Epik High is finally back, after 3 years since their last album, ‘[e].’ After the single release of ‘It’s Cold,’ (that has been enjoying a high charting position since it’s release) fans new and old were eagerly anticipating Epik High’s return.
Epik High are known for their strong rapping skills and powerful, hard-hitting lyrics, so after their long break from the music scene, they certainly had a lot to live up to, especially in terms of what people expected from them.
‘99’ is definitely different to what a lot of people were expecting from Epik High, it’s an overall upbeat album, with an interesting mixture of different sounds and styles. Because of this, the album seems to have generated split opinions between the fans, however altogether ‘99’ appears to have been well received.
Track 1 – Up (ft. Park Bom from 2NE1)
This first track begins the album with an upbeat sound, and combined with the positive message in the lyrics, “No Hurricane, tornado can ever stop me… If you go up as high as you’ve fallen I’m never coming down.” ‘Up’ has a distinct feeling of optimism and inner-strength that kicks the album off to a flying start.
It was certainly an interesting choice to use Park Bom in this song, mostly because her vocals are suited to a much lower pitch. On the first listen, her singing sounded almost out of place with the instrumentals, however after becoming familiar with the song, Park Bom’s vocals give the song a light, soulful feeling and I found myself enjoying her parts far more than on my first listen. I think Park Bom’s vocals are either going to make or break this song for a lot of Epik High fans. Bom’s voice is very distinctive, but whether it fits this song is going to be down to personal taste.
‘Up’ has all the elements of a good song. Rapping from incredibly skilled and talented artists, vocals with a truly distinctive sound, along with inspiring lyrics that means ‘99’ begins with a really strong sound which hopefully new and old fans can enjoy.
Track 2 – Don’t Hate Me
Epik High chose ‘Don’t Hate Me’ as their title track, and with good reason! This is a catchy indie-rock love song with a twist. The lyrics describe how someone can bear the hatred of the entire world, as long as they have their one special person standing by them. The upbeat feeling of the song really suits the lyrics and the attitude of the song, and is what makes it one of my favourites from the album.
The song is reminiscent of 90s rock music, and I think that’s one of the best things about it. Amongst the current Kpop scene that is full of auto tune and heavy base synthesisers, ‘Don’t Hate Me’ is a refreshing change.
The song’s melody works really well, and Tablo, despite being more of a rapper still manages to sing the chorus effectively, and the entire song is very well executed.
Track 3 – Wrong
The third song in ‘99’ has, similarly to the rest of the album, an upbeat melody and a catchy chorus. If as the listener you don’t speak Korean, you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Wrong’ is a positive song, however the lyrics are quite the opposite of cheerful, and instead tell the story of a complicated and unsuccessful relationship. The good thing about Epik High songs is that they’re never short of depth, and ‘Wrong’ is most definitely a song that many people will be able to relate to and understand. However, compared to the rest of the album I feel that this song was one of the weakest and somewhat forgettable.
Track 4 – It’s Cold (Featuring Lee Hi)
‘It’s Cold,’ the first song to be revealed from the album features the stunning vocals of Lee Hi, and it really gives the song an edge. Lee Hi’s expresses the emotions in the lyrics beautifully; and her voice fits really well with Tablo and Mithra’s rapping. A truly fantastic song that I feel makes the album just that bit better. Despite not being a ballad person, this song is easily my favourite from the album and also one of my favourite songs from Epik High’s entire discography.
Track 5 – You Don’t Deserve Her (Featuring Gaeko of Dynamic Duo)
Track 5, ‘You Don’t Deserve Her’ has an old-school hip-hop feel that contrasts quite a bit with the rest of the album in terms of style. The instrumentals don’t kick in until a good minute into the song, relying largely on the rapping and vocals of featuring artists Gaeko. This song has a very unique sound, and because of this it is one of the tracks that stands out in the album. Again, the rapping and vocals effectively convey the wistful emotions of the lyrics, whilst still retaining the upbeat theme that connects the album together.
Track 6 – Get Out The Way
This hard-hitting song has some truly awesome rapping, that fits brilliantly with the anger in the lyrics. Full of swearing and frustration, this is the one song on the album that has a similar sound to other Korean hip-hop songs that I have heard. It’s intense and powerful, and seriously catchy. If you weren’t already impressed with Tablo and Mithra’s rapping skills before now, this song should definitely show you why they deserve the respect they have.
Track 7 – The Bad Guy
‘The Bad Guy’ has a distinctive James Bond sound to it, face-paced and catchy, another solid song on the album. The lyrics portray the view of what seems to be an evil villain (aka ‘The Bad Guy’), which an interesting and definitely unique angle. The melody itself is good, Tablo, despite being more of a rapper than a singer still manages to deliver the chorus well. Overall I’d say this song is not one of the best from the album, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good – if this song was from another artist it would be greatly appreciated, but because the quality of Epik High’s music is so high, it means even strong songs such as this one don’t stand out as much.
Track 9 – Kill This Love
Another one of my favourites from the album, this song has all the great qualities that Epik High songs usually have, skilled rapping, a catchy melody and lyrics that are easy to identify with. Although all the songs in ‘99’ do stand alone, I feel that ‘Kill This Love’ definitely has the sound of this album, which gives it a familiar feeling, even with the first listen. It’s another solid song from Epik High.
Track 10 – New Beautiful
The final song on ’99,’ and the track that has some of my favourite lyrics from the album, ‘New Beautiful. A truly inspirational song, the lyrics are so uplifting and powerful, it makes it hard to think of this song as anything less than brilliant. The song itself is good, and the lyrics are one of the reasons that Epik High is loved so much; the ability to create inspiring songs that can speak to people regardless of culture. A great way to end the album, I think it proves to fans and critics alike that despite their long break from the music industry, Epik High are back and they’re just as amazing as before.
Overall album rating: 8/10