Korean-Canadian and Korean-American Musicians You Should Be Listening To

I’ve been thinking about writing this article for a while but two things happened recently that pushed it from an idea to me sitting down and writing it. First, I was listening to one of the musicians on this list and a friend asked who I was listening to. When I replied, she said she’s never heard of him but that she liked the song and asked if it was available in Canada. I told her it was on iTunes but the conversation made me think as I know she listens to Korean music (and the musician in question is better known in Korea). I realized I was guilty of assuming that if I know and like a musician, than everyone must know of them at least but that’s simply not the case. I certainly don’t know and/or listen to all the music you do so why did I assume the opposite. This post was born because of my epiphany. I like and regularly listen to all the musicians below, so I want to introduce you to any of them who might be new to you. Check them out if you haven’t already!

The second reason this article moved to the top of my publication pile was that I watched a new video on YouTube from one of the musicians I’m about to recommend. The combination of my recent new understanding and seeing the new music video made me realise that the time for this article was now. So I started writing!

The musicians below are in no particular order and come from a variety of musical genres (okay, mostly hip hop and R&B) and levels of popularity (both in North America and in Korea). Some sing/rap primarily in Korean and some in English but they all rock! The only common denominator (other than the fact that they rock) is they are all Korean-Canadian or Korean-American. Some may be familiar names, hopefully they all will be, but if any are new to you… check them out. Listen to them on YouTube and if you like them, buy their music! Support them so they can make more fabulous music! Attend their concerts! Talk about them and recommend them to YOUR friends!

One cravat before I get to the musicians – this is by no means an exhaustive list… there are lots of other musicians I could mention and I’m sure many more I don’t know. If you like someone who’s not on this list, leave a comment below about them! I love discovering new music and I know my other lovely readers do too. ^^

J.Reyez

I first heard J.Reyez, a Korean-Canadian hip hop musician, at last year’s Kollaboration Toronto where he was a guest performer and I was hooked. I’ve been listening to his Broken HeART album ever since. Love the music video for There For You ft. Lydia Paek! I cried the first time I saw it. Now I do cry easily but it really is well done. The video suits the song so well… but don’t just listen to me… watch it and let me know what you think.

Like his music, support him by buying it

Thoroughbred State

I heard about this Korean-Canadian hip hop trio, made up of Hwangma K, J.A.S, and Sean Gillz, from a friend of mine. And since I love exploring new music, I attended a concert of theirs in Toronto, which you can read more about here, and loved how their three distinctive voices sounded together. This is a group I would definitely love to hear more from!

Not familiar with their music, check out their website to listen to the four songs they’ve released or check out their music video for Hello World. 

KRNFX

I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform on several occasions and he always rocks. KRNFX, whose real name is Terry Im, is a Korean-Canadian beatboxer. In fact, he’s Canada’s first and current beatbox champion (he won the Korean championship twice too). I’ve included a YouTube clip of course, but if you ever get a chance to see him live… go! He’s simply incredible live!!  And he’s in the finals of Canada’s Got Talent (on May 13th)! For more details, check out the Vote for KRNFX facebook page.

Dumbfoundead

Dumbfoundead, a Korean-American rapper, is another of the musicians on this list that I’ve seen live and not only is he an amazing performer but he’s hilarious too. Seriously! Check out his YouTube channel not only for the music but also for the other video’s he uploads. Personal fav: “How to get over a girl” – watch it, it’s too funny! But back to his music, love the lyrics and his delivery. Check him out!

 Jay Park

Jay Park, a Korean-American R&B/hip hop musician who was formerly in the K-pop band 2PM. In addition to his killer dance moves and adorable smile, Jay Park has a beautiful voice and if he ever comes to Toronto – hint, hint – I’ll definitely be there as I imagine he’d throw a killer concert. I bought New Breed, his latest album, as soon as it was available on iTunes and love it. In fact, it’s so good that it’s hard to pick a favourite song – I loved “Girlfriend” for how sweet it was, “Know Your Name” (featuring Dok2) for how fun it is to dance to it and “훅 갔어 (Wasted)” for the sheer fun of it.

Alex Chu

I’m generally not a fan of ballads but I totally fell in love with Alex’s voice when I first heard him in Korea! When I bought Alex’s first album “My Vintage Romance”, I put it on repeat for days and several of the songs from it are still on my Shuffle for my morning/evening commute. I find his voice so soothing and beautiful and while I’m not one of those girls who plans her wedding, I think the song in the YouTube video would be a perfect first dance wedding song. He’s my favourite ballad singer, bar none! Alex, a Korean-Canadian, is also the male vocalist of Clazziquai (who also rock). 

Brian Joo

I’ve loved Brian, a Korean-American R&B singer, since his Fly to the Sky – a K-pop/R&B duo – days and find his solo albums compelling and beautiful. His latest album, Reborn Part 1, doesn’t have a bad song on it and while I love 너 따윈 버리고 (Let This Die) in both the Korean and English versions (you can hear the Korean version in the YouTube video), my favourite song is Can’t Stop. Brian is fantastic live as I recently saw at 2K12 Korea Night in Toronto – both for his singing and for his connection and love for the fans. Huge props for how personable he was! 

 

Tiger JK

I’ve probably been listening to Tiger JK the longest on this list as I was introduced to Drunken Tiger, of which Tiger JK is one of the founding members, while living in Korea. Tiger JK, a Korean-American, is one of the pioneers of hip hop in Korea and is simply amazing to listen to. The YouTube video I’ve included for him is older but one of my all-time favourite songs (in any language).

Aziatix

While they are the newest additions to my list, I’m excited to hear more from them. Aziatix are a Korean-American hip hop/R&B trio, whose members are Eddie Shin, Jay “Flowsik” Pak, and Nicky Lee. I was introduced to them by hearing Flowsik on Brian Joo’s latest album (which I loved, see above) and since he/they were the only musicians who collaborated on the album that I didn’t already listen to, I of course, headed on over to YouTube to listen to more of their music. Which was definitely the right decision as I quickly fell in love with it! Love how Flowsik’s deeper voice totally compliments the softer R&B tones of the other two.

Random observation: many of my Korean friends know Brian and Alex as simply Brian (브라이언) or Alex (알렉스) rather than Brian Joo or Alex Chu. 

Did I miss one of your favourites? Leave a comment below! Don’t forget to support the musicians you love and buy their music (most of the musicians I’ve mentioned have music available on iTunes or other sites).

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

9 thoughts on “Korean-Canadian and Korean-American Musicians You Should Be Listening To

  • May 3, 2012 at 10:27 am
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    Beside the first three, I have listened to the rest of them before. I am going to give the first three a try now. I am a fan of ballad so Alex is my favourite along with Brian. The latter was definitely fabulous live at the concert in Toronto! Can’t wait to have Jay Park and Alex over!

    Reply
    • May 3, 2012 at 11:51 am
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      Glad to be able to introduce some new music to you 🙂

      Reply
  • May 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm
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    You forgot Jhameel! He’s amazing!! Love Aziatix and Alex, the latter is my favourite Korean singer of them all.

    Reply
    • May 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm
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      I’ve never listened to him before but will definitely check him out tonight! Thanks for the recommendation.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm
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    How about David Choi and Kenny Choi (not related)? David is probably the bigger name as he’s pretty active but I personally love listening to Kenny with his band Daphne Loves Derby and in his solo works too.

    Hmm, and maybe Royal Pirates and Motion Dive.

    Thanks for putting together the list!

    Reply
    • May 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm
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      I’ve listened to David Choi a little & from what I heard, his music was too soft for me but will definitely check out the others! This was just a list of those I listen to regularly so I love that everyone is adding their favs too!

      Reply
  • June 1, 2012 at 9:54 am
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    WOW !!!! Great videos……………..I like it.The lyrics of those song is excellent & mind blowing.thanks a lot for sharing such excellent videos.

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  • January 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm
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    Aren’t Tiffany and Jessica of Girl’s Generation also Korean-American?

    Reply
    • January 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm
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      Oh, there are several Korean-Americans and Korean-Canadians sprinkled in the different K-pop and Korean indie groups, this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. It’s a list of those I’m recommending, a list of my favs. There are lots more.

      Reply

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