South Korean R&B singer and rapper DEAN has helped place the country’s hip-hop scene on the international map, thanks to his smooth flow, pop sensibility, and crossover collaborations with some of the biggest names in American R&B. Born Kwon Hyuk in Seoul in 1992, he developed a love for U.S. rappers while in middle school. He started rhyming in high school, and by the time he was 18 he began writing songs for major K-pop acts such as EXO, VIXX, and Block B among others. Adopting the stage name DEAN—inspired by the legendary Hollywood actor James Dean—he launched his own solo career in 2015, debuting with the raucous English-language pop-rap number “I’m Not Sorry” (feat. Eric Bellinger). Collaboration proved vital to DEAN’s music, whether crafting funkier R&B numbers with creators outside of Korea such as Anderson .Paak or working on hard-hitting hip-hop with fellow Seoulites like ZICO and Dok2. DEAN also excels at constructing more minimal tracks, such as 2017’s acoustic-guitar-guided “Instagram,” which also weaved in commentary on the emptiness of social media. He’s become one of the bigger figures in Korea’s rap and R&B community, appearing on televised rap reality shows to serve as a mentor, while also keeping an eye out for emerging talent in his home country to work with.
HOMETOWNSeoul, South Korea
BORNNovember 10, 1992