Reason 6 – It’s A “Rap”
When the fabulous five of MBLAQ met for the first time, Mir was convinced that G.O was slotted to be the rapper of the group. Little did he know that the man behind that cool urban swag actually possessed the velvet voice that was to become the group’s main vocal. I have to commend producer Rain for having the foresight he most certainly had to marry that very golden voice with the rap element he was firmly establishing in MBLAQ. Rain must have had his eye on Tykeys! The very cocktail of blending G.O’s sweet and delicious vocals with that of rappers Mir and Cheondoong proved to be a potent fortuitous recipe. In fact, pairing his voice with any rapper has proved to be magical. And this beautiful vocal synergy is another reason to love Byung Hee.
Even though he is a not a rapper himself, G.O certainly understands how rap works in a song and how he is able to sing around it adding a quality that not necessarily removes the edge rap generally brings, but adds a smoothness that often cradles the rap and softens that edge just enough to let it gently (even when powerful) find its place in the song. It is no wonder that rappers have approached him and asked him to guest on their songs.
G.O has paired up with a few rappers all of which have and continue to yield pretty stellar results. The the ones I feature here are the ones I know of. If I have failed to add one or two…or more, please let me know and I will supplement this post! It is impossible to choose a favorite among the following because all sound pretty awesome when G.O’s voice is attached.
Kim Hyun Jung (Tykeys)
Before he became the main vocal powerhouse of MBLAQ, Byung Hee was part of an amazing R&B trio called Tykeys. Formed way back in 2004 and debuted in 2007, Tykeys was the perfect storm of vocals and rap if there ever was one. G.O, known as Jang Goon at the time, was the maknae here providing the smooth counterbalance to leader Baek Su Kyung’s (Soo) husky voice. Throw in the sharp rap of Kim Hyun Jung (Hyun Jung) and the sound of this trio solidified into pure R&B gold.
Hyun Jung was G.O’s first rap partner (that I know of) and they were brought together when Tykeys was formed, groomed and unleashed. Oh what a sound they had. Here is a live version of Old & Young, a stand out song on their one and only incredible album, Ty Project No. 1.
Even though they all get their moment to shine, when they all begin to wrap their voices around each other, it is explosive. Their sound was uniquely dynamic and visually, they looked fabulous together.
Tykeys was a R&B force to be reckoned with! I often wonder what would have become of them had their entertainment agency not gone bankrupt. Would they have stayed together and shot to bigger and better fame? Or, was all simply meant to happen the way it did so MBLAQ would get G.O? I suppose destiny has its ways and means to create that which is simply meant to be created!
One of my favorite Tykeys songs is the sultry, sensual Get Down. Here is where I first fell in love with smooth, quiet rapping in a song and which then made me really take notice of this dynamic in MBLAQ’s songs. This is the type of rap that is not coming at you full force but is easing its way into a song gently. To place a forceful rap in this particular song would have destroyed it. G.O’s vocals are so gentle, sexy and smooth. They would only tolerate a gentle, sexy and smooth rap interlude and that is exactly what Hyun Jung serves up in this incredibly sexy song. It’s perfection. How many times can I say sexy in one paragraph??!! Can’t help it…it’s full on sexy.
To feel the full force, however, of these three incredible voices colliding and intertwining, I’m Sorry packs a punch.
Here, Hyun Jung serves up some aggressive rap amid the smoothness that is G.O and the sultry that is Soo. To really feel the emotion and power of this song, I think you have to experience it live.
Am I right? OMG….G.O!!
Although the songs on Ty Project No. 1 were recorded 7 years ago, they are as relevant in sound and style today as they were then. Tykeys’ diverse R&B vocals mixed with rap would certainly have its place on the music charts today.
Oh this heavenly pair!! Like I mentioned earlier, Rain must have had an eye on Tykeys while they were making their rounds on the Korean music circuit for he clearly understood G.O had the vocal strength to handle himself along side a rapper. There are so many examples of how wonderful G.O and Mir sound together, I almost don’t know where to begin because if looking at them solely as a rap/vocal team, they have been collaborating the longest. As such, I am only going to touch on a couple of those collaborations as they pertain to them individually as an individual subunit, separate from MBLAQ. Somewhere in the Korean R&B stars it was written that these two were meant to meet and collaborate! For this, I am thankful.
When G.O recorded his first digital single, Even In My Dreams, he brought Mir along. This beautiful love song is a perfect example of that soft rap I was talking about earlier that is dropped into a song to create more atmosphere and, in this case, some extra special sweet. Mir can have a big booming voice, but when he brings it down gentle and sweet like this, it adds a little extra nectar to the already divine ambrosia of this song.
Someone caught on that the pairing these two was potent and magical. This powerful subunit has released some truly wonderful songs exclusive of their work in MBLAQ, including OST work.
Before I move on to some of their exclusive work together, I want to include my fave example of the beautiful synergy of their voices in a MBLAQ song. Pray, a song G.O composed, showcases his incredible ability to riff and improvise around Mir’s gentle rap. It is delicate, sublime, and perhaps one of my absolute favorite MBLAQ ballads.
I have not come across very many live versions of Pray. The cam operator for the video above was very judicious filming each member as they sang but I really would have loved to have watched G.O riffing while Mir was rapping! So how about this version then:
Can always count on a biased fangirl!^^
On the other side of the coin, this duo can be explosive and powerful, dripping with swag as in their song Wild:
These two!!!! Mir’s big rap voice comes at you like a freight train while G.O’s soulful vocals hold strong answering that rap with equal strength….and swag!
This duo/subunit also recorded a number of OST songs. The plaintive, classical music-inspired Because It’s Heaven (Winter Rain) from the King of Dramas OST is one of my favorites:
I absolutely love when G.O is sing-speaking over Mir’s rap. G.O’s higher range over Mir’s deep rap provides such a powerful contrast. It just works. I love the classical feel of this song so very much. Combining classical and rap elements would seem to be an unlikely combination, but G.O and Mir make it work.
One of my other faves from their OST vault of collaborations is the easy groove of the pop song 알고있었어 (I Already Knew) from the drama Strongest K-Pop Survival. G.O’s crisp clear vocals tell the tale of heartbreak over a break up. Mir has some strength and attitude here but exercises just enough restraint to not over power the song. As in Even in My Dreams, Mir drops in for a moment to add some spice to the sweetness that G.O’s voice invariably brings to a love song that is not a ballad.
MBLAQ even made a cameo in the drama as themselves complete with the G.O/Mir song playing appropriately in the background.^^
These are just a couple of examples of the G.O-Mir dynamic. And although Cheondoong did a fair amount of rapping in the early days of MBLAQ, it is with Mir where G.O’s voice really bounces off with strength. G.O and Cheondoong sound sweet together when they both sing as opposed to Doong rapping counter to G.O singing. And I really love when Doong sets the tone by warming us up in songs and then passes the musical torch to G.O to finish it off. There are a few instances of that and I really like it. Can hear a little bit of it in MBLAQ’s Japanese single, Still In Love.
When it comes to rap, however, it is Mir’s strong voice that counters G.O so well. They just fit together perfectly. They also compliment each other in more ways than just musically. True they have this amazing vocal chemistry, but they seem to have a special chemistry outside of work, as friends and brothers.
Mir’s endearing and quirky sense of humor really makes G.O laugh and they both seem to enjoy being the pranksters of the group. They truly are the most endearing and entertaining goofballs who connect so well with each other – maybe because they are both water signs (astrologically speaking).^^
They also share a common trait in that they engage with their fans far more than the other members and rarely (if at all) ever hold back displaying their affection and appreciation for their fans. I just love them together.
In September 2010, G.O paired up with underground hip hop artist, Nassun for two very infectious digital singles. The first was the catchy and cheeky, O-IWI-O. Once again G.O’s incredible vocals added a smoothness and richness to Nassun’s very urban and edgy sound. Much like Mir, Nassun has a deep, booming rap voice. A strong vocalist like G.O can weather that sound, countering it with his strength, yet allowing the rap to stand on its own, while smoothing out the edge. This is an ongoing theme I have seen in all of G.O’s collabs with rappers.
These two together struck quite an imposing and sexy team. O-IWI-O was received well with its arty MV shot in black & white and live performances on various Korean music shows.
When you look at G.O’s evolution from his debut with Tykeys in 2007 to this point in 2010, it is remarkable to see how well he settled into his dream. He seems so confident and comfortable on the stage.
He and Nassun took O-IWI-O to the Inkigayo stage on September 5, 2010 and swagged it up:
Just too catchy! His ease and flow in front of a camera and audience begs to reason that he is doing exactly what he was born to do. This duo released a second digital single shortly after but unfortunately there was no MV or live performance (much to my disappointment). As much as I like O-IWI-O, I like One even better.
I wouldn’t mind another G.O-Nassun collaboration.
In October 2012 composer, producer and collaborator extraordinaire, Primary, released a studio album entitled, Primary and the Messengers LP wherein he worked with 25 different artists from 20 different teams. G.O was one of those artists. Although Primary is not a rapper, he is a producer who has been involved in the underground hip hop scene since 2004 and knows his way around rap. He is no musical lightweight. He has produced the likes of K.Will, Infinite-H, Yankie and Jungjigo. He is incredibly well-respected in the Korean music scene so it is no wonder G.O felt honored to be asked to guest on his album.
In the very chill I’m Back, Primary pairs G.O with rappers Double K and Yankie and what you get is magic. G.O’s lithe voice weaves its way through the laid back but strong rap of both Double K and Yankie and sounds incredibly good. G.O’s command of his voice is perhaps one of his strongest points as a vocalist. He knows how to inflect the right amount of emotion and when. He does it here perfectly in I’m Back.
In a November 2012 MWave interview, Primary said of G.O, “I was recommended him by many people around me. I was surprised at how skilled he was. I recall that I′m Back took the shortest time to record.”
G.O knows the importance of building relationships in the music business and it is no wonder (as seen in this making of video clip), he speaks about how it would be good if Primary wrote some songs for MBLAQ in the future.
Although he was singled out by Primary to collaborate, he still thinks of his MBLAQ brothers and what would be most beneficial for them. I love this endearing quality about him. There is no ego and only complete humbleness. *melts*
Finally, there was the collaboration with speed rapper, Outsider. Outsider staged a comeback in July 2013 after completing his mandatory military service by releasing an album entitled Rebirth Outsider. The title track, Bye U, featured G.O. This electro-dance track is fast and furious due to Outsider’s incredible speed rapping throughout the song. G.O’s urgent vocals add even more energy with the catchy chorus which had me singing along instantly. Even though G.O is not physically featured in the MV, his voice most certainly is.
G.O also received a writing credit for this song as he helped with the lyrics. Also of note is that he (G.O ) was the first K-pop artist (well, I think of G.O as more of a Korean R&B artist) Outsider collaborated with. I think that speaks volumes for the kind of respect G.O has established not only in the Korean hip hop scene, but in Korean popular music overall. Having that kind of respect and admiration among your peers is important. It has and will continue to serve G.O quite well.
G.O’s ability to match a rapper note for note is definitely a plus and I hope he has more opportunities to collaborate with other rappers in the future. If Psy can collaborate with Snoop Dog, surely G.O can get wicked smooth and easy with the likes of Jay-Z!! Personally, I think it is only a matter of time.
G.O’s effortless ability to wrap his vocals around, through, and within a song with any type of rap element, be it subtle or strong, is a credit to his already explosive talent. If you are not really a rap-oriented person, you may want to give him a chance to win you over, as having his voice interspersed between the rhyme and rhythm of rap may just give you pause to reconsider. Just another reason to love on this man and his incredible talent.
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