K-pop’s eminent rise in the global market has been well documented, and its style of pop music continues to garner fans across the world. But beneath the synchronized dance movements and colorful outfits, the genre has produced raw talents that are undeniably good, whether they’re under a mass-produced system or not. Hip-hop has always played a pivotal role in molding K-pop. The Korean genre's fashion style, choreography, and music all showcase heavy influence from rap and hip-hop that each idol group (a common trait in K-pop, where collection of talents debut as a unit rather than individually) has at least one member specializing in rap. With K-pop being the talk of the town, and notable figures such as Kanye West, will.i.am, Swizz Beatz, and Diplo all praising the movement for its rapidly spreading global influence, XXL introduces K-pop's five hottest female rap acts. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
A former member of the Wonder Girls, HyunA left the group reportedly due to a health disorder in ‘07. She made a comeback in ’09, however, with 4Minute, a five-member girl group, which has since gained moderate success. As a solo act, HyunA has amassed tremendous exposure, starting off with guest appearances on various albums, she has released several hit singles, most notably, “Bubble Pop,” which made SPIN Magazine’s “Best 20 Songs of 2011” list. While her rapping abilities are dubious, her consistent output as a well-rounded entertainer, including her performance on the now immensely popular “Gangnam Style” by Psy, keeps her an extremely hot commodity within K-pop.
The youngest member of 2NE1, who’s known for her dancing abilities and cutesy antics, is also a standout vocalist/rapper with immense potential as a solo act. Minzy, who debuted at the young age of 15, has played a pivotal role alongside CL as a dominating force for the group’s stage presence with her attention-grabbing choreography, impressive singing, and occasional, yet very well executed, rapping. Even though she’s not a native English speaker, as a huge fan of hip-hop and R&B music, Minzy can recite various verses by Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Common and others. Plus, as a trainee under YG Family (one of Korea’s biggest record labels with its focus on hip-hop/R&B), she has all the rapper traits coordinated down to the smallest detail.
When Wonder Girls let go of its member HyunA, they found the perfect replacement with Yubin. The attractive 23-year-old first debuted with the girl group during the promo run of “Tell Me,” a pop phenomenon that took over Asia for most of 2007 and 2008. Since Yubin’s addition, Wonder Girls has molded its stylistic niche, and dropped many more successful singles including “So Hot,” “Nobody,” “Be My Baby,” and “Like This,” with Yubin’s rapping forte playing a crucial role in adding flavorful dosage of American-style braggadocio mixed with Korean-style sassiness. In addition to writing verses for the Wonder Girls, Yubin has also contributed as a guest performer on songs by Korean R&B stars such as Lee Min Woo and Kim Bum Soo, making her a respected talent in the realm of K-pop idols.
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The self-claimed, “Baddest Female,” boasts superstar qualities on all forefronts. As the leader of the popular girl group 2NE1, her distinctively boastful attitude, fluent rapping capabilities, and vocal strength make her a wunderkind in the K-pop genre. Versed in multiple languages (English, Korean, Japanese, and hint of French), with inquisitive attitude towards all things creative, her style and music choices have garnered praise from producers will.i.am, Diplo, and Swizz Beats, as well as the flamboyant designer Jeremy Scott. A solo album from CL has been a subject of discussion since her debut, and both fans and critics wait for its release, patiently.
Revered as an R&B/hip-hop artist, not so much as a K-pop star, Tasha (known in Korea as Yoon Mi-rae) is often praised within the Korean music scene as the best rapper in the country, hands down. Debuted at the young age of 16, as a member of a hip-hop/pop group Uptown, Tasha soon excelled as a solo artist, releasing three successful R&B albums, and a highly-praised hip-hop effort called Gemini. The influence of her catalog remains relevant as all the artists on this list has at one point or another referenced her style. She has worked alongside American producer !llmind, and gained immense praise from R&B talents such as John Legend and Amerie. In 2007, she married Tiger JK, the country’s biggest rap superstar, and the couple has been affectionately referred to as Korea's Jay-Z and Beyonce.