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K-Pop Beyond The Charts: Korean Rapper Donutman Turns A Somber Piano Riff Into A Testimonial On 'Good' [AUDIO]

By Jesse Lent | February 01, 2016 08:08 PM EST

K-Pop Beyond The Charts is a weekly review column highlighting Korea's modern day musical innovators who have yet to find mainstream success.

Rappers have implored their audience and each other to "keep it real" so many times over the years, the phrase has all but become meaningless.

And though 10 hip-hop heads probably would have 10 different views on what keeping it real looks like, most would have to agree that it has something to do with being unwilling to compromise your sonic vision or what you want to say for the sake of commerciality (or anything else). Whether it's ebullient pop, pious ballads, or gothic electro, South Korea's modern music industry is one of extremes.

Which is why it's so exciting to see the rap artist Donutman not relying on contrived concepts or empty bombast on the mic for his single "Good," released on Tuesday, instead creating a highly musical backdrop for his highly competent rapping.

These days for an artist to avoid eye-catching gimmicks borders on an act of will and Donutman makes his roots in his country's booming underground hip-hop scene clear, throwing down some killer cut up drum programming and low octave-doubled bass over a stark, almost classical-sounding pair of piano loops.

By turning such introspective riffs into high-energy rap, Donutman joins the legacy of some of the genre's greatest tracks, like Rampage's 1997 masterpiece "Wild For Da Night" featuring Busta Rhymes and a sample of the opening strains of rhythm & blues singer Zulema's 1972 single "American Fruit, African Roots" or "Ice Cream Man" by Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon and Ghostface in 1994 that sampled "A Time For Love," released by Earl Klugh in 1980. These are songs that took a somber yet sweet sound and amplified it with a banging new rhythmic accompaniment until it was something that when you turned it up loud it just sounded, well, good.

You don't have to be fluent in Korean or English to realize that Donutman is speaking his own truth here, albeit with a little bit of playful sarcasm, especially on the repeated hook of "feelin' good, feelin' great."

And whether or not it was Donutman's intention, the solemn piano part on "Good" with its blasting beat is a perfect metaphor for the anguish one can feel down below while keeping things bounding along on the surface.

Maybe Donutman just discovered a way to open up a new emotional depth in hip-hop. And what could be more real than that?

Listen to the new single "Good" from South Korean hip-hop artist Donutman RIGHT HERE

Tagged :  Donutman, korean rap, korean rapper, K-Pop Beyond The Charts, kpop, K-Pop, good

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