The artists of H1GHR MUSIC have been chosen as the cover artist of Billboard Korea Magazine’s 5th edition. Since its launch in 2017, Jay Park’s H1GHR MUSIC has focused on expanding the label and its roster of talent, who have made appearances on hip-hop-related television shows such as Dingo Freestyle is Show me the money while releasing new albums constantly.
With their first compilation album H1GHR: RED RIBBON, H1GHR MUSIC is embarking on a journey to become the predominant hip-hop label in the country.
It all starts with the album’s great intro track highlighted by Golden’s powerful voice.
In-house producers WOOGIE and GroovyRoom have teamed up with guest producer BOYCOLD to fully embrace the hip-hop styles that are popular nowadays, including trap, electronic music and drill. “Melanin Handsome”
“Closed Case” is a track that reminds you of West Coast hip-hop rappers, while “The Purge” is simply fun to listen to with the arrangement of extreme sounds that make you feel like you’ve gone crazy in a mosh pit.
And of course, the compilation brings together all the rappers on the label into one album. Woodie Gochild’s clear and catchy wording and strong cadence can be appreciated in “DDDD Freestyle”, and HAON’s spectacular rap is well presented in “World Domination”. While the rest of the roster show their rap musical art in “How We Rock” and “Teléfono Remix”, new artists like BIG Naughty and TRADE L make their presence felt.
Following the release of HIGHR: RED RIBBON, the label will release the second compilation album, HIGHR: BLUE RIBBON on September 16, which showcases a completely different style from the first.
The mastermind behind this project is Jay Park, a prominent icon of the Korean hip-hop scene. He shares the story of his first compilation album across the label.
BB: What prompted you to make a compilation for H1GHR MUSIC?
Jay Park: I kept asking myself, “How can we improve our game as a hip-hop label?” I have contemplated different ways to show our musical identity while providing the opportunity for artists to really step up their careers. Putting all of our work together, I thought it would help newer artists gain more recognition. All in all, it was just something we needed to grow as a label.
I can imagine the great level of synergy as a team.
Totally. Take TRADE L for example. It is our latest addition to the roster and was not very popular until the release of our first compilation music video “How We Rock”, which immediately garnered over a million views. This isn’t an opportunity a 17-year-old novice rapper can usually get. Nowadays, there are so many rappers and the outlets for performing are limited. So artists are dedicated to releasing more productions and music videos, which in the public eye can get quite overwhelming. Despite everything, our album started with great responses and I’m grateful for that. It will be a meaningful and motivating experience for the team.
Two separate albums H1GHR: RED RIBBON (“RED”) is H1GHR: BLUE RIBBON (“BLUE”) they have been released. How are they different?
I had asked artists to submit their work and received a lot of it. There were so many of them with various genres that we weren’t able to put them all on one album. So we ended up solving them with the cheeky and somewhat heavy songs for RED and read, easy to listen to BLUE. We thought a lot about naming each album. RED kind of symbolizes an angry bull. We wanted to convey rather passionate messages of “this is who we are” and “try to get to know us” through the so called tracks of the album RED. With BLUE, which represents the sky and the sea, we have compiled songs that are more relaxing and pampered by acoustic arrangements and R&B sounds.
The songs premiered before the official release of H1GHR: RED RIBBON on 2 September they are receiving excellent responses.
Because RED it’s so strong, I didn’t think it would be well received by the public. But to my surprise, “Arrival” and “How We Rock” have reached over a million views with extremely positive feedback. I’ve always believed in the saying “your efforts don’t go unnoticed” and this album has actually proved it. I am grateful that people are starting to recognize our sincerity and passion. To be honest, it’s not easy to put together such a successful work with so many artists involved.
What was it like working with such a large group of artists? Any challenges?
Having the most experience, it made sense for me to oversee the overall project while pH-1 took care of the music production. He has the talent and a lot of ideas, and most importantly, he shows consistency in his work. We ended up using a lot of verses he wrote. Sik-K writes many songs quickly without compromising on quality.
When we were playing with the compilation idea, I had asked all the artists to submit their work and he was the one who sent the most, which helped speed things up. HAON did his part, knowing exactly what he is good at and what he needs to improve. He did an outstanding job with the verse and demonstrated excellent interpretation of the song. BIG Naughty and TRADE L, our youngest artists, definitely have that get-up-and-go attitude. With a little guidance, they managed to keep up with the rest. When GroovyRoom and WOOGIE laid some H1GHR style rhythms, Sik-K, pH-1, Golden and I added hooks to each. They have completely different styles when it comes to making beats, which is really cool because we don’t end up having similar sounds. Woodie Gochild can also bring out a unique sound with a little direction and help. His rap sounds particularly better in a video.
Finally, Golden can take any song to the next level with his hook and background vocals. He has the unique gift of making every note and word so distinctive. It is truly impressive. I’m sure everyone has learned through the entire project that nothing beats 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 better than I thought.
With each artist so unique with their own style, I assume a little confrontation was inevitable.
I’m sure there were things they didn’t agree on, but they were able to follow along 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 kind about it anyway because they are like my family, but when they face the real world out there, they will have to put up with very objective and critical answers. I thought more constructive criticism would benefit their career in the long run. And that’s why having the right people around you is important. They respect and trust you, but at the same time they can tell you directly. We have this mutual trust that has made the whole process so much easier.
Is there any artist who surprised you?
I’ve 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 amazing songs and lyrics. Dong Hyun was just sick. The guy is too good for an 18-year-old. He is particularly good with more melodic music. In “Arrival”, TRADE L got its part right before mine and just nailed it, which I give it 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 would you like people to see through this compilation?
The artists of H1GHR MUSIC. They are all great people with great work done in my opinion. Plus, they have so much potential for improvement, but I hate being the only one who is aware of that potential. I don’t 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 are proudly making music under H1GHR MUSIC as H1GHR MUSIC artists, not an AOMG affiliate label; we have never been an AOMG affiliate.
To be honest, I never expected these guys to do so well. Initially, I had some doubts about Trade L when we were recording together but it turned out great and did a great job. He has good rhythm and tone, he also writes quite interesting lyrics and also offers a great live performance. I can’t believe he’s only 17. But it definitely needs to be more natural with the camera. That’s the only time he looks like a rookie. [laughs]
You’ve been struggling your entire career being a K-pop idol, b-boying, starting your own label and making TV shows like there’s no limit to what you can do, and this looks like some sort of father figure. working so hard to support his family. What drives you to push yourself further?
At first it was all 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 hold that position. Now that I have done a good job, I intend to focus only on what I need to do.
And what would it be?
If there is anything I can do to open a door for another artist, then that’s what I will do. I try to be where I should be, where I can have a positive influence on others. I like to work in synergy with someone. I no longer have a huge vision in terms of a musical career because what I have achieved so far is more than enough for me. It would be wrong to want something more.
How do you see the future of H1GHR MUSIC? You seem to have a huge interest in doing world tours and going global.
The idea of a global market has always been on my mind. We have already signed with some foreign artists like souf souf who recently released his album and 28AV who worked with Lil Mosey. We plan to promote the compilation album in the US as well. I have learned to believe that you should take care of yourself instead of relying on others and expecting them to provide you with the solutions. Instead, you should strain and seek your own answers.
This has always been my motto. Opportunities lead to more opportunities. We made the compilation for ourselves and now here we are interviewing Billboard Korea and giving us another chance to promote the album. Instead of settling for where I am, I strive to go higher and improve. Whether it’s gigs, 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.