Another artist-founded label, Jungle Entertainment may not be the biggest name in hip hop right now but K-pop fans will recognize it as the company behind the too long dormant hip hop idol group M.I.B. and rookie girl group Poten. But Jungle was originally the home of a cadre of rappers, and for a time, two pioneering groups that helped define and localized hip hop in Korea: Drunken Tiger and LeeSSang.
Once upon a time (the late 1990s) two Korean American boys -stage named Tiger J.K. & DJ Shine -formed a hip hop group in the U.S. and got signed by a Korean record label – they debuted in 1999 in South Korea as Drunken Tiger. A few years later they split, J.K. kept the “Drunken Tiger” brand and in 2006 launched his own hip hop label: Jungle Entertainment.
For several years Jungle managed a hip hop collective known as the “The Movement” and in 2009 signed hip hop duo LeeSSang. This group has root stretching back to the 1990s as well – members Gil and Gary both started out with Honey Family, but eventually settled as a duo and released their first album in 2002. But in 2012 came announcements that LeeSSang would be leaving Jungle (mostly) and forming their own venture: LeeSSang Company.
In 2013 Tiger J.K. debuted an experimental sub-unit of sorts with fellow Movement rappers Yoon MiRae and Bizzy called MFBTY (My Fans Better Than Yours) and an EDM-infused EP: Sweet Dream. Then a few months later the trio unexpectedly announced their complete split from Jungle and the formation of a new label: Feel GHood Music. (Not to be confused with Drunken Tiger’s 2009 album: Feel gHood Muzik: The 8th Wonder.)
Now that the hip hop legends have left the building, it seems Jungle Entertainment is putting more focus on its idol groups than on hip hop. However, it is interesting to compare these former label mates. These grassroots pioneers of Korean hip hop -BizzyTigerYoonMiRae and LeesSSang – grew up in parallel during the same time period and have spent the last 15 years forging their own ideas of what hip hop should be in Korea — and their results are wholly different in sound and texture.