This video features South Korean rapper Mr. Tyfoon appearing in a commercial for the Asian pizza chain Pizza Etang, where he combines West Coast gangsta rap flair with Konglish, a mashup of Korean and English. Here's the Wikipedia definition of Konglish: "The words, having initially been taken from English language, are either actual English words in Korean context, or are made from a combination of Korean and English words."
It may sound incredibly similar to English, but it's decidedly not. Context helped, but still, my mind reeled, trying to keep up but only recognizing a word or two; I felt like I had a broken Babel Fish in my ear. Mr. Tyfoon's unique, contemporary speaking style is so new and radically different from traditional Korean that even my native Korean friends living in the U.S. couldn't figure it out.
As far as South Korean pizza commercials go, it's got a pretty straightforward narrative: Pizzas are ordered, the delivery guys flirt with a woman (Mr. Tyfoon himself in drag, no less), the pizza is delivered, and a promotion is mentioned. But underneath, the language complexities go so much deeper.
After the jump, the video, and more pontificating.
Pizza Etang Commercial, featuring Mr. Tyfoon
The Global Mashup
In South Korea, the adoption and emulation of American popular culture is not a new phenomenon, but what's happening here involves layers upon layers of mashup: a Korean musical artist who adopts Kongrish along with a West Coast gangsta rap style, cross-dressing in a slapstick commercial with comic book elements, promoting a South Korean chain pizza with octopus on it. Catch all that? Nevermind the fact that pizza alone is conceptually a historical mashup—this 30-second video represents a mashup on a truly global level, in terms of language, food, clothes, culture, gender definitions, and music.
Cross-Dressing as a Comedic Element
Apparently, cross-dressing is a pretty common comedic device in Asia, particularly in South Korea and Japan. The feminizing of the masculine is a common comedic device anywhere, across history, but Mr. Tyfoon in drag represents an interesting twist. In American gangsta rapper culture, sheer masculinity carries a lot of weight. Even though Mr. Tyfoon has adopted the West Coast gangsta style, he reincorporates his own cultural comedic values into the mix, in an unwitting defiance of, and ultimate break from, the original's gender definitions. Which makes it all a lot funnier.
Information on Mr. Tyfoon
I could find very little about Mr. Tyfoon online, so any information readers can share would be highly appreciated. I found a strange promotional video, a live performance, and the cover of his album with track listing, but that's about it.