DEBUTED: January 2018
MEMBERS: Abyss, Henson, Jan’qui, Leesuho, Mudd the student, Omega Sapien, San Yawn, Sogumm, Unsinkable, Wnjn
Bridging the gap between K-pop, Hip-Hop, Pop and Rap, Balming Tiger is composed not only of musical artists, but producers, editors and filmmakers too who have firmly cemented themselves as trailblazers in Seoul’s thriving rap scene. With a unique sense of fashion to match the crew’s unrivalled creativity, Balming Tiger is composed of talented, eccentric personas who aim to reflect and represent the current generation with their distinct sounds, all the while popularising Asian culture across the globe. According to the Balming Tiger twitter bio, the crew is “a rising multi-national alternative k-pop group” who struggle to limit their work to one genre.
Throughout Balming Tiger’s discography, the unmistakable tag, “Smells like Balming Tiger”, opens their songs, for instance the 2019 single ‘Armadillo’. This phrase has become synonymous with the crew, not only as an introduction to their work, but as a reference to the Asian ointment which induces a sensory overload similar to that of the crew. With explosive production, vocals and visuals, the Balming Tiger crew overwhelms listeners and proves the “Smells like balming tiger” tag is a perfect opening line for the crew’s works.
Prior to debuting as a collective in 2018, most members were familiar with one another, such as producers DJ Abyss, No Identity and San Yawn who mixed together whilst hosting the Seoul Community Radio in 2017. Regardless of the limited resources, the independent collective has an infinite amount of freedom and imagination to draw inspiration from, enabling them to produce music to their liking while still having fun. In an interview with VISLA, Founder and Producer San Yawn explained that Balming Tiger had no set recruitment style nor a limit on each member's involvement in projects, rather through the shared extravagance for creativity, each member is able to showcase their own colour.
ROLE: Producer/Promotion & Marketing Strategy
NAME: Yi Miseon
As one of the founding members of Balming Tiger, DJ Abyss has built her career as a DJ at clubs such as the renowned Itaewon based SOAP club, and the aforementioned Seoul Community Radio show.
According to San Yawn, Abyss is the “pillar” of the crew, acting as mediator since the founding of Balming Tiger and rationalising, not only music disputes, but also various differences in opinions. Prior to founding Balming Tiger, Abyss was a member of the Billie Birkin crew.
NAME: Henson Hwang
According to Henson, his role within Balming Tiger includes working on the team's unique music, videos, and writings, all the while hanging out with his closest friends. Besides helping the group plan its performances, he ensures to maintain a good working relationship with various local and global media.
Jan’qui is one of the earliest members to join Blaming Tiger. Initially planning to work as part of the crew’s music production, he soon realised the importance and potential of gaining visual attraction, and since none of the other members had expertise in that area he took on the challenge himself. As a result, Jan’qui can be accredited with creating noteworthy music videos including Keith Ape’s “It G Ma” alongside his works produced for Balming Tiger.
ROLE: Producer/Singer-Songwriter/Video Director
NAME: Lee Suho
Suddenly moving to Mexico at the age of 15, Leesuho would pass the time by listening to music on YouTube and as a result began experimenting with it, at first for fun but eventually becoming his career. He cites Aphex Twin, OPN, Arca, Sophie, PC Music, Simo and Kim Ximya as inspirations for his music style and explained to Bandwagon that when making music he has a strong feeling of inviting others into his world, however when working on visual projects it is reversed, as he enters the client's world and uses visual means to articulate their thoughts.
Leesuho’s first EP ‘Entertain’ was released in 2018 and received high praise for its refreshing influence on the Korean hip-hop scene, resulting in a nomination at the Korean Hip-Hop Awards in 2019. He then dropped the album ‘Monika’ in 2021 to commemorate joining the Balming Tiger crew, which he had been a fan of prior to joining. Leesuho has stated that he has no clear objective while a member of Balming Tiger besides creating and sharing good and enjoyable works with close friends.
Mudd the student
NAME: Yoon Seung Min
Liking how the word “Mudd” sounded and how “Student” reflected the possibility to always learn, he combined the two to create his persona “Mudd the student”. The unique stage name complements his “alternative k-pop” sound which can be broken down into rock music with elements of electronica, hip-hop and pop combined with abstract, complex sounds, such as machine effects. Mudd the student takes inspiration from the likes of indie rock band’s, such as Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, to motivate him creatively.
Besides becoming a member of Balming Tiger in 2018, Mudd the student also debuted solo in 2019 and has amassed quite a few accolades. Firstly, he was shortlisted for Vans “Musicians Wanted” contest in 2019 and broke the top 5 in the contest, resulting in him moving to Seoul to pursue a career in music. December of the same year saw Mudd the student release his solo debut mixtape titled ‘Mudd’ and his most recent activity, caught the attention of hip-hop fans, not just within Korea but globally too, when he competed MNET’s Show Me The Money 10, and finished within the top 8 contestants.
NAME: Jeong Eui Seok
Prior to his career within hop-hop, Omega Sapien briefly lived in New Jersey, USA, and would often partake in karaoke with friends or perform in New York’s Times Square. He then pursued an engineering degree at Tokyo Keio University, Japan, and in his spare time continued to perform in clubs as well as uploading tracks to his SoundCloud account.
Originally named ‘Ape’, after the English expression “Go ape shit” and resembling a gorilla when angry, Omega Sapien swiftly changed his name following the success of Keith Ape’s “It’s G Ma” to avoid confusion between the two rappers. Taking inspiration from his previous stage name and the most powerful digimon, ‘Omegamon’ from the anime “Digimon Adventure”, he wanted to convey the idea of evolution; from Ape to Homo Sapien, then taking it a step further to Omega Sapien - a superhuman beyond the general human domain.
In terms of music style, Omega Sapien initially worked on producing universal trap songs, particularly whilst abroad in Japan and USA, however upon returning to Korea his style began to change and evolve due to frequenting Itaewon’s electronic club scene. Since he was also exposed to Tokyo’s electronic music, he has been able to harness the experience and allow it to influence his music.
It was through YouTube recommendations that Omega Sapien discovered ‘Balming Tiger vol.1 : '虎媄304’’ and following the initial shock, he was impressed and curious about their work. Reaching out to San Yawn through a private messenger, Omega Sapien shared his SoundCloud hit ‘Let’s Go Beam’ and requested they meet. The crew and Omega Sapien became close, and the rapper began appearing on Balming Tiger’s Instagram from August 2018 onwards. Then in October 2018, ‘Rich & Clear’ was released and he became officially recognised as a member of the crew.
NAME: Kang Dae-Wang
As a producer, San Yawn was popular in the Korean night scene before the forming of Balming Tiger and had been producing tracks which covered an extensive range of genres. San Yawn’s SoundCloud account includes tracks ranging from EDM, hip-hop, funk, techno to experimental retro vibes and some which are influenced by music from across the globe.
Directing the artistic vision is a difficult task for such a versatile crew, however this is one of the many roles which San Yawn takes on to ensure the members can work together efficiently whilst producing music and having fun. He also handles communication relations by building relations with media platforms, both mainstream and independent.
NAME: Kwon So-Hee
Sogumm lived in China until elementary and discovered her passion for music at a young age after stumbling across a soulful cover by an American on YouTube. The experience has remained with her for years, even when moving back to Daejeon, South Korea, and has served as a motivator for her to focus on music which comes from the soul and reflects emotions rather than technicalities. Sogumm began using SoundCloud in 2015 and released tracks, such as ‘사랑해줘 (Trust Me)’ and ‘미안해’, which caught the attention of fellow artists and producers including, DJ Wegun, Punchello and Jeebanoff.
At one point, Sogumm worked for a record label, but ultimately left in October 2017 due to a feeling of suffocation and not being able to produce the music which she wanted to. In an interview with VISLA, she explained that while at the company, there was no creation process but rather a “feeling of extraction alongside machines”. As a result, she struggled to work there and ended up using SoundCloud as a place to let loose creatively. During this time, an acquaintance introduced Sogumm to San Yawn who was able to help her process some of the confusion and recruit her as a member of the Balming Tiger crew.
Having already released an album and found measurable success in Gwangju’s night scene, Unsinkable moved to Seoul to “expand [his] footing”. Since many artists he worked with had either moved to Seoul or would visit regularly, it was rather easy for the producer to adapt to his new surroundings.
While a guest DJ at the mixtape release party for Balming Tiger’s ‘Balming Tiger vol.1 : '虎媄304’’ at the Henz Club, Unsinkable met the crew and remained in contact with them. It wasn’t until April 2018 when he officially joined the collective as a producer and beatmaker.
Alongside Balming Tiger, Unsinkable is also a member of the OSIXTWO crew which includes members and former members: Ugly Duck, unusual, Vacumm PRESS, EGLAF, NOSDAWN, TWELVEY and JELLVAKO.
Blending elements of soul and R&B with opposing genres including electronica and classical, Wnjn proves himself to be an all-rounder in particular with regards to beats, vocals and keys. He has also helped Balming Tiger members with solo projects such as Sogumm’s first album, ‘Sobrightttttttt’ in which he co-wrote and produced.
Uploading vocal and guitar covers to his YouTube channel, Sukhoon Chang, since 2015, Byung Un caught the attention of San Yawn. Seeing hip-hop potential in Byung Un’s vocal range, San Yawn suggested he join the newly established crew. While a member, Byung Un experimented with hip-hop and lent the crew his vocals, however with the release of ‘Armadillo’ in 2019 it was announced via Balming Tiger’s Instagram that he would be parting the crew to join a label more in tune with his style of music. Byung Un joined Highline Entertainment, a Starship Entertainment sub-label, and took up a new name too, Sukhoon.
No Identity was one of the founders of Balming Tiger and parted ways with the crew before joining DEAN’s collective you.will.knovv. While a member of Balming Tiger, No Identity produced the whole of the crew’s first mixtape, ‘Balming Tiger vol.1 : '虎媄304’’ as well as partaking in the lyric writing process too. Like DJ Abyss and San Yawn, his experience mixing meant that he was well connected within the hip-hop community, with photos posted to Instagram showing him with rappers and producers alike such as, Millic in 2015 and Code Kunst in 2017.
- Catherine Parker