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How Do Two Cowards Become a Rap Duo?

By Ryana Ali

KDA Internship

This is Part 2 of a three-part blog series looking into한량 (Hanryang) and focuses on the journey behind the song, including how the Universe Cowards became the Universe Hipsters. Views and opinions are the author’s own.

Disclaimer: I’m a Black woman with an interest in Korean culture, so some comments are based on prior Internet research and my personal experiences. I don’t know anything about the personalities of most of the people below outside of my video viewing. I’m also only judging based on the YouTube videos I have seen - there is likely additional material on this I have not seen, so my view is limited. Lastly, I am not a rapper, so my evaluation of skills would likely be different from that of someone with more rapping experience.

Honestly, if I had watched Kim Heechul and Min Kyunghoon trying to become a hip hop duo and release a song, I probably would have laughed and thought that it wasn’t going to work.

Like, who would have thought that a ballad/rock singer and Korean idol would be working together with a producer and popular singer to release a catchy rap that incorporates traditional Korean influences? I surely wouldn’t.

But they did.

In Part 1, I wrote about why I liked 한량 (Hanryang) as a song. Now, I think it’s important to look at Heechul and Kyunghoon’s journey to become a rap duo, from start to finish.

The 우주힙쟁이 (Universe Hipsters) series is a 10-episode series, in which episodes 1 through 8 focus on the development of the song and the improvement in Heechul and Kyunghoon’s rapping abilities.

As I was taking notes prior to writing this, I realized that there is way too much material to cover for one blog post, so I’ll only be covering some major points. If you want to see the series in all its glory and funny moments, you can click on here to start watching (don’t worry, there are subtitles - but there may be some rude words, so I don’t think young children should watch).

(Source: Oh Senyeol, Pinterest)

I was honestly surprised and slightly impressed that they actually met up with and consulted other rappers for skill improvement throughout the show:

From young upcoming rapper and winner of 고등래퍼3 (High School Rapper 3) Lee Youngji, they learned the basics of rhythm, rhyming, and pacing, as well what cyphers and diss battles were. Personally, I didn’t like some of the caricatures that Youngji showed off - it felt pretty stereotypical to me, and I think hip hop is a lot more than what was said on the show (context: I’m a Black woman interested in K-culture who centers my identity in how I view the world). However, I also have to balance that with the fact that some of the gestures and dialogue was all for the sake of entertainment.

With DinDin, they started to focus more on lyric writing, namely storytelling through lyrics, and began to experiment more with punchlines, which DinDin described as using synonyms to give two separate meanings. They also learned about 2-4 rhythm, and DinDin even went into his philosophy on lyric writing (Knowingbros, 【Universe Hipsters│EP.3】 2020). I’m glad that he agreed to be their producer - he seemed to really care about producing Hanryang and contributing to a good-quality song. (Though it was kind of funny that he went into this wanting to collaborate with Heechul and Kyunghoon to create something like 나비잠 {translated to “Sweet Dream”} and out came Hanryang, which is not a ballad in any way).

With famous rapper Swings and trendsetter Kid Milli, our Universe Hipsters learned more on punchlines/trying to fit puns into rap and rap styles. He specifically told them that it's important to write and say lyrics in a style similar to how you talk so people can tell who is rapping just by looking at the lyrics (Knowingbros, 【ENG) 우주힙쟁이│EP.5】 2020). I think that it’s a very important skill to learn in any form of informal writing, and it’s great that they heard that from someone with much more experience in rapping. I’m still surprised that those two even agreed to help with this project, but still, I think that Swings’ advice definitely contributed a lot to Heechul and Kyunghoon’s improvement.

(Source: Warda Khan, Pinterest)

Speaking of improvement, I don’t think anyone would understand how much work Kyunghoon put in to get to the level that he was when recording Hanryang unless they watched this series:

I know that when I first listened to Hanryang, I just assumed that he was a talented singer who had little contribution to the lyric writing.

And then I watched this series and realized how difficult this actually might have been for him.

Since he started as a singer, he had to unlearn a lot of performance habits, such as singing while rapping and proper diction/pronunciation, while also learning how to rap. It can be very difficult to transition to a different mindset when you’ve been in the same mindset and way of life for a long time. His experience with trying to become a rapper for this project group also shows the differences in priorities between singing and rapping and how both require different skills that people can develop and improve over time.

Yet even though this was a new experience for him, he put in a lot of hard work! He even had a private session with DinDin to improve his rapping (Knowingbros, 【ENG) 우주힙쟁이│EP.6】2020). Heechul put in a lot of work as well, but I feel like Heechul already had a better grasp on some aspects of rap, compared to Kyunghoon. Kyunghoon seemed like a complete newbie, and his rapping in the beginning was arguably very awkward, so his improvement is especially spectacular!

And with every karaoke performance, you could see improvement (see first and last).

(Source: Soompi)

The last thing I want to address is how compatible everyone seemed on broadcast:

I didn’t expect all of their personalities to gel so well? And even the awkward moments were funny.

I don’t exactly know how they chose the people who came onto the series and helped with the project, but it’s good that everyone involved was compatible with each other - this project would probably be more difficult if they weren’t able to work together on good terms. Everyone was a good sport for getting involved in teaching Universe Hipsters more about rap, as well as helping them rewrite the lyrics to adjust the flow and sit with them to give feedback on their delivery (Knowingbros, 【Universe Hipsters│EP.6】 2020).

On top of that, Kyunghoon and Heechul are so entertaining that the entire journey is so far to watch - and they do this just by being themselves, it’s no wonder they’re on Knowing Bros.

Everyone’s hard work really helped make Hanryang what it is today.

Especially Universe Hipsters - I really would not have guessed that they wrote the lyrics to Hanryang themselves, but after reading it, you can tell that they wrote their parts and that they embody the spirit of Hanryang.

I also think that this series has a strangely educational benefit to it. People learn more about the skills required to become a rapper, as well as some mentions of the origins of rap.

Do I think that there is more to the history of rap and hip hop than what was mentioned? Yes.

Do I think that said history could have been compacted into a 15-minute episode? Yes, but it wouldn’t be the most informational.

Anyone who would want to be a Korean rapper would definitely have to do more research outside of this series, as well as learn from other rappers in the industry. However, I think this provides basic education about rap in a very funny way. It also could inspire others to work towards being a rapper in the industry.

Overall, between the laughs and the antics, it’s quite remarkable that Heechul and Kyunghoon became HeeHee and DuDu (their new MC names) and released a good song. You can tell that they learned and improved a lot over the course of a few months.

The music video is also interesting…

But you’ll have to wait for Part 3 to see my thoughts on that!

Stay tuned for Part 3, where I’ll focus more on the music video itself.


Knowingbros. (2020, October 31). 【Universe Hipsters│EP.1】Hee-chul and Kyung-hoon's vibe made Young-ji panicked│FULL- knowingbros. YouTube.

Knowingbros. (2020, November 14). 【Universe Hipsters│EP.3】kim hee chul&min kyung hoon's lyrics make DinDin confuse😱│FULL- knowingbros. YouTube.

Knowingbros. (2020, November 21). 【ENG) 우주힙쟁이│EP.4】 딘딘 선배의 ☆비트 대방출★에 감동 받은 김희철x민경훈 (>_<♡) │FULL- knowingbros. YouTube.

Knowingbros. (2020, November 28). 【ENG) 우주힙쟁이│EP.5】 스윙스-키드밀리의 핫♨한 괴물 랩에 놀라는 김희철x민경훈😲 │FULL- knowingbros. YouTube.

Knowingbros. (2020, December 5). 【ENG) 우주힙쟁이│EP.6】 김희철x민경훈의 힙합에 해탈해버린 스윙스-키드밀리 ㅋㅋ │FULL- knowingbros. YouTube.

Knowingbros. (2020, December 12). 【ENG) 우주힙쟁이│EP.7】 김희철x민경훈의 랩핑에 대한 트렌디 보컬 '비비'의 평가는?│FULL- knowingbros. YouTube.

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