H1GHR MUSIC artists have been chosen as the cover artist for Billboard Korea Magazine’s 5th issue. Since its launch in 2017, Jay Park’s H1GHR MUSIC has focused on expanding the brand and its talent list, featuring hip-hop-related TV shows such as Dingo Freestyle and Show me the money while constantly releasing new albums.
With their first compilation album H1GHR: RED BAND, H1GHR MUSIC embarks on a journey to become the dominant hip-hop label in the country.
It all begins with the album’s magnificent intro track highlighted by Golden’s strong vocals.
Internal producers WOOGIE and GroovyRoom teamed up with guest producer BOYCOLD to fully embrace hip-hop styles popular today, including traps, electronic music and drills. “Melanin Handsome” and “Check My Bio” have the BK drill type, which is best represented by the American rapper Pop Smoke, and these two tracks draw attention to Sik-K and pH-1
“Closed Case” is a track that reminds you of hip-hop rappers from the West Coast, while “The Purge” is just fun to listen to with the arrangement of extreme sounds that make you get lost in a mosh pit.
And of course, the collection brings together all the label’s rappers in a single album. Woodie Gochild’s catchy and clear termination and strong cadence can be enjoyed in “DDDD Freestyle”, and HAON’s spectacular heavy twister rap is well presented in “World Domination”. While the rest of the list shows their musical rap in “How We Rock” and “Teléfono Remix”, new artists like BIG Naughty and TRADE L get their presence.
After the release of RIGHT: RED BAND, the label is set to drop the second compilation album, RIGHT: BLUE TAPE on September 16, showing a completely different style than the first.
The mastermind behind this project is Jay Park, a leading icon of the Korean hip-hop scene. He shares the story of his first album-total album.
BB: What motivated you to make a compilation album for H1GHR MUSIC?
Jay Park: I kept asking myself, ‘How can we raise our game as a hip-hop label?’ I considered different ways that can showcase our musical identity while giving artists a chance to really step up in their careers. By putting all our work together, I thought it would help the newer artists gain more recognition. All in all, it was just something we needed to grow as a brand.
I can imagine the great level of synergy as a team.
Quite. Take e.g. TRADE L. He’s our latest addition to the list and was not very famous until the release of our first compilation music video “How We Rock”, which instantly garnered over a million views. This is not an option that a 17-year-old rookie rapper can normally have. Today there are so many rappers and outlets for performances are limited. So artists turn to broadcasting more productions and music videos, which in the eyes of the public can become quite overwhelming. Despite all this, our album started with good responses and I am grateful for that. It will be a meaningful and motivating experience for the team.
Two separate albums H1GHR: RED RIBBON (‘RED’) and H1GHR: BLUE TAPE (‘BLUE’) has been released. How are they different?
I had asked the artists to submit their work and I got plenty of it. There were just so many with different genres that we just couldn’t place them all in one album. So we ended up fixing them with the sassy and some heavy songs to RED and light, easy to listen to BLUE. We place great emphasis on naming each album. RED kind of symbolizes an angry bull. We wanted to convey rather passionate messages about “this is who we are” and “try to get to know us” through the tracks called the album RED. With BLUE, which represents the sky and the sea, we have collected songs that are more relaxing and pampering with the acoustic arrangements and R&B sounds.
Pre-release the songs before the official drop off H1GHR: RED BAND on September 2 receives some good answers.
Because RED is so strong that I did not think it would be well received by the public. But to my surprise, “Arrival” and “How We Rock” reached over a million views with incredibly positive feedback. I have always believed in the saying “your efforts do not go unnoticed” and this album actually proved it. I am grateful that people are beginning to acknowledge our sincerity and passion. To be honest, it is not easy to put together such a successful work with so many artists getting involved.
What was it like working with such a large group of artists? Any challenges?
After having the most experience, it just made sense for me to oversee the overall project while pH-1 took charge of the musical production. He has the talent and many ideas, and more importantly, he shows consistency in his work. We ended up using many verses that he wrote. Sik-K writes many songs quickly without compromising on quality.
When we were playing with the idea of compiling, I asked all the artists to submit their work, and it was he who submitted the most, which helped speed things up. HAON owned his share and knew exactly what he is good at and what he needs to improve. He did a unique job with the verse and demonstrated excellent interpretation of the song. BIG Naughty and TRADE L, our youngest artists, have definitely set the up-and-go attitude. With a little guidance, they managed to keep up with the rest. When GroovyRoom and WOOGIE put some H1GHR-style beats, Sik-K, pH-1, Golden and I added hooks to each. They have completely different styles when it comes to making beats, which is actually great because we do not end up having similar sounds. Woodie Gochild can also pull off a unique sound with a little direction and help. His rap especially sounds better in a video.
Finally, Golden can take any song to the next level with its hook and background vocals. He has such a unique gift to make every note and every word sound so distinctive. It’s very impressive. I’m sure they have all learned throughout this project that nothing beats the experience. It does not matter how talented you are. Years of experience and achieved goals 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 with his or her own style, I assume a small clash was inevitable.
I’m sure there were things they did not agree with, but they managed to follow with confidence, which I really appreciate. I was all ears when they shared their ideas, but I also tried to be honest with them. I was still good at it because they are like my family, but when faced with the real world out there, they have to endure very objective, critical responses. I figured 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 you and trust you, but at the same time, they can tell you straight up. We have this mutual trust that made the whole process so much easier.
Is there any artist who surprised you?
I have known Sik-K and pH-1 for so long that there was nothing to be surprised about. But with the rest of the team, it was a different story. I had no idea that Golden would create such a synergy with the group and write such great melodies and lyrics. Dong Hyun was just sick. The guy is too good for an 18-year-old. He is especially good with more melodic music. In “Arrival,” TRADE L had its share just before mine, and he just nailed it, which I give him credit for, because it’s definitely not an easy thing 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 do you want people to see through this compilation album?
H1GHR MUSIC the artists. They are all good people with some good work done in my opinion. Plus, they have so much potential to get better, but I hate that I’m the only one aware of this potential. I do not know how much help I could be, but I just wanted this project to help them get more recognition. It would also be nice to let people know that we proudly make music under H1GHR MUSIC as H1GHR MUSIC artists, not an affiliate label from AOMG; we have never been affiliated with AOMG.
To be honest, I never expected these guys to pull it off so well. Originally, I was in doubt about Trade L when we recorded together, but he turned out to be great and did a great job. He has good rhythm and tone, and he even writes pretty cool lyrics and also performs a great live performance. I can not believe he is only 17. But he should definitely be more natural with the camera. It’s the only time he looks like a rookie. [laughs]
You’ve been on the grind all your career as a K-pop idol, b-boying, started your own label and made TV shows as if there is no limit to what you can do and it looks like some kind of farfigur works so hard to support his family. What makes you push yourself?
At first it was just about having fun. I like to challenge myself and 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 certain position with fame and influence to be able to help them, and I have worked hard to maintain that position. Now that I’ve done a good job, I intend to just focus on what I need to do.
And what would it be?
If there’s anything I can do that opens a door for another artist, then that’s what I want to do. I try to be where I need to be – where I can have a positive influence on others. I enjoy working in synergy with someone. I do not have a big vision in terms of my musical career anymore, for 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? It seems that you have a great interest in taking world tours and becoming global.
The idea of a global market has always been in my mind. We have already signed a couple of foreign artists like souf souf who had recently released his album and 28AV who have done some work with Lil Mosey. We also plan to promote the compilation album throughout the United States. I have learned to believe that you need to take care of yourself as opposed to trusting others and expecting them to lay out the solutions for you. Instead, make an effort and search for your own answers.
This has always been my motto. Opportunities lead to more opportunities. We have made the compilation album happen for ourselves, and now we are interviewed here by Billboard Korea and gives us another opportunity to promote the album. Instead of settling for where I am, I strive to go higher and get better. Whether it’s concerts, tours, fashion, video content, music listings or what not, I’m always looking for ways to bring out the best results.
This article was originally featured on Billboard Korea.