Yo G, you know what he saying? Neither does heThis hip-hop trio admits they must be the lamest rappers in Korea, but they say they are simply the best when it comes to combining pseudo-doo-waps with good jokes for the audience to laugh at, or ― umm ― to laugh with.
They are the “Namolla Family,” starring every Thursday night on the weekly Korean comedy show “Utchatsa” (“People Seeking Laughter” in English) on SBS-TV.
“What is true hip-hop to us?” You Nam-saeng (Kim Jae-u), the leader of the group, asks while shrugging. “We know nothing about that. But we know how to be fake and be funny.”
Their names, to start with, are just that.
According to Kim, his stage name, You Nam-saeng, comes from the English phrase, “You know what I’m saying.” (Say the phrase out loud rapidly and it sounds like the name).
Kim said it struck him as so funny that so many pseudo-Afro rapper wannabes use the phrase when rapping in Korean that he chose to parody it.
In one of their gags, Kim acts the Korean-American head of a “real” hip-hop academy. But that doesn’t mean he comes from abroad like most Korean-American rappers on television. To the contrary, he says, he hasn’t even been near the American Embassy in Seoul as yet.
Another member of the group is Sanchez (Kim Tae-hwan), who appears as a student signed up at the academy to learn from hip-hop Master You.
The only English phrases Sanchez seems to know, however, are “What?,” “Oh” and “Yea,” and he repeats them over and over again, making fun of conventional rappers. Sanchez introduces himself as a rapper from the urban area of Double Door Street. But when the audience looks confused about where Double Door Street is, he explains it is not a place in the West but just a literal translation of a Seoul town called Ssangmun-dong. He goes on to say he did his military service at the “Dragon Mountain Village.” By then, however, the audience realizes he is talking about Yongsan.
The third member is Babo Kim (Kim Gyeong-uk), whose name means stupid in Korean, but who says he parodied the name from rapper Bobby Kim. His character helps Master You to swindle hip-hop wannabes into signing up for a class.
“On the show, we usually rip-off characters who play the nerdy office worker or farmer to make them sign up for our class,” said Master You. “But our gag is actually aiming to bring out hearty laughs from the audience who probably have a pretty good understanding of how the world is full of rip-offs.”
“There are so many scam artists who brag and say they have returned from study abroad, and ‘Americanized’ R&B, hip-hop singers who can’t sing or rap,” said Babo Kim. “We wanted to make the point that its always the worst wheel of a cart that creaks the most.”
During the interview, even Sanchez, whose character is supposed to speak only in English, answered in Korean.
Despite their effort to just be fake and funny, he said, a record company offered them the opportunity to record a hip-hop single.
“We said, ‘sure,’ because I thought comedians have the right to do music as well,” said Sanchez. “I think such an experience can help us to make better comedy.”
Sanchez boasts that Babo Kim has some experience in the hip-hop scene. Apparently, he once arranged the hip-hop title song of a Korean movie, “On the Top after School.”
By the way, their group’s name, “Namolla” means “I don’t know” in Korean.
by Jung Hyun-mok
More in Features
Kakao TV launches this month, takes on Netflix
[TURNING 20] In a sea of hate, change flourishes
Criticism of sex ed books for kids raises more questions than answers
When it comes to sex ed, this Danish author says just talk about it
The traveling grandma who's 'alive and kicking it'