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A Guide to K Hip-Hop Crews

6 MIN READ


One of the most intrinsic parts of Hip-Hop is the idea of crews. At its very core, a crew is a group of like-minded artists who work closely together to create music and art, and provide support to each other. The formation of crews within the Hip-Hop scene rose to prominence in the late 80s/ early 90s in America through the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Native Tongues. Essentially, for artists, they are appealing in that they provide them with a sense of identity among the sea of other acts within an industry. They also allow them to have a collaborative outlet to express themselves and even build connections. In the absence of K Hip-Hop labels during the 90s in South Korea, the idea of forming crews was adopted as a way for artists to have the same benefits of support and collaboration within the budding scene. Since then, there has been the rise of numerous crews who are helping to shape and build the industry. To understand more about crews within K Hip-Hop, let's take a look at some of the most definitive crews, past and present.



THE MOVEMENT CREW

The Movement Crew member: Tiger JK
Movement member: Tiger JK / Source: wikipedia

Status: inactive (2000-2013)


As one of the first crews in Korea, and inclusive of what would go on to be some of the biggest artists, The Movement Crew has been impactful in K Hip-Hop history. The now-iconic crew was created in 2000 by Drunken Tiger, the pioneering group headed by Tiger JK. The group was inspired to create the crew after releasing their song 'The Movement', on which they collaborated with artists like CB MASS, Kim Jin Pyo and Yoon Mirae. The crew not only consisted of Drunken Tiger and these featuring artists, but over time also included: YDG, Epik High, Dynamicduo, Leessang, Dok2, Eun Jiwon and Double K. The crew was further expanded to include DJs as well, and throughout its entirety saw some 20+ members join. Though many of the rappers of Movement Crew are now veterans within the scene, when they joined, they were still in the beginning stages of their careers. However, as these artists began to gain mainstream success, the legacy of the crew was also cemented. As the years went on, many members branched off to work on their own projects and even create labels. This, coupled with a split in Drunken Tiger, saw The Movement Crew members eventually stop working together around 2013. However, with a history that expands over 10 years, and with some great acts among its lineup, the importance and contribution of this crew in K Hip-Hop cannot be understated.


Listen to 'The Movement' which inspired the crew's creation:



ILLEST KONFUSION (IK)

IK Founder: Simon Dominic
IK founder: Simon Dominic / Source: melon

Status: inactive (2009-2013)


Despite their short existence, Illest Konfusion (IK) was an impressive crew in the 2010s. IK was formed and led by Simon Dominic back in 2009 when he was still a member of the duo, Supreme Team with E SENS. The crew consisted of both rappers and DJs, some of whom are now stalwarts within the scene like Beenzino, Swings, JTONG, Beatbox D.G. and DJ Pumkin. Due to the talent of the members, the crew began to gain traction, which helped some artists to begin establishing their careers. As the popularity of the members grew, there began to be discord among them. One of the final events that led to the dissolution of the crew was the infamous Control Beat Diss Battle in 2013. As the first major diss battle in Korea, it saw rappers from IK like Swings, Simon Dominic and E SENS go at each other. While over time, they eventually patched things up, the crew was never fully revived. However, some members like Simon Dominic, Beenzino, JTONG and DJ Pumkin still identify as IK members. Producing some of the biggest names within the scene today, Illest Konfusion remains an iconic crew.


Listen to 'Take Me' featuring IK members:



VV:D

VV:D Members: Zion.T & Crush
VV:D members: Zion.T & Crush / Source: last.fm

Status:inactive (2012-2016)


VV:D is a 5 member crew made up of some of the most dynamic artists within the scene. The origin of the crew can be traced back to the friendship between its members: Zion.T, Crush, GRAY, Loco and ELO. As friends who were all passionate about music, they frequently hung out together, but in 2012, they decided to officially form a crew. Like many crews before them, at the time when they created VV:D, they were newbies in the industry. The member who enjoyed the most mainstream popularity among the 5 was Zion.T, and naturally, he acted as a leader. While they never released a collaborative project, in the early days, they each contributed to each other's work, whether it be in terms of production of music, designing artwork or doing photography. Crush's single 'Red Dress' is perhaps the best example of this. Throughout the years the members continued to work together, and one by one, they each managed to gain widespread success individually. Given the popularity that each member now enjoys, these days they rarely work as a unit, however, VV:D is still close-knit and individually, they offer themselves up for collaborations with each other.


Listen to 'Red Dress':



42

42 member: nafla
42 member: nafla / Source: GROOVL1N

Status: inactive (2012-2017)


Although a part of the K Hip-Hop scene, 42 is a crew that was formed in Los Angeles. The beginnings of the crew started in the area of 'La Crescenta’ in Los Angeles where rappers like nafla, BLOO, Young West, niahn, Neil and T lived. Being neighbours, the rappers all grew up together and each had an equal passion for music and rap. In 2012, they decided to create 42 as a way for them to work together. They released their only mixtape, 'Life is 42' in 2014 which consisted of 10 tracks. The crew gave rappers like nafla, BLOO and Young West a chance to develop their skills. In 2016, those members left Los Angeles for Korea to join MKIT RAIN, the label founded by another Los Angeles native, Loopy. The label began to take off through the work of nafla and Loopy who began gaining attention in the underground scene in Korea. Their popularity was cemented through their participation in 'Show Me the Money 777' which saw nafla be crowned the winner. However, with the success of MKIT RAIN growing, and members of 42 being split between Los Angeles and Korea, they eventually parted ways.


Listen to 'loosies' by 42 members:



CLUB ESKIMO

Club Eskimo member: DEAN
Club Eskimo member: DEAN / Source: melon

Status: inactive (2015-2017)


Formed in 2015, Club Eskimo can be considered one of the trendiest crews in recent years. The 11 member crew was made up of rappers, singers and DJs like: DEAN, Crush, PUNCHNELLO, Miso, offonoff (Colde & 0channel), millic, Rad Museum and 2xxx!, along with JUNSÉN and DJ CHEK PARREN. The purpose of the crew was to create music and art that felt raw and defiant. This was inspired by the indigenous people of the arctic who braved tough conditions and led a rebellious lifestyle, something which is reflected in the crew's name. Club Eskimo began to be noticed within the scene due to DEAN's rising popularity at the time, and he almost served as the leader. Between 2015-2017, they frequently performed together at clubs within Seoul, and even joined DEAN on a US tour in 2017. As a unit, they collaborated on the track 'IGLOO' on millic's 2017 album 'VIDA'. Their last public performance took place in 2017 before each of the members broke off to work on their own projects.


Listen to 'IGLOO':



DREAM PERFECT REGIME (DPR)

DPR LIVE & DPR +IAN
DPR LIVE & DPR +IAN / Source: Elle Korea

Status: active


Perhaps one of the most successful crews currently active, Dream Perfect Regime (DPR) is a creative powerhouse. The crew is made up of DPR LIVE, DPR +IAN, DPR REM and DPR CREAM who describe themselves on their website simply as a 'multi-genre music and video group'. They dabble in a bit of everything in the creative process, from producing music to directing and editing visual work. The establishment of DPR began back in 2012 with the friendship that blossomed between DPR LIVE and DPR +IAN who met in Seoul. DPR REM and DPR CREAM soon joined after meeting the other members. In the early days, IAN and REM worked on visual productions for artists within the scene which helped them earn money to fund their own work. In 2015 though, they began creating their own projects. Their fame started to take off with the release of 'EUNG FREESTYLE'. DPR LIVE rapped on the track, and IAN and REM took care of the music video direction. From there onwards, they made their way into the mainstream, gaining admiration for the quality and creativity of their art. The majority of their work has revolved around the creation of albums for DPR LIVE, as CREAM and REM produce his songs and IAN works on directing music videos. However, in 2020 they released their collaborative album 'DPR ARCHIVES'. In that same year, DPR +IAN also released his first album 'Moodswings in this Order'. Being heavily involved in the creation of their own work, this crew has managed to set themselves apart from other artists and gain a loyal fanbase.


Listen to 'BOOM' featuring DPR members:



WAYSIDE TOWN (WYSD)

WYSD member: Leellamarz
WYSD member: Leellamarz / Source: melon

Status: active


Despite being one of the newer crews in K Hip-Hop, Wayside Town (WYSD) is steadily making a name for themselves. The 13 member crew sees some popular artists in its lineup like Leellamarz, Keem Hyo-Eun, Hash Swan and TOIL. Rising artists such as Skinny Brown, Jayci yucca and Kim Mi Jeong (yourbeagle) also make up the crew. This crew is one that sees frequent collaborations between the members especially in terms of album releases. Some albums that highlight this are: 'Tocca Brown: Highteen Rockstars' and 'TOYSTORY' 1 & 2. However, when looking through anyone one of these artists' albums, you're sure to find credits from WYSD members. What is unique about this crew is that collectively, their songs have a distinctive quality to them and feel very fresh and urban. This is perhaps what has led to members of WYSD gaining notoriety so fast.


Listen to 'You never' featuring WYSD members:



WYBH (우주비행)

WYBH members: GIRIBOY & Kid Milli
GIRIBOY & Kid Milli / Source: Dazed Korea

Status: active


WYBH meaning '우주비행' or 'space flight', is a crew that was founded in 2016 by GIRIBOY. The rapper decided to form the crew for the simple purpose of having a way to work with DJs and producers within the industry. Since then, it has expanded to include a number of rappers. The 18 member crew is made up of DJs and producers like: Cosmic Boy, APRO, DJ SQ and Fisherman. It also includes rappers: Kid Milli, Han Yo Han, OLNL, CHOI LB and Jiwoo. The crew released their only formal collaborative project to date 'WYBH VOL. 1', a set of 8 instrumental tracks. However, GIRIBOY featured some of the work from this project on his EP 'KGVOVC from wybh vol. 1'. WYBH is better known for their performances together as pre-COVID, they frequently held shows at various clubs within Seoul. This helped the public become familiar with the members and built up the crew's reputation. WYBH is still active however, their last performance was in early 2020.


Listen to 'Supernatural Power' featuring WYBH members:



LEGIT GOONS

Legit Goons member: CODE KUNST
Legit Goons member: CODE KUNST /Source: melon

Status: active


Although they are one of the more underrated crews, Legit Goons is a crew creating some dynamic work. The crew was formed in 2013 and comprises rappers, producers and visual artists. Among some of the 11 members, you can find names like CODE KUNST, Bassagong, Yosi and Jayho. They have released a number of singles, and four studio albums to date, with one of their most popular albums being 2017's 'Junk Drunk Love'. Stylistically, the members of this crew deliver songs with a classic boom-bap style, and one can always find strong bars supported by chill jazz-influenced beats. They manage to consistently put out releases that are groovy and entertaining. In 2020, the crew engaged in a collaborative project with Dingo Freestyle which saw the release of two singles 'Burn' and 'Party and Bullshit' both produced by CODE KUNST. With solid skills and regular releases, Legit Goons is a crew that should not be underestimated.


Listen to 'Burn':



Anais Khan-George


Sources: [1],[2],[3],[4],[5]














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