ALT this week takes a look at the much anticipated return of Epik High, two years to the day after 99, with their Shoebox album. Shoebox features guest appearances from a whole host of artists, including Map The Soul members Dok2 and MYK.
Shoebox features twelve tracks, ten of them featuring other artists, though all were written and composed by Epik High with contributions from some of their collaborators.
There are many convoluted explanations of the lyrics in Shoebox, many even more confusing than Tablo ever made his own lyrics. The aim of ALT’s review is not to explain any of the songs on Shoebox. It is important to know that you don’t have to understand Tablo/Epik High to enjoy them. There are translations of the songs available all over the internet, Tablo translated all the songs himself, but there is no shame in reading those translations and still not knowing the message. Epik High is about evoking a feeling, whether it be happiness, sadness, comfort, any number of emotions. Understanding the feelings within Shoebox is far more satisfying that simply knowing what the group means through their lyrics.
The highlight of the album comes in the form of Spoiler, the emotion in this track hits you square in the heart. It is this emotional impact that makes Spoiler on of the strongest tracks of Shoebox. You can hear the sadness the spoilers of life cause, and the struggle that knowing your fate causes.
The ending of the Spoiler mv features a section of Happen Ending. Happen Ending sounds an unusual title, but comes from the sound play of happen sounding similar to happy, which is used in the track. It is also the sound of 헤픈 from the base adjective 헤프다, meaning wasteful. Continuing Spoiler’s themes you begin to feel the trudge to the inevitable Happen Ending.
Amor Fati featuring Kim Jong Wan of indie group Nell holds similar themes of fate, Amor Fati meaning love of fate, or the love of one’s fate. The suggestion and feeling being that you embrace your fate.
Tablo said of Amor Fati
I wrote ‘Amor Fati’ for people who are mistreated because they were born the way they are.
In fact, every song I’ve written in my life has been for people who are mistreated because they are who they are and love who they love
Lesson 5 does follow previous Lesson tracks from the group, and this is no different in its aim and confirms that understanding Epik High isn’t the be all and end all, they have no answers, only opinion and feeling that you should feel yourself. Lesson 5 features old Map The Soul family member, Dok2.
Popular pre-release track, Born Hater, is written by all its contributors: Beenzino, Verbal Jint, Mino, Bobby and B.I, though was composed by DJ Tukutz and B.I.
Another fate themed track you couldn’t get a better showcase of some of raps big hitters alongside the new kids on the block.
There are two tracks featuring BIGBANG’s Taeyang on the album, Rich and Tablo’s remake of Eyes, Nose, Lips, both featuring the smooth R&B vocals of Taeyang to contrast the harsher rap tones of Tablo and Mithra Jin.
Featuring Yankie and Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko, Burj Khalifia is named after a skyscraper in Dubai (UAE), the tallest manmade structure in the world, and that explains far more about the track than anything else.
Younha returns to work with Epik High once more for We Fight Ourselves after being gifted the track Umbrella for her 10th anniversary, a track she recorded with the trio back in 08.
Life Is Good was written by Tablo, but feels specifically written to a Jay Park styling, making it sit a little left of field on Shoebox.
Shoebox ends with a track of the same name, a true Epik High/Map The Soul family track, featuring MYK, long considered an honorary Epik High member. Shoebox is a fitting, soothing end to the album, and much like MYK’s Hats the use of something so simple to explain emotion is clear in the vocals.
Shoebox’s reoccurring theme of fate, and deep emotion cement the idea that your ability to feel emotions is a fate you cannot escape, thus it is the feeling of Shoebox that is most important.
Shoebox is a brilliant showcase of the scope of Korean hip hop. With the whole album filled with emotion there should be a track for everyone, and you'll be hard pushed to not connect with the feelings portrayed