For the ardent fans of the K-Hiphop/R&B genre, nothing is more gratifying and exciting than seeing their favorite artists get the recognition they deserve after a whole year of tough, hard work. This proud moment of the fans and artists alike is what the annual Korean Hip-hop Awards (the MAMAs of K-Hiphop/R&B), organized by Korean media outlets – HIPHOPLE and HIPHOPPLAYA, is all about! 

This award show (which started in 2017) offers a platform for the artists to get their due share of respect and limelight while offering its viewers, special stages and memorable moments of joy and laughter. This year’s KHA 2021 premiered live on Dingo Freestyle’s Youtube Channel on 27th February 2021 (9:30 KST), hosted by the well-lauded, veteran MCs – Jay Park, Nucksal, and The Quiett.


Mapping the Day’s Happenings 

Mere minutes had passed since the starting of the show and the viewers could already see the rich chemistry between the 3 Hosts that resided somewhere in the ‘comfortable to the point of being humorous’ sphere. So, we had The Quiett (Cool and Calm as always), in total contrast to Jay Park (the Humble Hype King) and the middle-man, Nucksal (polished veteran MC of various shows), bound together in an alluring coherence. They inaugurated this year’s show thanking the viewers who joined in and discussing the selection criteria of the categories and what the upcoming show proceedings were going to be like. 


All images sourced from HIPHOPPLAYA.


Wasting no time at all, they dived straight into the first award of KHA 2021, “New Artist of the Year”, where the trio under SUPERBEE’s Yng & Rich Records, “Homies” won amongst other skilled nominees like Wonstein, BIBI, Gwangil Jo, DeVita, etc. They walked up to the podium to receive the award with gleaming faces; trying to suppress their overwhelming joy at receiving this accolade.



Infusing their American charms into the Korean language and rap verses, their special stage which followed, was testimony to this well-deserved victory. The trio performed tracks, “300 (prod. Cashbanger)” and “Siren” and left fans excited to see for their future with their declaration that “This is just the beginning” for them.



Following this testimonial stage, the hunt for the “Hip-hop Track of the Year” from among the banger tracks narrowed down from the thousands of releases of last year, the team with the most eccentric members that won over SMTM9’s audience – MUSHVENOM, Mirani, Munchman, and Khundi Panda, led by the living legend, JUSTHIS scored the title with their track All-Kill charting bop, “VVS”.



Image Credits: Munchman’s SNS


Next up was the fight of the soulful rhythmic blues between R&B artists like BIBI, Chancellor, CRUSH, etc,  which was won by one of the most respected long-standing female singers, LEE HI as her track, “HOLO” was applauded as the “R&B Track of the Year”. The highlight however was the full-swing singing of HOLO’s chorus by Jay Park (the CEO of LEE Hi’s label, AOMG), who accepted the award on her behalf. 


Image Credit: LEE HI’s SNS.


Jumping right in, to probably one of the most anticipated and tough competitions, we had the “Music Video of the Year” Award next, where, from among the dope hits like The Quiett’s ‘Bentley 2’, DPR’s ‘Kiss Me + Neon’, ‘Fadeaway’, etc., H1GHR MUSIC label’s “The Purge” took the prize with its dystopian setting, based on the movie of the similar title. The MV’s director, ‘Illumin’ proudly took the award in his arms as Jay Park looked on warmly.



As if the tension wasn’t already turned to the max by now, 2020’s winner of the “New Artist of the Year” from Ambition Musik label – ASH ISLAND took to the stage and performed snippets of two of his tracks from his upcoming album, ‘ISLAND’. Dressed in a smart all-black suit with stark white wolf cut hair and his gothic tattoos enticingly peeking out, ASH ISLAND delivered what can be labeled as the “Highlight of the show”, as he showed his signature infusion of Rock and Rap styles while performing tracks, “A STAR IS BORN” and “MELODY”.


“I AM A ROCKSTAR!” – the Artist passionately enunciates in “A STAR IS BORN”


Next up was the crediting of long-due respect to the underrated artists of this alternative genre of Korean Music, where Rapper QM of VMC, who has been in the industry for almost a decade now, won the title of “Underrated Album of the Year” with his 4th studio album titled “Money Breath”. The album features the interweaving of QM’s style with various artists like Tiger JK, Nucksal, Khundi Panda, etc.



Another tough fight for sure, the contest for winning the “R&B Album of the Year” award consummated in Samuel Seo beating elite R&B albums like Yerin Baek’s ‘tellmeaboutyourself’, Crush’s ‘HER’ and Sumin’s ‘XX’, to grab the title for himself with his album, “UNITY II”. Dressed handsomely in a long beige colored long coat, the artist expressed his gratitude for receiving the prize, saying that even though he had received an award alongside another artist before, he had always wondered whether he could ever win one on his own and how now he has finally done it!



Introducing the nominees of the next music award category while sharing their experiences of the first-listens of each, we had Homies’ member, Chin, Swervy from Hi-Lite Records and Dippin’ Carls Records’ Gwangil Jo, talk of albums like ‘H1GHR Compilation: RED TAPE/BLUE TAPE’, Nucksal’s ‘1Q87’, Deepflow’s ‘Founder’ (which The Quiett said had a strong impression on him) and Bill Stax’ ‘DETOX’. The award for “Hip-hop Album of the Year” from among these A1 wholesome albums however was rapper Bill Stax’s (previously known by the name, Vasco) 5th studio album, “DETOX”. 


Even though his cool chill aura might suggest otherwise, his “family-man” spirit shone through as he warmly thanked his wife, his little son along with Coogie, and the other label-mates in his acceptance speech.


His special stage with the hot-and-upcoming ‘TNF Crew’ in tow, consisted of performances of tracks “Huh Gyoung Young” and “TNF (ft. Boy Wonder, Lobonabeat!, Furyfromguxxi)” from his award-winning album ‘DETOX’. The ease with which he flows over the staccato beat and the conflation of unique styles of the TNF members, oozes the original charming, cool side of Hip-hop, making it next-to-impossible not to bow down in agreement to his befitting win. 



The next category was all about the collective artistry brought about by the synergy of artists vocalizing on trendy beats, as the award title “Collaboration of the Year” hyped up the anticipations of the viewers as much as the hosts themselves (even though The Quiett pretended to be totally cool and indifferent xD). Defeating banger tracks that dominated the Hip-hop scene in 2020 like Changmo’s ‘Swoosh Flow’, Gwangil Jo’s ‘Acrobat’ and SMTM track ‘VVS’, powerhouse collaboration of Jvcki Wai, Coogie, Paloalto, The Quiett, and Bassagong took the title with their ‘Nike’ track, “Fadeaway”. 



An excited, humorous banter followed the receiving of the award by the artists as the hosts teased The Quiett of pretending to be all calm and collected but then swiftly getting up and eagerly making his way to the stage as soon as the award was announced. The ensuing amusing discussion regarding Bassagong’s surprising decision to come to the show this time around also amped up the heartwarming good vibes of the Award Show.


Next up was the felicitation for the “Producer of the Year”, where vanquishing over some of the hottest producers in the scene like GroovyRoom, Giriboy, and GooseBumps, ‘CODE KUNST’ of AOMG bagged the title. A happy Jay Park singing some lines from their track together titled “FLOWER” as he did so, was just an added bonus for the viewers to enjoy.



Stunning the viewers next with their special stage set in a big car garage kind of place, mellifluent, auto-tuned singing of C JAMM blended perfectly with Yang Hong-won’s (Young B) husky rap verses when he came into the picture, standing coolly on the bumper of a car in the garage. The track they performed together is their highly listened-to and replayed bop, “Hey (불러)”.



In time for the next award “Label/Crew of the Year”, our experienced MC trio discussed the various labels in the industry and how each of them seemed to have a distinct style of music and artists under them, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly who is superior. The award however according to the well-established selection criteria went to the leading, zealous artists from the H1GHR MUSIC label who had wowed the listeners with their end-of-the-year double-album, H1GHR MUSIC Compilation: RED TAPE/ BLUE TAPE. 


“Even now seeing my name besides these hyungs, I still feel very fascinated and in my own work…I feel like I have to make them ( my songs) good and even better, every time I see it.” – Trade L, about working alongside the ‘Label/Crew of the Year’ artists, with BIG Naughty reaffirming Trade L’s statement as being in tune with his own feelings.


Almost all of H1GHR MUSIC members (including the American singer signed with the label- Cha Cha Malone) came to receive the award together and the viewers witnessed a ‘Proud Dad moment’ when Jay Park whipped out his phone to record their glorious victory. Jay Park also let the cat out of the bag as he revealed that soon the producer duo, GroovyRoom, in addition to being just H1GHR MUSIC’s artists, will also be CEOs of their own label very soon (which we now know, will be called “AREA”)!


Reaching its climax now, KHA 2021 had everyone waiting with barely suppressed excitement as the introduction of the talented nominees for the “Artist of the Year” was done by 2 of the LEGIT GOONS’ members in what is surely going to be every viewers’ “comic moment to remember KHA 2021 by”! 


Battling his way to the top and claiming the throne of KHA 2021’s “Artist of the Year” with his never-ending hustle and limitless all-round talent, ‘Jay Park’, the CEO of AOMG and H1GHR MUSIC, dived into the shower of golden confetti (or pretended to since he is the always extra, always hyped king xD) and proudly received the laurels with his H1GHR MUSIC Gang beside him. He humbly expressed his gratitude saying, “I believe that everyone’s role is very important and all I’ve done is do my part, and if my role is important enough for me to receive this award, then I am truly grateful and honored. Thank you.”


“Due to the pandemic, I was in Korea all the time and that probably led people to feel and see my artistry/music, even more, I think…” – Jay Park pointing out the plausible reason that made his win possible.


With a final greeting from the MC trio which by now had won over every viewer watching and a beautiful compilation of winning shots of every smiling and proud awardee of KHA 2021, the Award Show came to an end. An end that heralds the beginning of this year’s tireless exceptional and artistic K-Hiphop/R&B discography! 


Did you watch the live premiere? What were the highlights of the show for you? Did your favorites become KHA 2021 Winners?
Let us know in the comments.