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ALBUM REVIEW: GRAY 'grayground.'

South Korean rapper, R&B singer and AOMG producer GRAY


9 years after his debut, South Korean rapper, R&B singer and AOMG producer GRAY has finally released his long-awaited, first-ever album on August 17 2021, titled “grayground.

GRAY is majorly involved in this album having written, composed and arranged all tracks as well as taking part in the producing, mixing and mastering. This full-length record consists of 11 tracks running for 36 minutes. It includes the double titles “Make Love” & “Party For The Night”, and a couple of pre-releases (Baby Don’t Cry, I Don’t Love You, Party For The Night), all of which have a music video. It even boasts an array of features by other prominent Korean hip-hop and R&B artists on all tracks except the final one.

Welcoming listeners to the thrilling land of grayground. and kicking off the chill mood of this album is the opening track “Show Window” featuring pH-1. This track was actually teased back in 2019 during the promotions of AOMG’s SignHere. The exciting sounds contain a blend of smooth jazz, neo-soul, some samples, brass, organ and a funky sax breakdown towards the end of the song.

Building on the chill vibes and some bright synth sounds is the second track featuring Woo titled “Selfish”. Woo comes in from the second verse with his style of ‘lazy rap’ that complements this laid-back, easy listening tune.

At #3 is the first title track “Make Love” featuring Zion.T. This iconic duo already guarantees you an R&B bop with some great and enjoyable vocals. It is a super fresh, upbeat, bass & funk heavy track, centered around lyrics of confessions of love. This retro-pop song is so groovy, it goes straight to the top of my list of favorites from this album.

The party mood carries on into “Rise” which features DeVita. This one is more of a dance hall club song with EDM drops and GRAY’s autotune vocals that seem to come off a bit harsh in contrast to DeVita’s smooth vocals over tropical beats. This ain’t my jam, but it could be yours.

Following this is “I Don’t Love You” featuring rapper Coogie - a melancholic mix of Korean hip-hop with pop. GRAY keeps the use of autotuned vocals on this track too, sustaining the last notes in his verses with the use of an effects vibrato around electric guitar plucking. It's a pleasant song with simple melodies but bitter lyrics.

And now the party mood accelerates with this second title track at #6, “Party for the Night”. It features Loco who’s always bringing high energy and feel-good vibes, and Lee Hi whose vocals elevate the catchy sing-along chorus. GRAY & Loco’s rapping over this fun track adds a lot of vibrancy to this song which is big and bright even instrumentally. Another standout track and a fan-favorite without a doubt!

Track 7 is “Close 2 U” that feels like a smooth R&B track on the surface, which is a little rough around the edges from punchnello's rap feature. The confident rapping, GRAY's vocals, the guitar played by Lee Gapyeol, and the staccato bass are all appealing features of this snappy tune.

Ready To Love” features Hoody’s lovely vocals over trendy instrumentals that include some strings & brass samples, although a little over-the-top in the production aspect. This chic tune is a good transition to gradually slow things down towards the closing of the album.

Next is a soft R&B ballad, “Eternal Sunshine” featuring meenoi, which is co-arranged and co-composed by Sam Kim. To add to the warm & cozy feel of this tune, there’s also a jazz saxophone solo by Jason Lee that ends this song on a sweet, tender note.

The second to last song “Baby Don’t Cry” is an uplifting, tropical tune featuring YUMMDA. The lyrics delivered by this duo are positive and comforting with messages of not giving up, keeping your head high and believing in yourself.

The final track at #11 is “U” which is the sole solo song on this album. A mid-tempo, mellow R&B track with earnest lyrics that gives space for GRAY to put more of his vocals on display. Not too bad for a curtain closer.

grayground. feels like GRAY’s version of an amusement park where all the different tracks on this album have good vibes guaranteed at each stop. Although, I do feel that on majority of the tracks, the features have outshone the protagonist of this album. However, this could be because both fans & GRAY himself are more used to him being a producer and a feature, rather than the leading man of his own tracks. Nonetheless, GRAY has experimented with various genres and concepts here, making it one of the most trendy and fun summer albums of this year in my opinion, what do you think?

RATING: 8.5/10

- Wajiha Wazir

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