News / Features / Editorial

Does Hyukoh's Signing With Tablo's HIGHGRND Signify A Shift Toward A Different Sort Of K-Pop Star?

By Tamar Herman | July 25, 2015 12:01 PM EDT

The latest news from an independent hip hop label backed by one of South Korea's most influential entertainment agency shows signs of shift in K-pop trends.

The label, HIGHGRND, is headed by Tablo, the frontman and rapper of YG Entertainment's hip hop trio Epik High. Tablo and his label kicked off something new by making the decision to sign the indie band Hyukoh almost immediately after they blew up, thanks to appearing on South Korea's most popular television show "Infinite Challenge."

As indie music becomes more and more mainstream in South Korea, HIGHGRND's decision seems to represent a shift away from the K-pop idol system and towards self-made musicians.

Tablo, originally an underground rapper who first joined Woollim Entertainment then moved to YG Entertainment, has a background of collaborating with Hyukoh, and has promoted the band on his radio show even prior to Hyukoh blowing up.

 Hyukoh, a band with four members, entered the Korean music scene in 2014 with their EP "20," and became an indie band with a major following before being featured on several Korean television shows, including "Infinite Challenge." Shortly after their appearance on "Infinite Challenge," their songs showed up on the Korean music charts.

As a self-made band with a popular following for multiple songs, Hyukoh is essentially the first of its kind in South Korea, where entertainment agencies typically back artists.

In 2010, Busker Busker's "Cherry Blossom Ending" became a huge hit for an indie band, but the group's follow-up songs didn't maintain the success. By signing Hyukoh with HIGHGRND, an agency with major connections in the Korean music industry, early on in its career, it seems that the industry as a whole is more open to self-made musicians.

YG Entertainment has signed several musicians in the past from competition shows, such as AKMU and Lee Hi, but Hyukoh is the first time that any true indie band has been signed by YG Entertainment or its subsidiary label HIGHGRND.

As an indie label, HIGHGRND has its own decision making process to take on new artists and Hyukoh, with their talent and success, is an ideal choice. But it also implies that YG Entertainment, the label that supports HIGHGRND, is on board with taking on acts that have shunned the typical K-pop training style that is usually the trend in the industry.

HIGHGRND announced the the news of Hyukoh joining the label with a promotional video on July 21. Watch it HERE.


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Tamar Herman is a multi-media journalist and the co-founder of KultScene. She is a freelance writer and copy editor, and an MTV Iggy contributor.

Tagged :  Tablo, Hyukoh, Highgrnd, kpop, trend

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