Suran can be considered one of the hottest female featuring artist in the Korean hip hop scene at the moment. Her charming voice makes her an appealing choice for many rappers wanting to bring out the soulful or groovier side to their music. She has featured in Zico’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Mad Clown’s “Love Is A Dog From Hell,” and Primary’s “Mannequin,” among many other songs. Her vocals are reminiscent of Heize’s groovy R&B style at times, but also possessing a huskiness resembling Lee Jin-ah (though of course less bubbly). The product is a flavour characterised by Suran’s slightly strained airiness to her tone.

This time round, we are lucky to savour Suran’s first mini album, Walkin’. Suran manages to satisfy with a freshness despite the short tracklist. With only five songs on the album, Suran does not fail to please. Just by looking at the artistes’ names that appear alongside her own, we know the album will impress.

The title track “1+1=0” is an upbeat track featuring Dean. A collaboration between two unique R&B vocals is bound to build anticipation – which the track delivers with its tangy melody. The song begins with a rhythm that sweeps one away with its grooviness. Probably most captivating in its chorus as Suran stretches out the lyrics, she plays with the tune like a truly skilled R&B singer.

The track has a hint of playfulness as well that shines through the MV, with its use of bright colours and an animation interjected within. Suran’s range of music style clearly broadens beyond just the emotional and soulful, incorporating a funkiness into a tune like “1+1=0.” The comic caricature of a young office worker’s mundane and routine life becomes a criticism of the work machine that churns on at the expense of youth and its vigour.

Dean revealed in the making film of “1+1=0” that the title itself is a reflection of how many Koreans are preoccupied with work these days. “Work” and “1” are pronounced in the same way in Korean. Consequently, being overly tied down by work leaves little time for individuals to channel into other areas. The result is an unfulfilling life, hence explaining how adding 1 to 1 results in nothing. The witty title is the cherry on top of a well-crafted and charming song. The lighthearted track then advocates for a balance in life, hollering for listeners to take a break from their work and just chill.

Following the title track is “Wine,” which is produced by BTS’s Suga. The producer’s name catches the eye immediately, though it is not the first time the two has collaborated. Suran previously featured in Suga’s “So Far Away,” on his solo mixtape Agust D. “Wine” adds diversity to the mini album as it deviates from tracks like “Walking” and “Loss” which are a melding of jazzier beats with a soothing ballad melody. “Wine” has a musing backing beat track that is not entirely melancholic, nor can it be considered upbeat. Matching the song’s content perfectly, this track delivers a drunken pensiveness. The tinge of loneliness carried through the lyrics comes as a soft blow:

I’m drunk with you
I’m drunk with this night
In the memories of you being cruel
I’m wandering through those memories, looking for you

Perhaps the most interesting song of the album would be the last song, “Do It,” featuring Swings. It was unexpected to find Swings collaborating with Suran simply because of the vastly different music styles they seem to have. Yet, “Do It” is a deeply honest and encouraging track. The song does not try to pull any funky melodies into play. Rather, it has a fairly simple melody layered over by Suran’s singing, which she mellows down from her usual vocal style.

Despite the simplicity of the track, it affects because of the message it is trying to deliver. It is a song that speaks of personal struggle and gratitude for those who have stuck through the tough times together. Even Swings’s rap strips away his tough image for a moment as he expresses the pain of growing up. Coupled with his words of encouragement for listeners to have courage in facing the obstacles in life and to love themselves, Swings and Suran complement each other beautifully in this tune.

The final track ties back well to the first track, “Walking,” which offers an assurance to continue walking forward despite being alone. It speaks of the need to move on, an inevitable and necessary part of life. It is comforting as much as it is sincere:

I’m just walking walking
don’t worry I’m fine
going going
keep going I’m fine

As much as it is Suran speaking to herself and pushing herself to go on, it also offers listeners a solidarity in knowing that he or she is not alone in his struggles to carry on.

However, the appeal of Suran’s unique vocals does not end in her digital tracks or albums. As much as her album accentuates the peculiarity and charms of her voice, to fully appreciate her talent would require witnessing her singing live. The beauty of such a malleable voice like hers promises live performances that are truly one of a kind.

She created yet another breathtaking performance when she sang “Wine” on Dingo Music. With the melody stripped bare to only a keyboard in the background, her voice is further accentuated in this version. But this is not the first time her live performance has been well-received. Her short appearance on Show Me The Money 5 in the semi-finals as part of Xitsuh‘s “AND” captured the hearts of producers Simon Dominic and Gray.

The mini album is short, but it offers a moving narrative for the listener. “Walking” relates the perseverance of someone trudging forward towards her dreams, while songs like “1+1=0” and “Do It” are words of encouragement to the young. Suran’s album is a hopeful one, but also raw and assuring in speaking about a variety of experiences. From remembering love to describing loss and affection, we get a taste of each from “Loss” and “Wine.” A stellar compilation for her first mini album, it enraptures listeners within the musing realm of her music. It is no wonder she is much sought after in the Korean hip hop scene.

Rating: 4.6/5

(Genius, KLyrics, YouTube [1][2][3][4][5][6]. Images via Million Market, Mnet, 1theK)