K-Pop Double Take is a weekly review column highlighting recent releases that have yet to receive the attention we feel they deserve.
While artists like CL and Rap Monster are beginning to expose worldwide audiences to Korea’s burgeoning rap scene, it’s important to remember that the influence isn’t just emerging from the Korean peninsula.
Born in Argentina, based in Los Angeles, but representing Korean culture, rapper Dumbfoundead stays true to his roots. On his recent single “Mijangwon,” released on Dec. 10, the up-and-coming MC is able to simultaneously rep Western and Eastern aspects of his personality, displaying a unique perspective all the while.
He has help from two guests, Loopy and Nafla, two rappers who are similarly bridging the international scenes across the Pacific Ocean. Loopy represents Seoul, Nafla is from Pasadena, but alongside Dumbfoundead, the trio make a potent case for a hip-hop culture that reaches across borders.
Known to his parents as Jonathan Park, Dumbfoundead lives in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, a location that figures prominently in the video for “Mijangwon.”
“Mijangwon” means “beauty salon” in Korean and that’s the setting of the Dumbfoundead video. To a certain extent, this mirrors the importance of the barbershop for American rappers ranging from Murs to Killer Mike.
The comparisons and similarities are piled on throughout the song, with Dumbfoundead replacing the obligatory “Scarface” reference with a nod to “Oldboy,” Korea’s most well-known contribution to the tradition of hyper-violent cinema. However, while “Mijangwon” is meant to show Korean/Korean-American rap as being equal players in the global rap scene, it’s not all about finding parallels. For these rapper, it’s about proving themselves as originals, not imitators.
With his helium-like voice and wild, triplet-flecked flow, Loopy initially brings to mind American rapper Danny Brown. But by the time his verse is over, the listener realizes he’s got something unique going on as well. For his part, Nafla brings explosive energy and aggression that compliments the song’s threatening beat.
Dumbfoundead is the central spoke of “Mijanwon,” providing a macho attitude, calling himself a “K-town legend.”
Throughout the track, all three rhyme in both English and Korean. The audience is clearly international, but the message is the same; make way for the new wave of Korean hip-hop.
Watch the music video for Dumbfoundead’s song “Mijangwon” RIGHT HERE
Jeff Tobias is a composer, musician and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As of late, he has been studying arcane systems of tuning and working on his jump shot.