To Koreans and K-pop fans who know the ins and outs of what I'm talking about here, please note that compared to you I know very little - I only got addicted to the mainstream side of things in April of this year. Although I've done my research to the best of my ability and with what I can actually read, the internet isn't exactly a comprehensive encyclopedia with everything about the artists listed in one place and I can't read Korean (Google Translate isn't of much help either) so there are a lot of important pages I'm missing out on. Any corrections and clarifications are very welcome, please comment so I can further develop this review.
In Korea, everyone has some form of rapping in some random song - SHINee, DBSK, f(x), Brown Eyed Girls, Super Junior, 2PM, After School, 4 Minute, Rain and countless others all make provisions for chanting/rapping. It's kinda like dancing so that makes it dance AND rap OR rot and die in Korea. What a standard.
Back to what I was saying. Rapping isn't reserved for Hip-Hop acts or predominantly Hip-Hop songs - heck, even The Brown Eyed Girls' How Come had a rap part and that was on the techno side! Which is why back then I was a little annoyed by the oftentimes cheap rapping by G-Dragon and the like.
For the longest time, my only foray into what people actually call Korean R&B/Hip-Hop was via YG - I got my fill of Se7en, Big Bang and 2NE1 from the talent company and thought that that was enough. Until I realized that they were more on the pop side and were probably as familiar with Korean R&B as people from SM and JYP were.
Recently I gave these Hip-Hop people a chance and what I heard surprised even me! The rapping on a lot of the songs I heard was tasteful and didn't sound like they knew absolutely nothing about what rapping was - these people had a sense of rhythm, a good way of delivering the words and the over-all rapping was tasteful. Which brings me to this song.
Hwayobi, from what I've been reading on her, is a well-respected pop/R&B singer in her late 20's. Her debut album was released in 2000 and although she doesn't get as much press attention as all these girl groups, boybands and major solo artists from holy trinity talent companies (I have yet to find out if she actually belongs to a talent company), the girl has one heck of a voice. Think Duffy with an even deeper, more beautiful timbre and you have Hwayobi. I haven't heard her hit big, high notes with a full voice yet but who cares - she isn't a ballad singer and she isn't in a girl group, I happen to think she has a nice range.
Now the guy. Hwayobi's dating the guy, which explains the video. Anyway, he's part of a Hip-Hop duo called Untouchable and they've been around for a while now. There's not much info about them online (will have to dig more) but they look very proficient. See one of their singles here. The guy, who's credited as Sleepy (his real name's Kim Sung Won), raps on this song but on the other song by Untouchable that I linked you to, HE SINGS. And might I add that he's pretty good. Not anywhere near Jaejoong DBSK's vocals but cut the guy some slack, he's a rapper.
Now that you have basic background on them, on to the song.
Kiss Kiss Kiss is very light and sweet - mix that with Hwayobi's voice that sounds very smooth and clean yet has passion and conviction and you have a very, very good R&B number. The hook is catchy but not like a pop song where it hits you over the head and doesn't let you breathe, this one's laid-back but not lazy. The rapping gives it a different dimension and like I said, as long as you rap tastefully and it compliments the song, I don't mind at all.
I like the trumpets that sporadically appear in the background and I like the arrangement of this song - the production is outstanding as well. The songs's a good example of how to properly use the obvious auto-tune and not over do it but I do think that Hwayobi's voice when auto-tuned sounds very good.
So there. I'm still pretty much grazing the surface of the genre with this song and I know very little but when I started the K-pop special back in May I was like this for the mainstream pop - absolutely clueless. Over the next few weeks I might be pouring all my attention into hunting down the gems in Korean Hip-Hop so if I ever feature any others, you know I've been looking.4.5/5