Drunken Tiger is a critically acclaimed Korean/American hip hop group which debuted in 1999 and has since released eight albums. As of 2009, Drunken Tiger's central figure is Korean American Tiger JK. Other members affiliated with Drunken Tiger are DJ Shine (left in 2005), DJ Jhig, Micki Eyes, and Roscoe Umali.
Tiger JK was born in Seoul, South Korea on July 29 (by lunar calendar on June 11), 1974. At the age of 12, JK moved to Los Angeles with his family. While living in LA, Tiger JK witnessed the tension between Korean Americans and African Americans during the L.A. riots. JK, already an avid follower of hip-hop, was inspired to bridge the gap between the two ethnic cultures using his rhymes. At only 16 years old, he collaborated with Drunken Tiger member Micki Eyes and a friend, Sucram, to compete at a local hip-hop festival in 1992. He hoped that his performance as a Korean-American with other non-Koreans would relieve some of the tensions between the cultures. JK saw it initially as an experiment, but his performance caught the attention of Oasis Records in Korea. As a result, JK was later signed and released his first solo album, "Enter The Tiger," in 1992. The album had some brief buzz, however, due to censorship and restrictions put on his title song "Hide and Seek," the album received limited publicity.
JK returned to the US soon after. However, he still felt that the Korea hip-hop was slowly emerging and it needed artists to bring it to the forefront. He teamed up with partner DJ Shine in 1998 and the two debuted under the name Drunken Tiger. Their first album, "Year of the Tiger," was seen as widely controversial given that the lyrics touched upon taboo topics such as sex and anti-establishment. Their debut singles, "I Want You" and "Do You Know Hip-hop" were released in 1999. Unlike their mainstream hip-hop counterparts, Drunken Tiger wrote their own lyrics, had creative freedom and did not resort to choreographed dancing. As a result, their sound is described as 'live, energetic and very natural'.
2000 and Drug Controversy
In March 2000, Drunken Tiger released their 2nd album, "The Great Rebirth," and introduced members, DJ Jhig, Micki Eyes, and Roscoe Umali. Produced in just 2 weeks, "The Great Rebirth" introduced The Movement, a crew of Korean hip-hop artists whose goal was to bring real hip-hop into the mainstream. At the time, the Movement Crew consisted of CB Mass, Yoon Mi Rae, Uptown, and Kim Jin Pyo and has now expanded into a large collaborative of pivotal Korean artists, including Epik High, Bobby Kim, Eun Ji Won.
Their single, "Great Rebirth," climbed the music charts quickly, but was suddenly halted from progressing due to criminal investigation of Tiger JK for possession and dealing of narcotics in Korea during 1999. Drug tests and a passport showing JK's departure from Korea were expected to prove JK's innocence, but the Korean courts found JK guilty due to false evidence given by Movement members in Uptown and banned Drunken Tiger from performing on public media for 2 years. However, after appealing the decision, the ban was lifted, allowing a 3rd album to be released in March 2001.
The 3rd album, "The Legend Of..." is hailed to be one of Drunken Tiger's most pivotal albums. Their single, "Good Life," topped the charts and won the #1 spot on multiple charts for weeks. This was the first time Drunken Tiger had won the #1 spot on the mainstream pop charts. In that same year, the group won "best hip-hop music video" at the MNET Music Video Festival and "best hip-hop artist" at the Seoul Music Awards. By this time, the group had established a large fan base and following.
Success continued for their 4th album "Foundation" throughout their 5th album, "One Is Not A Lonely Word." The group continued to win awards and receive international invites to perform. In 2004, Drunken Tiger had already performed at near sell out venues of 5000+ in places such as Tokyo, Taipei, Beijing, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, and Chicago.
In 2005, during the debut of the 6th album "1945 Liberation," DJ Shine announced he would leave Drunken Tiger, citing family reasons as a factor. Some wondered how this would affect the legacy Drunken Tiger built, however, the success of the 6th album title song "Isolated Ones! Left Foot Forward!" led to endorsements from Hite Beer and Reebok.
By 2006, Drunken Tiger established his own record label, Jungle Entertainment, as well as LUNGTA, a clothing line.
The release of Drunken Tiger's 7th album, "Sky Is The Limit," marked another pivotal point in Drunken Tiger's career. Although JK's ability to perform was inhibited by his myelitis, the artist debuted with his hit single "8:45 Heaven," a tribute to his late grandmother whom he had been close to for years. With its deep thought provoking lyrics, the song was praised by many people who had experienced the death of close ones. It was the first time that a Drunken Tiger song resulted in an official "Best Song Lyric" award.
The 8th album, "Feel gHood Muzik," was released on June 29, 2009. The double disc CD sold a total of 50,000 copies in 3 weeks. The album features hip-hop legend, Rakim, and welcomes back Drunken Tiger member, Roscoe Umali, who had not partaken in a Drunken Tiger album since 2003. It combines a unique combination of what many call the older Drunken Tiger style (raw, rugged, and uncensored) and the lighter sider of JK that has dedicated his life to his new family.
As of September 2009, all 27 digital tracks from "Feel gHood Muzik,", have debuted on the Top 100 K-Pop Singles chart.
The album is on pace to sell over 100,000 copies by the end of the year.
On November 11, 2009, Drunken Tiger won the MAMA (MNet Asian Music Awards) Best Male Artist of the Year award.