South Korean hip-hop trio Epik High, released its first independently produced EP “Sleepless in __________” March 11, and to call it melancholic would be an understatement. Drawing inspiration from the sleep disorder, insomnia, the album explores all sides of being sleepless; the good and the bad.
The three members: Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz have been creating music for 16 years and have spent countless sleepless nights creating new sounds, concepts and beats during this time. They’ve won multiple album of the year awards in Asia and are known internationally as the veterans of Korean hip hop — they’ve even played at Coachella.
For those of us who don’t understand Korean, you’d have to look up the translated lyrics to understand the album, but the instrumentals and the vocals convey a universal message of loneliness and sadness, which relates back to the project’s theme.
Because the album is about sleeplessness and the things that keep you up at night, the blank space in the title is up to the listener to fill in, as it represents a place or a location, or more specifically for Epik High, “Sleepless In Seoul.”
The group recently left its record company YG Entertainment. Under YG, they’ve grown and created multiple top charters but naturally, their contract ended and now they’re going to do things their own way, starting off on a personal and vulnerable note.
“Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you always sleepless?” Those were the first words on the documentary video, which was four days before the album release. It featured the members talking about what it means to be “sleepless.” The cinematography was dark and simple, putting the viewer in a calm and sleepless state of mind and forcing the viewer to think about their own perspective on the topic.
The album begins with “Sleepless.” A robotic, female asks questions about sleepiness and sadness, accompanied by piano instrumentals that would compliment a rainy night.
The single for the album, “LOVEDRUNK,” is about the sadness that comes after a breakup. The featured singer, Crush brings his sultry vocals in this R&B ballad with the piano instrumental mixed with Tablo and Mithra Jin’s verses. The mixture of sounds synchronize really well. The song is reminiscent, in terms of sound, of its previous album, “We’ve Done Something Wonderful,” and the songs featured on there, one of them actually including Crush.
“Eternal Sunshine” takes on a more upbeat sound, but still sticks with the sleepless theme. Tablo asks in the beginning and throughout the song, “Do you get lonely? / Sick with anxiety? / Can’t trust nobody? / Well, same here…” The song is relaxing, yet includes record scratching and funky keyboards. While the song is about depression and anxiety, it’s a bit of a juxtaposition. For me, I see it as reality (anxiety) versus imagination (relaxation).
“No Different” features Malaysian singer Yuna and reverts back to the head bopping, ballad, R&B sound. The song talks about heartbreak through Yuna’s and Tablo’s contrasting voices, and shows the two sides of the relationship while at the same time conveying a sense of sleeplessness, both in the lyrics and in the beat of the song.
“Rain Again Tomorrow” returns to the upbeat mood to make the listener “sleepy.” The three-minute song perfectly transitions into the final song of the EP, “Lullaby For A Cat.” The song is mainly instrumentals with quiet audio of Tablo singing in English about being lonely. He sings about being alone with the music in his room with the rain outside, once again connecting to the overarching theme of sleeplessness.
This album stays true to who Epik High is. They aren’t trying anything new or trendy, they are sticking to what they know and do best. Each song on the album comes from a personal place. The theme of being sleepless and what the members have gone through in their youth is something everyone can relate to and find comfort in.