Tiger JK (Birth name: Seo Jung-kwon, Hangul: 서정권, Hanja: 徐廷權; born July 29, 1974) is a South Korean rapper, record producer and entrepreneur best known as a founding member of Korean hip hop group Drunken Tiger. He has also founded two record labels, Jungle Entertainment and Feel Ghood Music. He is currently a member of hip hop trio MFBTY.
He is considered a highly influential figure in the development of Korean hip-hop and is credited with helping bring the genre into the Korean mainstream. The Los Angeles Times referred to him in 2011 as “perhaps the most popular Korean rapper in America, Asia and the world.”
Tiger JK (Seo Jung-kwon) was born in Seoul, South Korea on July 29, 1974. His father was a DJ and one of the first Korean pop columnists. His family moved to the United States when he was 12, and he was sent to briefly live with an uncle in Miami, Florida, where he practiced Taekwondo. He spent his teenage years in Los Angeles, California, where he was one of only a few Korean-American students attending Beverly Hills High School.
As a teen in Los Angeles, Tiger JK witnessed the violence between Korean-Americans and African-Americans during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. He later said he wanted to use hip hop to create a dialogue between the two communities.
Tiger JK attended UCLA and graduated with a degree in English.
In 1995, Tiger JK’s first solo album, Enter The Tiger, was released in Korea by Oasis Records, a connection Tiger JK had made because his father was friends with the company’s CEO. The album got little airplay due to its perceived explicit content.
Tiger JK returned to the United States and teamed up with DJ Shine to form the group Drunken Tiger in 1998. The group debuted in Korea and, despite the explicit content of their lyrics and the group’s rejection of mainstream music trends, they achieved popularity with their first album, Year of the Tiger, which included the hit songs, “I Want You” and “Do You Know Hip-hop.”
Over the next several years, Drunken Tiger brought on new members and released multiple albums, winning numerous awards. Founding member DJ Shine left the group in 2005.
In 2006, Tiger JK left Oasis Records and established his own hip-hop label, Jungle Entertainment. The label represented Drunken Tiger, and prominent Korean rappers Yoon Mi-rae and Leessang were among the artists to join the label over the next few years.
Tiger JK continued to release music with Drunken Tiger over the next few years, while also collaborating with other artists. In 2012, he featured on “Let This Die,” a single by Brian Joo of the R&B duo Fly to the Sky. That same year, he featured on “Wicked,” a song by new k-pop girl group Fiestar.
In 2013, Tiger JK teamed up with Yoon Mi-rae and Bizzy to form the group MFBTY, an acronym for “My Fans are Better Than Yours.” Soon after, he left Jungle Entertainment and founded a new label, Feel Ghood Music, which now releases MFBTY’s music. He has had multiple collaborations with popular boy group leader Kim Nam-joon aka RM of BTS (band) with the latter featuring on his final album Drunken Tiger X: Rebirth of Tiger JK on the song Timeless.
Tiger JK has credited Jamaican singer Bob Marley for his musical style and numerous American rappers as well. He has demonstrated his Reggae style, gangsta rap style and West Coast hip hop in Drunken Tiger songs. He is praised for various aspects of his rapping technique by numerous other rappers – these techniques include: his varied and humorous subject matter, connecting with his audience, carrying a concept over a series of albums, unique rhyme schemes, his ability to bend words so that they rhyme, his use of syllabic rhymes fitting many rhymes in each bar, complex rhythms, use of melody, and syncopation.
Tiger JK was arrested for using methamphetamine in Korea in 2000, at the same time that members of the Korean hip hop group Uptown were also arrested on drug charges. Tiger JK said that, though he had used drugs in the past, he had not used them in Korea, and he said that he was ultimately found guilty due to false testimony from the members of Uptown. He spent a month and a half in jail and was given two years probation.
Tiger JK was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis, a spinal cord condition that affects motor functions, in 2006. He was hospitalized and took a two-year hiatus from performing. As of 2014, he continued to take medication to treat the condition.
In June 2007, Tiger JK married rapper and singer Yoon Mi-rae in a private ceremony in a Buddhist Temple. The wedding occurred a month before the death of his grandmother who had wanted to see them wed before her passing. Yoon gave birth to their son Jordan in March 2008.