With over 3,000 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.
The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!
Year Released: 2014
Just look at the star power on this track! When Born Hater dropped in late 2014, I’m not sure I was even familiar with all of its featured guests. I was still only a few years into my K-pop fandom and rappers weren’t necessarily one of my earliest entry points. I knew Epik High from their great 2012 album under YG Entertainment, and their connection with Woollim Entertainment (and thus, Infinite) made me take further notice. Did you know the members featured in Infinite’s wonderfully cringey pre-debut variety show? Mithra even gave the guys a Sex Ed lesson. Gosh, K-pop variety used to be so weird.
Anyway, Born Hater might be K-pop’s ultimate hip-hop track. It’s overflowing with character and anchored by a rugged, scratchy beat that’s irresistible in its simplicity. The song has roots in classic hip-hop and that sense of legacy is greatly appreciated. For YG idol fans of the time, Born Hater emerged mere weeks after Winner’s debut and nearly a year before iKON officially released their first music. It’s a fun snapshot of 2014 that tempers its idol-centric side with the very popular Beenzino and Verbal Jint. I can’t say I’m a huge expert on either artists’ catalog, but they are absolute fire on Born Hater. In fact, all participants are absolute fire on Born Hater.
Structured like a classic rap cypher, the track gives everyone time to shine. Its repetitive nature and lengthy run time is cut by a wry hook (courtesy of B.I) that doesn’t appear until two minutes into the track. It repeats exactly one time and this brevity plays to the song’s advantage. Born Hater is all killer, but it also teases the listener and plays with expectations in satisfying ways. The conceit of “clapping back at the haters” is a well-used trope, but it’s rarely performed with such relish. Whether you can relate to the specifics of the artists’ frustrations or not, the track works as a funked up moment of catharsis. It’s hard to sit still with a groove so insistent and a veritable feast of complimentary and contrasting flows.