Almost eight years ago, I was introduced to K-pop by the web. Thanks to the global K-pop sensation and girl group Twice, I found a new world that would take over my life for years. Since then, Korean music has filled my music libraries, my hobby of dancing has been revived from watching the idols and I had a fixation that would not leave me bored. The Associated Press (AP) states K-pop is “performed by music stars and bands originating from South Korea.” Going down a rabbit hole, I immersed myself in countless content—idol music, dances, fashion, and more. After a while of consuming K-pop, I’ve become aware of the inspiration taken from Black people and culture; K-pop is what it is today thanks to the incredible contribution of Black people and culture.
It is not exactly hard to learn where artists in this industry get their inspiration, as you can find many articles and posts where artists state the Black figures they look up to; most notably, Michael Jackson is a very popular choice. In an Instagram post on June 4, 2020, by CL, a member of K-group 2NE1, she describes the inspiration for her group, naming various Black artists; “Beyonce’s ‘Dangerously in Love’ was the first CD I bought for myself,” she wrote, and she continued to name Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, Destiny’s Child, TLC and more. With so many examples, the fans and listeners need to give it credit and acknowledge the influence of notable Black figures and culture within the art of K-pop.
Korean rhythm and blues, or K-R&B, is a rising subgenre in the K-pop scene, with heavily respected artists of the subgenre and more people tuning in to the addicting beats and great lyricists. In the middle of 2020, I started listening to this type of music, specifically, more than ever. Several K-R&B artists have caught my eye with their music, most notably Heize, Dean, Hoody, Zico, and Jay Park. Officially calling myself a fan of this subgenre, I also had to acknowledge its roots. According to the Library of Congress website, R&B originated in the 1940s “when it replaced ‘race music’ as a general marketing term for all African American music…” In the present, R&B has since been adopted by Korean artists to create music that would attract many listeners.
Fashion is an incredibly popular industry and an essential part of K-pop; a component of K-pop is the heavy visuals and aesthetics, with companies spending loads of money for their idols to wear in music videos, performances, and events. Very often, there is the “trendy” item that idols wear; eventually, you’ll see every K-pop fan wearing the same thing. A very well-known example is the bucket hat. According to an article by NSS Magazine, “The history of the bucket hat began with its original name, the fishing hat from the 1900s, when Irish farmers and fishermen used them as protection from the rain.” NSS Magazine later states the hat was adapted as a ladies’ accessory in the 1960s, with a more elegant style. “However, the bucket hat was first introduced to street style in the 1980s by the hip-hop community,” according to NSS Magazine.
Another item used a lot in K-pop fashion is hoop earrings. According to the same article, hoops were also popularized in streetwear culture for African American women to “embrace an Afrocentric way of dressing.” These fashion trends and adaptations exemplify the impact of Black culture in K-pop.
K-pop is a global sensation, beginning in the 2000s. With so many factors that make it what it is today, such as music, dancing, fashion, and more, it is important to learn and understand the roots and inspiration taken from Black people and culture.