Extra Credit Blog: South Korea’s Top Music Label “YG Entertainment”

K-pop is a music genre originating in South Korea that is influenced by western pop music. K-pop is all genres of popular music in Korea such as hip-hop, R&B, jazz, electronica, techno, rock, dance, folk, and underground music. K-pop culture started during the 1980s and K-pop was spread internationally through social media. For example, one of the K-pop songs that phenomenally took advantage of social media was  Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” The song from his sixth studio album “Psy 6 (Six rules), Part 1”  was released on July 15th, 2012. The “Gangnam Style” music video was uploaded on Youtube and it reached one billion views on December 21, 2012. It became the first Youtube video that hit one billion views. Now it has 2.8billion views and it is the most watched Youtube video.

The success behind “Gangnam Style” was the work of Korean music label “YG Entertainment.” JoongHo Ahn, Sewhan Oh, and Hyunjung Kim said, “According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and tourism in South Korean,   it is reported that around 1,000 entertainment agencies are active in Korea” (2). Among 1,000 entertainments, there are “big three” record labels and entertainment agencies in South Korea. They are SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment. Psy is under YG Entertainment and YG Entertainment is one of the top labels that sets the trend of K-pop culture. Many YG artists such as Big Bang, 2NE1, Black Pink. Winner, Ikon, and Psy contributed to spread K-pop music to the world and they were the people who struck the international music industry with their music.

YG Entertainment was established by Hyunsuk Yang who was the member of Seo Tai Ji and Boys. Seo Tai Ji and Boys was a South Korean music group active from 1992 to 1996. The band was one of the sensational groups that were influential among Korean teenagers at that time period. According to Billboard, their first three albums had each sold over 1.6 million copies with the fourth nearing two million. After the break up of Seo Tai Ji and Boys, Yang started YG Entertainment as a hip hop label in 1996. People were looking forward to YG’s music because he was the trendsetter in K-pop hip-hop market back in the days. YG released Hip-Hop duo “Jinusean” in 1997. The members of Jinusean were Jin Woo Kim and Seung Hwan Noh. Two members are from America. They both emigrated to America when they were in elementary school.  They both liked to dance during teenage years and enjoyed listening to hip hop music. Noh was working as backup dancers of Seo Tai Ji and Boys and Kim had his solo debut with the song called, “I am the Cap.” And, they both were scouted by Yang to YG entertainment. Yang wanted to bring American hip hop into K-pop. Therefore, he trained Kim and Noh to bring that “American swag” into their music. Their song, “Tell Me” from the first single album, “Gasoline” had a huge hit and their debut became successful. And, their second album, “The Real” attracted hip-hop fans. Eventually, they became one of the pioneers of Korean hip-hop. Here is the video of Jinusean’s “Tell Me.” 

Because of Jinusean’s success, YG was able to release second hip-hop band, “1TYM.” 1TYM is a four-member South Korean hip hop group. They are Jinhwan Oh, Teddy Park, Baekyong Song, and Danny Im. Teddy and Danny were the members from Los Angeles. They were discovered by a producer who worked with Hyunsuk Yang. They had an audition in front of Yang and became the members of 1TYM. 1TYM released their debut album “One Time for Your Mind” in 1998. Their lead song “1TYM” became a huge success and the album was one of the best-selling albums of the year. They won the best new artist award and the best hip-hop artist award from SBS Kayadaejeon in 1998. However, ITYM couldn’t continue their music career because of citizenship issue in South Korea. Teddy was U.S permanent resident and Korean government intensified the law related to U.S permanent residents in South Korea. Therefore, Teddy was limited to be active as a singer in South Korea. They had only two months of promotion time after they released their album. Because they couldn’t actively continue their singing career, they finished their singing career as 1TYM after releasing the fifth album “One Way” in November 2005.

In the 2000s, YG entertainment started to focus on making “idol” singer. To become an “idol” singer, the candidates have to attend an audition held by mainstream entertainment agency. The company selects “idol” trainees based on looks or potential talents. When the candidates pass the audition, they become a trainee to become a popular and talented singer. Most of the trainees are young such as twelve years old to nineteen years old. Above twenty years old is considered old for trainees. For several years, they practice to become a perfect and influential artist to the public. They practice dancing, vocal, language, and artistic skill to become a global artist that represents South Korea. YG’s first “idol” singer was Seven.  Seven became a trainee at YG Entertainment when he was fifteen years old. After four years of training, he made his debut in 2003. His debut stage was sensational because he was running with the Heelys shoes in the stage to perform. He made Heelys shoes popular among the teenagers and it was a trend to own Heelys shoes in the early 2000s. Then, he was awarded for best new artist in Golden Disk Awards, 5th Mnet Asian Music Awards, 14th Seoul Music Awards in 2003. Later on, he decided to make a debut in America. Seven first did a featuring in Amerie’s song “Take Control” from her album, “Because I Love it” which was released in May 2007. Seven worked with Rich Harrison and Lionell Davis on his first American album. He released his first U.S single on March 10th 2008. He released “Girls” and Lil Kim did a featuring in this song. However, it didn’t grab much attention from American consumers. However, YG Entertainment was the first Korea label to enter into U.S pop market. Even though it wasn’t a good success, they didn’t give up the dream of success in the U.S. Seven continues to be a successful singer in South Korea until the early 2010s.  Here is the video of Seven’s “Girls.” Seven-Girls feat. Lil Kim

YG Entertainment now focuses on idol group after the success of their first idol singer Seven. YG released their first idol group Bigbang in 2006. The members are G-dragon, Top, Taeyang, Seungri, and Daesung. YG first documented their lives as trainees. They started with six members, but one member named Hyunseung couldn’t make it to the debut because of lack of skill. Yang’s intention of documenting their trainee life was to promote them as a talented group who makes hard effort to produce good music. G-Dragon and Taeyang started as a trainee at eleven years old. G-Dragon started rapping at the very young age and he contributed couple songs with ITYM and Jinusean. G-Dragon soon suggested Top as a rapper in the group. Rest of the members joined Bigbang through audition. Bigbang was first introduced as a hip-hop idol group. Their debut song is “La La La” from “Big Bang Vol.1” album. Their song didn’t get much attention. Most of the boy bands at that time would emphasize their cuteness and youthfulness. However, Bigbang would rap on hip-hop beats and wore street wears that other boy bands didn’t do.

In 2007, Big Bang released “Lies.” “Lies” is from their first studio album “Remember.” This song was composed and wrote by G-Dragon. “Lies” became a huge hit in South Korea and won numerous awards that year. They received Mnet Asian Music Award for Best Rap Performance and Mnet Asian Award for Overseas Viewer. G-Dragon started to produce songs for Big Bang and his producing skill was acknowledged by many k-pop fans. G-Dragon used electronic sounds in this song and he made electro music to be more familiar to many K-pop fans. Big Bang continues to hit No.1 in many songs such as “Last Farewell,” “Haru Haru,” and “Sunset Glow.” And, they advanced their music to Japan market. Their Japanese song “Gara Gara Go,” and “Koe Wo Kikasete” became the huge hits in Japan. They were awarded for Song of the Year at the 52nd Japan Record Awards with the song “Tell Me Goodbye.” Later on, they released their solo albums. In 2009, G-Dragon came up with a self-produced album called “Heartbreaker.” The lead song “Heartbreaker” was a hit, topping various charts on release. His album is the best-selling South Korean solo artist album since its release. He also won Album of the Year from Mnet Asian Music Award and Melon Music Awards. Taeyang also released his first solo album in 2010. “Wedding Dress” and “I Need a Girl” became huge hit and won no.1 in Gaon chart. Whenever Bigbang releases an album, their album always hit no.1. The group became an icon in Korean idol group band and they are still continuing to make music. Here is the video of “Lies”. Bigbang-Lies

In 2010, Psy joined YG Entertainment. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” became an international hit song and YG Entertainment succeeds in conquering the American pop market. “Gangnam Style” was a huge success that every country knew the song. “Gangnam Style” officially charted No.1 on the Itunes Music Video Charts. Psy would appear in American TV shows such as The Today Show, Ellen Show, The Jonathan Ross Show and Saturday Night Live. He made Gangnam style phenomenon in all over the world. Here is the link to Psy’s Gangnam Style. Psy-Gangnam Style live

YG Entertainment became worldwide and started to expand their company by scouting actors, models, and underground rappers to make the multi-entertainment company. They have models entertainment called YG Kplus and hip-hop label called Highground and The Black Label. They are considered as the top entertainment that many trainees and artists want to join.