Hip-hop no longer just a boys’ club

By Korea Herald

Rapper Jolly V carves out a space in male-dominated scene

  • Published : May 1, 2014 - 19:52
  • Updated : May 2, 2014 - 10:03
This is the first in a series highlighting women and their accomplishments in the Korean entertainment industry. ― Ed.

While there is certainly no shortage of women who rap in the Korean music industry, there are few female MCs in the Korean hip-hop scene. Standing out among them is Jolly V, with her husky tone, mellow flow and ability to rap fluently in English and Korean.

The 25-year-old rapper says one obstacle for women in today’s Korean hip-hop is the high bar set by the legendary singer-rapper Yoon Mirae.

“If you ask any Korean which female rapper do you know, they’ll be like, Yoon Mirae. T. Tasha. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but since her image and her presence is just totally, wow, right there, I think listeners have a hard time adapting to new styles of female MCs or new styles of lyrics that female artists talk about,” she said.

She said it was time for women in Korean hip-hop to become stronger and surer of themselves. Only when there are enough strong female rappers with a strong foundation as artists will people stop comparing them all to Yoon Mirae.

It was a similar issue that the young rapper brought up in her diss track “Bad B****es” last December, calling for women in hip-hop to step up. She said the track talks about how other female MCs aren’t focusing on their artistry or message, which is what they should be doing. Rather, they focus more on the fact that they are women ― who happen to rap.
Rapper Jolly V (SouLime Sound)

“You should balance those two together and go your own way rather than copy someone else’s style,” she said. “I really encourage all those future female MCs out there who are pushing through to really do what they want to do and really study what they are trying to do.”

Jolly V has been in the Korean hip-hop scene since she came back to Korea from the United States when she was 19. A love of music and dancing pushed her toward a career in music,

And the rapper said she always knew she would do something related to it. But it wasn’t until high school when she started getting into dancing hip-hop that she considered rapping.

At first, it was the strong bass and “groovy feeling” of some hip-hop songs that got to her. But once she started listening to the lyrics, specifically by artists Nas and Talib Kweli, she realized it was the wordplay and rhymes that interested her.

Her entrance to the Korean hip-hop scene was on a whim. She had entered a rap contest hosted by top Korean hip-hop website Hiphopplaya.com, for fun and not expecting to win.

But then she did. Her victory led the well-known producer who held the competition, DJ Juice, to ask her to feature on his album.

And while there are way more men in the industry than women, Jolly V said she hasn’t experienced much negativity from the male rappers and producers in the community.

“Some rappers ... they don’t give a damn. They just do their own thing. They don’t really care about the female rappers. There are some oppas that are like that, but then again, some other people are actually kind of interested in new, coming up female rappers. They do show a lot of support,” she said, relaying how some rappers have actively supported her career and said they were rooting for her.

And just like other hip-hop artists, she said her inspiration comes from everything around her. Her new album, set to come out over the summer, is a mix of songs where she “swags out” and others that talk about love and going through the mid-20s crisis that so many face. Another track features her rapping in the style of hip-hop that she used to listen to when she was young.

She carries a rhyme book with her at all times in case inspiration hits ― which could be at any time, she says, whether walking down the street or riding the bus. “I bet people are like, ‘What is she doing?’ You know? That’s what I do,” she said with a laugh.

Jolly V dreams of performing overseas and someday going to the Grammys. She also said she would love to collaborate with the likes of Lauryn Hill and possibly some K-pop stars in the future. Even with Yoon Mirae.

But to future rappers and MCs, she said the most important thing is to study hip-hop. Some of her suggestions include listening to the top 10 classic hip-hop songs, learning about the game changers in the culture, and realizing that hip-hop is not easy.

“You better see that and study that, and it’s the only way for you to take what you want and make it into your own kind of art.”

By Emma Kalka (ekalka@heraldcorp.com)