H1GHR MUSIC artists have been selected as artists on the cover of Billboard Korea Magazine 5th issue. Since launching in 2017, Jay Park’s H1GHR MUSIC has focused on expanding the label and its list of talents to appear on hip-hop-related TV shows such as Dingo Freestyle and show me the money by constantly releasing new albums.
With his first compilation album H1GHR: RED STRIP, H1GHR MUSIC embarks on a journey to become the predominant hip-hop label in the country.
It all starts with the big intro song of the album, emphasized by the powerful vocals of Golden.
In-house producers WOOGIE and GroovyRoom have teamed up with guest producer BOYCOLD to embrace fully popular hip-hop styles today, including trap, electronic music and training. “Melanin Handsome”
“Closed Case” is a song that reminds you of hip-hop rappers on the West Coast, while “The Purge” is just fun to listen to by arranging extreme sounds that make you whirl in a mosque pit.
And, of course, the compilation brings together all the label’s rappers in one album. Woodie Gochild’s captivating and clear expression and strong rhythm can be enjoyed in “DDDD Freestyle”, and HAON’s spectacular rap with a twist of the tongue is well represented in “World Domination”. While the rest of the band shows their musical artistic rap in “How We Rock” and “Teléfono Remix”, new artists such as BIG Naughty and TRADE L make their presence felt.
After the release of HIGHR: RED STRIP, the label is set to release the second compilation album, HIGHR: BLUE TAPE on September 16, which demonstrates a completely different style from the first.
The leader of this project is Jay Park, a leading icon of the Korean hip-hop scene. He shares the story of his first compilation album for the entire label.
BB: What motivates you to make a compilation album for H1GHR MUSIC?
Jay Park: I kept asking myself, “How can we elevate our game as a hip-hop label?” I considered different ways that could show our musical identity while giving artists a chance to really enhance their careers. Putting all our work together, I thought it would help newer artists get more recognition. All in all, it was just something we had to grow as a label.
I can imagine the great level of synergy as a team.
Absolutely. Take TRADE L. For example, it’s our newest addition to the list and wasn’t very well known until the release of our first compiled music video, How We Rock, which instantly garnered over a million views. This is not an opportunity that a 17-year-old rookie rapper can usually have. Nowadays there are so many rappers and places for performances are limited. Thus, artists are turning to the release of more productions and music videos, which in the eyes of the public can become quite striking. Despite all this, our album started with great answers and I feel grateful for that. This will be a meaningful and motivating experience for the team.
Two separate albums H1GHR: RED STRIP (“RED”) and H1GHR: BLUE TAPE (“BLUE”) are released. How are they different?
I had asked the artists to send their works and I received many of them. There were so many different genres that we just couldn’t put them all together in one album. So we finally arranged them with the cheeky and a bit heavy songs for RED and light, easy to listen to SON. We put a lot of thought into naming each album. RED kind of symbolizes an angry bull. We wanted to convey quite passionate messages to “this is us” and “try to get to know us” through the songs called album RED. C SON, which represents the sky and the sea, we composed songs that are more relaxing and pampering with acoustic arrangements and R&B sounds.
Preliminary songs before the official decline of H1GHR: RED STRIP on september 2 we get great answers.
Because RED is so strong, I didn’t think it would be well received by the audience. But to my surprise, “Arrival” and “How We Wave” reached over a million views with extremely positive reviews. I’ve always believed in the saying “your efforts don’t go unnoticed” and this album actually proved it. I am grateful that people are beginning to recognize our sincerity and passion. To be honest, it is not easy to put together such a successful work with so many artists.
What was it like working with such a large group of artists? Any challenges?
With the most experience, it just made sense for me to watch the whole project while pH-1 took responsibility for the music production. He has talent and a lot of ideas and more importantly, he shows consistency in his work. In the end, we used a lot of verses he wrote. Sik-K writes many songs quickly without compromising quality.
When we toyed with the idea of compilation, I asked all the artists to send their works, and he sent the most, which helped speed things up. HAON had his part, knowing exactly what he was good at and what he needed to improve. He did an exceptional job with the verse and demonstrated an excellent interpretation of the song. BIG Naughty and TRADE L, our youngest artists, definitely have this attitude of getting up and moving. With a little guidance, they managed to deal with the others. When GroovyRoom and WOOGIE put a few beats in the style of H1GHR, Sik-K, pH-1, Golden and I would add hooks to each. They have completely different styles when it comes to creating rhythms, which is actually great because we don’t have similar sounds after all. Woodie Gochild can also bring out a unique sound with a little guidance and help. His rap sounds especially better in a video.
Finally, Golden can take each song to the next level with his vocals on the hook and background. He has such a unique gift to make every note and every word sound so distinctive. This is very impressive. I’m sure everyone has learned throughout this project that nothing can surpass the experience. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. Years of lessons learned and goals achieved can never go unnoticed. This project was more difficult than I expected, but it turned out to be better than I thought.
Since each artist is so unique in their own style, I guess a bit of a clash was inevitable.
I’m sure there were things they didn’t agree with, but they managed to follow along with the trust, which I really appreciate. I was on my toes when they shared their ideas, but I also tried to be honest with them. I still enjoyed it because they are like my family, but when they face the real world there, they will have to come to terms with very objective, critical answers. I thought that more constructive criticism would benefit their careers in the long run. And that’s why it’s important to have the right people around you. They respect and trust you, but at the same time they can tell you straight. We have mutual trust, which has facilitated the whole process.
Is there an artist to surprise you?
I have known Sik-K and pH-1 for so long that there was nothing to be surprised about. But it was a different story with the rest of the team. I had no idea that Golden would create such a synergy with the band and write such great melodies and lyrics. Dong Hyun was just sick. The dude is too good for an 18-year-old. He is especially good with more melodic music. In “Arrival” TRADE L had its part just before mine and he just nailed it, which I acknowledge, because it’s definitely not easy to do. With Woodie Gochild, I was honestly a little disappointed with what happened on Show Me the Money, but after seeing a lot of positive comments about the “Arrival” video, I was super proud.
What would you like people to see through this compilation album?
The performers of H1GHR MUSIC. They are all great people with a lot of work done in my opinion. Besides, they have so much potential to get better, but I hate that I’m the only one who is aware of that potential. I don’t know how much I could help, but I just wanted this project to help them get more recognition. It would also be nice to let people know that we are proud to make music under H1GHR MUSIC as H1GHR MUSIC artists, not an affiliate of AOMG; we have never been an affiliate of AOMG.
Honestly, I never expected these guys to do it so well. At first I had doubts about Trade L when we were recording together, but it turned out great and did a great job. He has a good rhythm and tone and even writes some cool lyrics and makes a great live performance. I can’t believe he’s only 17. But he definitely needs to be more natural with the camera. This is the only time he looks like a rookie. [laughs]
Throughout your career, you’ve been on the verge of being a K-pop idol, b-boying, creating your own label, and making TV shows, as if there’s no limit to what you can do, and it looks like some kind of father figure works so hard to support his family. What makes you push?
At first, it was all just fun. I like to challenge myself and I want to see if I have what it takes to do well when I try different things. That’s why I collaborated a lot with other artists. I also do it for the money, because I have people to support. I know I have to be in a position with fame and influence to be able to help them, and I’ve worked hard to maintain that position. Now that I’ve done a pretty good job, I intend to just focus on what I need to do.
And what would that be?
If there is one thing I can do that will open a door for another artist, then I will do it. I try to be where I need to be – where I can have a positive impact on others. I like working in synergy with someone. I no longer have a huge vision for my music career, because what I have achieved so far is more than enough for me. It would be wrong to want more than that.
How do you see the future of H1GHR MUSIC? You seem to have a great interest in touring the world and becoming global.
The idea of a global market has always been on my mind. We have already signed with several foreign artists such as souf souf, who recently released his album, and 28AV, which has done some work with Lil Mosey. We plan to promote the compilation album in the United States as well. I have learned to believe that you need to take care of yourself instead of relying on others and expect them to set out the decisions for you. Instead, you need to make an effort and look for your own answers.
This has always been my motto. Opportunities lead to more opportunities. We made the compilation album happen for us and now we are being interviewed here Billboard Korea and creating another opportunity for us to promote the album. Instead of being content with who I am, I strive to go higher and get better. Whether it’s concerts, tours, fashion, video content, music charts or whatever, I’m always looking for ways to get the best results.
This article originally appeared on Billboard Korea.