5 MIN READ
Released just over a decade ago in 2011, Kim Deegie’s 'In True Mental' is an understated series orchestrating and capturing crossovers between Korean hip-hop/RnB artists and foreign jazz musicians. Consisting of five parts, the ‘In True Mental’ series is a play on the word instrumental which becomes crucial to the album as a whole, influencing the concept, style, and structure of each song.
The fifth part in this series contains five songs and a number of features, with a few lesser known artists amongst some more well-known names. What makes this album interesting is that for some of the tracks, Deegie takes a step back as a rapper, becoming more of a producer figure - a maestro who is responsible for blending jazz music and hip-hop together.
The album opens with a blues piano and guitar intro to the track ‘Grown Up’ ft. Paloalto. A low drum and saxophone is introduced underscoring Paloalto’s rap lines, with guitar riffs and energetic snare consistently peeking through the instrumental. Surprisingly, this track is not packed with lyrics as we would expect in hip-hop - there are sections that are vocally empty, but it never feels barren because of the well-layered instrumental. One of the memorable lines is the repeated phrase “sit back, relax” - it becomes hypnotic, especially with the laid-back style of jazz.
The second track ‘Take Me Back’ also opens with a piano melody, this time punctuated with gentle drumming. JULIE’s jazz vocals make up the chorus line, while MINI’s rap verses dominate this track. This particular track is submerged in foreign influences - the lyrics are entirely in English, adding to the gentle instrumental made by foreign jazz musicians. This is one of many clear cut examples where Deegie rarely features in the track, acting as a behind-the-scenes producer figure.
A slightly darker tone and more dynamism emerges in ‘Be Strong’ ft Swings. The bass takes more importance in this track, being the core instrument that all other rhythms and sounds and Swings’ rap are built around. These verses alternate with sections filled only by light-hearted trumpet fanfare and drum fills.
Deegie takes a look into the flow of time with ‘벌써8년이나 흘렀다.’ with Rhyme -A-, the title roughly translating to ‘already, eight years have passed’. The concept of time passing is explored through other means such as sound and style, as well as lyrics. The chorus is a looped voice track echoed through a megaphone, giving the effect of an aged recording that erupted from the eighties. Alongside this, Rhyme -A- has quite an energetic, swinging and rounded tone to his rap style, a technique that feels more distinctly like nineties hip-hop.
The final track ‘More Money More Problems’ ft Garion also adopts a darker tone, opening with the bass. Garion’s rap style compliments Deegie’s style - both are rhythmic in their delivery and also carry an energy that is characteristic of nineties rappers. Humourous interjections of scripted voice acting skits are dotted throughout the song, mimicking a dramatised interaction between a boss and employee. This song is clever in the way that snippets of the piano are used to create atmosphere for these short interactions; some parts haunted by the emptiness, others embodying the swinging limp of the blues.
While having too many featuring artists in a single album can add too much or take away from an artist’s work, Deegie’s album maintains its character by keeping its core in the instrumental and keeping its sonic focus in jazz. However, while the fusion of genres is the album’s unique characteristic, the format of each song feels too similar; this can begin to make the songs sound predictable. But this can be overlooked because the combination of instruments and rhythms can mask these structural similarities.
Those with eagle eyes will notice how each of the five tracks is paired with its own instrumental version, staying true to the album’s title. By having full instrumental tracks available as part of the album, Deegie's ‘In True Mental’ series follows old-school hip-hop MC traditions, providing an open end to the project and encouraging other musicians and lyricists to re-sample and build on these instrumental tracks.
- Nina Ito