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Review: Epik High Returns With The Masterpiece, ‘sleepless in __________’

Korean hip-hop trio Epik High (EH) just came back with the EP, sleepless in __________ which features amazing Korean artists, Sunwoo JungA, Crush and Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna as well as BTS’s Yoongi aka Suga and Code Kunst acting as composers and producers on their respective tracks in the album.

This EP comes almost a year and a half after the release of their ninth studio album, We’ve Done Something Wonderful. I’ve been a fan of Epik High for a few good years, so when the members of the Hip-Hop trio shared the news of the EP, I was ecstatic.

In wait of the EP to drop, Epik High released a sleepless in __________ documentary on their official YouTube channel that followed the three members of Epik High, Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz in the making of their EP. But it was truly more than just seeing the process of how sleepless in __________ came to be. This EP deals with very sensitive topics such as depression, anxiety, insomnia among other things, and we get to hear the thoughts and feelings from the members. The documentary was quite melancholy, but it was one that resonated with me as well as the other hundreds of thousands of people who watched it.

sleepless in __________ takes the listeners on a journey. A journey some of us have been on, are still on or have never been on. The EP encompasses a theme that anyone can relate to. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and so on. We all have that moment of sleepless caused by something bugging us.

I patiently counted down the days this EP would be released and now that it’s here, I have to share my thoughts on this masterpiece that was released by Epik High.

‘sleepless in __________’ collaborator lineup. photo credit: Tablo’s Twitter

“SLEEPLESS”

The EP opens with “Sleepless.” When the track started playing, I was very confused as I could only hear sounds of waves or rustling for the first eleven seconds before a haunting mechanical voice [that’s actually a phone’s voice assistant according to Tablo] asks, “Do you have trouble sleeping?” After this question is asked, what sounds like a xylophone plays for the first five questions before a slow piano instrumental is paired with the voice addressing the crux of the album by asking a series of other questions, “Do you have nightmares?/Are you heartbroken?/Do you feel down? depressed? hopeless?…/Are you always/Sleepless?” 

This track without a doubt made me feel emotional. The series of questions being asked in conjunction with the slow piano instrumental had me thinking a lot. I felt like I had to answer the questions that were being posed by the mechanical voice which in turn made me feel emotional as they are quite sensitive questions.

“IN SEOUL ft. SUNWOOJUNGA ”

The transition from “Sleepless” to “In Seoul” is undoubtedly the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life.  They work hand in hand with one another. I didn’t realise it was a different track until Tablo said, “I’m sleepless in Seoul” before Sunwoo JungA comes in with the beautiful chorus.

The track brings to light quite serious issues that people go through, that Epik High has gone through. Tablo raps the lyrics, “In this city, they pick stars off the night sky and sell them off,” and it automatically made me think of the Korean music industry and the industry of just being a celebrity overall. Seoul is the place where thousands of people find their way to, to try and make it into the music and entertainment industry. The track delves into serious topics that are quite depressing, nevertheless, the track was phenomenal overall. All over Twitter, fans of Epik High and first-time listeners show their appreciation for this track and deem it as their favourite – and it’s definitely one of mine too!

https://twitter.com/hyefuls/status/1106350173930881025

“술이 달다 (LOVEDRUNK) ft. CRUSH”

“Lovedrunk” is the title track of the EP and features R&B Korean artist Crush. The opening of the song with Crush singing is honestly so beautiful and it makes the track sound like a ballad. I don’t know what it was about this track but Crush’s honest vocals with the passionate yet delicate verses by Tablo and Mithra Jin just made me feel sad – even before I looked up the translation of the lyrics. It’s also come to my attention that “Lovedrunk” was actually featured on, We’ve Done Something Wonderful.  It plays for literally about two seconds on the track, “TAPE 2002 7 28.”

“Lovedrunk” depicts the agony of experiencing a painful moment and understanding how, in such situations, alcohol tastes sweet which is something Tablo talked about in the sleepless in __________ documentary. He poses the question that, “Since life is so bitter, the alcohol seems sweet right?”  With lyrics that read, “I’m trying so hard/So hard to erase you/Like a fool/Though I may lose it all…” it brings to light the travesties of what heartbreak can do to oneself layered over a soft R&B instrumental.

“새벽에(ETERNAL SUNSHINE)”

BTS’s Suga takes on the role of producer and composer on this track along with producer El Capitxn, who’s worked with BTS before. In a recent live stream by Yoongi on V Live, he shared with the millions of fans the process of production for “Eternal Sunshine:” “The song is so great. When we were in Tokyo and Osaka, during our (BTS) concert…Tablo asked me to give a beat. I said yes and sent over a sketch. Two days later, it was complete. I worked really fast while arranging in the middle.”

This track definitely changed the mood of the EP but still talks about similar issues seen throughout the album such as anxiety, societal pressures and losing sleep to loneliness. The title of the track is quite ironic considering the nature of the lyrics as well as deceptive because of the cheerful, lo-fi feel to the track with lyrics that read, “I want to lay myself on the bed, hide within the bedcovers and only look on. For the world outside that door is darker than the night.” Although we notice the irony at hand, we also come to realise that this track gives hope to not only the artists themselves but for the millions of people who hide their anxiety and other issues they may be going through. Mithra Jin and Tablo echo this idea with the lyrics “I wish you eternal sunshine.”

“NO DIFFERENT ft YUNA”

Famous South Korean composer and producer Code Kunst, who has worked with Tablo in the past, produced this heart-wrenching R&B ballad, which features Malaysian singer-songwriter, Yuna. This is a track I’ve played probably over fifty times since the EP was released and I can’t get over it. Although opposites, Yuna’s honey-like voice paired with Tablo’s deep voice meshed so well for this track.

The lyrics “We tried to build a future, all we got’s a broken past,” truly resonate with me because although it may sound depressing and upsetting, the key word in that lyric is “tried”. Regardless of the outcome, at least you tried to do that particular thing. It may not always go the way you want it to go but the important thing is that you tried.

“비가 온대 내일도 (RAIN AGAIN TOMORROW)”

God knows I wasn’t expecting such a beat to pop out, but I’m not mad about it! “Rain Again Tomorrow” definitely picks up the pace of the album after “No Different.” “Rain Again Tomorrow” is an interesting track that has been deemed a favourite by fans.

The track tackles the restlessness around a brain buzzing with creativity told by the various things that Mithra and Tablo went through. The contrasting moods conveyed in this track is truly what I love. The track gives off a chill, club-like vibe but still encompasses the depressing atmosphere at hand that Mithra and Tablo rap about through lyrics like “A sea of thoughts/ I keep sinking, perhaps because I don’t know where it ends/ Every night I try to swim freely/Only to end up breaking like a wave.”  “Rain Again Tomorrow” acts as a closing chapter in conjunction with “Lullaby For A Cat” to end the EP, hence the seamless transition.

“LULLABY FOR A  CAT”

As mentioned before, the transition from “Rain Again Tomorrow” was absolutely seamless because these two tracks work hand in hand, transitioning from a track that talks about the reasons why we can’t sleep into a lullaby which is known to put people to sleep. Tablo keeps his verse short on this track and the incorporation of “In Seoul” instrumentals within the song. Ending the EP with “Lullaby For A Cat” made perfect sense. We see from the beginning of this EP with “Sleepless” to the end with this track when someone goes from sleeplessness to falling asleep. The one word I can use to describe this track is “serene.” It truly soothes my soul and makes me tear up as well. It’s a beautiful track.

Album cover of sleepless in __________. photo credit: Tablo’s Twitter account

Fans are also loving sleepless in __________. Han, 23, from the United Kingdom, says, “sleepless In __________ is yet another masterpiece that perfectly illustrates EH’s artistry. Each song offers its own style, colour and message yet they still come together to create a complete, cohesive work of art full of EH’s unique flavour.”

“ I personally love how each song flows seamlessly into the next – much like the thoughts one has when they lie awake at night – I often find myself losing track of which song I’m listening to. Furthermore, this album has a lot of features/collaborations, but each song still has some distinctive characteristic that makes it clear it’s an EH song – the songs mesh seamlessly with each other and into their discography too. Moreover, the inspiration behind the album is true to EH’s nature too, turning their personal experiences into lullabies and comfort for others is at the heart of every song EH make.”

“This album really is a testimony to who Epik High are as artists: just like the credits, it screams ‘this is OURS.’”

We may only be three months into 2019 but I already know this EP has a place in my list of my favourite releases of 2019. I’ve been a fan of Epik High for a few years now and their artistry is truly ever-evolving. This is the hip-hop trio’s first release since leaving YG Entertainment and is a testimony to who Epik High are as artists. sleepless In __________ delves into issues and topics that we as humans don’t want to address and deal with but Mithra Jin, Tablo and Tukutz do so in a way I never imagined. sleepless In __________ is a masterpiece.

Be sure to listen to Epik High’s sleepless In __________. You won’t regret it.

 

The Hip-Hop trio recently started their ‘2019 Epik High Tour.’ Visit their website for tickets.

2019 Epik High Tour Poster. photo credit: Tablo’s Twitter account

Featured image via Epik High

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Zoë Selesi
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Zoë is a nineteen-year-old from England currently living in New York for university studying Public Relations. Zoë is a lover of all music genres especially alternative R&B, UK Grime and Korean music.

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