Appetizer before the wave
2020.04 coming soon
Jjangyou‘s first message to fans in 2020 hints at a new project approaching on the “04”, presumably meaning a new project will arrive in April. That’s only two months away! Attached to this little bombshell is a stellar new track and MV in the shape of “Lil OG”. This new MV confirms Jjangyou’s continued pursuit of his solo career following his appearance on SMTM8 last year.
Jjangyou has been an artist well-respected by the Korean hip-hop community long before his appearance on SMTM8. Unfortunately, he has somehow been unable to reach the fame many of his contemporaries have had despite his undeniable talent as both a rapper and vocalist.
His previous project KOK17 was arguably one of the best indie releases in 2018 and perhaps even one of the most stellar hip-hop records to come out of Korea in the last decade. Even outside of his solo work, he has released gorgeous bodies of sound as part of the duo Illrap and the trio WAVISABIROOM. Both groups, much like his solo work, are odysseys of hip-hop experimentation. As such his announcement of a new record post-SMTM will finally show whether or not his popularity has grown since appearing on the show.
Sadly, If his previous single, “115” is anything to go off of, his newfound popularity has not yet found its way to Jjangyou. This is despite the track itself being a stunning display of Jjangyou’s dexterous vocal delivery. He shows a dexterous approach akin to Frank Ocean in its quick switching vocal performances.
The tone of Jjangyou’s vocal is rougher and more undefined than Ocean’s, behaving in a way more similar to King Krule or Sogumm. Jjangyou leans more on his rapping ability and as such is better classified as a rapper. That being said, Jjangyou’s style and delivery still have more in common with vocalists such as Sogumm than it does multi-faceted rappers such as Drake or Penomeco.
Unfortunately, “115” failed to garner more than 50 000 views at the time of writing this article. It, therefore, seems that SMTM no longer brings its participants the level of fame it once had. This likely goes hand in hand with the declining appeal surrounding SMTM. Interestingly enough, even Sign Here the newest (and superior!) audition TV program struggled to find an audience. Perhaps indicating that both Korean and international audiences alike are no longer as interested in these type of shows.
Nonetheless, Jjangyou seems unfazed by this, as he stands in a busy street on the opening shot for the MV “Lil OG”. The title, a play on words, and a common phrase within hip-hop vernacular. “OG” is the abbreviation for “Original Gangster” while “Lil” is a popular shortening of the word little.
Noticeably “Lil” has been used by a plethora of contemporary American rappers such as Lil Uzi Vert or Lil Baby and was made popular from one of Jjangyou’s earliest influences: Lil Wayne. As such the title is an oxymoron of both old school hip-hop and modern hip-hop phrasing.
The MV itself is a low-fi affair, carried across its rooftop spaces with animation pieces crafted by Clementine Kim floating in and around the MV. It is held together by VCR static and the frenzied energy thrown across its cityscape by Jjangyou. Occasionally there are also stuttering still camera shots similar to those seen in DPR Live‘s “Text Me” MV. This look fits greatly with Jjangyou’s underground persona, an aesthetic not taking itself too seriously. While also pushing away from the glitz and high-quality camera work of “115”‘s MV.
Similarly, the production of the track is caught in a lo-fi SoundCloud loop where everything sounds hazy and pulled to the back of the mix. The production is handled by Laptopboyboy and admittedly leaves a lot to be desired, since the beat is again, so minimal it is steeped in dullness. This is especially true when compared to Laptopboyboys other work with trap artist Futuristic Swaver(an artist Jjangyou has also worked with). Likely this quieted production was by design, as Jjangyou’s frantic vocals are both complemented and uninterrupted by this production.
It still seems like a regression in sound and makes it that much harder for the track to stand out. Hopefully, Jjangyou has some production help from his former group members, Dj DOL, Jflow or ARwwae. Their influence on his previous work is undeniable. It would be a crying shame for his upcoming project to be handicapped by production as it is here.
“Lil OG” is a great starting point for what is supposed to come in April. While it may not be his best single to date (that still belongs to “To Me“) it continues in the footsteps of his experimental sound. Jjangyou has maintained his caricature as an artist on the fringes of the genre he finds himself within.
Seeing that Jjangyou depicts some of the most obscure and intriguing sonic conventions yet to be popularized within the Korean hip-hop genre: his upcoming release should be a good indicator of the different directions Korean hip-hop could go this year. This upcoming record may be Jjangyou’s biggest chance of becoming a well-known artist in the Korean musical landscape. No pressure.