Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: Moonshine by Kim Ximya and Sondaehyun

For a mixtape that supposedly takes its name from talking nonsense (and the illicit liquor), Moonshine’s title is almost a paradox. On the collaboration between Korean rapper Kim Ximya and American producer Sondaehyun, rather than create a fallacy, the two artists are at their most candid.

Usually, when the two are talked about, their names are an accessory to something more. With Kim Ximya, it’s about Korean hip hop duo XXX, of which he is a part. With Sondaehyun, who is more widely known as D.Sanders, it’s about his production for American rapper Isaiah Rashad. But with Moonshine, the two have their own limelight and do it with their own name.

This is particularly important for LA based Sondaehyun, who uses his Korean name on the mixtape, a nod to his half-Korean heritage. It also helps strengthen his Korean musical identity on top of singing to Korean label, BANA (Beasts and Natives Alike) last year.

But Moonshine also gives the two artists a chance to shine and not be overshadowed. They’re not part of a group, they’re not producing for others. Moonshine is theirs. So in a way, the mixtape is more like a band’s record in the sense that there is equal importance placed on both the rap and the production. But this doesn’t stop it from sounding like a hip hop record.

Sondaehyun creates a lush and atmospheric soundscape consistent throughout the mixtape. While varying slightly with hints of trap becoming stronger on tracks like ‘Closecall’, there’s an emphasis on soul and jazzy sampled fuelled beats. Like on the opening of ‘Process’ which sounds straight out of a 40s soundtrack. Or even on the lead single, ‘Flowers’, which certifies why the world needs more harp samples.

On the other hand, Kim Ximya’s rap, which flows seamless from English to Korean, is nasally and uncompromising as ever. Although with Kim Ximya, explicit lyrics are customary, Moonshine’s lyrical explicitness moves beyond sex and curses.

The opener ‘Moonshine’ sees Kim Ximya go off on a tangent, talking about the mixtape and musical ambitions in his softest and most intimate flow yet. While at the end, he utters in English “Anyways, welcome to Moonshine” almost as an afterthought as if he remembers someone is listening. It’s a perfect set up for the mood of the whole tape; an unfiltered reality.

On Moonshine Kim Ximya and Sondaehyun give each other room to create a raw yet understated sense of reality. Sondaehyun adds warmth and intimacy to Kim Ximya’s rap. While Kim Ximya adds a stark intensity to Sondaehyun’s production. These two elements come together, creating a beautifully nuanced and unreserved mixtape, regardless if it’s really nonsense or not.

Listen: Process.
Moonshine is available to buy on iTunes and stream of Spotify now.

(This was supposed to be properly published, but it never happened which is why this is so late.)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ten Korean hip hop favs from 2016

Though it's already 2017, here are 10 of my Korean hip hop songs of 2016, in no particular order. 

Mercy (ft AP) – Nafla. With Nafla’s flow of hard hitting bursts that match the heavy trap beat, and AP’s more laconic flow, prepare to get turnt with this one. 

Flight Attendant – XXX. The duo push the boundaries of hip hop with the almost brutal electronic beat. Though the complex multifaceted beat is the hero of the track, Kim Ximya's nasally rap is the glue between the tracks' juxtaposing elements. 

Time Travel – Beenzino. Mirroring the smooth, spacey beat crafted into a progression, Beenzino’s flow moves from slow to melodic to quick effortlessly into a real viber.

And July (ft Dean and DJ Friz) – Heize. On a classic beat with killer drum breaks, Heize shows her versatility by singing and rapping on the track. And you can’t help but notice the synergy and chemistry between Heize and Dean. 

Perfect – PH-1. If you’re having a bad day, listen to this. Reminiscent of Chance the Rapper, the infectious beat, complete with a choir and whistling, perfectly complements PH-1’s energetic, joyful flow. 

Tribeast – Tribeast. This song epitomises hip hop. The sample heavy beat is seamlessly cut under Don Malik’s clear but vivacious flow to pay homage to the classics. 

Green Horizon – Punchnello. Over the lush electronic inclined beat, customary of his crew Club Eskimo, Punchnello’s speedy rap completes another boundary pusher. 

상상 – Kim Hyo-Eun. The Illionaire protégée’s deep, grainy tone rides smoothly on the chill, classic beat, again with killer breaks. Though simple, the track is perfect to chill out to.

Caffeine – C.Cle. This may seem like a biased choice considering I interviewed C.Cle, but rest assured it’s not. With C.Cle’s robust, consistent flow over a definitive g funk beat, your head will be bopping.

Mission (ft Dok2) – The Quiett. Returning to what he does best, the Illionaire CEO’s flow and classic style beat blend seamlessly on this smooth track. But with a feisty flow, Dok2 adds nice juxtaposition to the song.  

Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Gig review: Keith Ape at Howler 8/11/16

Keith Ape performing at the Howler, Melbourne.

Following the success of his viral hit ‘잊지 (It G Ma)’, South Korean rapper, Keith Ape brings his underwater trap style to Australia for the first time in Melbourne.  

The two support acts, Melbourne locals, DJ Slick P and Nico Ghost, work hard hype up the crowd, playing all the right tunes to raise the room’s anticipation and energy levels. 

When Keith Ape comes on, the diverse crowd of Asian, black and white kids absolutely lose it. Matching their energy, Ape bounds on stage, though noticeably lacking the huge rapper ego. Breaking the distinction between artist and audience, Ape consciously makes the effort to high-five all the hands outstretched towards him. 
Accompanied by DJ Matthew Law, Ape also shares his stage with fellow Cohort crew member, Bryan Chase, for the whole night; even graciously allowing Chase to perform a song of his own.

Over the top of the customary trap style of rolling 808 high hats and low, ominous beats, Chases’ higher rap style contrasts to Ape’s gritty and rich tone. And Ape’s underwater fixation is constantly referenced with killer whale calls scattered throughout the set. 

With most of his catalogue boasting features, majority of the setlist of tracks from his mixtape and recent collabs, is cut down. One exception is a brand-new “week old” collaboration with Japanese rapper Anarchy, played in full. 

But tonight’s highlight, of course, is the finale of ‘잊지 (It G Ma)’. Hysteria ensues and phones start recording as the whole audience screams along in Korean and to the famous hook: "It g ma! Underwater squad!"

With the frenzy of limbs and constant jumping, there is an intense synergy between the artist and audience. The two feed of the energy of the other, uniting as a mass of youth elation. 

In this sea of movement, it’s clear, tonight is not about perfect renditions. It’s about a united experience. Not only does Keith Ape live up to his hype, he’ll get you hyped and damn sweaty too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: 12 by Beenzino

Beenzino’s 12 is almost not a hip hop album. Musically, the Korean rapper’s first full length record is on par with neo-soul or even indie. Yet, it still seethes that ‘you better listen coz you’re about to be served the best’ attitude that screams hip hop.  

Following his 2012 “mini-album” 24:26, and 2014 EP Up All Night, Beenzino continues to audaciously represent his everyday life in a way so honest and charming, you’re inclined to believe him. 

Alongside travelling (props to I Don’t Mind’s Australia shout out) and time, uniqueness is the biggest theme of the record. 

Even with the whole language barrier thing, it’s hard to miss the message when he raps in English “I’m unique, so unique, I’m so busy I’m being myself” on guitar heavy Being Myself. 

But he didn’t really need to spell it out so clearly; the cohesion of his flow with the unconventional beats borrowing from a range of genres, does it already.  

You’re reminded of his Illionaire link on the trap inclined January, and cruise though the Tame Impala-esque progressions and synths on We Are Going To

Yet, Beenzino’s producers, long time (Peejay) and new (Genius Nochang), work well to craft a sleek and coherent sound overall. 

Even the three-year-old single Dali, Van, Picasso fits well with the overall feel of the record. 

And real life sound effects of a clock ticking on the gentle Imagine Time, or groovy토요일의 끝에서 ‘s lighter chink, are a nice touches, adding even more to the record’s testament of realness.
The three collaborations are evenly spaced (like for realz) throughout the record to break it up. It’s especially nice to see Blacknut finally rap alongside his hero on토요일의 끝에서.

But honestly, the collaborations work more effectively to signal Beenzino’s distinct melodic flow.

On 12 Beenzino takes a step away from his jazzy roots to create something simultaneously unexpected, and something that makes complete sense. It’s a solid first full length effort for Korea’s favourite rapper. 

In a word: progressive

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Connan Mockasin.

It’s easy to become obsessed with this talented Kiwi. His slightly haunting vocals, and silly, yet ridiculously catchy lyrics, will have you lost for words in a psychedelic dream whirlpool. 

Check out a brilliant title track from his solo debut album ‘Forever Dolphin Love.’

Monday, March 5, 2012

‘Meeting Waterboy’–Mink Mussel Creek

This isn’t really a proper post, in the sense of writing a well thought out review, this is me talking of a bangin’ tune.

Mink Mussel Creek. They’re a newish Australian band and include Kevin Parker and Nick Albrook of Tame Impala. The track ‘Meeting Waterboy’ is absolutely brilliant. With the length of 6:51 it takes on a ‘Sea Within A Sea (The Horrors)’ turn halfway; evolving from a chillin’ time with those Cream-sque guitars that are only the norm when a band involves Tame Impala members (probably not a good thing to compare side projects of bands, but whatever) then surprising you and turning into an epic piece of music complete with Nick screaming into the microphone.

Just listen and tell me what you think.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Garage playlist.

Garage has been a genre that has been that has been close to my heart for the past few months. So last night I decided to make myself a playlist of sorts that included all of my favourite tracks from the genre.

So prepare to step back to the 60’s and have yourself a bogie down.

  1. Talk Talk by The Music Machine
  2. Jack The Riper By The One Way Streets
  3. Louie Louie by The Kings Men
  4. Psychotic Reaction by The Count Five
  5. I Can’t Help Thinking of You by The Bucket
  6. Way Down Below by The Gruesomes
  7. Lucy Leave by Pink Floyd
  8. The Witch by The Sonics
  9. All Day And All Of The Night by The Kinks
  10. Have Love, Will Travel by The Sonics
  11. Revelation In Slow Motion By The Count Five
  12. You Really Got Me by The Kinks