Currently one of Korea’s most well-received personalities, San E is one of the few active rappers who seamlessly bridges the gap between the hip hop underground and the pop industry. Born Jeong San (정산) on January 23, 1985, the rapper and his family immigrated to the United States while he was still in middle school. San E stayed in Georgia for several years, attending Georgia University with a major in Graphic Design before returning to Korea. In an interview with the Korean Herald, San E revealed just how he entered Korea’s hip hop scene despite living across the Atlantic. In the semester before graduation, the would-be rapper took a chance by uploading original songs on a blog, hoping to catch the attention of some online hip-hop communities. When the blog failed to draw an audience, he decided to take a chance and poke fun at a fellow underground artist. That artist happened to be Korea’s “King of Flow”, Verbal Jint, with whom he is now signed under Brand New Music. Prior to his current company, San E was signed with JYP Entertainment after becoming well-known for his playful jab at Verbal.
In 2010, San E made his official debut as an artist under JYPE with his EP, “Everybody Ready” and went on to release four more albums before parting ways with Park Jin Young in 2013. Under Rhymer’s label Brand New Music, San E catapulted to fame. His first EP release with his new company, ‘’Not’ Based on the Real Story” saw three tracks on Gaon’s top 10 chart, and collectively, around 3 million in digital sales. The next year, in 2014, the popular rapper released his collaboration track with Raina of After School, “한여름밤의꿀” (“A Midsummer Night’s Sweetness”). The single track reached over 2 million downloads, topped nearly every music chart, and received award nominations at several end-of-the-year shows. With this release, he cemented his place not only as a talented rapper, but also as one who can appeal to multiple audiences.
His most recent album release, “양치기 소년” (“The Boy Who Cried Wolf”) saw yet another chart-topper (Me You) and received year-end accolades at the 2015 Golden Disk Award Ceremony with the Best R&B/ Hip Hop album. Though he is known for his laid-back and often humorous rap style, San E places himself as musician first and celebrity second. His sound is ever-changing as he experiments with flow and collaborates with various producers, but each of his releases remain markedly “San E.”
More recently, the rapper extended his role to being a judge as he joined Swings, and then Verbal Jint, as a team on the rap competition program, Show Me the Money (seasons 3 and 4, respectively). New fans may miss him on the upcoming season of the seminal hip hop show, as San E has made it clear he wanted to leave room for a fresh crop of rappers to engage with the new contestants. While working on SMTM, he also became the host on Unpretty Rapstar, another hip-hop centric show which features women rappers. Surely, the upcoming year will hold more opportunity for San E as his music and personality continue to influence the Korean Hip-Hop community.
Bisola, March 2016