- Other name : Kim Owen / 김오왼
- Name : Kim Hyun Woo / 김현우
- Date of birth : 13/10/1991
- Status : In activity
- starting career : 2014
- Genre : Hip Hop, Rap, Old school, East Coast, Conscious Rap, Boom Bap
- Label / Agency : Mkit Rain (2016 -)
- Belongs to : MKIT RAIN (2016 -), Sous Chefs with pH-1 (2017), Wons N Dollas with Dope’Doug (2018)
Artist’s Social Networks
If Owen is easily considered as of one the main artists of the current Korean Hip-Hop scene, the man behind the artist has been under some controversies. I’ll only speak briefly about them because they had an influence on his career, however, the aim isn’t to add fuel to the fire.
Nevertheless, it’s important to underline that, even if it seems that Owen didn’t commit reprehensible actions in the eye of the law, or that he, unfortunately, isn’t the first one saying those words, it doesn’t change the fact that those words are highly blameworthy and don’t help to the completion of a society aiming to mutual respect and equality.
I also must say that, as far as I know, the artist would not have truly apologized and the only thing I can wish for is that he would do it in the future!
Kim Hyun-Woo aka Owen is a rapper belonging to the independent label and crew Mkit Rain founded in 2015/2016. In 2017, with the rapper pH-1, they released some collabs under the name Sous-chefs. In 2018, with Dope’Doug they also collaborated under the name ₩ons & Dolla$.
Kim Hyun-Woo was born in Seoul on October 13rd, 1991. In 1999/2000 – so aged of 8/9 years – he moved with his family in New Jersey where they stayed until 2005. Owen was 13/14 years old when his family decided to go back to South Korea. It was not until 2017 that he came back to the US, that is to say, 12 years after.
The artist we know today has been significantly influenced by those moves. First on a personal level. Owen explained multiple times that he tended to feel better in the US especially because of the cultural gap with his native country. He highly values the freedom of expression, a value which, according to him would be hardly compatible with the narrow-mindedness the Korean society might have when it comes to some topics. For him, the Korean society would be judgemental, people would be constantly blamed for nothing. The Korean musical scene, and especially celebrities, would be the first concerned by this phenomenon. Therefore, he hopes to contribute to a change of mentality in his native country.
However, this American influence is also noticeable in his musical identity. If the first album the rapper bought was an album from P-Type (that he has since had the occasion to meet) the East Coast influence in his music is yet unmissable. A perfect example would be the Old School track Youth from his album Problematic released in 2017. It was indeed at the age of 9 years old that the young Kim Hyun Woo first listened to rap through his Older Brother’s iPod Nano. He grew up listening to Big L, Tupac, The Roots, or even Big Pun.
If we can be thankful to his older brother for the musical influence he had on the artist, it’s also important to underline how much he helped his brother in the process of becoming Owen Ovadoz, and now just Owen, the artist. For a long time, Kim Hyun-Woo has had a pretty normal life. He has played basketball for 6 years and loved to play games such as Pokemon. Therefore, when Owen told his parents about his dream to become a rapper, it seems that they hadn’t been quite supportive. On the other hand, his brother would have supported him from the start. Nevertheless, his parents decided to respect his choice but on one condition: to go to university to study something more ordinary at the same time such as English. Therefore, if he came to not get enough success as a rapper he still could have had the opportunity to be a professor. This issue is no longer topical nowadays though, since after the end of his military service Owen has been fully dedicated to his rapper career.
A career starting with Show Me The Money III
If Owen took part in the 3rd and 4th edition of Show Me The Money (SMTM), a HipHop Korean TV competition, it’s indeed with Show Me The Money 3 in 2014 that his career really started. Back at this time, the rapper didn’t have any released tracks, and since he had just come back from the military, he wanted to challenge himself. Therefore, even if it was quite short, SMTM gave him some visibility but most of all gave him the opportunity to confront other rappers, to evolve thanks to their feedbacks but also to keep in touch with some people from the industry like The Quiett at the end of the 4th edition.
An artist opens to collaborations
Stronger thanks to those experiences, Owen finally created a SoundCloud account. By turns, he released his mixtapes Part 1: Owen and Part 2: Ovadoz. At the same time, he collaborated with Debi Ben David under the duo ODB. Together they dropped two mixtapes ODB Part 1: ODB in 2014 and ODB Part 2: Move Da Culture in 2015 but also worked on some singles over 2016.
It seems that they are no longer friends though. In November 2017, Debi unveiled Ovadozed, a diss track. In this track, he criticized Owen for his alleged opportunism. For him, Owen would value money more than true creation, art. Owen answered with Tho You don’t know even if his message isn’t really clear, he’s vaguer. Hiphopkr did a really good summary of the conflict, you’ll find the links in the sources at the end of the article. Those events aside, musically their collaborations were really good. They had interesting chemistry.
However, when it comes to the audience, it’s truly with the collaboration with Nafla in 2015 on the track Locked and Loaded that his career reached another level in terms of visibility They met a little bit by coincidence. Owen first heard about Nafla thanks to Incredivle’s Mixtape Gold Race. Nafla was present on the track 63빌딩. Impressed by the rapper’s flow, Owen contacted him and Nafla answered a few month later with an offer to collaborate on the track Locked and Loaded (Young West and Bloo play bit parts in the MV by the way!)
If the rapper kept in touch, Owen still stayed independent a bit more before joining Mkit Rain. During this time, he recorded P.O.E.M, his first studio album released in January 2015. There are collaborations with rappers such as Paloalto, Okasian, Nafla, Loopy, pH-1 or even ELO or LIVE.
Concurrently, he had been contacted by the crew Dream Perfect Regime (DPR) who wanted to do a Korean version of Hmmm Freestyle from the crew Hott Headzz in order to give more visibility to the Korean HipHop Scene. And the least to say is that the gamble paid off! With an MV released on April 2016 on DPR Youtube Channel, Eung Freestyle deservedly blew up worldwide!
Enriched from those experiences, and because he got along well with the members of the crew, Owen joined Mkit Rain that same year. If in Los Angeles Loopy, Nafla and Bloo were already pretty close; also united by their West Coast musical influences; Owen still managed to fit in quite quickly. The crew, which quickly became an independent label, has since gained a lot thanks to all these different musical influences (Ed. More precisions about Mkit Rain’s projects here). Loopy even confided that the label was leaning on Owen a lot. For his experiences in both writing and live stages.
Since SMTM3, with pH-1 they collaborated regularly until the moment they straight out decided to release the MVs for Cookin’ and New Wave Attitude under the duo Sous-Chefs. Thanks to their common East Coast Influences (Ed. pH-1 has lived in New York for a while), the two rappers quickly became true friends (his favorite collaboration on the album Problematic is the track Cloud 9 featuring pH-1 by the way). In an interview from 2017, Owen implied that they thought about releasing an album together. Is it still the case today, I don’t have the answer to this question!
A prolific rapper
With two mixtapes and three albums in the space of 4 years of career, Owen’s solo career is pretty substantial. And for good reason; writing comes as easily to him as breathing. For instance, the track city and its MV unveiled in March 2016 on Youtube would have been written in 5 minutes. He would have come up with the lyrics as he was heading to Los Angeles for a collaboration with the Beatmakers duo Groovy Room. Same for the recording of his album P.O.E.M rap part. It would have taken him less than 2 to 3 months.
More generally, in an interview he explained that he tended to have the following creative process: first, he would listen to productions and then start to write depending on his inspiration and the subjects and topics coming to this mind. For now, he doesn’t produce himself, he prefers to buy his beats. However, he doesn’t dismiss this idea of producing himself one day. But at the time of the interview, he explained that he preferred to wait for earning more money as a rapper. By then, he rather wanted to dedicate himself fully to his lyrics, it would be quite important for him.
It’s by the way for this reason that he chose P.O.E.M as the title of his first album. He explained that he always wished his lyrics, the sound he shares, to be more poetic. Therefore this title was quite obvious.
Listening to his albums, one might quickly notice the rather personal side of some of his tracks. He has, for instance, a special affection for the track Hip-hop from the album P.O.E.M. In this track he would have poured his heart out. Same for his album Problematic released in September 2017. This album has been released after Owen’s first Instagram scandal. He would have dismissed Neil’s wrongdoing as the rapper was being under fire from soliciting nude photos from an underage fan.
I won’t talk more about this because I didn’t really follow the whole story, I learned about it by looking for pieces of information for this article. But all personal judgment aside, such acts are indeed intolerable in any way.
But let’s go back to the album Problematic. Before this scandal, Owen already had an ongoing project, Campfire. It’s because of the scandal that he chose to go for another direction, with this album he wanted to take a step back on the whole scandal and that’s what he explained on Kurt Cobain, the album opening-track.
It seems that it’s also the central theme in his album Changes released in April 2018.
In the future, Owen also shared that he wouldn’t exclude singing for instance.
How can we define Owen Ovadoz?
It seems that the scandal involving Neil wasn’t quite enough for Owen who once again faced heavy criticism because of his more than questionable and misogynous words towards white women during an Instagram live in October 2017. His Instagram post following the controversy only contributed to fuel the scandal and as far as I know, so far he never gave a proper apology.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I obviously don’t support such words, joking about sexual violence is intolerable and as expected, his career took a serious hit from that. The fact that he tends to describe himself as a conscious rapper was also seen as paradoxical for some people, wanting to be considered a conscious rapper but being involved in several scandals.
As a consequence, without doing armchair psychology, Owen is quite an ambivalent person, especially if we believe Debi Ben David allegations like:
”I believed in you but in the end you’re full of contradictions”
Ovadozed, Debi Ben David
Therefore, Kim Hyun-Woo divides, he has as many supporters as detractors when it comes to all the scandals he is involved in.
Finally, it was maybe his former stage name which was describing him the best? Like his friend BewhY, it seems that religion takes a significant place in his life since he did several references to Christianism, like in Hurt, 6th track from Mkit Rain’s album Public Enemy “Thanking mighty Jesus you my righteous Leader”, or even the MV for City that he dedicated to “all those fans around the world and Jesus”. But more than that, Kim Hyun Woo’s stage name would be a direct reference to the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. In Korean, Owen would be the fact to give the other cheek, “if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer him the right one”, it’s about being generous. It would be about the bright side, the good one. Whereas Ovadoz stood for several meanings. Firstly, overdose as in that his music would be like a drug, people would become addicted by listening to his music. But Ovadoz would also stand for his dark side, the evil one.
Owen seems to have a high level of self-consciousness as he can explain in his songs or like in one of the interviews I talked about before. And in this same interview, he explained that whatever things he could say he would always take responsibility for his behavior. But he also explained that he was ready to change, especially because he was caught up by material reality. However, unlike the previous accusations, it wouldn’t be for the money in itself as he explained it in the eponymous track from the album Changes, but rather to be able to support his family, his friends, the label. In another interview from 2017, he already talked about that he was trying to start meditation, hiking while conversely going out less.
But besides that, Owen is an artist who doesn’t hesitate to give his opinion about society. He’s very critical of the people who tend to follow the rules blindly, and for him, it would also be detrimental to the Hip-Hop in South Korea. Korean Society would tend to be too superficial, people wouldn’t really appreciate Hip-Hop as an art, they wouldn’t take the time to get to know the culture behind it, what they would focus on would be more the style, the fact that it’s cool. He also reproached Show Me The Money for misleading young people, who, dazzled, would throw themself into rap without being aware of all the work and patience it actually requires. Most of these young people wouldn’t be aware of the hard reality hidden by the success of a minority. For Owen, you can’t become a rapper overnight, like a teacher needs to learn about the subjects he teaches, a rapper first needs to learn about rap and its culture.
And it rather makes sense! So now we can only wish that Owen will learn a lot in his quest to “be a better person”.