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.