Kang Gary is one half of the hip hop duo LeeSsang and many will also know him as a cast member of the fast-paced variety show ‘Running Man’. On the weekly programme, he is known for his somewhat unintelligent yet often very capable character, as well as his loyalty to and strong love-line with fellow runner and actress Song Jihyo. Within his music though, Gary presents an incredibly cool and slick image. Many we’re excited to see what Gary would present and how he would fare in this, his first solo mini album.

1. “ZOTTO MOLA” (XX몰라)

When looking at the hangul, we see that the characters for “zotto” are censored with an “XX” because it is a Korean swear word (we also saw this in G-Dragon’s “That XX”, of course). “Zotto Mola” can be taken to mean something along the lines of “You don’t f**king know” or “You don’t know s**t”. This powerful title shows the pain Gary feels.

When looking at the lyrics, this strong statement can be seen as directed to a woman who does not know his love for them. This song is beautiful in the anger and frustration it shows.

Gary raps about the how committed he is to this girl and how he wants to be by her side no matter what. He mentions that any other love interest in this woman’s life will be “half-dead”. However, Gary is quick to apologise after any of the harsh or inappropriate statements are said, which shows his softness towards the woman. He acknowledges that he can come on too strong with his feelings and that it can sometimes shock her.

The black and white MV involves Gary standing in a big, glass tube as it slowly fills with water. This simple concept can be said to show how overwhelmed Gary feels in this situation and how vulnerable he is here. This image continues right up until the end of the song, when Gary becomes completely submerged by the water.

The flow of his rap is almost conversational and really makes you feel as though he is laying himself bare and addressing the woman he loves directly. It is a very relaxed, but very solemn and painful song. It has been given a 19+ rating due to the profanity used.

Check out the MV below:

2. “Shower Later” (조금 이따 샤워) ft. Crush

This is the second song to be made into an MV from this album, which was also slapped with a 19+ rating immediately, but this time for the topic it covers. The track is all about telling a woman to shower later after making love so two can lie there and be together some more. The rest of the lyrics go into a fair amount of detail about whenever the couple have sex and all the feelings this brings about. The MV involves a lot of scantily clad women carrying out lots of the cliché pseudo-sexual activities – including using jack hammers, licking long lolly pops, filling a car with petrol and becoming completely drenched by open fire hydrant. Yes, the reasons behind the censorship are all too clear now.

Whilst, the video is gaudy, over the top and painfully obvious in its nature, I think the song itself is actually quite beautiful. Even though the subject matter is quite taboo, one can really feel that this song is about a couple who are in love and want to celebrate everything physical about each other. Gary offers compliments to the woman in question, acknowledging that she may still be shy during times of intimacy between them, but reassuring her that there is no reason to be. Personally, I feel the MV cheapens the song’s message a lot and it is a shame that this was the path chosen to go down, as many will now be far too occupied or put off by the imagery to really appreciate this song for what it is.

Crush’s voice is absolutely wonderful and smooth here, and it really compliments Gary’s slightly deeper rap vocal. It is a very jazzy and quite chilled

Here is the MV:

3. “Drunken Night Tune” (술 취한 밤의 노) ft. Jung In

This is another very deep song. Gary raps about having a good life now after a past full of trials a tribulations, he now has money and fame when he used to struggle to make ends meet. Every now and again though, he still feels depressed for no reason and still feels down and frustrated. He talks about drinking himself into oblivion when he gets like this, about going out and dancing and stumbling home many times. He contemplates the idea that, even though you can have all the success and money in the world, you can still have times where you feel empty. He laughs at himself, as if in incredulity that he can still feel this way. He suggests that you have to sometimes go through hardships to understand this world.

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Jung In really shows what she is made of in this song, she is passionate and gives out a slightly unhinged vibe in her vocals. She echoes Gary’s sentiment that life is sometimes bad, and all she has left to do is sing. It sounds as though she is losing her mind and has nothing left to lose. This makes for really amazing singing where you can feel she isn’t holding anything back.

When I first heard this song, the tune reminded me of either a performance at a cabaret club or a circus. This makes more sense when you consider the subject matter involves how confusing and overwhelming life can be sometimes, as well as Gary’s statement that his life as a rapper means:

“…I live selling my emotions anyway. A life full of hardships, experiences, flirts and sex help me out. They all eventually become songs – it’s the most fun gamble.”

4. “MR.GAE” ft. Juvie Train, Kye Bum Joo

For all of you fluent Korean speakers and those learning the Korean language out there, you won’t need me to tell you that “gae” is the Korean word for dog. In this song, Gary is saying that he will become a dog as he goes crazy and parties all night long. It is quite a typical message for many songs in that it is about letting yourself go and not caring about the world around you, but there seems to be a deeper message present yet again. Kye Bum Joo croons about finding a “Venus” in the Milky Way, perhaps this could mean the search for a woman. This could be taken in the sense that, when men go out, they might wish to find a woman on a superficial basis, but the way it is expressed so sweetly in Bum Joo’s vocals makes me think otherwise. Admittedly, Juvie Train’s gritty rap style brings the song back into the more party-like vein, as he raps about Jager bomb drinks and the like. Personally, however, I can’t help but feel that, whilst this is indeed a thumping club track, there is a sense of longing present.

Something that will also delight many ‘Running Man’ fans that are shippers of the ‘Monday couple’ is Gary’s line: “If you want, we can be a couple, ‘cept for just one day – Monday“. Once again, he shows his loyalty to his on-screen love-line Jihyo.

I noted that the voice distortion effects used in this song are the basically the same as those used in G-Dragon’s song R.O.D (Feat. Lydia Paek) in that they are very deep. The song has a very dynamic dubstep breakdown too, which makes it quite heavy. This song is for anyone that is a fan of hip hop that really means business, but also the people who like a song with a thick beat.

5. “ZOTTO MOLA” (Instrumental)

6. “MR.GAE” (Instrumental)

Overall

Those who are only really familiar with Gary from ‘Running Man’ might be a little bit shocked by this mini album, however, those who are already a fan of LeeSsang will know that he has never shied away from confronting difficult topics and exposing his raw emotions. I really feel Gary’s ability to articulate such difficult subject matter so eloquently and beautifully  is a great strength in his work. This mini album is certainly not for the faint-hearted, as it is full of swearing, sex and partying, but it never seems like this subject matter is tackled simply to be edgy or just to sell records. Gary is laying his heart bare for all to see and his skill and credibility as a rapper has surely only gone up as a result.

My only small gripe with this collection of work is that Gary hardly ever takes centre stage in the songs in which he is collaborating with other artists. It almost feels like these songs are ‘*artist’s name* ft. Gary’ rather than the other way around. Having said this though, I suppose it shows his passion for the music he produces over the inflation of his own ego.

I would recommend this mini album to any K-Pop fan that is not previously too familiar with the Korean hip hop genre, but also someone who isn’t going to be too put off by Gary’s brutal honesty.

UK Potential – 3/5: I can see that this mini album has the potential to do quite well in the UK. The persona that Gary puts across is very cool and uncaring and many of the tracks have an irresistible beat and chorus to go with them. However, I’m not sure that Gary has the right amount of ‘unusualness’ or novelty to break through on the UK market initially.

What are your opinions on this mini album or this review?
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