Playlist time! My editor recently told me that June is (among other things) Black Music Month. Between the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and producer Tiffany Red‘s allegations of SM withholding payments from her, this felt especially timely.
Today, we’re going to focus on the Black artists and producers working behind the scenes of some of your favorite Korean songs. Before we get started, I want to give a special shout out to The Band 6, Big Bang’s tour band. While they’re not technically producers, they are a great band and deserve love. As someone who’s seen “Doom Dada” live, they deserve all the love.
“Bring the Boys” Remix — SNSD and Teddy Riley
Confession time: I’m not an SNSD fan. They have songs I like, but they’re mostly too polished for me. That being said, the original “The Boys” slaps, and this remix doesn’t disappoint either. It’s not too surprising since Teddy Riley produced some of the best hits from the ’90s. The instrumental is high energy and doesn’t clash with SNSD’s clockwork precision. Plus, the short breakdown around 2:28 adds just enough grime to stop you in your tracks.
A remix with the group singing in English, it’s solely for them to stop and flex on all of us. “You didn’t have to pretend you didn’t notice me.” DIVAS, YOU BETTER SLAY US ALL!!
“Nilira”– G-Dragon and Missy Elliot
G-Dragon was one of the first artists I got into when I first discovered K-Pop. I found his style of hip-hip/rap very familiar. As a Black ’90s kid, I grew up with a lot of great acts. None as dear to me as the great rapper/producer Missy Elliot. She was groundbreaking to me, a plus-sized black woman running things. It’s hard to think of a pre-Missy Elliot point of my life, honestly.
So picture my surprise when I discovered that GD was not only a fan of her but they worked together. “Nilira” has that wild energy of both artists, and it just feels like a gift.
“AEAO” — DJ Premier and Dynamic Duo
How can a song that sounds like a throwback still sound so fresh? There isn’t much I don’t love about this song. DJ Premier has been a producer for a long time, starting with Gang Starr in the 1980s. You can definitely hear those years of experience with how the beat plays with chill and majesty. He’ll occasionally punch up the horns and the bass to give the song more energy only to calm it back down.
Of course, Dynamic Duo isn’t lazing around either. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re already more overtly hip-hop rappers, but they work amazingly well with DJ Premier. They all bring this energy of veterans who still hustle for their crafts and aren’t slowing down. Also, Gaeko sings the chorus, and I’m always for Gaeko singing.
“Kingdom Come”– Red Velvet and The Stereotypes
Wow … this song. This song is so incredibly balanced and crafted. The vocals don’t overwhelm the instrumental, and the harmonies are so tight, it’s scary. I’ve always preferred Red Velvet’s “Velvet” tracks over their pop hits. This is a great example.
Producers The Stereotypes really went above and beyond with this beat. The synths give this great subtle lightness, while the drums and high-hat act as the driving force. It never feels heavy or overstays its welcome. This could easily make you obsess over Red Velvet. It’s a perfect song.
“Hangang”– Hoody and Cha Cha Malone
I’d be very remiss if I didn’t add at least one Cha Cha Malone track on here. After all, he’s been an instrumental part (as well as co-founder) of AOMG since its formation. I typically think of Malone as a more party anthem producer. (Which isn’t a bad thing.) But I was pleasantly surprised when this dropped.
This is a great team-up. It’s a fun summertime track that has a great groove and makes you jam. I especially love the flute-like melody that comes and goes. Hoody herself has a light, lovely voice that really sells the breezy vibe. This song made me eager to see more from her.
These are just a few of the amazing Black producers working in K-pop today. This playlist might have been the most research I’ve done for a playlist as this is an important subject. While I love how many Black producers made my favorite tracks, I’m sad that we hardly hear about it. I’d honestly love to hear more about these artists.
Black music has been incredibly foundational to modern pop but especially K-pop. We need to talk not just about the groups but the phenomenal folks behind the scenes. We need to salute those artists.
Be sure to let us know who your favorite Black producers/artist working in K-pop is right now