Korean battle rap extraordinaire may seem an unlikely and bewildering title to those unfamiliar with the internet phenomenon that is Dumbfoundead. The 24-year-old Los Angeles MC of Korean parentage practically has the “next big thing” stamped to his forehead, such has his popularity soared in the last year after a string of viral videos on Youtube. These videos include his rap battles (watched by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide), his music and some insightful documentations of his life as an up and coming MC.
Dumb (as his name is often abbreviated) has capitalised on his internet fame and built an ever-expanding fanbase through his massively popular Youtube channel which now has over 100,000 subscribers. Despite there only being a handful of MCs of east Asian heritage on the US mainstream and underground Hip-Hop scenes, Dumbfoundead is no novelty act. Whereas he once shyed away from his ethnicity and instead insisted on being known as a “dope rapper” rather than that one “Asian rapper”, Dumb has now learned to embrace his race as part of his overall identity and has since garnered fame in his Korean motherland as well as amongst those of Asian descent in the States. High-profile collaborations with other Korean stars such as B-boy Jay park and singer Clara as well as with the well-established Korean Hip-Hop outfit Drunken Tiger have broadened his appeal, which was once limited to the esoteric and slightly hippyish world of the LA underground Hip Hop scene.
The most striking thing about Dumbfoundead is how impressive his MCing skills are and how his Hip Hop education at the “Project Blowed” (a celebrated “academy” of Hip Hop in LA’s South Central district) really distinguishes him in a genre too often awash with mediocrity and wannabes conforming to a forced image. His lyrics are though-provoking and clever without ever sounding pretentious and, whilst he maintains quite an underground sound, listeners of indie (a genre that has undoubtedly influenced Dumb’s style), rock or pop will find his music infinitely accessible and enjoyable.
Though he essentially remains that “kid from the block” as quoted from one of his songs, from the none too salubrious parts of inner-city LA, Dumbfoundead’s internet exposure is grooming him for a potentially lucrative and star-studded destiny – his closeness to fame is palpable, but will he make that leap of faith to the big-time or will he continue to impress us with his homemade entreprise run entirely from his rather dingy apartment in LA’s Koreatown? Whatever the case, Dumb is one to watch but let us hope he never loses that spark that makes him such an intriguing individual and musician.