Korean hip-hop trio Epik High have finally released the sequel to last year’s Epik High Is Here (Part 1). Epik High Is Here (Part 2), the group’s 10th studio album, is an honest, thoughtful, and hopeful journey of acceptance amidst loss. When describing the records, member Tablo shared that “Epik High has always been best at songs that are deeply emotional…We’ve dealt with so many of those demons ourselves, and what we want for our audience to never go through that.”
Sonically, the trio opts for an overall ambient, lo-fi sound, setting a comfortable and calming vibe for the whole record. To back up the emotional lyrics, the group fuses hip-hop beats with beautiful string and piano arrangements. The album does get a fun break from this with the funk track “Face ID” featuring GIRIBOY, Sik-K, and JUSTHIS. The inclusion of this previously released track is a nice touch to show that Epik High can take on any genre.
If Epik High’s goal was to create a body of work that hits at the core of existential struggles, they succeeded and then some. Part 2 tackles loneliness, the road to self-acceptance, and the loss of loved ones. Songs like “Gray So Gray,” featuring YOUNHA, tell the struggle to learn to love others when we don’t even love ourselves. In one of the album’s most vulnerable tracks, “I Hated Myself (Tablo’s Word),” the rapper is an open book, reflecting on the loneliness he’s felt throughout his life. In a heartbreaking line, he begs of the world “Is anybody out there? Out there? / Will anybody care when I’m not here?” It’s brutal honesty like this that Epik High has never been afraid to show, and it’s songs like this that resonate deeply with listeners.
As Tablo mentioned, the group has always sought to be there for their fans, and they tap into the core experiences that everyone goes through at some point in their life. The track “Family Portrait” featuring Kim Feel, the reality of our family members growing older and one day leaving us is viewed through memories of a childhood home. With the backing of a music box and Kim’s emotional vocals, it’s a heartwrenching yet beautiful way to confront those fears.
While the album is largely focused on sharing these inner thoughts and struggles, Epik High makes sure to let listeners know that they are there for them and that they hope their music serves as a comfort. The track “Prequel” is a great hype track to open up the album. The trio establishes themselves, just in case you need a reminder of their influence and accomplishments. The song is the group telling us not to worry because we have them by our side.
The album’s closing track, “Champagne,” which actually opens with an audio recording of the group’s first live performance of the first song on their first record, is a celebratory moment, highlighting the 20 years the group has been together. It’s a well-deserved celebration, acknowledging the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s also a celebration for fans, where the group thanks them for all the support they have given over the years. It’s a perfect sendoff after the incredibly emotional journey we just went on.
With this album, Epik High not only continues to prove how influential and talented they are but how much of comfort their music is to listeners. Although the album ends with the final line “Epik High was here.” With powerful songs like the ones on this album, Epik High will always be here.
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