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Blase solidifies his musical identity with the 'BLASÉ' album released in December 2021, following his participation on survival show, Show Me the Money 10 (2021). Each of the ten tracks on this album showcase the rapper’s unique style amongst Korea’s industry and heavy influences derived from the UK’s underground music scene.

Image: 'BLASÉ' by Blase / Source: Spotify

The tone of the album is set with 'CVS' featuring Roh Yun Ha. The distinct musical elements create a dark atmosphere that emulates UK grime and drill music; the instrumental is simple, made up of a dark bassline, a tight snare and submerged synthesiser melody, an easy rhythm consistently on loop throughout. This simple set-up allows the rappers to showcase their vocals, skills and lyrics. Blase and Roh Yun Ha’s voices work well together; with Blase’s low open tone balanced by Roh’s higher nasally technique. The track picks up speed and energy in the final verse with a variation in snare rhythm, before swiftly melting off into a dark bass section that closes the song.

An echoed saxophone morphs into a fast paced snare and funky bass loop, as the introduction for the track 'Peace Out'. Again, Blase’s interest in UK grime and drill shows; the composition of this track is similar to the previous, but this time there is the added element of technical choices in rap style. His pronunciation of the tag line “Peace Out”, along with several other English phrases, is reminiscent of London’s street culture, where grime and UK drill music originates. Adding vocal dimension to each verse is the hollow and husky voice of KHAN, who released the album ‘Ride Out’ a few months prior to Blase’s album. This is closely followed by fellow underground artist foggyatthebottom’s monotone autotuned voice, adding some force and power to the mix. This trio of voices works surprisingly well together, with none overpowering the rest.

A personal favourite within the album is 'Power', featuring Moon Sujin. This track is for those who want to indulge in the nostalgia of early 2000s UK Garage music. Backed by a punchy bass drum, complex rhythms and light synth-driven melody, Moon Sujin's feature opens the song as a muffled, semi-electronic vocal line forming the chorus. In the verses, Blase’s delivery of lyrics is more monotone, but plays with rhythm and is punctuated with voice effects. The light, upbeat energy and vocal feature from Moon Sujin for a nice sonic variation amongst the rest of the album. Be sure to listen to this one with the bass boosted!

The next track also carries garage elements. Similar to the previous track, 'Thang' or '땡 (ddaeng)' opens with semi-electronic vocals creating a chorus, with a harmony created by bringing a muffled low voice and a higher pitched voice together. As in the title, the chorus plays around with the sound "땡", becoming the song's sonic motif. Blase's tone softens and is accompanied by less effects and vocal chops - an unexpected way to match the atmosphere of the song which is more fun, upbeat and playful. The rhythm in both Blase’s rap delivery and the electronic vocals in the chorus mirror the swinging rhythm created by the beat.

A heavy drum beat and piercing metallic sounds carry the track 'RUN' featuring OG rapper Paloalto. This song is primarily reliant on rhythms - using a full range of drums, from pulsing bass to snare. Rippling synth effects reminiscent of vaporwave are sprinkled throughout this track, making it feel like something from an intense chase scene in an eighties heist movie. Both Blase and Paloalto sound heavy and dense in their pronounciation of the lyrics, adding another layer to this song made entirely of complex rhythms.

The album returns to a darker atmosphere of the grime and drill genre with 'Blockin', featuring LilBOI and YLN Foreign. A piano loop works throughout, multiple voices chant “blockin’'' in between each verse, giving the impression of a crew dynamic injected into this track. With the features, Blase chooses to use a diverse range of voices in one song that can balance each other out, this time with LilBOI bringing a higher tone of voice along with YLN Foreign’s easy, laid-back style.

The track 'Tight' (ft. Owen) opens with edenic white noise; with birds tweeting, the faint rustling of trees and an angelic harmony. This morphs into a funky bass line, and Blase’s own voice working to provide a prominent rhythm. Owen’s feature adds a slight variation to Blase’s style but is nothing outstanding compared to the vocal diversity served in previous tracks.

'Big Boy' featuring Ash-B is a dance track. Again, it is simple in its composition - with prominent bass and drum rhythm. Blase delivers his lines as he has done with his other songs, and Ash-B's rap feature here is refreshing for this genre and this album, as a powerful and self-assured female voice. The song makes use of various voice samples and vocal chops, but these are not misplaced - layered over the rappers’ voices, it fleshes out the verses and builds atmosphere to the introduction and ending.

The last two songs are shorter in duration and overall they seem weaker in production and purpose compared to the rest of the album, though they do fall in line with the genre. Both songs… The track 'ORDER', ironically, is rather chaotic, followed by the final track, 'KG Freestyle', with its trumpet motif. Both were filled with random strokes of vulgarity spoken in English, thrown in as vocal chops, often interrupting the flow of Blase’s own voice.

Check out the album here:

What makes Blase’s music unique to Korea’s music scene is his stylistic choice to emulate genres from the UK, and the choice to adopt London’s colloquial pronunciations as part of rap technique. There’s no other way to imagine these songs being delivered and performed without losing its colour. The features did not feel out of place, which is a testament to how distinct this style and genre is.

One less enjoyable aspect was the random throw in of vulgar words, particularly in the last few tracks. These didn't serve much purpose or carry meaning for the songs, it didn’t add anything to the grime and drill genre, and even became slightly off-putting. After all the good production that Blase has shown through the previous songs on the album, I would hope that this is not a habit that he picked up from the UK scene.

Rating: 7/10

- Nina Ito

Sources: [1]

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