If you haven’t heard Born Kim‘s rapping before, whether through his solo work, numerous featured appearances, or work with Cosmik Raiders, you’re in for a jarring introduction. You won’t know it from his speaking voice, but the man’s rap tone is outrageous – it’s high-pitched and choppy, almost like a guy spitting words out with a clenched throat, similar to what Rhythm Power‘s Jiguin does. Depending on the situation, it can be either hilarious or disturbing. (Kim’s performance in Seoul City Deep Cover, off of Defconn‘s Rage Theater (2011), is a good example of the latter.)
Now, Future Color, Born Kim’s first studio release, is a pretty serious album. It’s commendable in a small way; like Kim’s previous work, it doesn’t try to sell itself based purely on novelty value. Instead, the main focus of Future Color is sound design, followed closely by lyricism. There are moments in this album where you’ll completely forget about Born Kim’s tone, because you’re too busy taking in everything else.
Let’s talk about the sound first. The album is primarily electronic, but don’t expect something like Yankie‘s Lost In Memories (2011); it’s on the heavier end of the spectrum. The first two-thirds of the album is characterized by synthpop sounds and other staples of electronic-hip-hop. There’s digitally induced disorientation in SMACK MA BRAIN, ominous (and absurdly deep) synth riffs in 명품 젠틀맨 (Brand Name Gentleman), and a Dok2-composed foray into brassy Southern style in 개소리 2 (Rubbish 2). These are spelled by mellow analog sounds like those in Rocketeer-reminiscent 뜨거워요 (It’s Hot).
An unexpected tangent is lead single 진짜가 나타나 (The Genuine Appears). Born Kim pulls off one of the year’s cleverer collaborations with The Solutions; the band’s modern-rock base meets producer Kimparkchella‘s electronic reinforcements, and the rapper brings ample spunk to an already attitude-laden track. The result is a grungy yet sparkly electro-garage track, kind of like a more tame version of The Koxx‘s music. The hook, sung by The Solutions vocalist Park Sol, is an admittedly weak link due to its awkward fit and lack of engaging melody, but the good moments – in particular, the breakdown that permeates the entire second verse – more than make up for it.
Such sound experimentation characterizes the remixes that take up the last third of Future Color, conveniently separated from the preceding section by a dreamy interlude track. In one song, G-Slow remixes DAKORNER, replacing the original’s light G-funk instrumentation with a gritty beat featuring finely split synths and ringing piano in equal measure. In another, Jin醉 (pronounced ‘Jin-chwi’; also known as Alivefuture) takes Dirty Ghetto Prince and inserts a truckload of sirens, diffusive synths, and pads into a dizzying array. And Cosmik Raiders just drops everything – quite literally, because half of his remix of DANGER is wubs and wobble bass that he unloads on speedy drums. It’s a competent attempt to incorporate dubstep into the psychedelic original.
So on this sound front, Born Kim came packing. His lyricism, on the other hand, is good but not very memorable. His best performances come in two tracks: rhymetastically titled 뿌리부터 불이붙어 (Burn From The Roots), where a catch-up conversation with a friend escalates into an outpouring of fury at injustice and determination to succeed, and the DANGER remix, where… actually, you tell me on that one. It comes down to the fact that Kim is unhappy with a lot of people, and he takes three ferocious minutes of breakneck flow (and a jab at Fukushima that is in poor taste, in my mind) to say that.
But other than that, his normally merciless flow is kept reined in; I get the impression that he prefers to let the sound talk in this one. In the meantime, there are a few good featured performances, with Nuck (in DAKORNER) taking the cake and Crucial Star and Jolly V (both in Brand Name Gentleman) coming close. (If you were hoping for increased Korean lyrics from Jolly V, by the way, you won’t find it here. She keeps her verses wrapped around the “gentleman” motif.)
And the truth is, I didn’t miss the sharp lyricism that much. There is enough vying for your attention in Future Color that the album is more than enjoyable without it. Is this album-of-the-year material? No. But Future Color is a varied display that should appeal to hip-hop listeners while also being at least interesting for electronic fans. The cross-genre experimentation pays off handsomely, and makes Born Kim’s studio debut one of the better-sounding hip-hop releases of the year. Funny voice notwithstanding.
Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)
1. Welcome To The Future – Featuring Rang Show of Black Tea
2. SMACK MA BRAIN
3. 진짜가 나타나 (The Genuine Appears) – Featuring The Solutions
4. 명품 젠틀맨 (Brand Name Gentleman) – Featuring Crucial Star & Jolly V
5. 뿌리부터 불이붙어 (Burn From The Roots)
6. 개소리 2 (Rubbish 2) – Featuring Dok2
7. 뜨거워요 (It’s Hot) – Featuring Lee Won-suk of Daybreak
8. Future In The Mood (Interlude)
9. DAKORNER G-Slow Remix – Featuring Nuck of Souldive
10. Dirty Ghetto Prince Jin醉 Remix – Featuring Pento
11. DANGER Cosmik Raiders Remix
12. Romantic Seoul – Album version
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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