South Korean rapper Tiger JK, aka Drunken Tiger, gave his first paidperformance for $500. The audience, outraged by a musical genre theyhad never heard before, threw fruit and shoes at him. The company took half the profit, and JK gave half of the remaining money to hisgirlfriend, now his wife. With only $125, JK began saving his cash in an envelope under his bed as he pursued his dream.
In Korea, hip-hop is still in its infancy. In mainstream music, the genre only caught on in the early 2000s, but now grows as an influential culture. The break-through is largely due to Tiger JK. At 35 years old, JK continues to prove both his pioneering talent and financial success, holding a Jay-Z-like iron grip on the title of hip-hop king amid a sea of teens and 20-something fame chasers.
Fans of JK have praised the genuine emotion of his music, the presentation and lyrics of which clashed loudly with the soft, pop-industry prepackaged music of the late 90s. His earliest album, deemed too explicit by the government and banned from public play, gained considerable underground respect.
JK’s talent for rapping and musicality surges through in his best albums, most notably The Legend Of… and Sky Is the Limit. The single“8:45 Heaven” from the latter, a song written after JK lost his grandmother, proves his lyricism and emotionally raw flow.
JK released his eighth album, Feel gHood Muzik, in 2009, on which hip-hop legend Rakim collaborated on the single “Monster,” reportedly only out of respect for JK’s work. The song blasts open with a heavy beat and rotates through collaborates Rakim, Rakka, Roscoe Umali and female Korean rapper Tasha a la Drake’s “Forever.”
Despite the fact that Feel gHood Muzik has sold over 100,000 copies, JK doesn’t have much money in his bank account. JK explained that he keeps a significant amount of his savings in his house, citing an emotional attachment to his early days of saving cash in an envelope. He recalled the day he realized he had saved $5,000 after years of minimal success and cultural criticism, and the resulting pride that to this day keeps him holding cash under his bed.
By Asst. Entertainment Editor