WTK-Pop Throwback: The Classic Appeal Of Korean Hip-Hop Group Drunken Tiger

Welcome to the first installment of WTK-Pop Throwback, where I show off underrated Korean musicians from back in the day! Originally, I was going to just focus on Kpop artists, but I realized, “Why should I limit myself to only Kpop?” Kpop has taken a lot of inspiration from different music genres and adapted them into its own genre. You have groups like BIGBANG and Block B mixing hip-hop into their songs. Then you have Rap Monster (a favorite of mine) who came out with his hard-hitting mixtape, RM, back in 2015. I love that mixtape, and I’ll probably write a little something for RM sometime soon since I really want people to know more about Rap Monster!

Hip-hop is deep-seated in Korean music in general. Korean hip-hop has been around since the 1980s, but it didn’t really take a hold of the public consciousness until the late 90s. At the front of the hip-hop invasion in South Korea was Drunken Tiger.

Drunken Tiger was originally two guys: Tiger JK and DJ Shine. They came out with their first album Year of the Tiger back in 1999, and it was controversial to say the least. It was anti-establishment and had explicit lyrics, and that angered a lot of people. Year of the Tiger touched on taboo subjects which sparked interest. Above is the classic Drunken Tiger song, “I Want You.” The song is inspired by early 90s hip hop artists like Biggie Smalls. It’s hard to describe what makes it a 90s hip-hop song. “I Want You” has that juxtaposition of an easy-going beat, hard bars, and a weird whistle that gives the song a mystic feel.  I wish I could describe it better. Just listen to it.

The following year saw the release of their second album, The Great Rebirth. The album also saw the introduction of new members: DJ Jhig, Micki Eyes, and Roscoe Umali. The Great Rebirth was incredibly successful and threw Drunken Tiger and hip-hop into the eyes of the mainstream Korean public. The first group of songs on the album continue the style of their first album. It’s calm but hard-hitting hip-hop. Then the album transforms into a lot more hard-hitting soundtrack. The samples are unique. The song “Final Fantasy” samples the song “Cosmo Canyon” from Final Fantasy VII.

Then there’s “Fetticcini,” the best song on The Great Rebirth. The song starts with a chant and evokes thoughts of soldiers at camp, pumping themselves up before a battle. Drunken Tiger proved they can make a killer album with three new guys.

Here, we have the third album of Drunken Tiger, The Legend of… . For the third straight year, Drunken Tiger was out with another great album. I would say this album, along with The Great Rebirth, are Drunken Tiger’s best albums.”Is ack hizay” is a great late album entry. The song is very evocative of early 2000s rap. It’s fast and hard-hitting, but not quite as hard as rap would become in the mid 2000s. It’s on that precipice. Drunken Tiger is reaching for that harder style of rap, but they’re not there yet. The album is like vaporwave music— it has an easy, chill vibe like previous albums, but it also knows when to go hard. The best way to describe the album would be to say that it has a sinister, creeping vibe.

Their fourth album, Foundation, continues the creepy feeling of Drunken Tiger’s library. Even though Foundation continues its sinister tradition, it does experiment with other types of beats and music. “FIST OF FURY” starts with a guitar riff similar to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” I don’t know if that was an intentional sample or coincidence, but it’s a unique choice with which to start the song. Foundation has a lot of unique samples and beat choices. However, as varied as the samples may be, Foundation itself isn’t as varied. It’s a good album (don’t get me wrong!), but I feel like Foundation didn’t push Drunken Tiger beyond The Legend Of… . The first three were awesome and groundbreaking. However, Foundation didn’t push hard enough. Either way, Foundation is still great though and definitely worth a listen!


After DJ Shine left the group in 2005, Tiger JK continued promoting his solo activities under the Drunken Tiger name. After the birth of his son, however,he decided to move away from using the word “drunken.” He then formed the hip-hop trio MFBTY in 2013.

Do you like Drunken Tiger’s music? Have you heard all of the songs listen above? Which one is your favorite?

I hope all you readers loved my first entry of WTK-Pop Throwback! Next time, I’ll be covering K-rock, followed by Kpop. Stay tuned!

KyeongJun is a writer for WTK, where he gushes about his love for Korean rock music (You guys need to listen to Jaurim). When not writing, he’s at the gym listening to the newest K-Rock bands.  You can catch KyeongJun @ElCrazy_Diamond on Twitter (Don’t worry that it’s a bit barren—he’ll soon be posting regularly! You can also Tweet him if you know any cool new artists you would recommend!)

Media: As Credited

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