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South Korea's Global Hip-Hop Takeover Begins With XXX

Picture of Ryan Kristobak
Music Editor
Updated: 28 July 2017
The first question that comes to mind when considering rising hip-hop act XXX is whether they chose their name for the sole purpose of filling curious fans’ Google search history with flight attendant-themed pornography and clips of a muscle-rippling Vin Diesel crushing extreme sports.

Thankfully, the South Korean duo’s music more than compensates for any wayward Internet miscues.

Releasing their debut EP, Kyomi, in 2016, producer FRNK and rapper Kim Ximya’s vanguard hip-hop sound immediately caught the attention of critics around the world. From the warped trap of opener “Liquor” to the ghostly house of closer “Flight Attendant,” FRNK’s panoramic production breezily contorts mid-beat as if it’s all part of some exercise in prodigious improvisation.

“In middle school, I was listening to the album Donuts by J Dilla,” FRNK says. “I was deeply moved by his beats. That’s when I decided to do hip-hop music.”

Over the top, Kim Ximya coolly weaves his Korean-English hybrid verses—you barely notice the transition between languages as they sometimes follow word by word.

“I think using two languages in one song is always a plus,” Kim Ximya says. “When it comes to the messages of my lyrics, I think that if people listen to the lyrics carefully, they can get something personal out of it. When I write my lyrics, I’m writing my story, but I try hard to make them just as personal for the listener.”

With fellow Korean artists like Keith Ape slowly emerging into the international conversation, the South Korean hip-hop market is on the verge of a huge boom, but the duo believes there are still some growing pains that must be overcome first.

“One major difference between [American and Korean hip hop] is that the U.S. has a solid historical evolution of hip-hop,” FRNK says. “Korean hip-hop has come a long way, but it grew so quickly, mainly under the influence of broadcasts and social media. Korean hip-hop has a quick sense of absorbing good elements from American hip-hop and reinterpreting them into something of good quality. Unfortunately, this tends to limit people’s originality. I’m not saying originality is the answer, but artists should value and prioritize their original creativity. It would make the Korean hip-hop scene a lot more interesting.”

With XXX at the front of the pack, originality is absolutely poised to become the banner for future Korean hip-hop acts.

Watch the video above to learn a little more about XXX and check out some clips from their recent trip to SXSW this past March.

And for a taste of what the group has in store for 2017, check out their collaboration with Nike Air Max below.