At different points in her career, Nam Soo-rim (formerly Rimi) has been the nation’s most hardcore female rapper and a comedy musician. Her debut EP, Rap Messiah (2010), while flawed in many ways, was a revelation in its charting of grounds that few Korean female rappers had ever trodden upon. Meanwhile, her career with Rimi And Gamza birthed some legitimately witty singles to complement the serious stuff. After a year’s hiatus, two years removed from her last solo single, Rimi is back with her given name, and she tackles something that few could have expected even after her diverse pedigree. She’s singing love songs.
Oh, she’s done a few in the past, sure. 끝내러 가는 길 (Going To Break Up) was one of Rap Messiah’s better tracks, and sweetly metaphorical Elevator (2010) was a departure from prior works in its own right. But back then, even Rimi’s love songs were extensions of her swagger. They were more focused on lyricism and sound, poetry and experimentation, than on the actual emotions they were about. That was fine, in its own way. But as could be read from the title, new EP Drive Me To The Moon is much more about the romance of it all.
Ms. Nam approaches love from a few different directions. She might offer an affectionate ode to her own life as in 내 인생은 코미디 (My Life Is A Comedy), a lighthearted prance around the silliness and beauty of everyday routines. Or she might serenade Paul McCartney among warm guitars and flutes, confessing her devoted and grateful adoration for the former Beatle in 사랑해요 폴 (I Love You, Paul). She might even take the vibrant reggae beat of 30대남 40대남 (Men In Their 30s And 40s) as an opportunity to describe her dream partner and outline why older men are great. It’s all delightful fare.
While Nam has fun in that first half of the album, the EP’s other two tracks are fictional (seemingly, at least) and deal with more predictable topics in love. They are correspondingly more ambitious, though. Lead single 그는 너를 사랑하지 않아 (He Doesn’t Love You) consists of brutally honest advice given to a girl who’s being played by her significant other (although it could also be interpreted as the narrator speaking to herself). But it’s the sound that takes the foreground in this one: a gorgeously moody, jazzy accompaniment grows ever more intricate and intense until the breathless final act. Urban Zakapa‘s Cho Hyun-ah, who’s proven extremely compatible with Nam in songs like Understand, doesn’t disappoint in another passionate performance. The song stands out stylistically and topically from the rest of the album, but in emotional portrayal it might be the most accomplished out of them all.
Drive Me To The Moon (the track) is ambitious in a different sense. It’s a somewhat quirky song where Nam narrates a fantastical road trip that ends up above the clouds. Bolstered by Park Ji-yoon‘s dreamy vocals and diffusive guitars, Nam puts forward her best lyrical performance of the EP: evocative imagery captures the magic of the adventure, wondrous in a Disney kind of way, and even slips some tame but sensual sexuality into it.
In fact, the lyricism here in general holds up well. To be clear, the EP’s verses are not as technically refined or brimming with fierce wordplay like the Rimi works were. This has to do with the album’s changed focus, as mentioned earlier; Nam put her efforts into telling stories and getting messages across rather than impressing with flash. So there is a regression in the mechanical sense, but she’s not sloppy. The rhythm in her flow is still entertaining to listen to – there are moments of unpredictable, unaccompanied rhythm in He Doesn’t Love You that are reminiscent of her finest in I’m Hot (2009).
The downside to that track though, is Nam’s overly stylized pronunciation – it’s so heavy at times as to interfere with comprehension. Fortunately, that isn’t reproduced in volume elsewhere, as she continues to rap in that new and less edgy tone I mentioned in June in the K Jun review. The softer tone makes sense in this context of love songs.
Things just come together like that in Drive Me To The Moon. It’s an album that makes a lot of sense all around, which is all the more surprising given how unexpected this new mellow direction is. E.via, perhaps the only comparable female rapper (Yoon Mi-rae being of a different mold altogether), turned harder this year; Nam chose to go much softer. That is a bold move in a scene where female rappers succeed by being ever more fierce and technical, by having more swagger, in essence by attempting to emulate certain male-rapper stereotypes. It is even more so given the manner in which Nam’s fallout with hip-hop fans occurred last year.
And even with this significance aside, this EP is also just a real pleasant piece of work. It has heart and frankness, with spirited attitude to boot. There’s a simple sense of freedom and romance that ties it together, the kind of aura that is often not captured well. To wit, love is in the air.
Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)
1. 내 인생은 코미디 (My Life Is A Comedy)
2. 사랑해요 폴 (I Love You, Paul)
3. 30대남 40대남 (Men In Their 30s And 40s)
4. 그는 너를 사랑하지 않아 (He Doesn’t Love You) – Featuring Cho Hyun-ah of Urban Zakapa
5. Drive Me To The Moon – Featuring Park Ji-yoon
6. 그는 너를 사랑하지 않아 (He Doesn’t Love You) – Instrumental
7. 30대남 40대남 (Men In Their 30s And 40s) – Instrumental
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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