written by: TESTAMENTVM
Nostalgia is both powerful and oddly mutable, and it seems like musical acts around the world are once again reaching this realization. Nostalgia produces a broad, widely encompassing swath of emotions, a torrent of hard-to-place “feelings” that nonetheless fill you with all-too pregnant emotions that are at once both mutable and substantive. So it comes at no surprise that almost every musical act under the sun has tried to use the emotions engendered by nostalgia as a stand-in for musical substance (I’m looking at you, T-ara).
After a 3-year hiatus ( mandatory military service) and parting ways with the Snipersound label, hip-hop duo Baechigi, comprised of members Tak and Moowoong, returned earlier this month with “Two Mari”, a mini-album/EP laden with delicious goodies for their long-suffering fans. “Two Mari” marks Baechigi’s first release with YMC, a newly-established label that houses artists like Ailee, Wheesung, and it’s been doing well so far – their lead single, “Two Mari” debuted at 14 on the Billboard K-pop hot 100 chart.
The concept behind “Two Mari” is simple – like other musical acts, Baechigi jumped on the retro bandwagon in the hopes of molding the emotional surplus generated by nostalgia. But unlike T-ara, this latest mini is more conceptually cohesive and internally consistent than the vast majority of K-pop releases today, which alone should be reason enough to give “Two Mari” a listen.
The title track, “Two Mari”, is a jewel of a song. Rapper/producer Loptimist takes us back to the ‘70s with an enthusiastic, spotlight-drenched big brass sound and a funky bass guitar that makes you remember why you loved Daft Punk so much. Unlike Lee Min Soo’s overly ambitious “Princess and Prince Charming (Is the White Horse Coming?)”, Loptimist’s “Two Mari” is successful in executing an authentic recreation of the big band sound in a way that is sonically pleasing because it doesn’t try to be three things at the same time. Though bigger and more complex is sometimes better, there’s an equally strong case to be made for the aesthetic value of (relative) minimalism.
“Pods” (produced by Nuol), was the other standout track on “Two Mari”. It’s often easy to forget, given the prevalence of what I’ll call pop-rap in K-hip hop, that some rappers also have enviable technique when it comes to spitting bars. Eschewing complicated instrumentation for an 8 bar piano-and-bass synth loop, with a great LFO-ed Dirty South synth in the chorus to maintain the energy of the song, “Pods” is where Baechigi’s rap skills come to the forefront.
“The Man Who Knows” (produced by Nuol), has a lounge-y, piano-driven melody that also centers on Baechigi’s rapping, this time with its seductively off-tempo meters and swag-through-the-roof bravado.
“Please Take Care”, produced by Sukjae, is an acoustic, guitar song perfect for those lazy summer days; driving in the sun, top-down, sunglasses on, but ultimately felt lacking in its progression. No song under 5 minutes should never sound static or repetitive, and yet 2/3s of the way through, “Please Take Care” already began to feel annoyingly half-hearted and underdeveloped.
“Baechigi Too” (produced by Zuwan), is your standard rah-rah number that hip-hop artists have an incessant need to throw in every release. But in Baechigi’s defense, this practice has become an idiom in the rap genre, and so these sorts of tracks tend to fly under the radar because there’s not much that can be done about it. That being said, it sounded like an extension of what should have been a short, 1-minute intro, though the use of a female announcer’s voice in the beginning was a creative touch.
Overall, “Two Mari” was a very strong comeback mini-album from a great K-hip hop group. I’m looking forward to their next mini album (which is due to be released soon).