The Korea Herald


‘High School Rapper’ muses on teenage life

By Im Eun-byel

Published : April 24, 2018 - 20:01

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The once-controversial “High School Rapper” has wrapped its second season, after striving to deliver teenagers’ stories and messages.

The TV competition, the high school counterpart to “Show Me the Money” and “Unpretty Rapstar,” aired its season finale on April 13. The eight-part show ranked an average viewership rating of 1.5 percent, relatively high for a cable channel. Songs from the show are also currently ranking near the tops of local music charts.

What set the second season apart from the first was that the show went out of its way to avoid controversy. The previous season had been stained with issues surrounding the participants, including sexual misconduct, bullying and violence.

The second season, however, managed to air its last episode with little in the way of difficulties. The production staff even refrained from emphasizing the competitive aspects -- despite being a reality competition -- and aimed to sincerely deliver the teenaged rappers’ thoughts.

Lee Byung-jae, Kim Ha-on and Lee Ro-han (from left) pose for photos at a media briefing held Tuesday at Times Square mall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. (Mnet) Lee Byung-jae, Kim Ha-on and Lee Ro-han (from left) pose for photos at a media briefing held Tuesday at Times Square mall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. (Mnet)

“As hip-hop is about sincerity, what the rappers hope to express on stage is the most important, rather than the trivial conflicts,” producer Jun Ji-hyun said at a media briefing held Tuesday in western Seoul.

The production team decreased the number of participants to manage them more effectively. The young participants also often had face-to-face talks with the production staff.

Kim Ha-on took the top spot in the competition. He had shown great growth from previous audition shows, such as that show’s first season and season six of “Show Me the Money.”

“After participating in the competitions, I learned that there are many brilliant people. My world became bigger,” he said. “I had to learn more about myself to shine, so I watched many films and lectures and read books.”

The 18-year-old earned the nickname “Meditation Ha-on” through the show. Before plotting out his rap lyrics, Kim often meditated to get in the right head space and find inspiration.

“My music style has changed. Before, I used bad words and gestures, not knowing what they really meant and being unsure of myself. Now I don’t have to do that, I know what I am doing,” he added.

The fact that the top three of the show -- Kim Ha-on, Lee Ro-han and Lee Byung-jae -- had all dropped out of high school did not escape viewers’ notice. 

“I dropped out of school as I couldn’t learn what I wanted through classes. I have never regretted it,” said Lee Byung-jae. “But I am worried. If we have more influence, some might thoughtlessly quit school.”

The young artists are discussing contracts with many labels, as their tunes have proved popular. Kim stressed, amid the unexpected popularity, he has a definite goal.

“Though I am talking with various agencies, nothing is decided,” he said. “But I want to be an artist who can influence the world in a positive way. I would like to make the world a more peaceful and exciting place, being a guide for those who are lost.” 

The third season of the show is likely to be produced early next year, according to the production team.

By Im Eun-byel (