When Alice curiously followed a rabbit down a hole, she had no idea what to expect on the other side. She merely wanted to know where this creature was going. The same could be said of MFBTY and their latest album Wondaland.
Hailed as the titans of Korean hip hop, these rabbits are not ones to be pigeonholed into a singular genre. They experiment with various themes for a journey into a world filled with aural delights. Incorporating multi-cultural influences into their sound, MFBTY leads the listener on an adventure with unpredictable twists and turns.
The intro starts off with a series of voices speaking over each other in copious languages. The gentle accompaniment of piano and guitar instrumentals can be heard behind the rustling babble. There is a layer of vinyl scratching underneath the voices that lends an organic texture to this track. It feels raw and gritty, setting us up for a global escapade with a theme of unity.
The next song, “Hello Happy,” is a bittersweet tune that bids farewell to sorrowful memories in lieu of happier ones. This song could be considered a continuation of “The Cure” as it encourages one to let go of a painful past.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGNqDses1OA?rel=0]
The lyrics encourage the listener to say “goodbye sadness, be on your way,” as they allow joy to encompass their future. It’s a very simple tune with a simple message. There is a gospel quality to it with layered vocals echoing over a piano background. This signals a sense of rejoicing a new beginning after enduring adversity.
Now the following track, called “Half Time,” should not be taken lightly as it’s about hooking up. This is where fans are quickly reminded of the strong love between Tiger JK and his wife Yoon Mi-rae. If anyone had any doubts about the strength of their union, this song should quiet the skeptics. It is a dance pop mix with the usual identifiers of synth and auto-tune that would pump up the crowd in any club.
“Bucku Bucku” is an eclectic cypher that combines the styles of MFBTY with Rap Monster of BTS, Dino-J, and EE. As expected of a cypher, there is loads of boasting and bravado from each of the rappers. Ironically, the rappers also keep mentioning their humility, reiterating the notion that even though they are skilled in their craft, they know better than to be conceited about their abilities. The trap beats are an ideal setting in this battle for the “shyest” rapper.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D95qPuVBHM?rel=0]
The love fest continues with “Love Fortune.” The lyrics address how there are times when one may want to hide her pain, but it’s okay to share both the sorrow and joy because that is the foundation for a solid relationship. The reggae beat provides a laid-back atmosphere that lulls the listener into a sense of calm. The same guitar chords play throughout the song, changing only a few times to symbolize the evolving progression of Tiger JK and Yoon Mi-rae’s relationship.
Hey mommy, you’re always in pain, hiding your tears
You’re tired but you pretend you’re not, listening to me all night
You’re struggling but you smile at me, you’re a Wonder Woman
But when I’m not there, you cry in secret
I saw you, you can cry in front of me now
If all of this lovey-dovey talk is giving you a toothache, then be prepared for “In Your Eyes.” This track is reminiscent of “Sweet Dreams” in that it contains vibrant club beats and a lot of auto-tuning. Musically, it’s not the best thing from MFBTY since you could hear this sound from any EDM album. Still, they have created a banger that correlates to the bubbly emotions one feels from experiencing love at first sight.
“Hollywho” switches up things with a jab at the dark side of entertainment. The group takes shots at those attempting to mold their persona through stereotypes. They make it clear that no efforts to change their image will control how they view themselves or their heritage.
Reinvention of the Charlie Chan
Holly Gangster parliament
Mickey Rooney politics
We all look alike to them
Map of our land mad Photoshopped up and chopped up
Dokdo got erased? Know dem lookin’ boy mock ups
There’s a nostaglic ’70s vibe to this song that embodies the spirit of the Shaft era. The chorus calls out “Hollywho” throughout the background, taunting their detractors. Dok2‘s inclusion on this track bolsters its appeal.
MFBTY doesn’t stray from their anthem of self-empowerment in “Rebel Music.” Yoon Mi-rae starts things off with a rant encouraging others to stand up to oppression in all its forms. She comes off like Lauren Hill in her delivery, spitting out her rhymes with a confident conviction. There is something perfectly grimy in this track that makes it a personal favorite. The bluesy guitar riffs combined with a reggae vibe offer a catchy tune that gives an idyllic setting for an uprising.
This brings us to the next song, “Bang Diggy Bang Bang.” Listeners are transported to the lands of South Asia with the track’s Desi influence. This is fusion at its best, as the lyrics celebrate the union of different cultures. Extra points for incorporating the members’ names into the chorus for branding power.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgXnz56LwXg?rel=0]
“Fart Dance” stands out for its sheer cuteness, which is understandable since it was penned and performed by Tiger JK and Yoon Mi-rae’s son, Seo Jordan. He’s a kid so the lyrics are about his love for dancing and farting. It’s an adorable interlude that contributes to the theme of family unity on the album.
Next is “Angel,” which is an ode to the enduring relationship between Yoon Mi-rae, Tiger JK and Bizzy. They view themselves as a family and feel thankful for each other. Adversity may abound for the group, but they support each other through everything. It’s a pleasant song laden with a smidgen of trap and pop rock. This track feels like a throwback to the feel-good vibes of the early 2000s.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJw1DF1ub9w?rel=0]
That is why “6am” is a smart follow-up track. Their story continues with tales of how difficult it is to maintain a relationship. Things aren’t always rainbows for one of K-pop’s favorite couples, but Yoon Mi-rae is humble enough to say, “I admit I was trippin'”. Tiger JK remains steadfast by his wife, asking her to trust in their love no matter what happens.
Sonnet Son adds a jazzy tone with her voice as a featured artist on “Love Game.” Although Yoon Mi-rae is an exceptional vocalist, Sonnet Son boosts this song with her passionate runs that extend beyond Yoon Mi-rae’s range. Unfortunately, there is redundancy in the lyrics as we’re given yet another story of love that endures hardships.
“Let It Go” is a song about sneaking off for some alone time with your lover away from nosy journalists and fans. Beast‘s Junhyung features on this track, but his rap verse felt like it was added last minute. Naturally, he shouldn’t be the focus, yet having him act as the parsley on the entree isn’t ideal either. The so-so instrumentals didn’t fare much better since it sounded like the rejected version of “Sweet Dreams.”
Reggae makes another appearance along with Jeon In-kwon for “Love and Peace.” This song touches on the emotions felt after a fight with your lover. Jeon In-kwon makes a notable presence here as he sings a majority of the track. It’s not terrible, and given his raspy vocals, he is integral to the song as his voice lends itself to the island vibe.
The album wraps up with a remixed update to their classic cypher “BizzyTigerYoonmirae.” This track rounds out everything as each of the members of MFBTY dare their competition to step up and challenge them. Heavy bass and drum beats interspersed with electronica make for a club bumper that is sure to get you dancing out of your seat.
Following MFBTY down their rabbit hole was a feast for the ears, but the album probably could’ve done without a couple of tracks for a stronger impression. Still, a majority of the songs are great and the production value is consistent throughout Wondaland. No heads need to roll for this album because MFBTY delivered a relatively solid release that reminds us why they are legends in their own right.
Album rating: 4/5