The elitist nature of some Korean Hip-Hop fans

This is a topic that is often discussed but never gone into enough for my liking and over the years it has become something that has bugged me more and more as a fan of Korean hip-hop. It often comes up in online posts and discussions that fans of underground hip-hop music find it annoying when their favourite rappers get to a point at which their music is appreciated by a wider market of people i.e. fans of K-pop. And whenever this discussion crops up I see hundreds of comments calling for them to go back to where they belong and stop stealing and ruining good artists.

But I always fail to understand why this is an acceptable response. For instance when Tablo released his solo albums and they outsold many K-pop albums released at the same time many fans called for him to stop ‘selling out’ and to ‘return to his proper roots’. However I never saw this as him selling out, I saw it as him adapting his music in a way that was true to himself but would open the gates to allow a wider demographic to enjoy his work, which is not something that can be condemned.

I noticed a long time ago that you will often get fans of underground hip-hop that are very elitist in their views of the genre. In some of these touchy fans’ eyes, artists should stick to what they know and only make changes to their music that their current fans will enjoy. If little changes are made that are viewed as unacceptable or that attract fans outside of their set demographic they are seen to be selling out. If an artist’s changes their style and it gets glances from K-pop fans that suddenly begin to refer to them as ‘bias’ they are also seen to have done wrong. How dare you have a look that has caught the eye of someone outside of the underground loop?

One underground fan’s confession about how they view fans of the Korean Hip-Hop scene (via khiphop-confessions)

But this begs me to ask the question, what is wrong with K-pop fans discovering, and even enjoying, underground music? So what if you go online from time to time and see images of your favourite underground rappers edited in the same way that you would see an idols image edited? Who cares if K-pop fans are now debating who is better looking between Beenzino and Huckleberry P? As fans should we not be accepting of other fans? Should we not be happy that artists that were more often than not overlooked and ignored are now finally getting the attention and recognition they deserve?

Of course this is not just something that applies to underground hip-hop fans. No this is something that could be applied to many fans and situations. Any fan could be called an elitist and by simply believing that you are superior to other fans you can be tarred with the same brush. This is not a shocking response. As humans we always aim to find a place where we will belong, something to be a part of and a thing that will help us to meet those who are like-minded. But we also aim to be unique and to stand out from the crowd. This is how some fans of underground hip-hop feel: special. So when mainstream androids come along and stake a claim to the very thing that has made them feel so special they become territorial and revert to behaviour that is commonly found amongst children. The ‘my toy’ routine.

However, I feel, as a fan myself, that there should be no limitation on what an underground fan should be. As long as you love and appreciate the music and the work and heart that each of the artists put into it then I don’t care who you are, what else you love or what you do. A fan is a fan, and no fan is better than another.

Do you agree with this or do you have another take? Let us know in the comments.

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Co-founder and Editor at Beyond Hallyu
Lover of Korean hip-hop and indie music...and Unicorns.
  • cikidoa1

    One of the bigger problems I find with these “new fans” (or K-Pop fans, as you’ve carefully put it) is that SOME of them are bandwagoners who start liking Korean hip-hop music. Of course, I’m not generalising the whole lot, but I notice that they do so because hip-hop is the “current trend”, e.g. collaborations with their biases, the requirement for each idol group to have a “rapper”, the increasing number of hip-hop idol groups, etc. This was visible during the diss battle period a few weeks ago, where K-Pop fans started paying more attention to hip-hop artists some of them most likely to have not heard of.

    So, yeah, I understand why some Korean hip-hop fans stick out as being elitists, but a big part of it is because they’re trying to protect their favourite artists from the “invasion” of the mainstream crowd. But again, I agree with you that “there should be no limitation on what an underground fan should be”.

    • haohaohao

      Who gave them the right to “protect” their artists anyway? And is there a proper method in becoming a fan? So bandwagonning isn’t ok… how then should I get to know new artists and so on? It’s a terribly selfish and childish mentality that these artists are “mine” and I know them better than any of these new n00b fans.

      It’s not a new phenomenon of course; back in the 80s and 90s bands like Metallica and Nirvana were accused of selling out once they signed major record deals. And of course, the bands cared so much about their “original fans” that they… continued making great music that appealed to a wider audience.

  • Orion

    As cikidoa1 says, the invasion of mainstream and succumbing to the temptation of fame and
    money is very real, but it is also not a fan’s right or in their power
    to stop it. If the artist chooses to let go of what made them loved in
    favor of a more mass-pleasing image and style of music, they are adults
    and it is their own decision.

    Fans can advice them, they can
    speak to them as genuine appreciators of their career and speak their
    mind about how they feel fame will taint that, but at the end of the
    day, they can’t demand a person does not go for fame and money. Neither
    does that make them a horrible sellout by itself and unless it really
    gets to their head and turns into money milking. If these fans were
    offered a better life and less worries without having to completely turn
    themselves into meat, they would take it too. Again, it’s a case of
    forcing your own standards on another person.

    If they stop being
    who you admire, stop admiring them and move on. Show your bitterness,
    but don’t make it a bigger deal than it is. It’s sad, yes. You expected
    more, yes. You feel they abused their talent or gave it up, yes. But
    don’t go demanding they don’t do it or try to blackmail them into
    avoiding it. They create, you buy. If they stop creating what you like,
    stop buying, express your disapproval of their work decisions and move

    It is the same with other fans. Like the “fake geek” or “not
    real fan” crap we have everywhere. Who died and made you,
    fake-geek-screaming guy, God of what is and what is not a geek? Who
    named you a real hip hop fan and others not worthy of
    liking the same thing you do?

    Fear of losing our delusions of
    being special and unique and losing our favorite toy. This is what it
    boils down to. And hate and rejection is an immature mind’s reaction to

  • leeela

    personally, i don’t mind that there are so many new fans i just don’t care for the fans who come into khiphop already biased because ‘so and so is HAWWTTTT’ without having actually listened to their music…which has increasingly become an epidemic. Take the khiphop tag on tumblr for example, its not even about music anymore, its just a competition of who can get the most notes on black and white pictures, i’m not there for the pictures i’m there for the music, if that makes me an elitist then so be it.

    • iGleaux

      Thank you. I barely check the tag anymore but then again I’ve been around for a long time so I’ve built a group of friends and we let each other know who we’re listening to, what new albums/singles/mixtapes have dropped etc. I’ve found a lot of music blogs (as a result of the control rap beef this year) that are on the more serious end of things so I go to those. I rarely run into problematic fans so I don’t feel any real way towards “bandwagoners”

    • Seti Tesefay

      I completely understand that. I think it’s different though when people are not welcoming to the khip-hop community because you like k-pop (which i never faced). Music is music, you like it or you don’t.

  • Guest

    Just another flavor of hipsters.

  • Ting

    I’ve seen elitism from metal and rock music fandoms. It makes it hard to actually post on forums happily without avoiding endless ‘this isn’t real music’ BS. Not just towards pop music or anything deemed ‘mainstream’ but any metal sub-genre that doesn’t sound metal enough.

    • Persephone Basilissa

      My husband says this has been going on for decades: he saw it in the punk and new wave movements in the 1980s. Seems it’s just the way many fans of non-pop music seem to be.

  • sharaysabel

    Honestly, I consider myself elitist. I became so because of bandwagon fans. I was one of those fans when K-pop wasn’t mainstream yet and finding people that has the same interest as you is reaaaally hard. It hurts me to see people joining the fandom just because they are the trend and wouldn’t even appreciate the music. They just like them because they are popular, good-looking and whatnot, and this hurts me. Sorry, I am so protective of my fandom.

  • iGleaux

    I just get annoyed with all these new Khip-hop fans that know nothing about hip-hop or try to sh*t on US hip-hop. Some bring a lot of the nonsense from the K-pop fandom to the Khip-hop arena also. Good thing though is those fans don’t care about people beyond Simon D (for all his variety show appearances, shudders when they try talk trash about E-Sens or barely knows who he is), Dynamic Duo, Epik High and other high profile rappers.

    • sasha_BH

      I like when people come to enjoy Korean hip-hop as I feel it is much overlooked, however I do not enjoy when people attempt to ‘teach’ me whilst using Epik High as an example. Whilst I do love Epik High (I will not deny this, they make good music) I don’t think anybody has the right to preach about them knowledge of music to others. Instead of preaching we should all share and learn, new and old fans.

      • iGleaux

        Not sure if that preaching comment is directed at me or other fans so…

        • sasha_BH

          No no not towards you at all :)

          • iGleaux

            Oh ok 😉

  • ~helen~

    I agree with the article and can I just say I really like the way you write? Idek why ^_^

  • yaminohime

    I actually became a fan of Khiphop thanks to k2nblog and B.A.P.

    I understand the elitist feel coz I’m an elitist myself. I’m the kind of elitist who hates “fans” who enter the fandom just bcoz of the aesthetic value or even just because of the trend (e.g. EXO and tons of fake EXO-Ls who wear Wolf 88 shirt everywhere like FUCKING everywhere, even in an Epik High concert). I’m deffo okay with a kpop fan liking khiphop music as long as they appreciate the music and not just the faces they see.

    It’s so sad to see Kpop slowly transcending from love of music regardless of the language to love of handsome oppars and pretty unnies.