The Korea Herald


Controversial rap show ends with more noise than it would like

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : April 7, 2017 - 14:02

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The rap audition program “High School Rapper” went out on a high note last week by becoming one of the most-talked about shows in the country. But it also attracted criticism and sparked controversy over its contestants’ alleged wrongdoings.

Its final episode last Friday pitted seven high schoolers against each other, and Yang Hong-won -- who had been the front-runner throughout the show -- came out victorious. Yang -- who goes by the stage name of Young B -- now has a chance to work with hip-hop artist Tiger JK on his debut single.

As chief producer Go Ik-jo had said upon its launch, the show aimed to depart from the competition-driven audition programs of the past to focus more on the participants’ passion for music.

“Because I competed among kids of the same age, it wasn’t that intense compared to other shows,” said Yang, who had also competed in the rap audition program “Show Me the Money.” 

The top three winners of “High School Rapper” pose for a photo before an interview Thursday at Stanford Hotel Seoul in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. From left: Choi Ha-min, Yang Hong-won and Jo Won-woo. (Mnet) The top three winners of “High School Rapper” pose for a photo before an interview Thursday at Stanford Hotel Seoul in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. From left: Choi Ha-min, Yang Hong-won and Jo Won-woo. (Mnet)

Yang, runner-up Choi Ha-min, third place winner Jo Won-woo and Go held a joint interview at Stanford Hotel Seoul in Sangam-dong, western Seoul, on Thursday.

“Many people are biased against hip-hop, and we wanted to show that it was just a means for teenagers to realize their dreams. So rather than extreme competition, we wanted competition and friendship,” said Go. “I’m hoping that parents, rather than worry their children are into hip-hop, would see that it can be their children’s future path.”

Choi -- a.k.a. Osshun Gum -- said the experience of having people enjoy his music helped boost his self-esteem.

“I think it will be a good experience for when I continue on with my musical career,” he said.

Jo, who goes by the name of H2ADIN, echoed Choi’s sentiments and said the experience rejuvenated his music.

But the young rappers’ swag was not the only thing that caught the attention of the viewers; several participants were embroiled in controversies, ranging from bullying to soliciting prostitution.

Worst case came in form of Chang Yong-jun -- son of lawmaker Chang Je-won -- who pulled out of the program after being accused of attempting to solicit sex for money.

Even the 17-year-old winner came under fire after several netizens -- claiming to have gone to the same school as the rapper -- accused Yang of school violence.

“It was the first time I was criticized by such a large number of people,” he said.

Yang said he tried reaching out to his victim, who refused to meet up because he “didn’t even want to think about (the bullying incident).”

“He said he was willing to accept my apology, but not with the camera on. So I’m still waiting,” Yang said. “It’s hard, but it’s supposed to be hard. I think I found a way to become a better person.”

While producer Go said he felt the participants needed a “second chance,” he vowed to pay special attention to the aspects that “the viewers may feel uncomfortable with.”

He pledged to reinforce the screening process so that similar incidents would not happen again.

“It’s not easy to set a standard for what would and would not be accepted by the public. I can’t say specifically what as of now, but we are working on a guideline for participants,” Go said.

The young artists did not say whether they plan to sign with a specific agency in the near future, but vowed to continue their career.

Choi, who was recently seen with rapper Jay Park of AOMG, denied speculation that he would be signing with the label, and said the meeting was just a friendly one.

Jo said he wanted to keep on growing as an artist.

“I’m still young and there are a lot of things I want to do. I want to keep improving and be an artist who keeps up with the trend,” said Jo.

Yang said he wished to give people courage with his music.

“I’m timid, but not at all with my music. I wish people will find the strength in my music and get the message from my music; the message that they can change,” he said.

By Yoon Min-sik