
This led to his international project with Australian rapper Yojay, who was a semifinalist on “Australia’s Got Talent.” The two have been working together via the Internet for almost three years now. Yojay has an album soon to drop with about five tracks made by Onesun, and the Korean producer said they were planning to do a world tour depending on how well the album does.
Opening up the hip-hop club In2Deep six months ago in Hongdae was another way for Onesun to help other hip-hop artists. He said that there was nowhere for hip-hop artists to perform regularly these days. Many shows that go on are put on by individual artists who are already popular.
In July 2011, before opening In2Deep, he started a weekly series of shows called Shining Ground for new rappers. But after a year, the owner of the club had to shut it down and Shining Ground ended. So Onesun got together with a group of friends and bought In2Deep with the purpose of bringing Shining Ground back.
“If somebody does hip-hop, they have no stage to show their own. We have to make our ground first. That’s what I think. That’s why I created Shining Ground. It’s for everybody. Every musician. I’m going to give chances to everybody who wants to be on stage,” he said.
And Shining Ground is as much a place for people who enjoy listening to live hip-hop as it is for artists to perform, Onesun said, adding that there was power in hearing live performances.
“A fan from the live shows, he never leaves. That is the power of live performances. The power of the show. I’m going to give this power to my rappers.”
Shining Ground season two will start on Nov. 2 at In2Deep with the release of two singles featuring all the artists who performed in Shining Ground season one and the new ones. About 15 to 20 teams and artists will be featured in the show, which will run every weekend.
By Emma Kalka (firstname.lastname@example.org)