4 MIN READ
Less than a year after releasing his '9Cut' album, GIRIBOY is back with his new album 'Avante'. The album's title is a possible nod to the French word 'avant' meaning 'before', and the release itself is one that sees the rapper delve into his past with a special emphasis on failed relationships. The seven tracks of the digital release explore the darker, more painful side of love, and with deep lyricism and sombre production, it presents a more mature side of the rapper. 'Avante' illustrates GIRIBOY’s expertise as a musician as after 10 years in the K Hip-Hop industry, he is able to reinvent himself once more to produce a vibrant yet touching album.
'Lion' commences the journey into the rapper's melancholic world and sets the tone of the album. Light airy synths and heavy bass instantly envelop the listener and create a relaxed mood. However, this quickly changes as GIRIBOY makes his entrance with an intentionally measured rap, creating a sense of tension. Capitalising off of the feeling, the drums pick up in intensity as does the rap, heightening the tension and injecting some excitement into the song. This track's strength is that it works well to create anticipation and pique one's interest about what is to come on the rest of the album.
The tempo briefly shifts with the boom-bap track 'No Tomorrow' produced by GRAY. It is energetic and features a blend of a warped synth, deep bass and punchy drums. To match this, GIRIBOY delivers strong bars that sync well with the beat. A rich second synth along with bright guitar licks weaved into the track create a consonance of sound. Adding to the dynamism, IIIBOI joins with his high-toned rap style, as does nafla with a gritty yet groovy rap. Contrary to the more sanguine instrumental though, the lyrics explore the struggle of having to constantly work to prove oneself to maintain relevance in society. The message of this song feels very relatable and the production makes it easy to vibe along to.
Following this, the album's retro-style title track 'You Turned Around', conveys the rapper's feelings after a heartbreak. Recently, retro-type beats have become increasingly popular in the Korean music scene and this Gray produced beat reflects that. However, GIRIBOY manages to make the sound uniquely his and show off his skill by punctuating his rapping with laid-back vocals. The lyrics contain glimpses of his unhappiness following the separation of him and his partner, and the isolation, abandonment - and even betrayal - that he feels. The song's music video enhances this as it sees him and Lee Yoomi act as lovers who despite their efforts, ultimately separate. I like how emotive GIRBOY's vocals are on this track and how he manages to perfectly capture what heartbreak feels like.
The next track, 'Fallin'' highlights the album's strength of being sonically diverse. It features a funk style synth, a groovy bassline and heavy reverb. As GIRIBOY raps, the reverb intensifies, allowing the beat to "drown out" in comparison to his voice. It's an unexpected musical choice but it allows the rapper’s voice to be the main star of the track. A similar style song heard later on the album is 'Maybe, Maybe Not'. It has a neo-soul influence and includes a feature from JINBO. This beat also lets the vocals of the two artists shine through. Personally, this track isn't a favourite as it doesn't feel as interesting as the other songs on the album, however the interplay and harmonisation between the two still make it pleasant to listen to.
'That's How We Ended Up' delves deeper into the pains of love as it details the fallout of a relationship. It starts off with a very laid-back beat reminiscent of 70s style jazz. Over this, GIRIBOY raps, slowly pouring his heart out as though he is talking directly to his past lover, expressing his anger towards them. Seori features on the track and brings haunting, seductive vocals to the chorus. The introduction of orchestral sounds of violins and cellos give the song a dramatic essence as the tempo picks up. GIRIBOY's rap becomes more aggressive but this time, his anger is directed towards himself for disregarding his partner's emotions and disappointing them. As the lyrics become full of regret, the beat mellows out. This track is super satisfying to listen to and I love GIRIBOY's innovation in not only using his voice to convey his emotions but also having the production mimic them as well.
The digital album closes off with GIRIBOY looking back at his past failure on the song 'What A Mess'. The punk rock influenced track provides an interesting twist and features a lead guitar, rich bass and the contrast of the rapper's cool bars. As the song progresses, instruments such as drums, a rhythm guitar and piano fall in. This is yet another track where the instrumentation feels layered. The lyrics explore the rapper's regret about his neglect of his partner as he admits his faults in their past relationship. I find GIRIBOY's brutal honesty pretty refreshing as people don't often own up to their mistakes. The honest subject matter combined with the instrumental, as a whole, make for a track that I have on heavy rotation.
On 'Avante', GIRIBOY carries listeners with him on his journey into the past. One gets to experience everything that comes with relationships and heartbreak from love to hurt to anger and regret, and by the end learn that unfortunately some things cannot be repaired. I feel that GIRIBOY was able to show his strength as a lyricist, and masterfully tell his story while still making it relatable enough to the average listener. Sonically, I believe that it sees some of the best production work to date on an album of his. While every track may not be packed with excitement, it is an album that contains many gems that are sure to keep listeners wanting to hear more from the rapper.