Kim Jin-pyo (or JP) has most definitely gotten softer with age. That’s been the trend in his last few albums, but JP6 is perhaps the 17-year veteran rapper’s softest ever. Not instrumentally or technically, mind you; the man has said he considers himself a pop artist rather than a hip-hop one, and his beats have never been the heaviest. But thematically, JP6 is more colored by love songs and down-to-earth stories than his older, aggressive and often controversial work both within Panic and by himself.
JP is still a terrific storyteller and an emotionally incisive lyricist. Those two strengths power the core of JP6, as expected. The storytelling shines in two very different tracks: hilariously frantic 이를 닦았나 (Did I Brush My Teeth) and elegant but brutally honest 가지말걸 그랬어 (I Shouldn’t Have Gone). The first follows the morning antics of a man late for work in one long, unbroken narrative, while the latter (which received single cut over a year ago, if you recall) recounts what led the speaker to visit his ex’s wedding with equal parts tenderness and conviction. JP’s austere language is an asset in tracks like this, and like any good story, both are absorbing.
Meanwhile, songs like 내 여자친구는 슈퍼스타 (My Girlfriend Is A Superstar) and lead single 미안해서 미안해 (I’m Sorry For Being Sorry) are focused on descriptions of psyches rather than stories. Here’s how you avoid cliches in love songs: you take a very specific emotion, pare it down to the essentials, and give language to that emotion. That sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy. JP does it here, taking on personae of a man who’s happily insecure about his too-good-to-be-true lover and of one whose self-rationalizations break down into desperate apologies.
The album’s best tracks are ones that combine these two strengths. Cue 아저씨 (Ajusshi); it’s about a girl in her teens or maybe 20s falling in love with a much older guy, who adamantly resists the relationship. The presentation is not only tasteful, but positively irresistible. Entertaining lyricism (“Our age difference is like soju and milk // When I was seeking hangover soup you probably wanted apple pies” is just one of many clever lines here) and the back-and-forth dynamic between narrators show what JP’s music can be when everything goes right. Additional credit is due to J Rabbit; Jung Hye-sun’s ungarnished, sweet performance is picture-perfect for the song. This is a magnificent piece of pop.
The one track in JP6 with a bit of teeth is 어쩌라고 (What), a caustic piece of commentary on Korea’s politicians. It’s not particularly insightful or interesting commentary, but it does serve as a throwback to the days when JP’s lyrics would be blanked out altogether by the censors (when that used to be legal). (Appropriately, samples of Lee Juck in 냄새 (Smell) from Panic’s seminal 1996 album 밑 (Bottom) are audible in the song.)
But my takeaway from What Do You Want is something else: the fact that JP actually sounds unnatural in this setting. Don’t get me wrong, his performance is fine. It’s simply that I’m so used to the more mellow Kim Jin-pyo, that I now see his natural habitat to be the rest of JP6. It’s a good place to be; this album makes substance solely out of narrative, and as such it is entertaining and thoughtful in a way that purely technically oriented rap albums cannot be. The storyteller in JP now prevails over the rebel in him. It’s a significant milestone in an illustrious career.
Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)
1. 쿵하면 붐 (Thump And Then Boom) – Featuring 愛 (Ae)
2. 미안해서 미안해 (I’m Sorry For Being Sorry) – Featuring G.NA
3. 바람 피기 좋은 날 (Good Day To Cheat)
4. 내 여자친구는 슈퍼스타 (My Girlfriend Is A Superstar) – Featuring Kim Hyung-joong
5. 이를 닦았나 (Did I Brush My Teeth) – Featuring Jace of Miss $
6. 아저씨 (Ajusshi) – Featuring J Rabbit
7. 돌아갈 수 있다면 (If I Could Go Back) – Featuring Yim Chang-jung
8. 어쩌라고 (What)
9. 왜 그랬어 (Why Did You Do It) – Featuring Cho Yu-jin of Cherry Filter
10. 인생은 2절부터 (Life Starts At Verse 2) – Featuring Vasco & Swings & Crybaby
11. 가지말걸 그랬어 (I Shouldn’t Have Gone) – Featuring Joo Young
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the individual and not of hellokpop as a whole.
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