Industrial Hip Hop against the Hip Hop Industry

The Critical Noise of XXX


  • Pil Ho Kim The Ohio State University
  • Wonseok Lee The Ohio State University



industrial hip hop, noise, XXX, gukhip, SMTM


Since its humble beginnings about three decades ago, South Korea’s national hip hop scene (gukhip) has grown to a formidable industry that runs the gamut from cutting-edge underground artists to mainstream K-pop idol rappers. In recent years, the cable TV audition programme Show Me the Money (SMTM) has become the gukhip industry’s ultimate gatekeeper as many aspiring hip hop artists increasingly depend on making it on the show to advance their careers. In this article, we focus on XXX, an underground hip hop duo who bucks this commercial trend of gukhip in both sound and message. Their noise-filled beats and shifting grooves echo the avant garde aesthetics and confrontational attitudes of industrial music, and their words are harshly critical of the money-driven gukhip culture as represented by SMTM. We provide a musicological analysis of XXX’s own version of industrial hip hop and examine what makes their “outsider” status sustainable vis-à-vis the gukhip industry.

Author Biographies

Pil Ho Kim, The Ohio State University

Pil Ho Kim is an assistant professor of Korean studies at the Ohio State University. His research covers a wide range of topics related to modern Korea, including popular music, cinema and urban culture. He is currently writing a book manuscript on Gangnam, the geographic symbol for the global rise of South Korean economy and popular culture.

Wonseok Lee, The Ohio State University

Wonseok Lee is a PhD student in ethnomusicology at the Ohio State University. His research focuses on what is the exact meaning of “K” in K-pop, under the circumstances that the presence of non-Korean members and singing in non-Korean languages are common in the field. As a professional drum/percussion player, he also worked with K-pop artists for many years, including Lee Hyori, Shinhwa, BuskerBusker, SG Wannabe, among others.


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How to Cite

Kim, P. H., & Lee, W. (2021). Industrial Hip Hop against the Hip Hop Industry: The Critical Noise of XXX. Journal of World Popular Music, 7(2), 190–208.