8 Badass Women of Korean Hip-Hop
Be it Yoon Mi Rae, Jessi or CL, these women are strong, talented and determined to carve out a space for themselves in South Korea’s male-dominated hip-hop scene
Yoon Mi Rae
Considered one of the biggest icons of Korean hip-hop, Tasha Reid aka Yoon Mi Rae is one third of the legendary hip-hop trio MFBTY with fellow rappers Tiger JK and Bizzy and has been in the music industry for over 20 years. With an extremely versatile voice which can oscillate between higher and lower ranges, Yoon Mi Rae sings and raps in both English and Korean. Half African-American and half-Korean, Yoon Mi Rae is also a powerful advocate for multiculturalism in South Korea.
Having gained fame after winning the first season of hip-hop competition Unpretty Rap Star 2015, Cheetah was a break out star on the scene that year with her neon-soaked single “My Number.” The rapper is particularly known for infusing her powerful rap with smooth jazz riffs in several tracks.
Miryo gained fame as the main rapper of South Korean group Brown Eyed Girls but soon established herself as a prominent songwriter with over 50 tracks under her belt. Her 2016 single “Rock-Scissors-Paper” is more laid-back, exploring slower minimalist tropical beats to highlight her vocals. Unpretty Rapstar 3 winner Giant Pink also makes an appearance on the track, her deeper voice providing a great contrast to Miryo’s higher twang.
If there’s one thing that makes Jessi stand out from her peers, it is her drive. Born and brought up in New York, the rapper constantly defies Korean standards forced on female musicians with her empowering lyricism and confident demeanor. She is often commended for her rise from being on the verge of poverty to one of the top hip-hop artists in South Korea today. Her voice is deep and husky and tends to surprise listeners with how powerful it is.
One of the most significant things about Hyuna is how she takes control of her own sexuality and remains unapologetic about it. Her videos are racy, filled with clever innuendo and references to pop culture—the video for her 2014 track “Red” being a prime example of her artistry. She was also a part of the now-disbanded girl group 4MINUTE who gained viral attention thanks to the fierce hip-hop/trap sounds on their final EP Act 7.
Formerly a member of girl group 2NE1, ‘the baddest female’ CL is one of the most well-known faces of Korean hip-hop thanks to her devil-may-care attitude and collaborations with artists like G-Dragon, Diplo, Skrillex, Lil Yachty and more. Her slightly nasal intonation while rapping makes her voice distinctive and unexpectedly seductive. Currently working on an English album for her American debut, CL was also rumored to be joining the Black Eyed Peas after she performed with them in Japan in August.
Although part of the South Korean group Fiestar, there’s certain darkness in Yezi’s artistry that makes her stand out from the typical girl-group narrative. 2017 marked the first time the rapper participated in production and song-writing of her solo work and the result was a deliciously discordant, spine-tingling Middle East-meets-trap single titled “Anck Su Namum.”
While she is still considered an ‘underdog’ in the industry because of her fairly recent debut, Grace has garnered a significantly large and loyal fanbase thanks to her low, seductive drawl and grunge-heavy aesthetic. The underground rap scene clings to her artistry and it’s exactly what will make her stand out once she steps into limelight of mainstream hip-hop.