LeeSsang is a hiphop duo from South Korea. Rapper, Kang Garie (may also be spelled as Gary), and vocalist Gil Seong-joon started performing together 16 years ago. They used to be a part of a hiphop group called Honey Family. They broke away and formed LeeSsang in 2002.
They have since released eight albums producing hits like Rush, Run, Clown, Ballerino and many others.
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Style and Image
LeeSsang writes and produces all of their songs. Garie is the primary lyricist while Gil takes care of the music. Neither had formal training in music.
They are most popular for Garie's "off beat" rapping style. His rap does not follow the expected measure or beat of the song's melody. His stops and rests or when he will break a stanza is highly unpredictable. It doesn't seem to follow the flow of the melody. However, he manages to create something that sounds like a melodic reading of a poetry. The result often feels like a casual but emotional conversation instead of a well measured rap. The casual tone, however, makes the music easier to listen to.
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Unlike other rappers, Garie has never evoked a sense of arrogance or anger in his tone. In fact, he sounds "easy", laid back and defenseless. He has a certain sense of abandon in his delivery, a sense of carelessness and indifference. It feels like he just lets go of the words without much thought on how the listeners will interpret the emotion behind it. Oddly enough, it is this sense of abandon that makes him sound authentic, honest and sincere.
He has often been called "uncopyable" and you can read that on many other Asian Music Blogs.
Gil makes up for what Garie lacks in intensity. Gil has a naturally husky voice. Husky has a natural emotion to it. However, it is Gil's intricate delivery that makes his sound unique. Unlike Garie, he sounds like his words are measured and purposeful. It feels like there is something more that he wants to say but is holding back for some reason we may never know.
Gil sounds intense and strong but vulnerable. It is as if he makes sure his emotions are clearly communicated. Listening to him closely is like going on a roller coaster ride. There's too many lows and highs, twists and turns, and he will pull you with him in every corner. He can drain you... in a beautiful way.
Click here to check out the meaning of Jung In's "Those Obvious Words", written by Kang Gary of LeeSsang. It's no less than brilliant.
LeeSsang is one of the most mentioned artists from South Korea in a lot of Asian music blogs.
Their popularity, measured through album sales, has been consistent to say the least. They do not have the backing of big management companies that manage Idol groups like Big Bang, Wonder Girls and other girl and boy bands. They do not have the marketing and promotional support that these idol groups enjoy. They are not as visible on TV shows, movies, billboards and other marketing channels.
Garie and Gil are not good looking by South Korea's pop culture standards. Yet, they managed to produce a lot of hits and has sustained their career for more than a decade. Many credit their success purely on the quality of their music. They have produced at least four hits in each of the albums they release despite the lack of TV promotion.Gil was already a regular on a variety show called Infinity Challenge but it didn't help much in promoting their albums.
When Garie joined a separate variety show, Running Man, two years ago, their popularity got a boost. In fact, they achieved something that not even Idols were able to do, they occupied positions 1 to 10 in almost all music charts for three days. They did it in their last two albums, both released after Garie joined Running Man.
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One of their singles, Turned Off the TV, earned almost $500,000 in the first week of release.
They are also spearheading a bolder type of music. South Korea is still a conservative society. Although they separated from the North in the 1940s, it wasn't until the 80s did they welcome the influence of the West. Many subjects are still considered a taboo. Many of their celebrities are highly castigated when seen smoking, kissing women or going on dates.
LeeSsang seems to be taking the step towards bolder subjects in their music. They are openly talking about sex, hatred, anger and social division and their TV and radio stations are playing theise songs.
Their popularity is allowing TV stations and the general public to be more open in accepting and supporting artists that don't fall in the traditional mold of pop artists.
I am not a huge fan of hip hop. The only other rapper I like is Eminem but LeeSsang is one of those that has allowed me to appreciate music regardless of the genre.
LeeSsang is also the one that changed my perception of Korean music. The KPop boom marred Korea's image to me. LeeSsang proved it's not all outlandish outfit and ridiculous make up. There are artists out there that make real music. I thank LeeSsang for that.
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