Nan Arayo and Hayeoga

Seo Taiji and Boys’ use of hip-hop represented more than just appropriation; the group created a hybrid foundation for the K-pop that followed.  Han Cinema notes that Seo Taiji, with Yang Hyun Suk and Lee Juno [the two other members of the group], “shocked the music scene with combined elements of hip-hop and rock, bringing rhythm, rap, break dance and most importantly the bold attitude.” This early work is significant because of the way it fused Western genres of rock, hip-hop and pop music with Korean sensibilities:  “Seo Taiji and Boys’ popularity was based on innovative hybridization of music. The band creatively mixed genres like rap, soul, rock and roll, techno, punk, hardcore and even ppongjjak, and invented a unique musical form which ‘employs rap only during the verses, singing choruses in a pop style’” (Shim, 36).

“Nan Arayo” reflects the combination of 90s-era American hip hop with rock music. 


Sianface notes the significance of the title song:  “What's striking about the song is that from this song that lasts just over three and a half minutes you can see how it all happened. The song is daring and clearly draws a lot of influence from the late 80s American hip-hop scene while still having a Seo Taiji sound to it. Although it is hardly the first example of rap mixed with rock, due to the newness of the rap scene in Korea it is easy to understand how the general sound was intriguing and new to them without mixing in electric guitars as well.” 

This mixture can be seen in the video as well.  It features a variety of settings, including a field with a patterned piece of material fluttering in the wind and a standard studio set-up with room to showcase the choreography.  The video shows more elements of 1990s American hip hop culture than the live performance.  The choreography features more elaborate elements of hip hop dance, including floorwork, described by Banes this way: "The dancer ‘got down’ to the floor to do the footwork, a rapid slashing, circular scan of the floor by sneakered feet, in which the hands support the body’s weight while the head and torso revolve at a slower speed, a kind of syncopated, sunken pirouette, also known as the helicopter.  Acrobatic transitions such as head spins, hand spins, shoulder spins, flips and the swipe—a flip of the weight from hands to feet that also involves a twist in the body’s direction—served as bridges between the footwork and the freeze" (15). 

The group also reflected the fashion style of hip hop. Josie, writing for The Bboy Federation, states that such an aesthetic defined hip hop fashion of the time: "In the early 1990s, hip hop fashion began to include a more traditional African influence. Red, black and green became primary colors and very popular, as well as puffy, blouse type colorful pants worn by artist like MC Hammer.  Also, a popular trend during this time was wearing baseball caps, usually of neon color. TLC and Fresh Prince (Will Smith) were perfect examples of this trend. In addition to the bright color clothing, polka dots were added to the traditional African attire. It stayed popular throughout the 1990s."

Videos like “Hayeoga” make the Afro-Korean connection more explicit.

The video begins with several African American men in a club giving their opinions on a breakdancing circle. Seo Taiji and Boys enter and gain respect from the African American male onlookers for their skill. Sarah Morelli notes that the video is “a celebration of masculinity as well as dance.” It also says something about Afro-Asian cultural engagement: “By gaining the respect of these black men and saving face for his fellow Koreans, Taiji establishes both alliances. He not only proves his own capability to compete in this now international music space, but also suggests that his superior capabilities are something for other Korean men to aspire to” (253). Instead of violence-based competition, breaking suggests “a friendly contest” where individuals “outdid one another with outrageous physical contortions, spins and back flips” (Banes, 13).

Dreaming for More than Balhae
Nan Arayo and Hayeoga