Epik High

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Courtesy of Flickr

 Epik High’s Myspace

A quick glance at the South Korean music scene would have any, self-respecting music fan running for the border. To some extent, this reaction is justified. The country’s notoriously corporate-driven music industry took a note from the 90’s pop phenomenon and perfected the exploitation of girl groups and boy bands decked out in matching outfits. You think the Backstreet Boys were bad? One of South Korea’s current successes is a 13-member boy band called Super Junior.

Dig a little deeper, though, and within this pop-reigned industry you’ll find some artists worth noticing. Rap group Epik High, independent from studios, is one such act. Composed of three members — Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz — Epik High’s sixth album, (e), which was released Sept. 16, was one of the most anticipated albums of the year.

The group has shown off a variety of stylistic influences. On (e), Epik High fuses rap with electronica, instrumentals and bossa nova to create an intriguing hip-hop fusion.

The song “Rocksteady” carries a clear influence from old-school groups like Run DMC. “Wannabe,” a sharp criticism of Korea’s fame-driven music acts, relies on a electronic base rhythm. Several songs employ heavy instrumentalism, aresult of member Tablo’s 10 years of experience playing the violin. (He quit after disrupting his orchestra’s concert performance of “Brandenburg Concerto”by breaking into the theme song of “Jurassic Park”.)

Epik High’s songs also contain considerable lyrical quality. Jin originally wrote poetry, and Tablo experimented with underground hip-hop while earning his English Literature degree from Stanford University.

While Epik High’s lyrics may get lost in translation to western listeners, their musicality soars. As mainstream U.S. hip-hop continues to rely on stereotypical bass beats and overdone themes, Epik high has managed to breathe fresh air into the genre.

By Assistant Entertainment Editor
Ginny Chae

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