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In the survival reality TV series “Show Me the Money,” South Korea’s most talented rappers of all stripes — mainstream and underground, rookie and experienced — appear before established celebrity rappers and producers, who decide which contestants move on in the competition each week.
Rappers join “crews,” each led by a team of judges, and after passing the preliminary rounds which consist of one-on-one diss battles and collaboration tracks, they have the opportunity to showcase their music in live concerts and release song tracks featuring well-known artists. Having grown in popularity since its first airing in 2012, the show has spread a far-sweeping wave of Korean hip-hop across the nation and far overseas.
With season eight drawing to a close, crowning moss-haired “CORONA” rapper Punchnello as champion, let’s take a look back at some of the all-time top “Show Me the Money” contestants and their best performances on the show. Here’s hoping this list of contestants and songs will wish you another killer “Good Day.”
BewhY (Season Five Winner)
BewhY, known for his intense, staccato delivery and his devotedly spiritual lyrics, became one of the most influential figures in the mainstream Korean hip-hop scene. His iconic “Forever” and jazzy “Day Day” embody his artistic prowess, pouring out an incredible amount of lyrics with ease, and to this day, stand as his central works.
For his final performance, BewhY pushed for a musical-themed collaboration with his brother’s acapella group, “Fake pt. 2.” In a gritty group collaboration, “Who You?,” BewhY performed like clockwork alongside his teammates ONE (Jung Jae Won), G2 from Hi-Lite Records, and AOMG Entertainment producers Simon Dominic and Gray.
Featuring his childhood friend and season five’s runner-up C-Jamm (Just Music), he released “Puzzle,” which climbed to the top spot of eight South Korean music sites’ real-time charts. The duo followed up with “Wright Brothers,” a bright, poppy complement to their cutting style. After establishing his own label (Dejavu Group), BewhY returned to SMTM’s season eight to serve as one of the judges, delivering a potent lineup of songs for his producers performance, including his most recent title track “Gottasadae.”
Woo Won Jae (Season Six Finalist)
Though starting off the season as a not-well-known underground rookie, Woo Won Jae, with his distinctive husky, coarse tone and darkly philosophical lyrics, swiftly rose to the ranks, leaving the show with a full-on contract with hip-hop record label AOMG.
With his signature beanie, Woo Won Jae began the show with a crude, honest acapella audition where he rapped about the hardships of anxiety and depression, appearing “Again” in a live dark-and-light dialogue of raw emotions with Feel Ghood Music artists Tiger JK (founding member of Drunken Tiger), Bizzy, and MRSHLL. Woo Won Jae returned to the semi-finals stage with a similar ghostly, percussive vibe in “ZINZA,” which means “real” or “authentic” in Korean, that featured the angelic chorus of singer-songwriter Suran (Million Market) and the woozy energy of YDG (Polaris Entertainment).
His unperformed final-stage song, “We Are,” featuring Gray and season one winner Loco (AOMG), topped the Korean music chart. Since the end of the season, he has released “a fence” as part of his extended play “af” and appeared in “Run It” alongside AOMG CEO Jay Park and “Unpretty Rapstar” personality Jessi.
Superbee (Season Four, Season Five Finalist, Season Seven Semi-Finalist)
With a brash reputation for diss battles, Superbee passed the first round for three seasons in total, returning yet again with his smooth, fast-paced rap skills, sharpening his sword every season. Some of his notable songs in season five include the bright-popping “Sun Block” with Microdot and the boom-bap heavy “Air DoTheQ” with his teammates Flowsik, myunDo, and Kim Hyo Eun, produced by Illionaire Records co-founders Dok2 and The Quiett.
Superbee returned in season seven with his fluid rap skillbase as usual, with an added uplifting singing rap in “Selfmade Orange” featuring Ambition Musik’s Changmo and biting rhymes in “SUPERBEEWHY” featuring BewhY. Superbee has since launched his own label Yng & Rich Records with fellow rapper Uneducated Kid.
Rhythm Power (Season Four, Season Five, Season Six Winner)
A powerhouse trio composed of individual rappers Boi-B, Geegoin, and Hangzoo, Rhythm Power (Amoeba Culture) appeared with a catchy brass hook in a lyrically humourous, rhythmically playful callout to “Horangnabi.” Hangzoo won in season six, with a hypnotic “Red Sun” with rap mogul Swings and a nostalgic remake of his first single, “bestdriverZ,” with Zion.T (The Black Label) and R&B singer-songwriter Dean (Universal Music Group).”
Most recently, Hangzoo returned to the Show Me the Money stage to perform in Punchnello’s “Magma.” Rhythm Power has since reverted to an old-school yet trendy style, releasing an album titled “Project A” nine years after their debut.
Bobby & Mino (Season Three Winner, Season Four Runner-Up)
Both entering the competition as idol rappers based in YG Entertainment, Bobby from iKON won season three as a trainee, and Mino from WINNER placed second place behind season four champion and “GXNZI” rapper Basick.
Bobby unveiled his raw, rowdy energy in “YGGR,” sharing his financial struggles in a hard-hitting acapella rap, and bounces wild with the crowd in “Raise Your Guard And Bounce.” Bobby returned in season five with his swagger-filled hand gestures and fan service in Hi-Lite Reddy’s flamboyant “Like This.”
Following Bobby’s footsteps, Mino entered season four soaring in a blasting “Turtle Ship.” In collaboration with BIGBANG star Taeyang, Mino revealed a heart-wrenching “Fear.” In the final round, Mino clowned around in “Okey Dokey” with Block B’s rapper Zico (Stardom Entertainment), adding on a skittish dance. Mino returned for a producer’s performance of “Machine Gun” in season five.
The two have since formed a sub-unit under YG Entertainment, MOBB, releasing an album titled “The MOBB” with fiery numbers “Hit Me” and “Full House,” Mino’s solo number “Body,” a melodic jam with trap-heavy beats, and Bobby’s tribal-themed number “Holup!”
—Staff writer Woojin Lim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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