Tag Archives: music video

A complete and thorough guide to BTS’s ‘오,늘’ Exhibition

BTS’s 2018 exhibition, ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ at Ara Art Center in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Sunday was an emotional rollercoaster.

After getting my phone stolen on Saturday night, I spent the morning checking in at the police station (2 hours), trying to dance away my pain in the studio (2 hours), then navigating the task of buying and activating a new phone (1.5 hours).

Finally, it was time to see my spot of brightness in this dreary world: the seven boys of BTS. Using a map the police had graciously drawn for me on a Post-it, I found my way to the ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ exhibition at Ara Art Center. But the adventure didn’t end there! Without a phone to show my booking confirmation, I had to beg and plead to be let into the exhibit.

When the staff eventually took pity on me and allowed me to enter, they told me not to worry about the phone and “just enjoy your BTS!”

Honestly, what would we do without them?

“Past the end of this cold winter / Until the spring comes again / Until the flowers bloom again / Stay there a little longer,” soothes BTS in 2017’s “Spring Day.” SCREAMfmLondon

Guides are available in multiple languages to help visitors work their way through the ambitious, four-floor exhibit. On the first page of the guide is a romantic inscription: “In the middle of this vast ocean / I sing for someone who will listen to my voice / In the middle of this vast ocean / I hear a song that comforts me / A story we build together, you and I.”

The first rooms, entitled “BTS BEGINS” and “DOPE,” feature golden discs engraved to depict each member’s unique personality and then some beautiful portraits of the beautiful boys themselves.

Jimin, Jin and J-Hope as seen in the “DOPE” room at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Next comes the “MIC Drop” room, which contains photos of BTS’s significant wins on award shows, from their first Korean music shows to recent achievements abroad like the Billboard Music Awards.

The “MIC Drop” room at BTS’s ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

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Then a mirrored hallway leads you to “Young Forever,” one of many rooms filled with never-before-seen photos of BTS throughout the years. You’re not supposed to take pictures in there, so I didn’t, but other people definitely did, so I’m sure they’re all online somewhere by now.

This is one of the most crowded rooms, and it’s hot in there, too. In here, I felt like the chaperone of a school field trip, peering over the shoulders of young fans all giggling over how cute Jimin is in the pictures (which he is, of course).

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Next up is the “BANGTAN ROOM,” partially made up to look like the boys’ old studio spaces with computer monitors, equipment, polaroid photos and other personal touches.

Computer monitors looping through old videos in the “BANGTAN ROOM” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

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I tried so hard to take a picture of Namjoon’s cute little “Give Up” tomato sculpture lamps from behind the glass, but the glare was too real.

These little lamps were created by Case Studyo based on Dutch artist Parra’s original fiberglass sculpture “Give Up.” I love them, and I love Namjoon’s aesthetic, and I love Namjoon. SCREAMfmLondon

Lyrics from BTS’s “Whalien 52.” SCREAMfmLondon

This nearly wraps up the first floor of the exhibit. The next stop is “We On,” which is absolutely one of the coolest parts of the whole thing, bringing to life several of BTS’s most memorable music videos and allowing fans to step into the sets and be a part of their worlds.First comes the set from “I Need U,” featuring the bathtub scene where we see Jimin in the video, as well as some doodles added by the boys upon their visit to the exhibit.

Jimin in “I Need U.” Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The “I Need U” set at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Namjoon drawing his BT21 character Koya on the bathroom walls at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

Then there’s me! SCREAMfmLondon

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Across from this are the blue train cars also featured in “I Need U.”

BTS in “I Need U.” Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The “I Need U” set at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The next set is from the “Spring Day” music video: the Omelas hotel, a reference to Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” about a utopian city named Omelas that is in a perpetual state of happiness as long as one child is kept in constant misery.

Yoongi, Namjoon and J-Hope in the “Spring Day” music video. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The “Spring Day” set at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

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Then comes the Magic Shop, a set from BTS’s “Fake Love” teaser. Here, you can exchange your fears for something positive.

Yoongi visits the Magic Shop in the “Fake Love” teaser. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The Magic Shop at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

I have an animated discussion with the keeper of the Magic Shop at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The final music video set in this section of the exhibit is from “MIC Drop,” but this room has some cool video and audio elements, so you’re not allowed to take pictures.Across the hall, there is another room of unreleased pictures (this one called “Spring Day”), which leads into “Love Maze.” “Love Maze” is a literal maze of mirrors, some of which have been autographed by the members of BTS. I completely neglected this part, though, because the other rooms on this floor are so cool. Which brings me to…

The next room  — another amazing highlight of the exhibition: “Tear,” a room filled with flatscreen TVs showing never-before-seen dance practice videos! Again, no photos or videos were allowed, so I just took my time taking in the videos that spanned the years of BTS’s existence.

The second floor concludes with the “ARMY BOMB” room, which houses the fence as seen in BTS’s “FIRE” music video. On the wall, there is a video projection of the band from a concert on the 2017 Wings Tour, and fans feel as if they are standing inside in the official lightstick itself.

The first room on the third floor of the exhibition is “Whalien 52,” the blacklight paint-splattered set from J-Hope’s “MAMA” scene in the Wings short films.

J-Hope in BTS’s Wings short film “MAMA.” Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

J-Hope and Jungkook take photos inside the “Whalien 52” room at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

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Then there’s me! SCREAMfmLondon

Around the corner is the “House of MASKs,” showcasing the masks worn in the “Fake Love” music video and featured in Taehyung’s “Love Yourself: Tear” comeback trailer, “Singularity.”

The “House of MASKs” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The next room, “DNA,” presents several of BTS’s most popular song lyrics in artistic formats that cover all of the room’s white surfaces.

The lyrics to BTS’s “Magic Shop” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The lyrics to BTS’s “MIC Drop” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Following this is another great highlight of the exhibition: “If I Ruled the World,” a room displaying costumes the BTS members have worn in different music videos as well as representative gas masks the boys designed to go along with the outfits.

The “If I Ruled the World” room at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Jin’s costume from the “Blood Sweat & Tears” music video at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

J-Hope’s costume from the “MIC Drop” music video at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Yoongi’s “Not Today” costume and Jungkook’s “DNA” costume at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

A closer look at Yoongi’s crushed velvet gas mask. SCREAMfmLondon

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Taehyung’s “Run” costume at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

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A hallway full of videos entitled “Tomorrow” leads the way to the next and final floor of the exhibition.

First up: another room of unreleased photos (these ones from live performances) called “Wings.” In the center of this room sits the phone booth prop that Namjoon used in his Wings short film “Reflection,” as well as onstage during the tour. The booth is covered in quite a lot of cryptic writing and poetry, so it was thrilling to finally have the chance to inspect it up close.

The fourth floor also features some polaroid photos of the boys in a room called “RUN” and a room of kind of Harry Potter-style moving portraits called “Blood Sweat & Tears.” I wish they’d let us take pictures in this room because Namjoon’s portrait was peak cuteness, and I still dream of it at night.

Finally, fans are invited to write down their feelings on the exhibit in the ARMY capsule in a room called “IDOL.” Overwhelmed, I just wrote down my feelings honestly (they were: “Namjoon is cute!!”) and exited through the gift shop.

The layout of the BTS exhibition at the Ara Art Center. SCREAMfmLondon

And there you have it: a room-by-room, thorough and detailed account of BTS’s ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ exhibition. ARMY af.

2018 BTS Exhibition ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’
Ara Art Center
26, Insandong 9-gil, Jongno-gu
Tickets are 18,000 KRW.
The exhibition runs through October 28.
For more information, visit www.ticket.interpark.com.

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SMTown: Studio and dance class

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The studio on the fourth floor of SMTown at COEX Artium, guarded by Jonghyun. SCREAMfmLondon

SMTown Studio: Music Video, Photo, Recording, Hair & Makeup, Vocal, Dance, Dress

As you ascend to the top floors of SMTown at COEX Artium, the services become more deluxe. While you can purchase k-pop merchandise on the second floor, you can actually star in a k-pop music video on the third!

At the SMTown Studio, fans can be professionally styled with SM-approved costumes, hair and makeup; trained to create an audio recording of their favorite song; taught the corresponding dance moves; photographed and photoshopped to their hearts’ content; and filmed in a duplicate of their favorite music video. It honestly all looks like a ton of fun — especially if you have slight delusions of grandeur and a lot of money to blow.

The SMTown Studio packages range in price from about $30 (for a simple tour of the space and a commemorative photo) to $500 (for a two-hour video recording session). Most packages hover around the $100-200 range. A one-hour, one-on-one dance class costs about $100 (while a group class is around $80). A one-hour vocal training and recording session is $150, and it costs $200 (and, apparently, one and a half hours) to have your hair and makeup done.

I took a tour of the studio space that culminated in a one-hour dance class.

The tour begins at the makeup station, where marble tables are piled high with rows upon rows of blush, eye shadow, brushes and more. The walls are all covered with mirrors and “the best selfie lighting ever” (their words — not mine). I do not doubt, though, that SM Entertainment’s makeup artists could work some serious magic on us all with their superior beauty knowledge. It’s a tempting package, for sure.

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SMTown photo studio. SCREAMfmLondon

Behind the makeup station is the photo studio. It’s a pretty cavernous room decorated with yet-unreleased photos of SM artists for the guests to ogle. If you’re a fan of photoshoots, I’m sure this is a good one. I am not a fan of photoshoots, but they took a few photos of me anyway — and specified which way I should stand to make it easiest to photoshop.

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Some of TVXQ!’s costumes on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

My favorite stop on the tour is the wardrobe area. It’s a beautiful room full of costumes SM artists have worn onstage or at special events, all grouped by band and labeled with the individual members’ names. It was amazing to see these outfits up close and to examine all the details: every epaulette on SHINee’s jackets, every rhinestone on TVXQ!’s sleeves. Everything is so pristine, except for the scuff marks on the fabulous shoes. I loved it so much.

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The hard-working shoes of a k-pop star. SCREAMfmLondon

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SHINee’s outfits on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

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So much beautiful crushed velvet. SCREAMfmLondon

Next, we visited the vocal recording rooms. Allegedly, the rooms are really, really used by actual SM artists. This was emphasized many, many times during the tour. There are a number of different recording booths equipped with what is supposed to be the best, most advanced audio recording technology out there. I would not know the difference, so I’ll have to take their word for it.

From there, we journeyed through the hallways to the music video studio. The room is divided in two halves: EXO’s “Growl” on one side and Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” on the other.

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Music video set for EXO’s “Growl.” SCREAMfmLondon

This room was a little awkward for a few reasons. First, there were quite a few people sitting right in the middle of it doing some work on their computers while we’re just traipsing around, taking pictures of stuff.

Also, I happened to be there not long after Tao officially announced his departure from EXO and his subsequent lawsuit against SM Entertainment. It was a little too obvious that his name had been hastily painted over on a few of the walls while it still appeared on others. Awkward.

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Tao’s name hastily painted over at bottom right. SCREAMfmLondon

Once we departed from there, it was time for our dance lesson led by a professional SM choreographer. We stashed our belongings in fire engine red lockers that read “DREAMS COME TRUE” across the front and took our places to learn the dance for EXO’s song “Call Me Baby.”

The pace of the dance was very quick, but the instructor was patient and helpful. One hour was not enough time for any of us to master any of that, but we worked hard, and it was a blast. It seemed to go by very quickly, especially since a lot of time was taken when cameramen came in to record our practice and interview a few of us (including me, for some horrifying reason) about our interest in k-pop.

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Inside the SMTown dance studio. SCREAMfmLondon

It was a great class, though, and I was sad to leave. I could definitely imagine spending hours every day trying to perfect those dance moves, if I only could afford it.

The SMTown Studio experience was an interesting one. To be honest, the studio tour is a little boring and doesn’t offer much beyond selfie ops (and not very spectacular ones at that). I would recommend heading straight for your area of interest (singing, dancing, fashion) to maximize your enjoyment of the studio.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Café here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s 3D printing theater here.

Live: Big Bang at Olympic Gymnastics Arena

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Fans arrive at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena to see Big Bang’s first concert of the 2015 MADE World Tour on April 25. SCREAMfmLondon

Approaching Olympic Park in Seoul this weekend was like arriving in Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. The expansive sidewalks were lined with banners billowing in the wind — each one depicting a member of the five-piece K-pop group Big Bang sporting a ridiculous hairstyle. Above them floated giant, luminescent balloons displaying phrases like “빅뱅 IS BACK.” It was magical.

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Big Bang’s official light sticks are so cool until you’re trying to see around them in the crowd. SCREAMfmLondon

The moment had finally arrived for Big Bang’s much-anticipated comeback after about three years of the members focusing on solo work and not releasing any new group material. The momentous occasion was marked with two consecutive concerts at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena on April 25 and 26 — and I attended them both.

The MADE 2015 World Tour dates in Seoul served to usher in a new era for the band. Here’s the plan: Big Bang will release an EP on the first day of each month from May to September of this year (“M,” “A,” “D” and “E”). Each EP will feature two new singles — until September, when the full-length studio album “Made” will finally be released. It’s kind of complicated. I love it.

The first two songs — due to be released May 1 — were introduced at this weekend’s concerts. And they are both killer tracks.

The group presented “Loser” first by screening the official music video, which was filmed just a few weeks ago in downtown Los Angeles. One scene shows G-Dragon sprawling out despondently across Spring Street as the ol’ Metro Rapid lumbers past. Truly a merging of my favorite worlds.

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T.O.P rocking that hairstyle like only he can. SCREAMfmLondon

The video is exactly the kind of music video I love — a classic strung-out, rock ‘n roll aesthetic to match the song’s maudlin theme. Taeyang spray paints messages about sin at a trailer park, Seungri smashes some furniture, Daesung gets his ass kicked out front of a convenience store, T.O.P wears his pajamas outside. It’s perfect, and it perfectly matches the song’s gorgeous lyrics. In the first verse, G-Dragon admits, “Honestly, I’ve never fit in… / Love was already forgotten to me, who was alone. / I’ve had enough of hopeful love songs.”

After screening the video, the band reappeared onstage in a revolving platform of windows and mirrors to perform the song live for the first time. In fact, they performed each of the new songs about three or four times each (if you count some of the a capella bits) both nights, which sounds like it would be annoying but was actually wonderful and super effective in harnessing the excitement for the first EP release. Now I don’t want to listen to anything else. ‘Cause I’m just a loser, loner, a coward who pretends to be strong~

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Seungri in the foreground with T.O.P on the big screen. SCREAMfmLondon

During the live performance, Seungri really sold “Loser,” carrying the chorus and adding emotional flourishes to his act. Seungri’s overall performances really stood out at both of the Seoul concerts. In between “How Gee” and “Feeling,” he appeared onstage with a set of turntables to try his hand at DJing, which was a cool way to introduce yet another style of music to Big Bang’s already eclectic repertoire. Seungri was terribly affable and charming during all of his spoken interludes too, but the real highlight was the unexpectedly sexy dance he delivered during “Strong Baby.” Also, his is the only 2015 Big Bang makeover that doesn’t look kinda stupid.

At the midpoint of the band’s three-hour long concerts, each member took the stage solo to show off their individual strengths.

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G-Dragon, Seungri and Daesung perform in Seoul on April 26. SCREAMfmLondon

T.O.P made an impression with his intense rendition of “Doom Dada” in a Piet Mondrian-print suit. Definitely in the running for best wardrobe change, but slightly edged out by G-Dragon in calf-length fur, combat boots and gold, glittery jackets for his “Good Boy” duet with Taeyang and solo performance of “Crooked.” G-Dragon is an incredible artist, and it’s pretty awe-inspiring to be in his presence while he’s doing his thing. What a joy it is to be in the same universe, the same country, the same room as Kwon Ji-yong.

Following G-Dragon’s solo, the band premiered its second new song, “Bae Bae,” with a lyric video followed again by a live performance. “Bae Bae” is another brilliant track — so different in tone from “Loser” but nonetheless cohesive. It’s a more seductive, R&B-style track with a mellow, guitar-driven chorus. G-Dragon and T.O.P both deliver killer verses (GD’s intonation on each repetition of “bae bae” is so perfect — I don’t know how he does it). My favorite line is GD’s “Is she a person or an angel? / Oh, Jesus, bae bae!”

There was never a low point at either of Big Bang’s two Seoul concerts this weekend. Both shows were exceptional from beginning to end.

For two days, I had the pleasure of spending three uninterrupted hours watching pop music at its absolute best. It’s truly a sight to behold. I feel like I have seen a lot of things, but I have never seen anything like Big Bang. Onstage, they bare it all: the dedication and work ethic, the unique talents of each member, the genuine enjoyment of the craft, the fun-loving energy, the limitless creativity, the catchiest hooks of “Fantastic Baby” and “Stupid Liar,” the powerful range of “Blue” and “Bad Boy,” the outfits, the dancing, the special effects, the thought put into every moment.

You may have seen a lot of things, but you have never seen anything like Big Bang.

The ten best One Direction songs (according to me)

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Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik. Photo courtesy of Columbia Records, Syco Music and Sony Music.

The passing of another November means that it has officially been one year since my inaugural One Direction post, and the time for another is upon us. Rather than inflict another 1,000-word review of “Four” on the world (we all know I’d do it), I have decided to use my expertise and wisdom to compile a list of the all-time best One Direction songs. I have effectively ranked every single one of them (what did you do with your day?), but here I will share only my top ten:

  1. “Fireproof”

Released as a free download this September in anticipation of “Four,” “Fireproof” is a chill guitar-driven love song that gave me high hopes for the rest of the record. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be the best song on the record. Louis Tomlinson’s usually reedy voice lends itself extremely well to this song, and his verse is the best part: “I think I’m gonna win this time, / I roll and I roll ‘till I change my luck.” “Fireproof” is mature and romantic — a strong collaboration between Louis, Liam Payne and longtime songwriting partners Jamie Scott, John Ryan and Julian Bunetta.

  1. “Strong”

One of the most musically unconventional and experimental One Direction songs. The lyrics are simple, passionate and vulnerable with solid songwriting contributions (again) from Louis. Love the soft, understated rhythm of the verses — particularly the first two, which utilize Zayn Malik and Liam’s vocal talents well. Is that so wrong? Is it so wrong that you make me strong?

  1. “Teenage Dirtbag”

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    I can’t take a picture to save my life. If you squint: Niall at the Rose Bowl in September. SCREAMfmLondon

This is a cover, and One Direction never actually recorded a studio version, so it probably doesn’t belong on the list. But it’s just so damn superb. It’s worth it to sift through the numerous live versions of this Wheatus cover to find one you can hear over the screaming crowds. There are so many things to love: Liam’s falsetto, Zayn’s immense high notes, Harry Styles’ attitude and Niall Horan’s playfully roguish verse and guitar work. One Direction takes this pop-punk jam to the next level of mischievous teenage rebelliousness, and it’s awesome.

  1. “Heart Attack”

Just a generally fun, upbeat track from 2012’s “Take Me Home.” Nothing too complex about this one: the highlights are Niall’s punctuating “OW!”s that kick off every chorus. “Heart Attack” is a well-executed pop track that’ll get you pumped up and on the dance floor despite your broken heart.

  1. “Best Song Ever”

It is a good one. It’s at least the best nonsensical pop song on “Midnight Memories.” The best part is Harry’s verse: “Said her name was Georgia Rose, / And her daddy was a dentist. / Said I had a dirty mouth, / But she kissed me like she meant it.” And the accompanying music video is a work of art with Zayn in drag and the closest One Direction has ever come to a choreographed dance routine.

  1. “Tell Me a Lie”

No one was expecting “Tell Me a Lie” to crack the top five, right? I might be alone in my zealous love for this song, but it’s really great. The track was wise beyond its years when One Direction recorded it for their debut album, “Up All Night.” It comes across as emotional, earnest and experienced, which is unusual for a One Direction song. Kelly Clarkson is actually one of the songwriters, and that resoundingly sad-yet-upbeat chorus really gets to you: “If he’s the reason that you’re leaving me tonight, / Spare me what you think, and / Tell me a lie.”

  1. “What Makes You Beautiful”

Iconic. Where would we be without “What Makes You Beautiful”? It’s One Direction’s 2011 breakout hit, and it still holds up today. I hate the message, but this song sucks you in. What a jam. If you have a room full of people younger than 30, “What Makes You Beautiful” will never fail to get the party started.

  1. “She’s Not Afraid”

    Louis, Zayn and Liam at the Rose Bowl in September. SCREAMfmLondon

    Louis, Zayn and Liam at the Rose Bowl in September. SCREAMfmLondon

An underrated bonus track from the deluxe edition of “Take Me Home.” “She’s Not Afraid” is a slick pop track with an edgier twist, describing the girl who “sneaks out in the middle of the night, / tight dress with the top cut low. / She’s addicted to the feeling of letting go,” but she won’t commit to a relationship (or even being seen in public with you). It’s one of One Direction’s sexiest songs, and it’s very good.

  1. “Kiss You”

This is One Direction at the pinnacle of their boybandom: it is cutesy modern pop perfected. Flawless sound production, immensely catchy verses and an incredibly endearing music video. It’s just irresistibly charming. This is what they were chosen to do, and they do it impeccably on “Kiss You.”

  1. “Happily”

Such an impressive song. “Happily” so amazingly captures the passion and desperation of young love. It makes me wish I was 16, running away from home to be with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks against all odds. With a raw, folksy rhythm to back up an emotional chorus (“I don’t care what people say when we’re together!”), “Happily” is hands-down one of One Direction’s strongest songs.

Album review: Epik High, ‘Shoebox’

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Photo courtesy of YG Entertainment.

“Shoebox” is Epik High’s eighth studio album since its inception in 2003. The trio, comprised of Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz, returned from serving their mandatory years in the military to release “99” (a nod to the 99 percent) in 2012. Which isn’t that great of an album. “Shoebox,” on the other hand, is a real return to form for the killer alternative rap group.

So, let’s talk about “Born Hater.”

“Born Hater” is a masterpiece. (“Dali, Van, Picasso, / I’m Velazquez, Millet, El fuckin’ Greco,” as Tablo puts it.) The song features powerful rappers from three different generations of Korean rap: the well-established Verbal Jint, the second generation Beenzino, and the up-and-coming B.I., Mino and Bobby. Mino, a rapper from the boyband WINNER, has a standout verse about the criticism he’s drawn for being signed to the YG Entertainment label.

The song’s accompanying vertical music video uses the Seven Deadly Sins as a theme, and it’s all brilliant. “Born Hater” is a much-hyped song, but it’s totally worthy of all the praise. It’s a sick, stripped-down rap jam in its rawest form.

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Epik High’s “Shoebox.” Photo courtesy of YG Entertainment.

The whole album gives off a vibe reminiscent of the authenticity and awareness of early ‘90s hip-hop with a modern, cutting-edge twist. The songs are substantial, touching on issues such as religion in “Amor Fati,” which opens with Tablo declaring “God doesn’t love me,” and contains the refrain “I believe in myself, / I believe in the sweat on my hands, / I believe in my heart, / I believe in love, / But they call me a non-believer.”

A few simpler, straight-up party jams include “Burj Khalifa” and “Life is Good.” The former features Yankie of TBNY and Gaeko of Dynamic Duo; it has a strong beat and name-drops a lot of drugs. What more do you need in a party anthem? Layered over this, a robotic female voice echoes, “My high is epic.”

As for the slower tracks, “Spoiler” is a gorgeous, broken-hearted ballad, and the cover of Taeyang’s “Eyes, Nose, Lips” is a fabulous spin on the original. Tablo really elevates the song: the Epik High version is significantly less drippy than Taeyang’s without losing the emotional impact and is, thereby, much better. The climax of the song comes toward the end, when Taeyang harmonizes with Tablo’s lower-pitched vocals, and it really brings the track together.

Taeyang (of Big Bang fame) is also featured on “Rich” and provides some uncredited background vocals for “Amor Fati.” “Rich” is another great track — a play on Wu-Tang Clan’s seminal “C.R.E.A.M.” In the song’s hook, Taeyang sings, “I wish, I wish, I wish I was rich. / My drive rules everything around me.”

There is so much variation on “Shoebox” and so many different featured artists, but it’s still such a cohesive album that reinforces Epik High’s place in hip-hop. Excellent release.

Epik High
Shoebox
Release Date: Oct. 21
Genre: Hip-hop, Rap
Grade: A-