Rejoice, High School; they really have.
It can be very hard for Epik High to disappoint their fans with the content of their albums. While we might not always like the sound they go with (*cough, cough, [e]), they appreciate the artistry and time that they put into their work. With three years between projects, it was likely that they were going to give us something really good and, thankfully, they went above and beyond.
We would warn anybody coming into this looking for more of a Shoebox sound, you’re not going to get it. With the exception of No Thanxxx, this is not the bright and more pop-laden sound of that last album…but that’s not a bad thing. Anyone who has been with the group since the beginning know that they have gone through some interesting things both personally and musically. Epik High has never been afraid of experimentation (for better or worse), but this is very much a return to form while still evolving in terms of genre inclusion and flow. This is definitely more introspective in terms of lyrics and the slower, darker tone reflects that mindset. It’s no coincidence that we were reminded of their first few albums, most especially Map Of The Human Soul as this album was delivered on the 14th anniversary of the group’s debut.
The things about them as a unit is that they are three old school hip-hop fans who are also still very much into the newer styles that have emerged since their favorite subgenre of hip-hop had its heyday. Because of that, you get an interesting balance between the what is the group’s primary style and the features that have a much more modern sound to them. You would think that this would come off as chaos at times, but it always cohesive and the entire project flows well from beginning to end. Even the inclusion of the completely English Here Come The Regrets doesn’t give you whiplash and fits seamlessly into the project without breaking momentum.
Of course, lyrically, this album is solid. Tablo and Mithra Jin are very much about their lyricism and they did not slack off here. He were grateful to have the translations of pop!gasa for this album instead of having to rely on our limited understanding of Korean language as it gives us more of an understanding of some of the wordplay (which, oddly enough, works in both English and Korean at times) and the depth of the story being told here. Considering the content, it would have been easy for this to be an entirely morose album that depended on the lyricism alone to keep it afloat, but they keep their flows tight and match their performances to the energy level required, which keeps the listener engaged and hanging on.
This is a great album from a group that has managed to survive some hard times. It makes you realize just why Epik High is one of the most highly regarded Korean hip-hop groups and makes you appreciate them all the more.
Our favorite tracks are Bleed, Here Come The Regrets, and No Thanxxx. The most skippable tracks are The Benefits Of Heartbreak and Munbae-Dong.