Artists / Boy Groups / Hip-Hop / Spotlight / Under the Radar

Under the Radar: Block B

With “Under the Radar,” I am spotlighting artists who I believe are completely underrated and unappreciated.

(Excuse me while I yell) IT’S BLOCKTOBER!! BLOCK B IS BACK!! HECK YEAH!!! DO YOU WANNA BE BLOCK B?

Now, down to business. Block B has just released their AMAZING first full-length album, BLOCKBUSTER. Now that Block B has come back, I’ve decided to make them my new Under the Radar artist. I simply love Block B, and have ever since I first heard them. Once I got to know their personalities, I loved them even more. I would have featured them under my Editor’s Picks, but since they never win anything, and in general, they don’t have the massive popularity of my other favorites, I decided to feature them here. Yes, I understand they’ve only been out for over a year, but other groups from their year have seen massive success, and have even won awards, so I still think the group is underrated. I suggest reading this article before reading the post, as it provides a background into what Block went through before their debut and their goals. And as usual, there will be little side notes where I voice my opinion.Without further ado, I give you the awesomeness that is the adorable trolls, Block B.  Happy Reading (It’s really long)!

Today’s spotlight is on Block B!

Name: Block B (Short for Blockbuster)
Label: Stardom Entertainment
Fan Club/Color: BBC (Block B Club)/Purple or Green (Conflicting sources)
Debut Date: April 13, 2011

Members:

Zico (Woo Ji Ho)
Birth Date: September 14, 1992
Position: Leader, Rapper

Taeil (Lee Tae Il)
Birth Date: September 24, 1990
Position: Main Vocalist

B-Bomb (Lee Min Hyuk)
Birth Date: December 14, 1990
Position: Dancer, Sub-vocalist

Jaehyo (Ahn Jae Hyo)
Birth Date: December 23, 1990
Position: Visual, Vocalist

U-Kwon (Kim Yu Kwon)
Birth Date: April 9, 1992
Position: Dancer, Vocalist

Kyung (Park Kyung)
Birth Date: July 8, 1992
Position: Rapper

P.O (Pyo Ji Hoon)
Birth Date: February 2, 1993
Position: Maknae, Rapper

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History:

When Cho PD announced he was forming a seven-member hip-hop group that was mentored by top hip-hop artists, Block B gained a lot of attention from both the Korean and international public. On April 13, 2011, Block B released their debut music video, “Freeze.”  On April 14th, they released their single album, Do You Wanna B?  The video and single were subsequently banned, for those 19 and under, by the Commission of Youth Protection, because they thought it was too sexy for television.  The group made their television debut on KBS’ Music Bank, on April 15, 2011, and then followed up with “Wanna B.”

On June 23, 2011, Block B released their first mini-album, New Kids on the Block.  The week of its release, the mini-album hit #2 on the Gaon Chart, sold out pre-orders, and sold out the first batch of production. The group released the music video for the promotional track, “Tell Them, ” on June 22, 2011.  The music video was revealed on the first episode of the MTV variety show, Match Up!   The show followed Block B, and fellow rookie group B1A4, and revealed their personalities and talents through challenges and behind-the-scenes clips.  In October, MTV followed Block B while they were promoting in Japan. In 2011, they also won the award for “Best New Male Group” at the German Korean Entertainment Awards.

In January 2012, Block B announced their come back. After a series of teasers, in February, Block B released their second mini-album, Welcome to the Block.  At the same time, on February 1, the group revealed the music video for “Nalina” (or NarinA). The release was deemed an all-kill on the charts, and peaked at #3 on the Gaon Chart, although two songs were banned. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF–you suck) and KBS decided that “LOL” and “Did You or Did You Not?” were inappropriate. Block B expressed their regrets over the bans, saying that the bans inhibited their expression, and since Zico helped produce most of the songs, he was especially saddened (paraphrased).  The group also released a dance version video for “NalinA.” “NalinA” peaked at #11 on the Gaon Chart and #22 on the Korean Billboard Chat.

Also in February, Block B faced a controversy regarding their behavior during an interview in Thailand. This subsequently halted their activities. However, during the hiatus, the group released two new music videos and a repackaged album. On April 30, 2012, Block B released the repackaged album for Welcome to the Block. The album peaked at #3 on the Gaon Chart.  On April 29, 2012, Block B first released the music video for “I’ll Close My Eyes,” which peaked at #10, and #20 on the Gaon and Billboard charts, respectively.  The music video featured footage video of the group while during their various promotions and activities. On May 8, the group released the video for “Action RMX.”  The video featured all the members, except Zico, who was diagnosed with vocal chord nodules.

During 2012, the group also released OST tracks. Block B released “Burn Out” for Ghost, and then later released “Your Umbrella” for The Thousandth Man.  In September 2012, after a series of hints dropped by the members, it was announced that Block B will be making their comeback on October 17th.  Prior to the release, Zico announced his mix-tape and pre-released three tracks.  The first come back teaser, featuring B-Bomb, was released on October 5th. This teaser was subsequently followed by teasers for the other members and the music video.  On October 17, 2012, Block released their first full length album, BLOCKBUSTER, and the music video for “NILLILI MAMBO.”

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Possible Reasons for Being Underrated:

Label

Like most underrated artists, Block B is from a small label, Stardom Entertainment (formerly Brand New Stardom). At one point, the head of the label thought about putting up the company building as collateral, in order to secure funds in debuting the group. Chief of the label, and mentor, Cho PD, has been a bit controversial in his “dissing” of G-Dragon. (Side note:  Rappers do this. It’s nothing personal, and GD also released a diss track himself. They are basically admitting relevancy. Cho PD has also praised G-Dragon and YGE’s work. So get over it already, fangirls.) His statements have caused some to look past Block B and their talent, out of spite.  However, he is a well respected member of the hip-hop community and been in the industry for over 13 years.  Block B has also been ridiculed due to their control over their own music.  Unlike most rookies, and artists in general, Block B was given musical freedom and rights, which some of the public doesn’t agree with.  (Yeah, I don’t understand why they disagree with it either.)  The group has faced off against some tough competition with their come backs. They have promoted at the same time as Big Bang, f(x), Miss A, 2NE1, 2PM, Super Junior, Se7en, and FT Island. All those groups are established and popular.

Music

The group’s controversial lyrical content, and heavy hip-hop influence, probably plays a role in the public’s perception of Block B. The group consists of three, rather prolific, rappers. The rappers take the forefront of the group, for the most part.  Hip-hop is not for everyone, so this is sure to get in the way of people appreciating the talents of the group.  The fact some of the members started in the underground music scene also influences their style.  The influence of past experience permeates the music they create, and may not be suitable for the mainstream audience.  Their approach to music and dance is nontraditional for boy groups, which could be a cause for the masses to avoid them. Although their album sales have been pretty good, the masses and awards programs have appeared to not appreciate Block B’s music.

Controversy

One of the key factors in Block B’s being underrated is their tendency for controversy. From the very first single, they have been confronted with bans for their lyrical content.  In a market where cute and catchy tunes are popular, the group fights against the tide. They are pretty unapologetic about their lyrics, although they do attempt to make it more youth-friendly.  However, the standards of what is appropriate for youth is rather strict in Korea, so even if the lyrical content isn’t that bad by most standards, they are still viewed negatively in Korea. Not only that, but their behavior has also created controversy. Block B is known for being “un-idol-like.”  Particularly, Block B is known as being trolls, whether it’s on the red carpet or during interviews. This has created problems with their public image, where some see them as an embarrassment. In a culture where proper respect is key, the group’s perceived irreverence and care-free attitudes have turned people off.  Also, some of their fans have created issues with impolite behavior in general, and, in particular, in a book store.  Some see the behavior of fans as a direct reflection of groups. (BEHAVE FANS AND STOP BEING JERKS!)

____________________________________________________________________

Reasons I Think Block B is Underrated:

Personality

I think this interview gives a short glimpse into Block B’s personality.  Although they are hip-hop artists, Block B is essentially a group of kids.  They simply don’t take life too seriously.  I don’t mean they don’t care about their careers or take the opportunity they have been given for granted. I mean that they are themselves: no pretenses and no faking.  When was the last time a group like Super Junior trolled the red carpet? (No offense to SUJU, of course.)  While they may rub some the wrong way, Block B comes off as silly young men who are enjoying their life.  Block B is approachable, and honestly, caring individuals. Yes, they do sometimes act like smart-asses, but I can’t really hate on that, since I’m one myself. HAHAHA.  After watching them on their show Match Up!, I can honestly say that what you see, is what you get. Their fun-loving personalities are apparent off-camera and on stage. I can respect them for their realness, which is what more artists should have.

Talent

Block B has no shortage of talent. Whether it be rapping, singing, or songwriting, the group is skilled. The members were trained, before debut, in songwriting and production. Because of this, they are prolific in the creation of their music. They have even helped other artists.  From dancing, to singing, to rapping, the group’s members have been very active.  The Block B members didn’t start within the “idol-bubble,” came from different agencies, and have done work outside the group.  Zico studied art and lived in Canada, China, and Japan; Jaehyo is an ulzzang; U-Kwon can play guitar; and Kyung is fluent in English (attended high school in New Zealand). In addition, I’m going to take the time to list some of the things the members have done, just to showcase their talent.

Zico:

  • Composed and rapped in Harmonix Digital Single [Letter]
  • Composed and rapped in “Hope for Korean Hip Hop” track from Cho PD [Victory]
  • Composed and rapped in “Origin of Species” & “Map Music” tracks from Cho PD vs. Verbal Jint [2 The Hard Way]
  • Composed and rapped in “It’s All Act” track from Jung Seulki Digital Single [Same Spot In the End]
  • Composed and rapped in Jung Seulki Digital Single [Acquaintance]
  • Featured in IU’s “Marshmallow” as a rap session
  • Composed and rapped in “Hero Music” track from Bizniz [Ego]
  • Composed and rapped in Faddy Robot [Foundation Vol. 1]
  • Composed and rapped in “It’s Not Over” from Miss. $ Mini Album [Miss Independent]
  • Released Mixtape Vol. 1 [Zico on the Block]
  • Participated in M.Net’s Aura Concert [Cho PD, Verbal Jint]
  • Participated in MTV Rockem Hard
  • Producing participation in Block B 1st Single Album [do u wanna, B?]
  • Recorded several mixtapes with his friends (Kyung, Mino,and Hanhae)
  • Featured for HyunA’s track Just Follow performing live for the replacement for DOK2 and wrote his own lyrics for his rapping.

Taeil:

  • Won daesung at Green Bank’s Children Singing Competition
  • Featured in Han’s Band’s 2009 Winter Album as a chorus
  • Featured in Monday Kiz’s Lee Jin Sung [Sorry] as a chorus
  • Attended as a guest at Wheesung’s Concert
  • Participated in a vocal team called [Brown City]
  • MBC’s audition program Birth of  Great Star
  • Featured in Cho PD’s “Family Man”

B-Bomb:

  • Group 5 in Battle Shinhwa
  • Won daesung for Coex Dance Jjang
  • Won 3rd place for Map District Youth Champion
  • Invited to participate in Family Love Gathering Cultural Performances
  • Appeared in SBS Mackerel Run, KBS My Mom, Supermom
  • Appeared in Cho PD’s “Korea City” MV
  • Previously trained to become a member of Infinite

U-Kwon:

  • Featured in ‘It’s Not Over’ from Miss. $ Repackage Album [Miss Independent]
  • Won the dance award at Anyang Youth Arts Festival
  • Won the special award in dance at Gyeongido Youth Arts Festival
  • Participated in the lyric making of Miss S’ mini album, Miss Independent.

Kyung:

  • Released Harmonix Digital Single [Letter]
  • Composed and rapped in “Hope for Korean Hip Hop” track from Cho PD [Victory]
  • Composed and rapped in “Origin of Species” & “Map Music” tracks from Cho PD vs. Verbal Jint [2 The Hard Way]
  • Composed and rapped in “Hero Music” track from Bizniz [Ego]
  • Composed and rapped in “It’s All Act” track from Jung Seulki Digital Single [Same Spot In the End]
  • Composed and rapped in “It’s Not Over” from Miss. $ Mini Album [Miss Independent]
  • Participated in M.Net’s Aura Concert [Cho PD, Verbal Jint]
  • Participated in MTV Rockem Hard
  • Participated in Zico’s mixtape [Zico on the Block]
  • Composed in Block B 1st Single Album [do u wanna, B?]

Music

(The following is purely opinion, though I’m right. :P) I honestly think Block B’s music is awesome.  With combination of heavy hip-hop and doses of pop, the group has created a sound that is distinctively Block B. Unapologetic and fun lyrics coupled with unique dancing, the group stands out among the other k-pop boy groups. I’m not comparing them to Big Bang, or saying they are the same, but if you like Big Bang, you’ll like Block B. The groups have a feel of their own. That’s probably due to their focus on content and self-expression. Block B has a hand in all the music they release, which you know means they enjoy it more.  The ability to produce their music also points to their talent. You find yourself singing along or dancing to their songs very quickly. Block B is also able to shift styles. For instance, “LOL” from their last album was straight hip-hop. However, the track “I’ll Close My Eyes” was a hip-hop ballad with soft vocals and soft rapping. They have also been able to produce OST tracks. Block B’s transformative nature makes their music a free-for-all: meaning different people can actually like at least one of their songs.  This is one of Block B’s greatest strengths.

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The Future of Block B:

Block B has began to expand their public reach. Not only have they released OSTs, they have also released songs with other artists. Maknae P.O. released a track called “Dear My Wife,” featuring BoM member Mino. (Mino aka Taegoon initially trained with Zico, Kyung, and P.O to become a member of Block B.  The Match Up! episode [#5] discussing this will move you to tears.) He also featured on the song “I’m A Bad Boy” by vocal group Tritops. Leader Zico released “Oasis” with rock band Pia. The song was used in the drama Golden Time.  He also featured on a track with fellow rapper J.Kyun, titled “Hot MC.”  Zico served as a host for Studio C, as well. Jaeyho recently had a cameo in the drama, The Thousandth Man.  The group is also returning to the reality show realm with MTV’s Match Up! Block B Returns.  As mentioned earlier, Zico has released another mix-tape as well. This summer, Block B also held a special event, with performances and member interactions, for their fans. Prior to the event, the group released a special message from Zico and cute teaser videos from the other members. With their increased visibility, Block B could come out with a greater love from the public.

Block B really has a bright future ahead of them, if they can gain the respect they deserve. They have overcome controversy and doubt; becoming stronger in the process. Block B has not forgotten who they are and continue to maintain their fun personalities. Their music is still distinctly “Block B,” and I hope it will continue to be so.

 

BLOCK B FIGHTING!

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Sources:

  1. Wikipedia (hopefully most of it is correct):  Block B; M!Countdown; Inkigayo; Music Bank
  2. Stardom YouTube
  3. Block B FaceBook
  4. AllKPop
  5. Various other places
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