When Jinusean debuted in 1997, they were unlike any other group in Kpop at the time. Jinusean set the bar for what hip-hop should sound like and more importantly, what it could sound like in Korea. They were also just the second group to debut from a young YG Entertainment and would help launch the company into the powerhouse it is today.
The name Jinusean is an amalgamation of the names of the two members, Kim Jinu and Noh Seung-Hwan (Sean). Both members were recruited by Yang Hyun Suk of YG Entertainment as his new company at the time was focused on bringing hip-hop culture and music to the Korean mainstream. Kim Jinu had already debuted in 1994 with his song "I Was the Captain" and was living in Los Angeles, CA when he joined YG and partnered with Sean to form the duo Jinusean.
Their debut album was 1997's 'Gasoline' with a debut single of the same name. "Gasoline" was a gangster rap influenced song with a West Coast sensibility that could be attributed to the albums producer Perry who was also the main producer for their albums. While Gasoline wasn't a huge hit, it introduced mainstream audiences to a different brand of music and made YG Entertainment synonymous with hip-hop in Korea.
Watching Jinusean perform for the first time was an eye-opening experience. Their music was different from the style of K-pop out at the time which was heavy on the pop, bubble gum and ballads. "Gasoline" was aggressive and the look and feel of the performance was different. Sean had a Predator-like dreadlock look and there dance moves were more based on and hip-hop than the other groups of the day.
The biggest hit from the album (and probably the biggest hit of their career) was their second single, "Tell Me". "Tell Me" featured singer Uhm Jung Hwa, who was arguably the most popular female artist in Korea at that time. Uhm Jung Hwa's singing infused with the catchy melody created a song that veered more towards mainstream music but stayed true to their roots with Jinusean's rapid fire rapping. The dance for the song also became a hit across Korea. To this day, if this song starts playing, more likely than not, people will be dancing right along with it.
Although "Tell Me" was the only #1 hit from their first album, the album itself is still considered one of the best complete albums of that era. Tracks like "Young Nation", "Celebrate" and "I Will" were well-received and are still considered classics to this day. "Young Nation" also featured Mr. YG himself- Yang Hyun Suk, and former Deux member Lee Hyun Do who contributed to the album.
Jinusean's follow up "1.5" album 'The Real' was released in January of 1998 and featured a number of remixed and English versions of songs from their previous album in addition to a few new tracks. While the new songs didn't blow up the charts, they remained true to their style and continued to be the trendsetters of hip-hop in Korea.
Jinusean's second full album 'Taekwon V' was best known for the remake of the Bee Gees 1977 hit, "How Deep is Your Love". The song was an instant classic that melded the well-known hook from the original version with the Jinusean signature fast-paced rapping and an upbeat energy similar to their other works. The song never hit the top spot but rivals "Tell Me" as the fan favorite song from the group. It certainly is for me and to this day, when spring starts rolling around and weather begins to get a little warmer, you can find me rolling down the windows of my car with the volume up.
Working with the Mobb and other American artists
Their 2001 third album 'The Reign' was more focused on getting back to a harder style of hip-hop and featured a number of tracks with collaborations from some of the biggest names in American music including Cypress Hill, Chino XL and Mobb Deep. These collaborations were a big coup for Jinusean and YG Entertainment because it was rare for Kpop groups to work with American music groups especially in the areas of rap and hip-hop. However, the most popular track from this album was another remake of another 1977 classic. Jinusean took Rose Royce's song "Ooh Boy I Love You So" and performed their Jinusean magic by working with Kpop singer J who's sweet vocals provided the chorus with boys providing their signature rap style.
Working with Snoop and long hiatus
After a three year break, Jinusean released their fourth album, 2004's 'Let's Play'. The album was well-known for comprising a number of tracks featuring their fellow YG label mates like Wheesung, Gummy, and 1TYM. The album also has a track featuring Warren G and Snoop Dogg called "2 All My People". The track is a nod to the west coast G-Funk sound that features two of G-Funk's biggest stars. The most popular song from the album was "Phone Number" which was probably even better known for its music video. The video had appearances from many of YG's artists like Lee Eun Joo from Swi.T (now Yang Hyun Suk's wife), G-Dragon, Taeyang , Psy (who wasn't a member of YG then) and more. There were also cameo's made by Kim Ha Neul of DJ DOC and one of the dancers in the video is Kahi, the former leader of girl group After School. This was their last album and they wouldn't release any new material for more than 10 years.
After a lengthy hiatus of more than 10 years, Jinusean finally released a new single in 2015 with "Tell Me One More Time." It's a callback to their earlier sound and it was very nostalgic seeing them sing and perform again.
Noh Seung-Hwan (Sean) is a devoted family man and is now doing numerous charitable acts. Kim Jinu is more active with YG Entertainment, he is an executive with the company and has helped to develop current artists. Their legacy will live on and YG can thank this duo for putting them on the map and on the course of success.