99. Why I think it flopped.

Okay, it didn’t actually flop. It was decently successful, but it’s reception was not as grandeur as anyone would have liked. I think too many people are going with the independent-to-mainstream argument when approaching the issue, so here goes.

One of the reasons 99 didn’t win so many hearts as they would have liked was because of how different Epik High sounded. They grew into one of the largest names in the Korean hip-hop scene by building music around the deep, poetic lyrics that they are so well known for, and it just so happens that it’s is more noticeable in their quieter tracks. Sure, their past upbeat, dance-y hit songs generally have the same qualities in one way or another, but honestly, those songs didn’t become popular because how meaningful the lyrics were. That’s not how the industry works. They caught the attention of the masses with a catchy tune, then the people discovered the “behind the scenes” music and fell in love. That’s really how Epik High worked.

Just look at their discography and their reception. (Skip the first two albums because they did not really contribute to the construction of the group’s positive reputation.) Swan Songs, their third album, took off mainly because of “Paris” and “Fly.” Both of them are your generically upbeat, catchy songs about love and motivation. But then the rest of the album tackles politics, education, etc. Remapping the Human Soul had “Love Love Love,” the one “happy” song in the generally dark and murky album covering the dark corners of the human psyche and some controversial topics that earned censors by the government. Their music was the music that you thought “they are putting into words what I’ve always felt but just didn’t know how to express.”  The album after that, and the album after that one, and so on and so forth all followed that same formula.

Then came 99. This album broke Epik High’s tradition by combining a bunch of “hit singles” worth of music into one disk with one or two fillers in between that were just watered down versions of the others. Lyrically, they all dipped their toes into subject matter to test the waters of potential, but ended up deciding that foot washing was all they wanted. Musically, the songs were decently composed but they did not sound like stuff from the Epik High everyone was so familiar with. It was hyped up so much because of the whole Tablo’s graduation controversy threatening the future of the group, and the fans’ cravings for the unique sound that Epik High had mastered. People were expecting the sequel to the clean, simple hip-hop sound supporting the poetry of the lyrics catered by [e] and Epilogue, but they were instead given a jumble of pop tracks that ended up disorienting them. No political wrestling. No arguments on organized religion. No shaming of the public education system. Yes, fans were warned that the album was going to sound completely different, but they were not expecting Epik High to rest their sacred formula and experiment with musical styles that honestly sound like just that - experiments.

It had nothing to do with Epik High going from indie to mainstream. They had complete freedom with their music, and the only thing different from before were petty names, titles, and labels. They could have signed with SM, back with Woolim, moved to a different country, or stayed independent. 99 was going to happen no matter what, provided they did not break up.

Look, I love Epik High. They are the sole reason that got me interested in hip-hop when I thought the genre had no merit. They are and most likely will remain my most favorite music artists. But being loving something or someone shouldn’t make you blind to their flaws. That’s insane fanaticism. I’m still trying to like 99, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. And yes, I do realize some people actually do like the album, and I respect that, too. Music is extremely subjective, I think. I’m not Tablo, Tukutz, or Mithra. They had their reasons on the direction of the album, and I can respect that. It’s just not my cup of tea, and I do believe that the album was a mistake. But hey, the next upcoming album that is due soon is good news for everyone, no matter anyone’s stance on 99, and I hope that at least the majority of the fans will be satisfied with what Epik High has to give.

Did this person seriously just classify Epik High as J-pop?

Oh, no you did not.

출처 (Origin)

If beauty comes from wretchedness, is it really beauty? Tell me.

This cup of coffee
Its origin is in poverty
The small hands that should be reaching out for dreams
While holding a paper plane or a pencil
Are instead wet with coffee-flavored sweat
Thank you, child barista
“I acknowledge that this reality pains my heart
But I need caffeine so hurry and add another shot”
It is a repeating system of a corrupted cycle
My consumption is a leech
One person’s poverty becomes another person’s luxury
The people who made the shoes that I wear
Are probably barefoot right now
Even the warmth that wraps my body
Its origin is in a pit full of blood and bones
To make myself look like I have something
I make people who have nothing shed tears
Everyone says that ignorance is the medication
Because awareness has become an illness in this world

Gasoline that has become holy water
And energy sources became the greed in war and chemistry
A greater problem than blood diamond
But they are all lesser problems than gas prices
Because cars take people to work
Someone crawls in a battlefield for a child to walk
The origin is in fear and in the ensuing system
We dig the ground and raise a crooked flag
“But I need technology so hurry and build me another factory, please
It doesn’t matter if the roots, the trees, or the forests are rotten
As long as there is an apple on the branch, it’s a sacred garden”
Cliffs are slowly forming behind me just so I can go further
Everyone says that time is the medication
Because the present has become an illness in this world

Everyone who is uncomfortable because I am comfortable
Thank you and I’m sorry
Everyone who is breathless because I breath
Thank you and I’m sorry
Everyone who collapsed because I am standing
Thank you and I’m sorry
Everyone who is the origin of everything of this world
Thank you and I’m sorry

- Tablo

From the Bottom

who I met when I was at the lowest point of my life
It hurts whenever I see you smile and all I have is this guilt
Because I wonder if it’s just half of a smile
or maybe it’s a smile that withered away from the inability to understand this world
You say “I’m fine.”
So maybe fine is all that I am able to give you
I hate reaching out with my small and empty hands
So I have to foolishly empty your reached out hand as well
Couldn’t we have met before all of this, or maybe afterwards… when we had good news to share?
You could have stayed somewhere in the evergreen forest under the sun
but now you are walking on the same storm-ridden path with me, through the rain.
My love.
My pitiful self.
This isn’t what my heart really wanted.
I didn’t become your other half so you could take away half of my misery.

who I met when I was at the lowest point of my life
It hurts whenever I hear you cry
I want to lull you, calm you down, but I’m just too exhausted
and my face grows too dark to make you laugh.
So I just tuck you in after letting you cry yourself to sleep
My two frozen hands are supposed to be your clock
And rather than myself, your future lies destroyed
Whenever I see you wake up the next morning feeling happy
All I can think of is the pitiful reality that I haven’t grown a single inch
“I’m sorry.”
I’ve said those words a thousand times, but once again
I’m sorry
that this low ceiling has to be your sky
that I have to be both your umbrella and the rain

Good night.
Good morning.
Even if I had to cry every tear in this world
I would cry them for you