I’m gonna just go ahead and put this up front: Big Mama is the single greatest female vocal group to ever come out of Korea. FIGHT ME!
If you ever needed proof that K-pop has long been a genre of aesthetics, I give you the case of YG Entertainment‘s greatest triumph and its greatest failure: Big Mama.
Unfortunately, the powers that be decided to pull a C&C Music Factory when they gave Mama Martha Wash the okie-doke (because you can’t have a big beautiful black vocal queen in a video about making you sweat from a musical workout), and put a bunch of skinny b*tches in place of the luscious grown-ass women who were actually singing the song.
Be that as it may, anyone who listens to this group of vocal goddesses will agree that there hasn’t a been a group to match the soul, power and absolute devastation of Big Mama before or since. Sure, there are a lot of soloists with power to spare, groups that know how to stretch their harmonies up to the heavens. But the collective chill that went up every Korean spine when these ladies slid through with their brand of gospel-tinged R&B was enough to cause some form of natural disaster.
“Break Away” was their biggest hit, melding late-’80s, early-’90s sensibilities with true tabernacle-rockin’ AME gospel vocals. It was “pop” enough to appeal to a very broad audience, but steeped enough in down-home R&B that even music aficionados had to take pause and do a double-take.
At this point, I could go into just how unfortunate it is the YG couldn’t nurture the kind of raw talent that saw these ladies top charts and nab several accolades. But I’m not gonna be petty today. The women of Big Mama stand on their own and need no sob stories about how trash YGE truly was at keeping powerhouse vocalists on its roster in lieu of poppier fare. (No matter how innovative the 2NE1s and Big Bangs were at the time, not a single member of those groups had the vocal chops of Big Mama or former labelmate Auntie Gummy.)
So instead of focusing on what are obvious letdowns in terms of visual representation and management, there’s no denying Big Mama remains a legendary group with vocals that could shatter even the coldest heart and snatch even the tightest edges.
BONUS MATERIAL: Because no one should ever go through life without hearing them sing live (and because you need to see what these queens actually look like), here’s a little gift. You’re welcome. (Never mind the uptight audience. This is quite literally how the audience used to react at the Baek Sang Awards.)