Covers were chosen by HVGHR MUSIC artists Billboard Korea Magazine 5th issue. Since its launch in 2017, J1 Park’s H1GHR MUSIC has focused on expanding the label and its talents, appearing on hip-hop-related TV shows such as Dingo Freestyle and Show me the money constantly dropping new albums.
With their first compilation album H1GHR: RED PAGE, H1GHR MUSIC embarks on a journey to become the predominant hip-hop label in the country.
It all starts with a great introductory album, highlighted by Golden’s powerful vocals.
In-house producers WOOGIE and GroovyRoom have teamed up with guest producer BOYCOLD to fully embrace popular hip-hop styles, including trap, electronic music and training. “Melanin Handsome”; and “Check My Bio” have a BK percussion that best represents American rapper Pop Smoke, and these two tracks draw attention to the musical interpretation of the Sik-K and pH-1 genres.
“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 look wild in the mosque.
And, of course, the compilation brings together all the label’s rappers in one album. Woody Goydhold’s spectacular and clear expression and strong rhythmicity can be enjoyed in “DDDD Freestyle”, and the impressive rapper from HAON in a great language is well represented in “World Domination”. While the rest of the participants demonstrate their rap musicals in “How We Rock” and “Teléfono Remix”, new artists such as BIG Naughty and TRADE L feel their presence.
After release HIGHR: RED PAGE, the label is set to reset the second album of the collection, HIGHR: BLUE TAPE September 16, which demonstrates a completely different style from the first.
The founder 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 prompted 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 thought about different ways that can demonstrate our musical identity, while giving artists a chance to really boost their careers. Combining all our work, I thought it would help new artists gain more recognition. In general, it was just what we needed to grow as a label.
I can imagine a great level of synergy in the team.
Quite. Take, for example, TRADE L. It is our latest addition to the list and was not very well known until the release of our first compilation music video “How We Rock”, which instantly gained more than a million views. This is not an opportunity that a 17-year-old novice rapper can usually have. Nowadays, there are so many rappers, and outlets for performances are limited. Therefore, artists are turning to more productions and music videos, which in the eyes of the public can be extremely impressive. Despite all this, our album started with great reviews, and I feel grateful for that. It will be a meaningful and motivating experience for the team.
Two separate albums H1GHR: RED TAPE (‘RED’) and H1GHR: BLUE TAPE (‘BLUE’) were released. How are they different?
I asked the artists to submit their work and I got a ton. There were so many of them with different genres that we just couldn’t fit them all in one album. So we ended up sorting them out with cheeky and somewhat heavy songs RED and light, easy to listen to BLUE. We thought a lot about the names of each album. RED the species symbolizes an angry bull. We wanted to convey quite passionate messages “this is us” and “try to know us” through the songs called the album RED. WITH BLUE, which represents the sky and the sea, we have composed songs that are more relaxing and pampering with acoustic arrangements and R&B sounds.
Pre-graduation songs before the official drop H1GHR: RED TAPE On September 2 we receive great feedback.
Because RED so strong that I didn’t think it would be well received by the public. But to my surprise, “Arrival” and “How We Rock” 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. Honestly, it is not easy to make such a successful work, involving so many artists.
How was it to work with such a large group of artists? Any problems?
With the most experience, it just made sense for me to watch the overall project, while pH-1 was responsible for the music production. He has talent and a lot of ideas, and more importantly, he demonstrates consistency in work. As a result, we used many of the poems he wrote. Sik-K writes many songs quickly without compromising on quality.
When we played with the idea of compiling, I asked all the artists to send their work, and it was he who sent the most, which helped speed things up. HAON owned his part, knowing exactly what he was good at and what he needed to improve. He did an exceptional job with the poem and demonstrated a wonderful interpretation of the song. BIG Naughty and TRADE L, our youngest artists certainly have this attitude. With a little guidance, they managed to catch up with the rest. When GroovyRoom and WOOGIE set up several rhythms in the style of H1GHR, Sik-K, pH-1, Golden, I would add hooks to each. They have completely different styles when it comes to creating rhythms, which is really great because we don’t have similar sounds. Woody Gochild can also make a unique sound by helping and helping a bit. His rap sounds especially good in the video.
Finally, Golden can take any song to the next level with his vocals and background. He has such a unique gift to make every note and every word so distinctive. It’s very impressive. I’m sure they’ve all mastered this whole project, that nothing can surpass experience. No matter how talented you are. Years of lessons learned and goals achieved can never go unnoticed. This project was more complex than I expected, but turned out to be better than I thought.
Because each artist was so unique in his own style, I guess a small collision was inevitable.
I’m sure there were things they didn’t agree with, but they managed to follow along with the confidence that I really appreciate. I was with everyone when they shared their ideas, but I also tried to be honest with them. I still enjoyed it because they look like my family, but when they face the real world, they have to put up with very objective, critical reactions. I believed that more constructive criticism would benefit their careers in the long run. 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 directly. We have a mutual trust that has made the whole process much easier.
Did any of the artists surprise you?
I knew Sik-K and pH-1 for so long that they had nothing to be surprised about. But with the rest of the team it was completely different. I never imagined that Golden would create such a synergy with the band and write such wonderful melodies and lyrics. Don Hyun was just sick. Dude is too good for an 18 year old. He is especially good at more melodic music. In “Arrival” TRADE L played his role right in front of mine, and he just nailed it, for which I respect him, because it’s definitely not an easy task. With Woody Goydhall, I was honestly a little disappointed with what happened at Show Me the Money, but seeing a lot of positive comments on the “Arrival” video, I was very proud.
What would you like people to see in this compilation album?
Artists H1GHR MUSIC. In my opinion, they are all wonderful people who have done a great job. Also, they have so many opportunities to become better, but I hate that I am the only one who knows about this potential. I don’t know how it could help me, but I just wanted this project to help them gain more recognition. It would also be nice to let people know that we are proud to make music for H1GHR MUSIC as H1GHR MUSIC, not an AOMG affiliate; we have never been an affiliate of AOMG.
Honestly, I never expected these guys to do so well. At first I had doubts about Trade L when we signed up together, but it turned out great and did a great job. He has a good rhythm and tone, he even writes pretty cool lyrics and also puts on 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 really looks like a beginner. [laughs]
You’ve been stranded all your career, being a K-pop idol, b-boising, creating your own label and making TV shows, as if there are no limits to what you can do, and it’s like a father figure working so hard to to support your family. What motivates you to push yourself?
At first, it was all about entertainment. 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 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 work 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 will it be?
If there is one thing I can do that will open the door for another artist, it is something I will do. I try to be where I need to be – where I can positively influence others. I like working with someone. I no longer have a huge vision in terms of my music career, because what I have achieved today is more than enough for me. It would be wrong to want something bigger.
How do you see the future of H1GHR MUSIC? You are probably very interested in world tours and globally.
The idea of a global market has always been in my head. We have already signed with several foreign artists, such as souf souf, who recently released his album, and 28AV, who did some work with Lil Mosey. We plan to promote the compilation album in the United States. I have learned to believe that you should take care of yourself, not rely on others and wait for them to lay out a solution for you. Instead, you need to make an effort and find your own answers.
This has always been my motto. Opportunities lead to new opportunities. We created a compilation album for ourselves, and now we are being interviewed Billboard Korea and creating another opportunity to promote the album. Instead of focusing on where I am, I strive to rise higher and improve. Whether it’s concerts, touring, fashion, video content, music charts or not, I’m always looking for ways to achieve the best results.
This article first appeared on Billboard Korea.