Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Seo Taiji and Boys’ self-titled debut album. The group, consisting of Seo Taiji, Yang Hyun-Suk, and Lee Juno, is widely regarded to be the fathers of modern K-Pop as their debut album gave birth to K-Pop as we know it today. The album, a mix of rap, hard rock guitar riffs, and 90s dance music, would go on to sell over 1.8 million copies making it one of the best-selling albums of all time in South Korea.
While the debut single off this album, “난 알아요” (I Know) would become a monster hit and would go on to win a number of awards including a Golden Disc Award for Song of the Year it’s live debut on a TV talent show was fairly poorly received with the group apparently scoring the lowest score from the judges out of all the acts on the show.
But who cares about judges on a talent show not realizing that they were witnessing the dawning of a new era in pop culture or even about a song that would go on to win countless awards and alter the course of K-Pop history forever when that album also included a song that used a sample of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” of questionable legality? The song in question, “Rock & Roll Dance” would apparently not be included in re-releases and reissues of the album sold overseas or on streaming versions of the album available outside of Korea which is kind of a shame because it’s utterly ridiculous and also was more of a portend of the direction Seo Taiji and Boys would go on their subsequent albums.
The success of the album would lead Seo Taiji and his Boys to become spokesmen for a generation. They would hawk all manner of products to teenagers and inspire youth fashion and culture in a way few Korean musicians had before them but their time in the spotlight was relatively short lived as in 1996, four years and three studio albums later, Seo Taiji & The Boys suddenly announced that they were calling it quits. Seo Taiji would return as a solo artist several years later and reinvent himself as an alt-rock guy. Yang Hyun-Suk meanwhile would go on to start the YG Entertainment company which would go on to release albums by Big Bang, Psy, and BlackPink but those are both stories for another day.