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Surprise of the Year: 2017’s Best Indie and Hip-Hop Releases

2017 is already coming to an end, and what a year it was! Some of the best names in the underground scene have made powerful comebacks, and we’ve seen some unknown stars come out of their shadows. This year truly brought a breath of fresh air to the indie and hip-hop repertoire of Korean music, and we’re here to tell you exactly which ones made this year particularly special.

This Year’s Grand Comebacks

Let’s take it back to the beginning of 2017—February, to be exact. That’s when R&B and neo-soul icon Zion.T came back with his second album, OO, his first full release since 2013. Sure, we’ve heard singles from Zion.T in between Red Light and OO, but let’s be honest, it does not compare to eight whole new tracks. The album shows a wide variety of styles, though they all retain a certain R&B touch that allows them to flow well together. Highlights include the title track “The Song,” the bossa nova-influenced “Cinema,” and the G-DRAGON collaboration track “Complex.”

HIGHGRND band hyukoh also ended a musical drought with the release of their first full album 23 back in April. The album is nothing short of a masterpiece; blending together the softer side of the band with their raw, intense rock tendencies, 23 proves to be hyukoh’s most successful and wholesome work to date.

Another band worth mentioning is Glen Check, who released the EP The Glen Check Experience this summer. The duo ditched their indie rock roots for an R&B-influenced sound this time around, and they did it wonderfully. One track you must listen to is “Dreaming Kills,” the first track off the EP.

Finally, one can’t list the top releases of this year without mentioning Epik High’s grand return this October with the release of their ninth studio album, We’ve Done Something Wonderful. The album only serves to reinforce the trio’s strengths: impactful songwriting, precise flow, and amazing delivery. The album features many collaborations, with one of the most notable ones being LEE HI’s appearance on the track “Here Come the Regrets.”

Behind the Board: Best of Producers

2017 also saw many producers release their own work, letting them showcase the best of their skills while bringing forth incredible features on their tracks. One of the best was released earlier this year, as CODE KUNST put out his second full album, Muggles’ Mansion, in February. If you haven’t listened to it yet, by all means, please do. Mostly composed of hip-hop tracks, the album boasts some of the best composing seen this year and an impressive collection of features: LEE HI, G.Soul, C Jamm, Tablo, and many more. The last track happens to be my favorite: “Don’t Shoot Me Mama,” featuring Car, the garden (who released his first full album, Apartment, last week).

Primary is another name who came back not just once, but twice this year in only a matter of weeks! The producer released two albums this year: the long-awaited shininryu, featuring the likes of Samuel Seo, pH-1, and Sam Kim, as well as the special album Pop with K-Pop idols like Soyou and INFINITE’s Sunggyu.

Producing duo GroovyRoom also released the EP Everywhere in July, blending EDM, hip-hop, and pop all together to produce eight amazing tracks. If you’ve missed that release, make sure to check out the HEIZE and Jay Park collab “Sunday,” or the first track “Unsigned Hype” with JUSTHIS.

Notable Mentions

Again, this year was filled with amazing releases, and it’s really hard to remember all of them! So here is a list of a few albums and EPs worth mentioning. Make sure to check them out if you’ve missed any of them!