Since I try my best to keep up with the news in the kpop industry, I noticed a lot hype and promotion over a rookie rapper by the name of Bobby. I learned this Bobby kid is a part of one of YG's new boy groups, iKON. The first time I heard him rap was in Epik High's music video for "Born Hater" and I wasn't exactly blown away by his verse nor his appearance with Matsa Wu and Dok2 on the 2014 MAMA's, but I did enjoy him as rapper. He has a unique style to his voice and a good amount of confidence that makes his lyrics convincing. Connected to the Bobby hype was finding out that he beat out one of my top 10 favorite male Korean rappers VASCO, which just shocked me. My mind couldn't comprehend how that could happen as VASCO had been in the rap game for a very long time (14 years) and Bobby is just a rookie; not to say that a rookie can't be better than a veteran because I've seen that happen a few times. Anyway, Bobby beating out VASCO really made me curious about this show. And here were are...
What is Show Me the Money?
Show Me the Money is an annual Korean rap competition show that started in 2012. The show brings thousands of unknown, rookie, underground, and whatever else kind of label rappers together and puts them through several survival assignments to crown one winner. The survival of these contestants not only depend on skill, but the "producers" that they team up with. In other words, it's a combination of American reality music shows American Idol and The Voice. This season featured Team YG (Tablo and Masta Wu), Team Illionaire (Dok2 and The Quiett), Team YDG (Yang Dong-geun), and Team Brand New Music (San E and Swings).
First Impression & Show Format
Despite the description above what the show is about, I knew nothing about it other than it's a rap competition show with some very well known rappers as mentors. I already knew that Bobby was the winner as well, so less of a blow toward the finale, but I'll get to my thoughts on that later. Nonetheless, I was excited to try something different in the Korean music industry as I tried to get into SBS's K-pop Star Season 1 around the time Michelle Lee and Lee Hi were auditioning, but for some reason I couldn't get into it. Perhaps the producers helped a lot with my enjoyment, especially the ones I'm already a fan of which is pretty much everyone except Masta Wu and YDG. No offense to them, I just never heard of their music prior to the show. And of course my curiosities pertaining Bobby. Watching the first episode, I was surprised how many people lined up to participate. It was like the beginnings of American Idol. I never would've thought that many people were interested in being a hip-hop star, but it definitely opened my eyes (and ears). Some came with a backstory and history of being part of the underground hip-hop scene, which was interesting. Some of the names sounded familiar from kpop or khip-hop songs where these artists were featured. So, unknowingly I have heard of some of these contestants like Ollti, CJAMM, and Giriboy.
The first few episodes were the auditioning processing. Unlike American Idol, it takes less time to get through the massive crowd. The producers rotate listening to the competitors' freestyle rap and if they like what they hear, they give them a gold Show Me the Money 3 chain around their neck. Some stand out moments in this round was an impressive audition by high school student Yuk Jidam, a confident comeback from fumbling his lyrics from idol Bobby, and YDG's unusual selection of contestants. Next, the competitors are gathered in a room awaiting to perform for all of the producers. The producers (and the audiences) get a chance to learn a little more about the contestants during this round. In this round, the producers get to pass or fail the contestant onto the next round. The contestant can move on if they receive at least one pass from a producer. In this round, I learned about Tymee (formerly known as e.via) and Jolly V's ongoing diss battle and rivalry with each other. Unfortunately, Tymee failed to get a pass from any of the producers and was unable to move onto the next round with Jolly V. After passing this round, the contestants are gathered into a room where the host of the show pulls a name out of a hat. Once he calls a contestant's name, they get to choose which rapper they want to rap against. The two rappers get to practice over a beat, then perform in front of the producers and the producers get to choose who the winner is...or the least worst person. Surprisingly, the producers had a lot of complaints during this round as some of the best of the best battled each other and they were forced to choose who to eliminate. On the other hand, some of the worst of the worst forgot their lyrics, which was disappointing and aggravating for the producers to sit through and forced to choose to keep one of the failures. I'm guessing in previous seasons, the producers weren't allowed to manipulate the rules, but this season they picked some of the best performers that were eliminated and gave them a second chance to battle.
Within these few episodes, I got a good grasp of the producer dynamics in and outside the teams. They also showcased some of the lesser known rappers and their background like YouTube famous Snacky Chan as well some better known rappers like self-proclaimed underground king VASCO. Up to this point, I agreed with a lot of the decisions made on who to choose to move on and I was also disappointed with how many contestants forgot their lyrics or stumbled during the one-on-one challenge, especially Tymee. Soon the producers would have more of mentor role with the contestants and I was curious how that was going to play out in the last bit of the first half and the remaining rounds. For the most part, I was impressed with the diversity of talented that made it to the coming rounds and the potential they each possessed.