Block B: Breaking the Idol Stereotype

It seems that the last two years have seen an explosion in the number of rookie groups debuting. Just this year, I’ve lost count of just how many groups have debuted into the already busy K-pop industry. Of course, most of these groups will be fundamentally the same just with different concepts. It can seem boring and unimaginative.

But then a new group arrives, smashing the idol code and making their mark in the industry. One such group is Block B.

The group debuted in 2011 under agency Brand New Entertainment ran by acclaimed hip hop producer and rapper Cho PD. Cho wanted to create a hip hop idol group that would stand out amongst its competition.

Their image was strong and aggressive and they stood out with their bad boy charms. Their initial single ‘Freeze’ in my opinion was weak but their album ‘New Kids on the Block’ was strong and showcased their hip hop background.

Their follow up single Nanrina’ (Go Crazy) their best single in my eyes released at the beginning of this year, raised their profile once again and signalled their return with a distinct hip hop sound. The song itself was a boast fest with Block B rapping about just how special and amazing they are.

However as their star status started to grow the group faced a major scandal that led them to back out disgracefully. During February, the group faced major back lash following their interview in Thailand where their conduct and comments caused anger and upset from fans and others in the industry. The group is known not being like other idols but however critics stated that they were a bit too relaxed in the interview.

Furthermore their comments regarding the Thai flooding disaster that occurred prior to the visit to the country caused controversy and negative press attention. Nickhun, from Thailand and idol group 2PM even expressed his anger via Twitter.

The group apologised through video and leader Zico shaved his head as an act of remorse. They bowed out of the limelight for two months but returned recently with their new repackaged album ‘Welcome to the Block’.

However their return was rather low key and it seems the boys want to get back into the industry without the fuss that their controversy caused.

This is group is one of a kind and they have the ability to become a great idol group. But what are the key elements that make them stand out from their competition?

1. Leader with prior industry success

Zico (real name Woo Ji-ho) was a rapper in the underground hip hop scene in Japan and went under the names of Scribble/Graffiti. Following on from this he returned to Korea and is recognised in the hip hop community as a natural talent working with key figures in the scene such as Verbal Jint. Working on individual mixtapes under the mentoring of Chop PD Zico showcased his writing and producing skills. Interestingly, although he is the second youngest in the group, his skills and experience performing in the underground scene has earned the leader position. Furthermore a large percentage of songs on their albums were written by Zico.

2. Writing and Producing their own music

Cho PD ensured that the group had the necessary skills to develop their own music and develop their own sound. Unlike other idol groups who just sing (sometimes this is questionable) songs that have been written for them, Block B actively worked on their debut album. Cho PD even encouraged the boys to produce mixtapes under supervision of key hip hop figures such as Verbal Jint. This allowed them to produce quality songs which although fit into the idol mould are marked out by their production. Long term this will allow the group to develop new songs when the idol market becomes too populated with the same sound from the various groups.

3. Perfect combination of rap and vocal

It is clear to see that the Block B boys are not your average run of the mill idol group. Their beats are strong, hard and focus on their hip hop element. Furthermore unlike most idol groups with a rapper whose rap leaves you confused and disappointed, their raps are on point. Furthermore the vocals are strong and compliment the strong rapping to create balanced and strong songs. This is one skill that K-pop idols need to learn, some songs have misplaced raps that do nothing to the song.

Block B represents a new breed of idols that could take over the industry. They have the ability and the talent to steer themselves to a great position even outside the idol world.

They have travelled over the troubled waters of their controversy and now have the opportunity to produce ground breaking music that not only differentiates them from the other idol groups but makes them the rookie group to watch.

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