In 1992, South Korea was forever transformed by a group of twenty year-olds called Seo Taiji And Boys. Their blend of hip hop, rock, and techno laid the foundation for the hybridization of genres that is typical of Korean popular music. Seo Taiji was the leader and sole composer of this legendary group. Although Seo Taijiis known for popularizing hip hop, many critics point out that the essence of his music is rock.
Prior to forming Seo Taiji and Boys, Seo Taijiwas the bassist of Sinawe—the first heavy metal band in Korea. This musical background can be heard in many of his famous songs like Class Idea, which displays a mix of metal influences:
Ha-Yuh-Gah, regarded as one of his most important compositions, is a haunting mix of rock and traditional Korean music:
Seo Taiji And Boys produced four groundbreaking albums that garnered much controversy due to their political lyrics. Class Idea criticized the education system as a means to create workers and competition. He even discussed re-unification with North Korea in Dreaming of Bal Hae. Seo Taijiwas praised by the former president Kim Dae Joong as the cultural minister of South Korea. Unsurprisingly, his significance is compared to that of the Beatlesand Michael Jacksonin South Korea.
Even after disbanding Seo Taiji and Boys, Seo Taiji continued to release music as a solo artist. This latter phase of his career cemented his investment in rock. For example, his first solo album delves into alternative rock that is full of energy:
In his second album, he even delves into Nu Metal, which garnered the praise of bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit:
Seo Taiji continued to experiment with genres like emo-core. Heffy End is an interesting example that depicts the obsession of a stalker. If one pays attention, there is a second vocal track that screams the same lyrics, signifying the true voice of the stalker.
In his eighth album, Seo Taiji creates his own genre through recordings of nature. These samples are split into thousands of piece and manipulated for various purposes. He appropriately named this process Nature Pound.
In 2014, his ninth album Quiet Night was released after a series of scandals and major life changes. His transition from rockstar to father is evident in this album, which dedicates its music to his fans and newborn daughter.
(The scary thing is that despite his considerable age he looks younger than me.)
Without a doubt, Seo Taijiis one of the greatest rockstars of whom many of us never knew. I hope this was an opportunity for you to experience some of the talent that exists in Asia. Do you know a rockstar of whom we are ignorant?