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Block B Zico Showcases The Worst Aspects Of American Hip-Hop Culture In His Teasers For 'Tough Cookie' [Opinion]

By Adrienne Stanley | November 05, 2014 07:32 AM EST

Zico brandishes an automatic weapon, with his hair in cornrows, topped off with a bandana.

(Photo : Seven Seasons )
Zico brandishes an automatic weapon, with his hair in cornrows, topped off with a bandana.

Guns, ski masks, twerking, and cornrows are all aspects of hip-hop iconography which allow for negative stereotypes. Unfortunately, these are all featured in promos for “Tough Cookie,” the upcoming solo release from Block B’s Zico.

While the imagery can be ignored, it is disturbing to many international fans who are viewing this promotional campaign as another K-Pop misstep.

Cornrows are not new to K-Pop and were probably best worn by Big Bang's Taeyang. Weapons and militaristic imagery have been used in Korean pop videos for artists including 2NE1 and B.A.P.

Block B previously incorporated guns and bank robbery in their video for “Very Good.” However, the incorporation of colorful hairstyles helped to make the video more fanciful than hip-hop. “Very Good” may approach a slightly harder image than many other K-Pop groups, but it is tempered by its subliminal reference of comic imagery that harkens to the Batman franchise.

“Tough Cookie” is the latest example of the struggle that Korean entertainment faces when it attempts to appeal to domestic audiences in Korea, while also potentially alienating fans who are abroad. Many fans have turned to K-Pop to avoid the images of violence which are prominently displayed in hip-hop subgenres such as gangster rap.

Ski masks, which are used often for armed robbery, are also featured in the video for 'Tough Cookie.'
(Photo : Seven Seasons )
Ski masks, which are used often for armed robbery, are also featured in the video for 'Tough Cookie.'

Gangster rap may evoke the lowrider ‘90s rhymes of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, but the consequences of the East Coast versus West Coast rap wars were less than pleasant. What began as industry feuds between hip-hop artists led to the untimely death of Tupac Shukar at age 25 in 1996, followed by the Notorious B.I.G whose life was ended at age 24 in 1997. In addition to deaths in the hip-hop community, the glorification of gangster rap often contributes to urban issues such as organized crime and drug abuse.  

Beyond the incorporation of violent imagery, the video teaser also features twerking and a girl who appears simulate a lewd act on a banana. In recent years, twerking has been spotlighted by many entertainers ranging from American hip-hop artists to former Disney star, Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus continues to be a hotbed conversation following her twerking stage with Robin Thicke for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

While Zico may not have intended this reaction, some K-Pop fans have taken offense to the promos for “Tough Cookie.” In a forum for Black Kpop Fans, commenter Jessie Byrd expressed a popular sentiment “unfortunately this is how KOREA sees hip hop... american hip hop... we can't do nothing but blame ourselves.” Hopefully, this will change as artists like Zico and Block B continue to reach fans outside of Korea.

What are you thoughts about Zico's concept for 'Tough Cookie?' Could he have chosen a different way to express a hard, hip-hop image? 

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The views expressed above are those of the writer and do not reflect the official opinion of KpopStarz.

Tagged :  Block B, Zico, Tough Cookie

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