The world may know South Korea by its monumental K-pop scene, but one genre can barely personify the vibrancy and excitement that comes with its sprawling music culture.
One of its biggest mainstays is hip-hop, a genre that has mutated and evolved tremendously.
A cultural phenomenon within South Korea's borders since the 1990s, the rest of world has begun to take notice — established artists like CL, Jay Park and DEAN regularly finding themselves with international collaborations, from Skrillex to 2 Chainz, Anderson .Paak to Lil Yachty.
South Korean hip-hop has its veteran heroes, but a new generation of artists are gearing up to take the reins.
Evolving from old-school boom bap to sultry and R&B-inspired beats, along with hard-hitting trap bangers, the country's hip-hop scene is simply exploding with talent. Here are 9 artists you should take note of, because 2018's going to be their year.
The young rapper has star power on his side, being the member of prolific boy band BTS, and it's given him a remarkable push — making K-pop history with the best-selling release on the Billboard 200 for a solo act, he's even earned a fan in John Cena.
Introducing the world to his swaggering, pastel-hued style through mixtape Hope World, J-Hope is quickly moving to great things. Don't sleep on him.
For a rapper named Okasian, he's been an unwavering constant in South Korea. The Korean-American maverick was first introduced to the world in the infamous music video for 'It G Ma', lead by rap radical Keith Ape.
He's been relentlessly touring, most recently making an appearance at ZoukOut 2017 in Singapore. There's no word about new music, but 2018 looks set to mark the grand return of Okasian.
If there's one thing most endearing about Jessi, it's that she's known to be an incredibly genuine person in real life, based on several fan experiences — but you wouldn't associate that with her fiery beats and assertive rapping style.
Jessi commands the stage unlike any other, and the Unpretty Rapstar runner-up is already raking in the views on YouTube with her latest single 'Gucci'. Fingers crossed an album is on its way. Meanwhile, you can also catch her hosting the upcoming premiere of Yo! MTV Raps!
Recently making his live debut in the US, DPR LIVE is one of Seoul's biggest examples of an ascending star, emerging from the bustling underground to the forefront of cutting-edge Korean rap.
His sophomore EP Her condenses modern love and pop culture into something that's groovy and addictive — judging by his ambition in a recent interview, expect to see bigger and better things this year from the 25-year-old.
Miryo may be a familiar face in the music industry, serving as the vivacious rapper in Brown Eyed Girls. But as a solo artist, she's taking the year to rejuvenate her work with three-part project titled DREAMS COME TRUE, and it's energetic and colourful.
While TRUE has yet to be released, what we've heard from DREAMS and COME so far has been thoroughly impressive — the music video for 'Can I See You Again' comes replete with emojis and bright, endless grids.
"The first part is about my ideal society, the perfect lover .. anything I dream of. It is about my personal reality and dreams that were not created by anyone else but myself. I hope that everything I wish for and everything you wish for will become reality."
One of the more introspective and emotional artists on this list, Millic unscrambles romance with an airtight imagination.
Just like many of his foreign contemporaries, he unties the barricades that separate hip-hop, R&B, soul and electronic music with a potent and intoxicating brew on his own.
Serving as a multi-talented producer and DJ, Millic provides the canvas on which his crewmates in Fanxy Child — Dean, Zico, Crush and Penomeco — paint wildly and gracefully upon.
The fearless rapper of Fanxy Child, PENOMECO has been hard at work and ready to take on the world.
His devil-may-care braggadociousness is best examplified when asked on Twitter, "What's something on your bucket list that you want to do before you die?", to which he answered, "I will not die."
Currently preparing his long-awaited debut album, PENOMECO's determination to "not die" may result in an immortalization of his name in Korean hip-hop. At least, we won't be surprised if it does.
Starting out with the short-lived girl group Fiestar, which recently broke up, Yezi's now seizing the chance for her own spotlight.
Yezi took charge during the twilight years of Fiestar to release a bevy of addictive singles, and while she's best known for her participation in reality TV competition Unpretty Rapstar, the name Yezi will soon be synonymous with Korean hip-hop culture.
25-year-old Mino is a busy man. Aside from his role as explosive rapper of boy group Winner, he forms one-half of MOBB with prolific rapper Bobby, and he's on the pursuit of his own successful solo career.
Praised by fans as one of the most versatile rappers in South Korea, Mino is kept up with the process of making his upcoming solo album, along with the recent release of EVERYD4Y, touted as Winner's grand return this year.
But no fear, Mino will deliver the goods soon enough.