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With the success of DPR LIVE’s release of the single “Yellow Cab”, his fans and listeners couldn’t wait to see what the rest of album would bring. After much anticipation, he finally released the EP ‘IITE COOL’ on July 22. The little opus contains six songs and features Hwasa from MAMAMOO, Beenzino and DPR IAN, with the style ranging all the way from pop and dance to alternative and punk rock.

One thing that clearly stands out is DPR LIVE’s endless pursuit of authenticity, whether it’s about the few select people he works with, his clear creative direction, his research of new sounds in the Korean music scene or even his outspoken nature about the Korean hip-hop industry. In his 2020 Billboard Korea interview, he says “I think a full-length album is a white canvas. I didn't want to capture what others wanted, but I wanted to instinctively draw what I wanted to capture -- what I felt, with colors that I wanted to use.” Da-bin and his team seem to prioritize working with people they truly get along with personally, as well as professionally, something we can clearly feel on this EP. On this topic, he states that “I just want to interact with people I'm attracted to. I want to talk comfortably and empathize with each other. It would be good if something comes out in the process. I think time is very valuable even if there is no outcome.” With each project, he seems to go further and build upon what was created in the last release while also changing directions.

With 'IITE COOL', DPR LIVE seems to have taken yet another turn in his music, insisting on creating new sounds for the Korean music scene. In his recent livestream, he states that the sound of some of the songs on this EP are unlike anything that has ever been done in K Hip-Hop. His music evolution always feels organic more than a calculated stunt. In the previously mentioned Billboard interview, when asked about his changing sound, he answers “I didn't mean to. It was natural. I think the color changed because I used the sound that I needed to express my emotions as much as I could.

Upon listening to it a few times, it’s clear to see that ‘IITE COOL’ will be part of this summer’s heavy music rotation. Its fun and upbeat songs grow on you with each listen and stay stuck in your head, which is not something to be mad about.

The opening track “Venus” automatically entrances you with a soft bossa nova guitar melody. The seductive song uses Da-bin’s breathy vocals as well as several alliterations to set the mood. It’s always interesting to see an artist play not only with words, but with their sound too. The lyrics are fun and flirty, playing around the sound of the word “Venus”. This song is definitely an earworm that will follow you through the day.

‘IITE COOL’’s second song is one of the most appreciated on the album, with Hwasa and Beenzino joining in for the listeners’ biggest joy. “Hula Hoops” is quirky and fun, playing around the concept of hoops and circles of all types, and according to DPR LIVE, this song can even be qualified as addictive, as it recounts DPR LIVE’s summer love in a celebratory anthem. The sunny lyrics are simple and fun, repeated over and over again so you can catch on it quickly. Beenzino’s flow is a great addition, bringing in his personal twist to the song. Interestingly enough, his verse and recording were made in 4 hours, as he was brought on the song last minute because DPR LIVE felt it sounded off with only Hwasa's and his vocals. Hwasa’s smooth, sensual and breathy vocals bring the song to another level. She gives this underwater siren feel to the song. Beenzino and Hwasa manage to rework the song in their own way, which ensures you never get sick of the endless loops and repetitions in the song.

When asked about his favourite song on the album in his recent livestream, Da-bin mentioned the song “Summer Tights” for its new sound that has never been seen on the Korean hip-hop scene. The funky song is an ode to a woman DPR LIVE is infatuated with, much like the majority of the songs of the EP. This track proves yet again that DPR LIVE knows how to make a catchy song. The smooth beat and soft guitar building up to a great jam, the flirty lyrics, the flow, everything just works together to create another hit on the album.

“Boom” is the perfect occasion to bring DPR IAN on the EP, as it was originally his song. With his smokier voice and beautiful range, DPR IAN adds another colour to the album. The song starts off with another groovy melody and beat, describing the intensity and the ups and down of a stormy relationship, with both artists working in harmony on the track. The second part of this song really shows off DPR IAN’s style with a sensitive, vulnerable bit that builds up again for the grand finale of the song. “Boom” is a track that truly and skillfully shows off DPR IAN's and DPR LIVE’s love for visuals, as the song transitions from one mood to another seamlessly, almost cinematically, like a movie showing the timeline of a love story.

The EP then transitions to “Yellow Cab”, ‘IITE COOL’ ‘s single that was released before the EP. This song, written in collaboration with Beenzino, has gathered much love from DPR LIVE’s fans. On this track, Da-bin dishes out his frustrations about the music industry, gatekeeping, his need for recognition, his disappointment with his level of success as opposed to his expectations and much more. The upbeat nature of the sound contrasts with the lyrics, which is an interesting way of going about the topic. This song falls in the continuity of his discourse about the Korean music scene. The members of DPR have been quite vocal about their opinions, denouncing the favoritism and other problems in the Korean hiphop industry. This song’s lyrics are so rich, full of metaphors and references that are taken to another level by the music video. It would take ages to go to the bottom of everything expressed in this track. Da-bin has reposted a video of a deep analysis on his Twitter account that should definitely be watched by anyone who is interested about diving deeper in the meaning of the song and video.

Finally, the EP closes with the track “Awesome!” which features West Coast sounds. In this track, DPR LIVE seems to dedicate this song to his fans, mentioning at one point how he can’t wait to see them. DPR LIVE seems to have arrived to the conclusion that he should just be himself, work on his projects, do his thing and stay “awesome”, offering a bright, confident and hopeful ending to the album.

This EP is quite something, even though DPR LIVE has stated that for the first time ever, he has done the bare minimum. After the first listen, I was confused because I did not know how to feel about it. The creative direction was not what I was expecting and it left me puzzled, thinking that I should probably listen to it some more. That being said, I can confidently say that after a few listening sessions, this EP has really grown on me, which is the case of a few people in my entourage too. On his interview for Billboard, Da-bin stated "Well, actually, when I make music, I try my hardest and give it my 150%, so when you continue, you get better, break your own boundaries and make music that’s ahead of your time. My friends and listeners all around have a hard time understanding my music", which reassures me and makes me believe that I was not the only one who didn't understand it at first. This album is fresh, light, summery and catchy, while still maintaining DPR LIVE’s cinematic tendencies, his signature love songs and lyricism. Even though I have listened to it on loop for the past few days, I will definitely continue to listen to it throughout the summer!

RATING: 9/10

Juliette Garcia

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