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Valentine's day took on a greater significance this year for Epik High lovers with the release of their highly anticipated album, ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’.

Image: ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ / Source: OURS Co.
Image: ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ / Source: OURS Co.

It has been a little over a year since ‘Epik High Is Here 上 (Part 1)’ was released and saw the trio tackle dark and sad topics, while celebrating their tenth project together with the likes of ZICO, CL, and GSoul. The album cover for ‘Part 1’ visually displayed the album's sombreness by using the colour black to smother a white butterfly in darkness. This imagery evolves in ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’, as a small amount of black is used to signify past traumas (black dove) constantly clashing with love and nourishment (pink dove). The cover art of ‘Part 2’ illustrates the group’s ability to grow and “reflect on everything that has happened, and the emotions [they] went through”.

As explained by Tablo, ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ should be listened to in track order, beginning with the last song of ‘Part 1’, 'Wish You Were' and followed up by the first track of ‘Part 2’, 'Here'. Since ‘Part 2’ is a continuation of ‘Part 1’ it is important that the two albums were unified through track titles too, hence the broken sentence - ‘Wish You Were’ ‘Here’. A succinct track, ‘Here’ emulates Tablo’s feelings of “Goin’ from wishin’ I wasn’t born at all/To thinkin’ I was born for this” before “the muses rewind the tape” and the second song ‘Prequel’ begins.

Check out ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ here:

According to Tablo, ‘Prequel’ has the best lyrics of all the recent songs to delve into Epik High’s history, and combined with a boom-bap beat and MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) organs, ‘Prequel’ sees the group preaching, “When you’re lost, remember Epik High is here”, in an attempt to connect and empathise with their listeners. There is then a shift from the storytelling seen in ‘Prequel’, to an emphasis on music productions ability to elicit “actual emotions”. ‘Super Rare’ sees Epik High, Wonstein, and pH-1 stress the importance of sincerity within their music, rather than creating content for streams and fixating on money and fame. These artists band together to focus on producing music which can have a lasting impact on those who listen.

In keeping with the sincerity displayed during ‘Super Rare’, ‘그래서 그래 (Gray So Gray)’ featuring YOUNHA reflects upon how the cruel world battered and reshaped Epik High until they conclude that they “hate [themselves] more than you could ever”. By composing the song almost entirely in Korean - bar one English lyric - Epik High are able to sincerely convey the contempt which they feel towards themselves as past incidents, such as the TaJinYo scandal, have impacted those closest to them.

Various degrees of self-love, and the importance of it, are highlighted in the next two songs, ‘BRB’ and ‘I Hated Myself (Tablo’s World)’. The mellow lyrics of ‘BRB’ comfort the listener by reminding them not to “rush” and “overthink”, as “one day [they] can smile about today as well”. While ‘I Hated Myself (Tablo’s World)’, sees intense vocals collide with minimalist instrumentals to highlight the songs lyrics in which Tablo poses the genuine and raw question, “Will anybody cry when I’m not here” on behalf of those who were also “raised to love everyone but [themselves]”.

Image: Featured Artists on ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ / Source: OURS Co.
Image: Featured Artists on ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ / Source: OURS Co.

Created out of serendipity, ‘Rain Song’ featuring Colde, is “비 오는 날에/듣기 좋은 노래 (a good song to listen to on a rainy day)”. Strategically designed to make the listener want to replay it until the “rain stops/And the sun comes up”, ‘Rain Song’ is piano-driven with light touches of synth and layers of snare drums which mirror thunder, resulting in a track that is undeniably recognisable as rain. Epik High displays the result of a career currently spanning twenty years by weaving simple, yet personal, lyrics with backing vocals that echo inner thoughts, and encapsulate feelings of melancholia, to forge an undeniable connection with their audience.

Maintaining the R&B vibes, LeeHi adds her unique voice to ‘Rich Kids Anthem’ to help Epik High convey the importance of love and sincerity. Preferring to be in the company of others, the group testify that while “anxiety and worries” were dictating their lives, they “don’t need the bullshit”. During Mithra Jin’s verse, he refers to changing trends and feelings of nostalgia, however, it is the line “I wanna go back” which sparks a correlation between a previous Epik High release from 2017, ‘Munbae-dong’ featuring Crush. ‘Rich Kids Anthem’ follows a similar narrative to ‘Munbae-dong’ which sees Epik High comment on the negative impact the change in music trends has had within the Korean hip-hop scene. However, in ‘Rich Kids Anthem’, the group appear to be sarcastically celebrating “the young and rich kids”, going as far as to “take a shot” in mock commemoration of their success.

In response to the global outbreak of COVID-19, ‘Face ID’ featuring GIRIBOY, JUSTHIS, and Sik-K was initially released as a single in 2021. At face value, the song refers to ‘verifying our identities’ in order to unlock our phones, and even uses samples of a mobile phone locking sound to open and close the song. But delving a bit deeper, ‘Face ID’ highlights the importance of face to face interactions, encouraging us “in good times, [to] face each other and smile” and any insults should be said “to my face”. Unlike the rest of the tracks on the album, ‘Face ID’ uses heavier beats and high profile rappers to create a more trendy track, possibly in the hopes of spreading the song's message to a larger, youthful audience.

‘Piano For Sale’ provides a brief instrumental intermission before the penultimate song, ‘Family Portrait’ featuring Kim Feel, begins. The music box sample which closes ‘Piano For Sale’ and then opens ‘Family Portrait’, is a reference to the first instrument Tablo ever received: a music box from his late father. The passing of Tablo’s father has been difficult for the rapper to address, however, the inclusion of ‘Family Portrait’ allows others to relate and sympathise with both him and the song, especially those who are also dealing with the loss of a family member, or the breakdown of their family.

As testament to Epik High’s mentality, ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ closes with an uplifting, feel-good song titled, ‘Champagne’. It opens with a sample of the group’s first ever crowd roaring at a concert which was hosted prior to their fame, and even debut. To Tablo, re-watching the footage from which the clip originated was “like seeing an alternative reality”. Asking the listener to “put [their] hands" and “champagne in the air”, ‘Champagne’ celebrates Epik High’s accomplishments as they “did it [their] way” by turning their “shame and pain into champagne”. The last line of the album, “Epik High was here”, brings the sequel to a satisfying close.

‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2’ delves into notorious, career defining events in the group’s history, as well as tackling more recent global events. While it is a familiar narrative from Epik High, they broach these topics from a different perspective than what many are used to, such as, reflecting on the consequences such high profile incidents have had on their families, friends, and fans. In doing so, Epik High have created a cathartic and therapeutic album for both themselves and the audience.

Rating: 8/10

- Catherine Parker

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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