BTS

K-Pop's Non-K Producers: How The Stereotypes, Diplo, Skrillex, LDN Noise & More Lean Into Korea

Diplo
Paul Morigi/WireImage

Diplo attends the Fenty Puma by Rihanna show during New York Fashion Week at the 69th Regiment Armory on Sept. 10, 2017 in New York City. 

Greg Bonnick and Hayden Chapman started 2018 by receiving personalized plaques to their London studio apartment for their contributions on two platinum albums. Known professionally as LDN Noise, the duo has worked on records for Nick Jonas and Chris Brown but this package was for producing and writing on EXO's Ex'act and The War -- albums by the Korean boy-band phenoms that spent a week or less on the Billboard 200 but sold more than a million each worldwide.    

"We get people and fans from all over the world connecting and interacting with us," the pair tell Billboard of their K-pop experiences that include a line of LDN Noise merchandise and their thousands of Twitter and Instagram followers sending the guys playlists featuring their songs. "The profile of K-pop is being raised around the world through the incredible international fan base -- songs are charting, streaming and gaining more views than ever before so artists, labels and songwriters discover the scene and want to be a part of it."     

After landing their first K-pop credit from a 2015 Swedish writing camp that led to the stomping single "Sniper" by veteran male outfit Shinhwa, Bonnick and Chapman developed a partnership with Korea's largest pop label SM Entertainment and have produced chart-toppers like EXO's dark, electro-pop banger "Monster," Red Velvet's deliciously funky "Dumb Dumb" single, and brought U.K. deep house to Korea via SHINee's "View" and f(x)'s "4 Walls." Their partnership was similar to The Underdogs -- the production duo consisting of Harvey Mason Jr. and Damon Thomas that has helmed records for Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Brown as well -- who had a similar relationship with the agency, crafting singles for BoA, Girls' Generation and EXO.

Past SM Entertainment, Diplo, Skrillex, will.i.am, R3hab, The Chainsmokers and more have also dipped into the K-pop world, crafting tracks specifically aimed at the Korean and Asian market for artists like BIGBANG (see the Diplo-produced "Knock Out"), 4Minute (the Skrillex-crafted "Hate"), BTS (their Andrew Taggart-assisted "Best of Me" cut) and more. Hours after the Stereotypes won the Song of the Year Grammy for co-producing Bruno Mars' Hot 100 No. 1 "That's What I Like," their newest production for girl group Red Velvet -- the hook-heavy R&B single "Bad Boy" -- dropped.

"I believe K-pop is much more musical," says Jonathan Yip, who makes up one-fourth of the Stereotypes. His experiences began by submitting a song titled "XYZ" for BoA's debut English album in 2009, which would later be released as an album cut on Girls' Generation's 2013 album I Got a Boy. The guys have since worked on singles like Super Junior's "Devil" and BoA's "Kiss My Lips," along with co-writing the song "Press Your Number" with Mars that was released as the title track from SHINee member Taemin's 2016 solo album. "They usually like big, dynamic transitions in the record. Most of these artists have been training all their lives to entertain at the highest level and it's only matter of time until more acts break through. BTS is doing a great job of breaking into the scene and I hope there are more artists to follow."

While Yip notes that South Korea's doesn't pay out royalties for album sales, both he and the LDN Noise guys emphasize that the country's industry -- which only joined as one of the top 10 largest markets globally this decade, according to the IFPI -- is potentially very lucrative for producers and songwriters. But the monetary incentives are only surpassed by K-pop's creative, experimental freedom and highly stylized rollouts.

"We enjoy the creative freedom to be so experimental and go against the regular format of a song -- verse, bridge, chorus -- with our music we just take it where it feels right and if that means several key changes or breaks, we do it," LDN Noise adds. "We also love seeing our work come to life with the videos, choreography, and styling; there is so much effort put into each release. As a producer, it's so rewarding seeing your songs be given that much attention to detail."