Epik High is dope, it’s just Korean.

Korean rap. Let me give you a few seconds to get your chuckles out of your system. You done? Good. Well contrary to what you may know about Asian hip hop, there is a movement in Korea, a hip hop movement, and it’s very much substantial. Take for example, Epik High, a Korean hip hop group that consists of members: TabloMithra Jin and DJ Tukutz. As you can imagine, the members are not completely unexposed to the idiosyncrasies of American culture. The lead emcee, Tablo, spent time in the U.S during high school, and eventually graduated from Stanford University. Understanding the American paradigm is key if you want to make music that is conducive to consumption in the U.S., in the case of Epik High, it appears to be another case of a plethora of talent pigeon-holed into a culturally confined market and an image. And subsequently Epik High are living the cyclical career path that goes hand in hand with the parochial world of Korean hip hop. Let’s take a comprehensive peek at these recently released, unreleased tracks off the Epilogue EP.

바보

Wordkill

비늘

Over

Little all over the place isn’t it? That’s the problem with Korean manifestations of rap/hip hop, it’s always trying to do too much. There sound is a little rap, a little alternative, and unfortunately too much K-Pop. K-Pop is simply a catch-all phrase for anything on Korean pop radio. Literally, Koreans are into a wide array of popular music, influenced by the West, and repackaged for the East. This type of musical regurgitation is not without creative merit, on the contrary, it’s producing a one of  a kind sound, and a plethora of unique and talented acts, Epik High included. Alas, the demand for “Asian hip hop” often takes precedence over an artists desire to stay integrated with the sound that may have inspired them to begin to rap, just like any other American aspiring mic grabber. This diversion of energy, comes at a cost for the artist, and exposes us to tracks like “Coffee”, also on the Epilogue EP.

Coffee

The reason hip hop has become and embedded part of the music industry is because the lyrics resonate with the fans. It truly is the 21st equivalent of poetry houses frequented by the likes of Keats, Pushkin and Tennyson. The Greatest Rapper Alive is the hip hop poet laureate. Conversely, Korean or any rap music written in another language, comes at a serious disadvantage, for it cannot resonate with the majority of global hip hop fans. In addition to the natural language gap, there is the inherent musical preferences of a continent to combat, specifically stuff that plays well in coffee houses and ex-pat drinking parlors. To tie this back into Epik High, I believe they probably started off with similar intentions of just about any hip hop artists. However, in a fragile effort to avoid replication whilst maintaining commercial appeal in East Asia, they lost a lot of their identity in a swooping effort to be the next hottest thing in K-Pop. I hope that the cat from Stanford comes across this piece, because I’d prefer to hear his rebuttal and be convinced otherwise than maintain such a pessimistic view about some fellow bredren trying to do this hip hop thing. But for now, it leaves me thinking, what if they put out more tracks like this one…

잡음

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6 thoughts on “Epik High is dope, it’s just Korean.

  1. Pingback: Mr. Nick Presents A Tribute To David Axelrod

  2. Yah dude. Drunken Tiger is sick. I wish they kept their sound more contemporary, I know for sure they listen to new shit, but their sound is a little 90’s based for sure.

  3. so you’re trying to insult epik high?
    Escuse me, but that kind of upsets me cuz I’m Korean American. Maybe you’re the dope.
    And yes, Drunken Tiger is AMAZING.

  4. Hi Kathy,

    I’m Korean American too. And nobody is dissing Epik High. Dope means cool, or good. FYI.

    Have fun on ZIF.

  5. I’m just going to say that Noise is my absolute favourite from this album. I definitely agree with you.

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